So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?”The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified.”
In some early manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew the name given for the criminal is “Jesus Barabbas” and since the name Barabbas means “son of the father” in Hebrew, you could read verse 17 like this: “So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus son of the father or Jesus who is called Christ?”
The senses of Scripture
CCC 115: According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.
The Church teaches that the Scriptures carries up to four “senses,” then with that in mind, we can see two very obvious senses here. First, Pilate offers the criminal or Jesus, imagining that the crowd will choose the innocent man and not a murderer to release as a Passover pardon. Second, here we have two competing people called Jesus, one is the Messiah and one could be considered a false messiah.
When Pilate offered these two competing messiahs, he tipped his hand as to which one he thought they should pick. He called Jesus “the one who is called Christ”, that word “Christ” is frequently thought of as Jesus’ last name, but in reality it was His Messianic title. The word Christ, comes from the Greek Cristos, it means “anointed one”, in Hebrew that word is Messiah.
By referring to Jesus as the Christ, Pilate was acknowledging that some considered Jesus to be the Jewish Messiah. This must have infuriated the Pharisees, who reserved to themselves the right to say who was and wasn’t a prophet, never mind the long awaited Messiah.
So we have a man whose name literally means “the son of the father” and we have the only begotten Son of the Eternal Father, who would you have chosen? Both sound similar but the crowds seem to be on the side of Barabbas, a man described as an insurrectionist, he had killed people trying to kick the Romans out of Judea. But the true Messiah would later say, “My kingdom is not of this world”
Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the people to ask for Barab’bas and destroy Jesus.
Even today we have people who entice us and stir us up to chose a mirage of the messiah. Sometimes the Jesus these people push sounds remarkably similar to the genuine one, whether it’s “never get sick Jesus”, the “be happy all the time Jesus”, or my favorite, the “all your bills paid off and no more financial trouble Jesus”, what we must do is measure every version of Jesus up against His Gospel.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
(1 John 4:1)
This is not to say that we should be skeptical of everything, but we should pray for the spirit of discernment, and if someone tells you something, or a homily doesn’t sound orthodox, then feel free to go to scripture and the teachings of the Church to “test the spirits” as St. John tells us to.
I do not even want for myself to be exempt from this, if you read anything I say that doesn’t sit well with you, check the Bible and the Catechism. I strive to make sure every word I write and say, about matters of faith, lines up with the word of God and the Magisterium of His Church, but sometimes we come across teachings that don’t line up. (And by all means, if I’m wrong, please correct my error “Never speak against the truth, but be mindful of your ignorance.” Sirach 4:25)
Jesus warned his disciples to be on guard;
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
I want everyone to be aware of false teachings. So when presented with Barabbas and Jesus Christ, you will know the difference and choose the true Son of the Father.
“The Jesus who makes everything okay for everyone is a phantom, a dream, not a real figure” –
Pope Benedict XVI
(This post originally appeared at Catholic365.com )