Barabbas crowd meditation
you are in a hot dusty land, nearly two thousand years ago. for many years you have been told to wait in expectation for the messiah, the christ. over the past couple of years friends have taken you to hear this man called jesus. something about him, som of the words he has spoken, some of the things you have seen him do, have left you strangely moved. recently he has been less popular, derided by those around you. late into the evening he has remained the topic of conversation, a madman from galilee no-one seems able to forget. some say he is the long-awaited christ. you look back to a week ago. you were out in the marketplace when everyone converged on the road leading into jerusalem. "jesus is coming", came the cry. swept along with the crowd, hoping this was the promised saviour, you remember pushing forward to catch a glimpse, not quite sure why you are there. it seemed this man had become the hope of a nation. was he a king or a fool?
suddenly a man pushes against you, bringing you back to the present moment. you push against the sweaty, pushing bodies around you, jostling to keep a sense of space. you are in the same crowd. friends, zealots, religious leaders, fishermen, tax collectors, lawyers, it seems as if the whole of jerusalem is here. you hear mutterings. some are confused like you, not sure why they are here, but sensing a momentous event is about to happen. others are huddled together conspiratorially to one side. you see friends and wonder why they are here. but doesn't everyone follow the crowd, aren't the crowd always right.
you are standing outside a resplendent building. looking upwards you see a man you hate and fear. like most jews you resent the oppression of the roman occupying forces, long for the promised messiah to set your nation free. with him is the same man the crowd worshipped a week ago. your heart sinks. this man is not going to set your nation free, he's now a roman prisoner. the crowd surges forward. as they do you notice those who had been huddled to one side, disperse themselves among the rest of the crowd. the man called jesus is beaten and scarred. as you strain your eyes to see jesus more clearly you can see someone has forced what looks like a crown of thorns on his head. you sense the disappointment and frustration of a nation is directed at jesus. the roman governor asks the crowd what he should do with a man he can find guilty of no crime.
a babble of noise erupts around you. some are confused, what else cn you do with an innocent man, other than letting him go. others say he has broken religious laws which the romans cannot understand. you try to examine your own feelings. suddenly the crowd is no longer a homogenous place to be. you feel hemmed in, unable to think for yourself.
the cry "crucify, crucify" begins jsut behind you. it becomes louder and louder as others take up the cry. confused, you look around you as more join in the cry. the roman governor motions and silence falls over the crowd. you wait in anticipation. he offers to free one prisoner. should it be jesus?
you feel the shock move from your gut to the rest of your body as some begin to call for barabbas, a local terrorist and murderer who had shocked jerusalem, to be freed. surely we can't release him instead of this innocent man. unsure as you are of jesus, he couldn't be any worse that such a lowlife. could he?
the shout of crucify begins again. it seems as if hysteria has taken over, this crowd is baying for blood. your head is spinning, confusion reigns. maybe he has done something to incite this hatred. caught up in the frenzy you too begin to call "crucify, crucify". it feels good to be in the majority, you begin to feel an identity with the crowd. zealots, lawyers, friends, the crowd has become one. anger and frustration well up inside you. your voice becomes stronger until you feel completely at one with those around you.
the man is grabbed to be taken away. as he turns away he looks out on the crowd. you are drawn to his eyes and they seem to bore straight into you. in them you see understanding, compassion and purpose. in that moment all the things you have seen and heard about this man make sense, except it's too late, he's going to be crucified. as a chill runs down your spine you feel... alone in the crowd.