Hi everyone! I hope you’re having a blessed Holy Week. Here are some thoughts on the creative writing and reflection piece I wrote on Barabbas:
While in prayer, I received this prompting that Barabbas would be unable to recognize Jesus’ role in his life. He would be too blinded by anger and his own worldview to accept that he needed his life to be saved by Jesus. As I read more of the different gospel accounts of Barabbas and found out that he was a murderer, that he was involved in local insurrections, this picture of an angry, self-reliant, and wounded man became clearer and clearer.
I also received this image of Barabbas having a conversation with another character in prayer. I soon realized that this other character was to be the voice of Jesus in Barabbas’ life. A voice that pointed back to God, a voice that reminded him that God wants to carry him, that God wants to be with him in his pain and struggle. This is where the character of Rachel, Barabbas’ fictional sister, came from.
As I wrote this piece, I was reminded of the areas in my life where I still choose to get through the tough times by myself. And I was invited by Jesus to let him into those areas. Friends, as you read this piece, I invite all of you to reflect on the areas of your lives where you are your own saviour. Let us invite Jesus into these areas.
We invite you to close your eyes and listen to the narration of the imaginative scene below before reading it:
As Barabbas stepped through the gate of his home, a young woman rushed out.
“Brother, you’re home,” she hugged him tightly. “I heard the neighbours say that you were freed by Pilate. I was just about to go to the jail to receive you.”
“Rachel,” Barabbas said, as he returns her hug. “It’s fine. I can get home myself just fine”
“Praise God. When the soldiers arrested you, I thought I would never see you again.” Tears began welling in her eyes. “I don’t know what I would do if you were taken away too.” She wiped her eyes with her long dusty sleeves. “Come in. I have some food left over. Let me set the table and warm something up.”
When Barabbas returned, Rachel had set the table. It was a modest meal. Bread, a bowl of olives, some stew. Barabbas ate heartily as Rachel watched him, smiling. For a moment, there was a full but calm silence, both siblings enjoying this peace that had eluded them for so long.
Then, Rachel said, “Jesus the Nazarene was sentenced to die today.”
Barabbas stiffened. “Again,” he thought, “the Nazarene?” Before his arrest, Barabbas and Rachel kept fighting because of this new rabbi. She went to see him as he preached, sometimes taking several days off from selling her goods so that she could travel to see him. He disapproved. It wasted so much time, when both of them needed the income.
“He was sentenced to death? On what charge?”
“They accused him of wanting Caesar’s throne. They said he claimed to be king of the Jews. The governor sentenced him to death on the cross. I don’t know. How could they think that he would even care about something like that?”
Barabbas didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want to fight. He continued eating, his eyes fixed stubbornly on his food.
Sensing her brother’s discomfort, Rachel changed the subject. “I sold my wares outside the city today! The neighbourhood kids still play games in the fields! Even though it’s full of Roman soldiers now.”
The mention of their playful childhood brightened his mood. “Of course! I’m sure we wouldn’t have cared if soldiers were patrolling outside the city in our time! There’s just something about those hills and the wide-open fields.”
“We used to have so much fun playing outside the city. Remember how the other kids would get so rowdy? Especially John — “
“Yes! John always tried tripping others to win! I remember. He never tried that with you. He knew I would’ve beat him up if he did.”
“I’m glad you were always around” Rachel smiled. “But you don’t have to protect me any more! I can take care of myself now.” The light of a more innocent time shone through their grief and loss, and they both basked in its warmth. “You know, our best days are not behind us. We still have hope.”
Barabbas didn’t respond.
“See how God gave you another chance? He spared your life. This means something, Barabbas. It’s time to start over.”
He continued to avert her eyes.
“Please, don’t throw your life away. Don’t go back to those violent men.”
Barabbas gripped his spoon.
“We can leave the city. I can bring my business anywhere. And maybe you can start learning a trade. We can find something for you. I know God will not abandon us. I know he will save us.”
Barabbas’ grip tightened. “Oh? And how will he save us?”
“I don’t know, Barabbas. But I’ve seen the goodness of God. I’ve seen Jesus heal the blind, the deaf, the lame. I have faith.”
He slammed his spoon down on the table. Through clenched teeth, he said, “Faith? What do you mean? What does that have to do with anything? And what does Jesus your rabbi have to do with it?”
“He is the chosen one, a messenger from God! He has revealed that God cares for us!”
“Oh yeah? On what authority does he make that claim? If he is the chosen one of God, how will he save Israel from the Romans? You just said that he was sentenced to death. How is he going to free us when he’s dead?
“I don’t know, but he will!”
“I can’t believe it. He’s filled your head with all this talk about forgiving your enemy and the resurrection of the body but he doesn’t know the reality of what it’ll take to save Israel. We need to take things into our own hands. You think you can dream your way out of poverty? You think you can just have good feelings in your heart and a positive attitude and somehow the mess you’re in just disappears? Listen. The only way you and I are ever going to return to a good life, is if we remove these foreign invaders oppressing our people.”
He continued, “Jesus, a saviour? How can he be? All he’s done is play magic tricks on you gullible people. Ha, you know, if he’s ever saved anyone’s life, it’s mine! And he only saved it by accident!”
“But don’t you see, Barabbas? That’s exactly right”
Barabbas rolled his eyes. “What are you saying?”
“He did save you. You’re here.”
Barabbas rose from his seat. “I can’t have this conversation right now.” He walked towards the door.
Rachel rose, shaking but unwilling to give up. “Barabbas, don’t go,” she calls after him, as he storms out of the house.
For further reflection, watch:
More Holy Week reflections:
The clash of these two characters and the conflict of their worldviews reminded me of my own story of coming to know Jesus. Writing this piece has also helped me reflect on my relationship with God in this season of life. Through this activity, I received an invitation from God to surrender control of my life to him once again.
I recognize myself in this fictional Barabbas in this creative piece. Before I met Jesus, I was guided by the lie that “I was my own saviour”. I was responsible for getting good grades and getting people to like me. Whenever I failed at these pursuits, I tightened control over my life. I listened a lot to negative “voices”. I often found myself repeating the thought, “if I’m not good at my work, then I’m not valuable at all.” These voices convinced me that I was in my struggles alone; they made me focus on the darkness of my life, my own limitations. Though these voices told me how limited I was, they ironically made me rely on myself more and more.
Even after encountering Jesus, the struggle to resist those voices of darkness still surfaces. For me specifically, in this season, I’ve been struggling with the lie that I’m not doing enough for my own future. Even though I had decided to take time off to intentionally reflect and discern my next steps after the recent School of Witness, I can’t help but compare myself to my peers and start feeling restless that I’m not as advanced in my career as they are. And now, with the COVID-19 pandemic situation, I’m beginning to feel more and more restless over the questions about my future career and studies. When I’m in that sort of comparing and despairing mindset, the temptation to listen to voices that make me focus on my own weaknesses and the difficulties of my circumstances grows stronger.
But as the character of Rachel reminds us, we have a God who’s bigger than our obstacles and our weaknesses. We have a God who wants to be with us in our struggles. Rachel’s is the voice of faith that reminds us that we can trust in God because we’ve experienced him. We know he loves us. We know he will save us. While I was writing this story, I felt the desire to listen to a voice like Rachel’s more and more – a voice speaking of God’s goodness and faithfulness, a voice freeing us to let God into our lives.
We may, from time to time, suddenly be faced by situations that seem too big, too hopeless for us. In those times the temptation to want to control, to save ourselves from our own situation will come. Perhaps this pandemic situation, and all the disruptions to our lives and our plans, has begun to lead us to this mindset of ungodly self-reliance. But as we move towards Easter and return to the mystery of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, I challenge all of us to remember that God loves us and wants the best for us. Let us surrender a need to control our own lives and invite God to walk with us in our struggles, and to open our eyes to see as He sees.
Ponder & Pray
What are the temptations that you often want to save yourself from? How is Jesus inviting you today to allow Him to be in control? What are the concrete steps that you’ll take in order to invite Him into #HOmeLYWeek today?
As you listen to the recording, close your eyes and imagine you’re in the scene. Consider these questions as you listen to it:
- Who are you in the scene? Are you Barabbas? Or Rachel? Or someone who’s viewing from a third party point of view?
- What struck you as you entered the house?
- How are you feeling as Rachel claims that she knows Jesus will save you?
- What is going through your mind as you storm out of the house?
Pen these down and share it with someone who you can be accountable to!
Let us continue onwards to the Joy of the resurrection!