Good Friday: Violence, Guns, and Stuff
I was riding to work the other day and was listening to a woman being interviewed about guns. She was talking about how she’s part of this organization that was founded by her friend and how they promote the second amendment in people having the right to bear arms, but at the same time advocate for common sense around that amendment.
In other words, let people have guns to protect their families or go to the shooting range or hunt or whatever they want to do, but let’s also make sure that we have …
Strong criminal background checks.
Strong mental health checks.
And let’s perhaps rethink the idea of making it possible for hormone-raging 18-year olds to have assault rifles in their bedrooms.
She said that the NRA hates them so much and she mentioned a staggering statistic that something like 3% of the population in the US possesses 50% of the guns and that some people have so many guns in their homes that they could literally start and win a war. A few people collect them, but some people just keep …
And buying them.
And buying them.
… Just to have them.
Now, this isn’t a post on gun violence or gun control or anything like that. I don’t know enough about the topic to share any kind of solid opinion. But I’m telling you this story because as I listened to this woman talk about how she sends her kids to school everyday and worries for their safety and how she doesn’t know what in the world she would do if one of her own was ever caught in a the pathway of a shooter.
I couldn’t take it. I had to shut it off. I started to think about Jordan who turns ONE today and …
What I would do.
I’m telling you this story about this woman I heard on the podcast because it reminded me of this time I overheard someone arguing that people should be able to have as many guns as they want and they based their argument …
Not on any kind of common sense.
Not on any political agenda.
Not on any valid statistics.
Not even on any kind of self-proclaimed knowledge.
(wait for it)
… On the Book of Revelation.
They said that the book of Revelation says that Jesus will come back someday riding on a white horse with a sword and His clothes soaked in blood and that, therefore, we ought to get our weapons ready so that we can join Him in the war.
(Because, you know Jesus needs our weapons.)
(And, also, because, you know, Jesus is all about war.)
We need to go to war and win wars today, they said, and at the same time prepare ourselves for the massive war that is to come at the end of the world. We need to stock up on guns, they said. Build our safe houses. Get a war chest of money and canned goods together, and get ready to hunker down because Jesus is coming back to raise up His army. And when He comes back, man, He’s going to be ticked.
… “It says so in Revelation.”
Like, what in the world does that actually mean?!
What church is teaching this?!
Where did this idea come from?!
We need to realize that the writer of Revelation (his name was John) was writing his letter on an island where he was banished to because the Roman government thought he and his message of love and grace and peace and inclusivity was way too dangerous to Imperial / Empire living where everyone is all about the opposite of those things:
... And so he wrote a letter to his church back home using cryptic language, part of which detailed how Jesus …
Rode on a white horse.
With his clothes stained in blood.
And a sword coming out of His mouth.
The sword came out of His MOUTH, mind you. Let’s get that straight. It wasn’t in His hand and He wasn’t swinging it — John wrote that it was coming out of His MOUTH.
Because His words of love and grace and mercy and disdain for the grossness of the government and the Church of His time and the way they excluded and outcast others all the while building themselves up … His words against all of that cut like a knife, separating the darkness from the Light, casting the darkness away and inviting in the Light.
AND His clothes were soaked in blood.
Not my blood.
Not your blood.
Not the blood of our enemies.
Not the blood of the people we hate.
No — HIS BLOOD, which showed us that sacrifice and love always win over war and hatred and fighting.
Yes: Love (always) Wins.
It’s sacrifice that leads to new life and resurrection, not war and fighting and guns and revenge and weapons.
And so with all of this in mind, let’s take a short trip to the 15th chapter of Mark where we find the events of Good Friday — the day that Jesus was crucified.
Mark tells us that it was the practice of Pilate to release a prisoner to the crowd at the festival of Passover. And so Pilate addressed the crowd and said, “I’ll either release to you this guy named Barabbas or Jesus — your pick.”
Now, here’s the interesting thing.
Barabbas wasn’t a criminal in the sense that he robbed a bank or stole some milk from the corner store. He wasn’t a rapist or some insane guy who was off his meds that the NYPD picked up off the street and tossed into prison for a few nights.
Far from it.
Rather, Mark tells us that Barabbas was …
“In prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising.”
Scholars tell us that there were constant uprisings during the time of Jesus and that many of those uprisings were instances of the “sicarii” or “dagger men” who specialized in political assassinations.
The dagger men most often directed their attacks against their own fellow Jews who were members of the ruling class / elite and would not only plunder their property, but also kidnap them for ransom. Often times during festivals (such as Passover), they would mingle in the crowds with daggers hidden in their garments; when the time was right they would strike down their target, which was often someone from the ruling class that was collaborating with Roman officials to line their own pockets and rip off the poor.
In short, their goal was to break down the security of the ruling class (by whatever means necessary) and bring everybody to a more level playing field.
Barabbas, Mark tells us, was one of these dagger men.
And so standing before the crowd, Pilate says that (as was his custom during the festival) he will release either Jesus or Barabbas — whichever one the crowd wanted back or saw to be more innocent.
The ironic part is that …
BOTH of these men were revolutionaries
(Don’t miss that — BOTH of them were revolutionaries.)
… Yet, both of them were revolutionaries of a very different kind.
Barabbas was wanted for his violent revolutionary actions that involved murder and kidnapping and theft while Jesus was wanted for his nonviolent revolutionary actions that involved welcoming everyone regardless of culture, religion, sex, or background.
Both were seeking to level the playing ground.
Both of these methods were threats to not only the Jewish ruling class, but also to the Romans because neither group wanted anybody making any noise or using any kind of language that would level the playing field, mess up the hierarchy, and take away their control and power.
In their eyes …
Everyone was NOT an equal.
Everyone was NOT welcome.
Everyone was NOT worthy of love.
… And they would do anything necessary to keep it that way.
You could say that both men came strongly against the ruling class and the power hungry upper class, with Jesus specifically coming against the upper class establishment that had leaked its way into the Church, creating an atmosphere of exclusion and hierarchy that God never intended to be a part of His Israelite community.
The actions of both Jesus and Barabbas were frowned upon by the scribes and Pharisees and Romans, all of whom lived off the money of the poor and therefore both men found themselves standing before the crowds ready to be crucified.
Crucifixion, mind you was reserved only for those who were deemed to be a massive threat to the way that things were done in the world at that time. If the Romans saw you as a threat to their system of ruling the world, then crucifixion was your destiny.
Ched Myers says it best …
“The cross was not a religious icon, but the ultimate deterrent to those who would dare challenge the sovereignty of Rome.”
Anyways, and so Pilate said that he’d release ONE of them and the crowd chose Barabbas.
“CRUCIFY HIM!”, they yelled.
And that’s what happened, on the first “Good Friday”.
What I want to show you today, though, is something really interesting that just clicked for me the other day while I was listening to the lady on the podcast talk about guns and various kinds of violence.
I know it took a little while to get here, but bear with me.
Like we said, Jesus and Barabbas were both revolutionaries. They both saw problems and they both went after them — Barabbas with violence and Jesus with nonviolence. And both, as we know, ended up in the same place — standing before a cross.
When Pilate offered the crowd Barabbas or Jesus, though, they chose Barabbas. Why? Because in their minds, HE was the real revolutionary. HE was the one who was doing what the “Messiah” was supposed to do. The Jews (you might remember from the Palm Sunday post) were waiting for a Messiah to come start a war and win a war, giving Israel a victory that would put her back on top of the world.
“Make Israel Great Again!” — that was their mentality.
Their thinking might have gone something like this …
“Barabbas might not be able to lead Israel to such a victory, but at least he’s trying. Right? At least he’s doing what the Messiah is supposed to do! At least he’s walking in the right direction.
He refuses to fight.
He refuses to raise a sword.
He refuses to go to war.
We want Barabbas back. Jesus? Crucify that wannabe revolutionary.”
Here’s the best part, though, and the biggest argument for why a nonviolent revolution of love and grace and inclusion and friendship and humility and lots of other stuff is the only way to create real and lasting change in our world.
Barabbas and Jesus both died. Yeah, Barabbas got a few more months or years or whatever.
Both of them died.
Jesus, though — He’s the only One who kicked the stone away from the grave and walked into glory, paving the way for you and me to do the same.
Yes — the nonviolent revolution of Jesus is the one that ultimately led to new life, to resurrection.
I’m thoroughly and 100% convinced that if we’re going to see new life breathed into our lives and into our world and into our families and workplaces and everywhere else, we need to take Jesus’ nonviolent approach to creating change.
Change won’t come from fighting.
Change won’t come from finger-pointing.
Change won’t come from name calling.
Change won’t come from another war.
The only way to create the lasting change that we’re all looking for is to lay down our own sense of pride and to lay down our own need to be right and to lay down our desire to fight anybody who would dare disagree and to resist the temptation to make ourselves great and to (instead) do what Jesus did — love.
It’s Good Friday today, the day that Jesus’ non-violent revolution went into full throttle. Let’s go walk in His footsteps right here and right now and let’s bring some change into our world with the greatest weapon of all:
Who needs to know that you love them today? Go show them.
Grace and Peace, friends.