People wanted the Messiah to be a military leader, to drive out the Romans who the Jews saw as their "enemies". They were disappointed in Jesus because He didn't take a stand against the Romans and re-establish the nation. But the political party of the Zealots was all about driving them out and re-establishing a sovereign Jewish nation. And there were many rebellions. Barabbas was a rebel, and the two "thieves" crucified next to Christ were not actually thieves —that's an incorrect translation— but "rebels". When they asked for Barabbas to be released, they showed that they preferred a military approach to securing their freedom rather than this hippie Messiah who was preaching about loving enemies. But Jesus knew that the real "enemies" are spiritual, in the heart, not the 'Romans' (or Palestinians) outside.
But today there are people fighting to gain "the holy land." Instead of loving their neighbors, they are fighting them. Meanwhile millions of Christians are saying that God wants us to "stand with Israel" because the land is their right. Instead of teaching Israel to love as Christ loved us while we were His enemies, Christians are preaching the rights of Israel to the land, and that it is God's will and desire for them to have it.
Once at a national day of prayer meeting I attended, a woman stood up and shared that the Lord had told her, "Your neighbors are your inheritance", and I have never forgotten those words. Everything else on earth is perishable and will not last for eternity in its present form. But people are the treasures that Christ died to save from destruction, not money and not land (which will be renewed/re-created). And so the Psalms say of Christ that "the nations are His inheritance". And then Paul says in Romans 8 that we are "co-heirs with Christ". So His inheritance is our inheritance, too. The nations are our inheritance!
And that means that the Palestinians are the inheritance of the Jews, and the Jews are the inheritance of the Palestinians. We are all meant to inherit each other, because Christ desires to inherit all of us! But we are encouraging Israel and "standing with Israel" to fight for her old, perishable inheritance of dirt and dust, while fighting against those Christ wants for His inheritance!
Somehow today it seems like we Christians have failed to notice that this is the spiritual situation behind what's going on in the Middle East, and have lost sight of the gospel while supporting Israel as if in a fever. (And most often this is for eschatalogical reasons, not based on the gospel or Christ's command to love one another as He loved us!)
Ironically, some ancient manuscripts of Matthew list Barabbas' surname as "Jesus", so his name may have been "Jesus, son of Abbas", while our Jesus was "Jesus, who is called the Messiah". So when Pilate presented them both to the people, he may have been saying, "Which 'Jesus' do you want?"
It's a good question for us today: Do we want the 'Jesus' who teaches us to fight our enemies to secure our freedom and nation? Or do we want the 'Jesus' who teaches us to love our enemies because He loved us while we were His? Do we want the 'Jesus' who commands us to carry the bow and arrow, or do we want the Jesus who calls us to carry the cross just as He carried His?
As I prayed about these things, I heard the Lord crying out in the Spirit:
"My people are choosing Barabbas!
My people are teaching the ways of Barabbas!
They are rejecting Me and choosing the 'Jesus'
that their itching ears want to hear!
Turn! Turn from your ways, My people, and be saved!
For the path you are choosing only leads to death!
I am He who brings freedom through the Cross,
not through the sword!
If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword."
• "Me or Barabbas?"
• "What Good Is It?"
• "What Are You Fighting For?"