God Has a Sense of Irony (and Humor)

And Jesus said to the Syrophoenician woman, "...'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'" Matthew 15:24. Later, as Jesus is lamenting the fall of Jerusalem, he says, "How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling." Matthew 23:37. Jesus knew his mission, and we know his heart. All He wanted was a receptive audience. Actually, I believe He got what He wanted, but as historical irony rather than historical fact. That will change one day.

Imagine what the Jews in Jesus' day expected the coming of the Messiah to look like: the promised Messiah perched triumphantly on a palatial balcony in Jerusalem overlooking a boisterous crowd cheering for the Son of God. It sounds great, doesn't it?

Well, in a manner of speaking, this is exactly what happened.

Matthew 27:17 "So, when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, 'Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?'" (...) 21 ...'Which of the two do you want me to release for you?' And they said, 'Barabbas'."

Again, imagine Jesus, Pilate and Barabbas standing over the crowd, and the crowd yelling "Barabbas". Can you picture a mob of first century Jews standing below Pilate yelling, shouting, screaming, "give us Barabbas"? I bet the movies don't do it justice.

The name Barabbas is a Greek transliteration of what would have been the Hebrew name Bar Abba. Frequently, when Hebrew or Aramaic words were transliterated into Greek, word endings were changed in the transliteration to be "more Greek". For example, the name Judas is a transliteration of Judah. Thus, Barabbas is more appropriately Bar Abba.

Recall from earlier posts that "bar" is the Hebrew/Aramaic word for son. Recall, too, that when Jesus was addressing His father, he called him "Abba". Mark 13:36. "Abba" is simply an informal word for father, more like "dad" or "daddy".

So, in one of God's irony of ironies, at the moment when Jesus is to be freed or condemned, a crowd of the lost sheep for whom Jesus had come were crying out for what they needed most, the Son of the Father. When they cried, "Give us Barabbas," they were really crying "Give us the Son of God."

What must Jesus have thought as He stood there listening?

Just like the first century Jews, I think we often cry out for Jesus not knowing what we are crying out for, and we have no idea that what we need most is right in front of us. For the first century Jews, it didn't appear as though their Messiah had come even though He was right in their midst. I think the same is true for us today, Jesus is right in our midst when it least appears He has come.

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