Jesus or Barabbas

It was the preparation day for the Passover, and it was around nine in the morning by this point. While Pilate was presiding over the court, his wife sent him a message saying “Leave that righteous man alone, because I had a terrible nightmare about him last night!” Pilate knew that the Jewish authorities had brought Jesus to him because they were jealous of how popular he was with the people.

Pilate called together the Jewish authorities and said “You have brought this man to me saying that he leads people astray. But after examining him, I have found that there’s no evidence to charge him with any crime that you have accused him of. Herod hasn’t found anything either, because he returned him back here. Therefore I will have him flogged to discipline him and then release him to you.”

The chief priests and Temple police shouted “No! Crucify him!” Pilate replied “Crucify him yourself, because I find no reason to charge him.”

The Jewish religious leaders responded “He has to die because of our Law, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

Pilate was even more afraid when he heard this. He went back inside his headquarters and asked Jesus “Where are you from?” But Jesus did not answer. Pilate said “You won’t answer? Don’t you know I have the power of life and death over you?”

Jesus answered “You have no authority over me at all except that which is given to you from heaven. This is why the greater guilt is upon the One who handed me over to you.” Pilate was even more desperate to release Jesus after hearing this.

There was a custom for the governor to release a prisoner to the Jews during the Passover festival. The chief priests agitated the crowds to demand for Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus. Barabbas was a notorious criminal who had been thrown into prison for taking part in a rebellion and murder.

Pilate wanted to release Jesus, so he brought him outside for the crowds to see. He sat on the judge’s bench in a place called Gabbatha (The Stone Pavement) and asked the crowds “Of the two of them, who do you want me to release to you, the man called Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

“Barabbas!” they shouted, adding “If you release Jesus, you oppose Caesar! He said he was our king! Only Caesar is our king!”

Pilate then asked “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

With one voice they answered “Crucify him!”

Pilate asked “Why? What is his crime? Should I crucify your king?”

But the crowds and the chief priests shouted even louder “Caesar is our king! Take this man away! Crucify him!”

Pilate saw that he wasn’t making any progress with the crowds, and in fact a riot had started. He took a bowl of water and washed his hands before them, saying “I am innocent of any guilt concerning this righteous man. This is your concern now!” The mob answered “His blood will be upon us and our children forever!”

Pilate yielded to their voices and released Barabbas to them. After having Jesus flogged, he released him to them, to be crucified as they demanded.

MT 27:15-26, MK 15:6-15, LK 23:13-25, JN 18:38b-40 and 19:6-16

Questionable boyfriend

A lady came into the library recently with a guy I recognize. He’s a patron from years ago, and not a good one. She asked him if he wanted to check and see if he had a card. He shrugged her off, but came up to me later.

He said that she was his girlfriend, and he had been using her card. I was pretty sure he had an account that he couldn’t use because it wasn’t in good standing.

I was right. There was a reason he didn’t do any of this in front of her.

He had a dozen CDs out and hadn’t returned them in years. He’d been billed for them, and his account had gone to collections. He owed over $300.

He knew all of this. It wasn’t a surprise. Maybe he was hoping it would have just disappeared.

I told him his options. Find them and bring them back. Buy replacement copies of what is lost. Or pay the fine. He walked away.

They both came up later, and he’d again used her card to check out. She seems like a decent person. She doesn’t look like she would date him. I wanted to warn her – don’t marry him. Stay away.

I can see more than his fines. I can see more than his unwillingness to be responsible with his account. I know that he was caught trying to spray paint this building.

I also can tell more from what he is reading. He’d checked out “urban erotic fiction.” This is what black women in the projects read. It is rough stuff – and straight white guys certainly don’t read it. Perhaps he’s gay? Because the only other guy I’ve ever known to read “urban erotic fiction” was.

This isn’t going to go well.

The last time I warned someone away from a questionable guy I got censured very badly. There was a guy who wasn’t very reliable who was in the medieval reenactment group I was in many years ago. He’d promise the moon and not deliver. He was forever making up his own rules about things. He was shifty, and we’d early on learned to not let him be in charge of anything because he always let the group down.

He started dating this girl who was very nice but very innocent. She was trusting – too trusting. I felt like it was my duty to clue her in to his history with the group.

It all backfired on me.

At an event, months after my talk with her, my knight (I was in a household with a knight as the head) pulls me from what I was doing and says we are going to have a meeting. Next thing I know, I’m sitting at a table with the knight, the girlfriend, and the guy. I’m suddenly on trial and I’ve not had any warning. Turns out she talked to her boyfriend, and he talked to my knight. Nobody had come up to me privately.

It was uncomfortable. It was intense. And I felt betrayed by my knight.

I was asked why I said what I said. My main answer was to protect her. My brother has been married four times and the successive wives didn’t know about his lies and the previous wives. They’d gotten hurt very badly. I felt that I had a chance with this lady to let her know what she was getting in for. I didn’t have a chance with my brother’s wives. I could have saved them a lot of trouble.

I was then asked who told me what I said. Some of what I knew was from before I was in the group, so it was information that was revealed to me. I refused to answer this. It isn’t who told me that is the issue. It is the fact that I repeated it. I wasn’t told by just one person, and my personal experiences with this guy had borne out this impression that he wasn’t trustworthy. Heck – even my knight had told me stories about how shifty he was. I held my ground on this one.

Plus – I didn’t think it was fair to throw other people under the bus, just because I was getting run over.

I meant well, and I got hurt. I didn’t trust my knight after that. I didn’t talk to this guy or his girlfriend ever again either. It ruined my experience in this group that was my main social outlet. I know this group was supposed to be about honor and chivalry, but I felt like I was doing the right thing, and I feel even today that how the situation was handled was inappropriate.

So I’m a little wary of telling anybody to stay away from shady guys.

I don’t think this is the lesson I should have learned.

We read stories about women who were suckered by guys who made them think they were great people, and all the people around them knew the real story. Her friends and family saw how he was when he wasn’t with her. They said nothing, and it all went very badly. In the best case, her heart gets broken. In the worst case, she’s dead.

Is it worth it? Are we supposed to be silent? Are we supposed to pretend that the skunk will turn into a kitty cat? Are we supposed to think that if we don’t tell her our concerns that it will all work out for the best?

This seems stupid. This is how predators continue to work. We are aiding and abetting them with our silence.

How much am I allowed to say at work? Would it be considered slander? Could I get fired for expressing my opinion of this guy to his girlfriend? Library records are private, by law. Even a wife doesn’t have access to her husband’s account unless he gives her his card.

I don’t think this guy is dangerous – just untrustworthy. That can become dangerous.

Evil spirit?

So God is supposed to be all good, right? But what about these verses – God sends “evil spirits” to rile people up, to make bad things happen. Maybe there is something more to all of this. All Bible quotes are RSV.

There were a lot of judges in Israel before they had kings. Somebody had to make decisions. But then it seems that every now and then God stirred things up. Control was taken out of their hands.

Judges 9:22-25
22 Abim′elech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abim′elech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abim′elech; 24 that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubba′al might come and their blood be laid upon Abim′elech their brother, who slew them, and upon the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to slay his brothers. 25 And the men of Shechem put men in ambush against him on the mountain tops, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way; and it was told Abim′elech.

Then God made Samson want a woman who was a Philistine just because God wanted to stir up a fight between the Philistines and Israel. God knew there would be a fight at the wedding.

Judges 14:1-4
Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 Then he came up, and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” 3 But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your kinsmen, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me; for she pleases me well.” 4 His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD; for he was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Then God sends an “evil spirit” to King Saul, which stirs up problems between him and David, who God has chosen in his place to be king.

1 Samuel 16:14
14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.

Here’s another example of God sending an “evil spirit” upon Saul.

1 Samuel 18:10-11
10 And on the morrow an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; 11 and Saul cast the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.

The same thing happened to Judas. He wasn’t betraying Jesus because he wanted to –he was made to do it by forces beyond his control. Satan, the very definition of an “evil spirit”, entered him.

Luke 22:1-6
Now the feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death; for they feared the people. 3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve;4 he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and engaged to give him money. 6 So he agreed, and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of the multitude.

Here’s another take on the same scene.

John 13:21-27
21 When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; 24 so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom he speaks.” 25 So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.27 Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

So what’s going on? This is pretty wild. God isn’t what we thought. What does this say about God and the nature of God?

Are we willing to let God use us like this? This is some hard stuff – wars being waged, innocent people being attacked and killed. All because God makes it happen by sending an “evil spirit”. God is in control of evil spirits? God is in control of everything.

What does this say about “free will”? It is out of the window. These people didn’t decide to be angry or crazy or start wars or betray a friend.

What does this say about bad times, about wars, about people attacking innocent people? David and Jesus were both innocent. They didn’t deserve to be attacked. They’d done nothing wrong.

Perhaps that is it. We need to trust that everything is part of a plan that we can’t see. The more we fight against it, the harder it is for us.

Maybe that terrorist, that road-rager, that narcissistic manager, that abusive parent is part of the plan. Maybe an “evil spirit” entered into them. Who knows? We can’t know. That is part of the problem. We want to see the whole picture, and we can’t. We don’t have the capacity for it.

God says that God is the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end at the same time. We can’t comprehend that. It is like trying to play a DVD on a record player. Our technology, the human brain, lacks the capacity to process things like God does.

(All Bible quotes are RSV.)

Security System?

It doesn’t matter how good your security system is if you leave your front door open.

I got a letter from a company I’d never heard of telling me that they’d been monitoring my credit for me and they thought that there was a problem. They said that it looked to them like someone had been using my credit. Their remedy – fill out this form and include my social security number and send it to yet another company I’d never heard of.

The bad part is that I suspect that a lot of people will fall for this trick.

This is an elaborate pfishing attempt. Instead of an email from a bogus company with a suspicious link, this was mailed. Instead of giving away my email password, they wanted my social security number. The letter was well written – there were no grammatical errors.

I could have the best credit protection that money could buy and it would mean nothing if I just handed over my social security number to these jokers. Now, this doesn’t even address the idea that we shouldn’t be using social security numbers for anything other than social security, but we do, all the time. That may be the topic of another post.

My first clue that something was amiss was that it was written to one of my aliases. I’d subscribed to something, perhaps a magazine, a long time ago and used a bogus middle initial. They used this one. The bad part is that I don’t remember who I started that with so I can’t track down who sold my mailing address. But what if it had been my real middle initial?

I suspect that older people will fall for this. They are often a little more worried about their security and more trusting of authority figures. They don’t know that they need to check things out for themselves. They are used to teachers and doctors and ministers telling them what to do. If my Mom were still alive she would have filled that out and not even questioned it.

Filling out that form is exactly the same as opening my door to a thief. I pay for home security. Every day when I leave I turn the alarm on. The smart thief wouldn’t even have to wait for a day when I forgot to turn it on. The smart thief would just knock on my door and be dressed like a UPS driver. I’d open the door and he’d kick his way in and it would be all over.

Failure to think for yourself or check things out on your own is the same as leaving your front door open.

Be smart. Question everything. Don’t trust authority just because it is authority. Read the rules for yourself. Read the fine print. Read the Bible for yourself. Don’t agree just for the sake of agreeing, and certainly don’t take my word for it.

Any person who expects you to take what they say without question is highly suspect.