Which Jesus?

I went to the Osceola County Library on Sunday with the family to get some books for the boys.

I ended up getting this little book by Tony Campolo, Which Jesus? He asserts a little of imagination in the reading of Matthew 27 when Pilate asks the crowd who do they want released, Jesus or Barabbas? He starts by commenting that it is intriguing that Pilate used his surname and not his first name. He goes on to say that one of his seminary professors suggested that Barabbas’ first name was Jesus. He claims that this Jesus Barabbas was a Zealot who also claimed Messiahship in order to save the Jews from the Roman oppressors. Origen (an early church father) and many of the early Greek manuscripts refer to Barabbas as Jesus Barabbas. Interestingly, the surname bar Abbas would also mean son of the Father (God).

What Tony goes on to discuss is that these two ‘Messiahs’ go about saving the Jewish people in two very different ways: Jesus Barjoseph sought to save them through Love (of God and salvation through his sacrifice) and Jesus Barabbas sought to save them through Power (of the sword through killing and murdering any who stood in the way of the Jews). This contrast is a very stark one to say the least. I have enjoyed this read a great deal.

I’m about halfway through it right now and as I read chapter four, “Love Can Do Amazing Things”, he begins to talk about Jesus’ miracles. Tony brings out the point that the main motivation for Jesus to work the individual miracles was love. He healed because he loved. The miracles of Jesus were for sure great displays of his power, but if you read the Gospels you will see that in many instances Jesus tells those that benefitted from his miracles not to tell anyone what happened. Honestly, this has been a source of struggle for me in the message and ministry of Jesus… why would he want people to keep quiet? I have never quite understood what he was trying to accomplish by miraculously healing people and then telling them not to tell anyone. As I read Tony’s thoughts, I began to understand a little more. Maybe Jesus wanted people to keep quiet because he didn’t want to draw attention to his power and therefore have even more people asking him to display that power. Jesus’ whole ministry was not about power, it was about God’s love for us. He wants us to come to him freely, because we choose to, not because we are forced or compelled. Was Jesus’ aversion to notoriety due to his use of power his attempts to maintain the purity and integrity of his message of love?

We may never know the full reason for Jesus acting the way he did, but this might give us some insight. For me, this struggle of why Jesus wanted his miracles kept quiet has been answered and I have grown a little in my understanding of Jesus. Maybe this thought can help you as well…

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