Barabbas

It was a close call.
I thought I was a goner.
I’d been sentenced to death,
and there was a cross with my name on it.
The Romans are brutal, and there is no mercy,
not for someone like me.
I was arrested a week before the festival.
I led my men, we planned and plotted,
waiting for the right time, the right opportunity.
Everyone is sick of this occupation,
this bowing and scraping, yes sir and no sir,
keeping our mouths shut and our eyes down.
Carrying centurions’ burdens like donkeys,


heaping our hard earned cash on the tax collector’s table,
Roman soldiers looking over our temple.
Are we just supposed to go on like this forever?
Something has to give, or some one.
It was supposed to be in and out,
create a commotion, distract their attention,
then pull down the standard of the legion,
flying so insolently over our city, David’s city.
And it worked, the fight in the outer court,
our men struck when their attention was diverted.
It wasn’t much, a few soldiers down,
the eagle standard dropped to the ground for a few short minutes.
We weren’t fools, we knew it was just a gesture.
We would have gotten away with it,
but they caught one of our group at the gates to the city.
A little pressure, a little pain;
it didn’t take much to make him talk,
and the centurion and his crew surrounded our base
and they caught me, like an animal in a trap.
It was my fortune to be arrested before the great holiday…
more people to see my body hung on the hillside,
a warning to others, “This is what happens
to those who try to take a stand.”
I admit, those nights in the jail were grim.
I kept thinking about nails and hammers.
Then suddenly the guards came stomping in,
grabbing me, telling me it was my lucky day…
I thought the day of my execution was here,
and the guards were just rubbing it in.
But we didn’t go outside the city,
we went to Pilate’s stronghold,
where I could hear the crowds chanting,
chanting my name!
I had only a glimpse of Pilate,
and some other prisoner standing beside him,
and then I was into the crowd,
being cheered and carried.
The guards were right, it was my lucky day.
It was only later that my men told me what they’d done,
gone through the crowd, telling them to yell my name,
strongarming them, letting them know in no uncertain terms
what might happen if they yelled anything else.
The priests and elders joined in, they chose me too.
I heard then about the other prisoner, the unlucky one,
who Pilate had wanted to release.
His name was Jesus, a teacher, a healer;
his biggest crime was alienating the priests.
I went to his execution, I couldn’t stay away.
Every blow of the hammer, I felt.
I saw the blood, the suffering.
It should have been me.
This Jesus died for me.

About Carol Penner

I am a Mennonite pastor currently teaching theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. I’ve served congregations in Ontario and most recently, Alberta.

I love to write and to lead worship! If you are finding my writing helpful, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to use or adapt the material here, it is all written by me. If printing material, please credit “Copyright Carol Penner www.leadinginworship.com” (and say whether you modified it). If publishing, please contact me for permission. Contact me at carol@leadinginworship.com

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