“You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” Acts 3:14
It’s quite remarkable that normally sensible people could ask for a murderer to be released. Matthew explains how this happened, “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed” (Matthew 27:20).
How did the chief priests and elders persuade the crowd? What lies did they tell them? What fears did they arouse that would make them think a murderer was safer than Jesus? Luke gives us a few more clues: “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ … He stirs up the people … by his teaching” (Luke 2:2-5).
If the crowd had thought about Jesus and his teaching they would have known most of this was lies. Jesus wasn’t subverting the nation. His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was about loving their enemies, doing good to others, caring for the less fortunate, not committing murder or adultery. Hardly the words of an insurrectionist and Jesus didn’t oppose the paying of taxes (Matthew 22:21).
The only thing that was true in these charges is Jesus did claim to be Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. Why didn’t the crowd reflect on Jesus’ claims rather than dismiss it without consideration? The idea of Jesus being the Messiah challenged their preconceived ideas. They wanted a conquering warrior not a suffering servant yet both were prophesied. They conveniently remembered what was most comfortable for them.
What about us? Do we examine Jesus’ teaching for ourselves or do we rely on other’s misinterpretations? Do we only remember Jesus’ comfortable words and forget the challenging ones? Are we like the crowd?