I’m grateful for my commentaries, my concordance, my dictionary, my devotionals, and my books of maps, but what I really want is for someone to come up with an Esper Bible App.
You may recall that classic scene in the 1982 science fiction cult favorite, Blade Runner, in which the replicant hunter played by Harrison Ford is staring at a photo. He senses it’s hiding something. Utilizing his computer’s Esper technology, hey presto, he’s moving into and manipulating the photo, zooming across the room it has captured and through the doorway at the other side to explore what’s there, initially hidden from view. A two-dimensional image becomes a three-dimensional experience. Too cool.
An Esper app would help me do that with the Bible on a regular basis—move into the all-too-familiar frames, and nose around to discover something new. For now, I have to be satisfied with those occasional aha moments, one of which came as I was reading the Easter story this past week. I was in Matthew 27, hovering at the back of the crowd at Pilate’s place.
Desperate to find a way out of the charged situation, the governor tries to turn it into Jerusalem Idol. Playing to the annual tradition of freeing a prisoner of the people’s choice, he asks whether they want him to free Jesus or this other guy that is being held.
Maybe, like me, you’ve known this alternative pick for years as Barabbas, the leader of a failed revolt against the Roman occupiers. But my Esper moment came in reading a different translation to my usual one. There he is identified as: Jesus Barabbas.
Oh my. Two Jesuses. And which one would I prefer? The crowd’s choice? The one who better fits my idea of God’s promises of deliverance? Who will use some muscle to give me what I want? He may break a few laws on the way, but hey, these oppressors deserve what’s coming their way. It’s payback time.
Or the other one. Who could have prevented his arrest, but didn’t (Matt. 26:53-56). Who wouldn’t answer straightforward questions (Matt. 27:14). Who himself seemed to recognize, too late, that this way of surrender could only end in defeat (Matt: 27:46).
Sometimes, when things aren’t going my way, I want Jesus Barabbas, the one who will come out swinging, the one whose name comes from Bar Abba, meaning “son of the father.” A descriptor that can be easy to confuse with the Son of the Father. But that belongs to the other Jesus, the true Jesus.
It’s all too easy to miss the difference. What separates the son of the father from the Son of the Father is two shift-caps keystrokes. They capitalize: they raise him up, whence what seems like the ultimate failure becomes the greatest-ever triumph.