Sam Radford

April 15, 2022

Why do we choose bandits over truth?

Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, ‘I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ They shouted in reply, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a bandit.

It’s Good Friday today and I started my day reading the Good Friday narrative from John’s Gospel.

The section above is what stood out to me as I read.

In my Bible the two paragraphs I’ve quoted above are separated by a heading, implying a change of subject. It’s not there in the original manuscript though—editors have added it.

And reading it without that section break, it’s hard not to see the link.

We have Jesus saying he came into the world ‘to testify to the truth’ only to have the crowd, moments later, say they’d rather see a bandit released than Jesus.

It’d be easy to, in hindsight, say we would never get caught up in something like this. But is that true?

In our world today, isn’t it the truth-tellers who are silenced and the ‘bandits’ in power, careers elevated through deceit, manipulation, and even bare-faced lies?

The truth sounds like a good thing. And it is! But—and it’s a significant ‘but’—it also illuminates, exposes, reveals, and shames. It is painful too. And so we prefer an easy lie over a hard truth. It’s easier to free (or elect) a bandit than it is to accept the truth. 

In Jesus’ day, the truth-teller got crucified and the bandit got freed. Have things changed much since?

Ultimately though, as exposing and painful as truth may be, it is the only pathway to freedom. As Jesus himself said:

…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

Unless we learn to embrace the truth, we will forever keep choosing to let the bandits roam free and shape our world. 

At what point will we acknowledge that that’s no longer a price worth paying?

—Sam

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