Nathan Knapp



  1. The crowd says bring out Jesus Barabbas and so Jesus Barabbas is brought out. The crowd has the option of choosing either Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Christ to be brought out. The crowd chooses Jesus Barabbas.
  2. Jesus Christ, then, is forced to carry the heavy wooden timber. Later, he is nailed to this timber.
  3. Let us praise Barabbas.
  4. He was named Jesus Barabbas in the early texts. Later, he was named only as Barabbas. One can imagine why. The crowd wanted him, the crowd named him, the writers of the Gospels renamed him, because he went free where Jesus Christ did not. He appears, in the Gospel of Mark, as Barabbas . . . who had committed murder. The crowd asked for him. Of him named in the Gospels as Jesus Christ, they said, Crucify him.
  5. To crucify, an invention of those who would provide the foundation for European civilization, was to nail to a heavy timber. To nail to a timber and to stand that timber up and to leave standing in the sun, to suffocate there while nailed to a heavy timber.
  6. Let us praise the heavy timber.
  7. Before nailing Jesus Christ to the heavy timber he was scourged. To be scourged was to be whipped with a cat-of-nine-tails, which resulted in a thorough flaying of the skin and muscles of his back. After the scourging he was forced to carry the heavy timber. On his back.
  8. Before carrying the heavy timber, but after the scourging, a twisted braid of thorns was fashioned into a crown, and this crown was driven into to Jesus Christ’s head. Wearing the braid of thorns, made to look like a crown, bleeding from his head, bleeding from his back, he carried the heavy timber.
  9. Let us praise the braid of thorns which resembled a crown.
  10. When Jesus Christ was nailed to the heavy timber, the heavy timber was raised up, and he hung there, from the nails, with only a small support to stand on. It was hard to breathe.
  11. Let us praise the nails, and the small support, and the labored breath.
  12. It is written that Jesus Christ’s agony was so great that his Father in Heaven turned away his face from him, and that the sky grew dark and went black.
  13. Let us praise the sky grown black.
  14. The Doctrine of the Trinity, a central tenet and belief of most modern Christian denominations, could be interpreted here to mean that the Father in Heaven, in turning his face away from his Son, turned his face away from himself. This is an act otherwise known as despair.
  15. Let us praise despair.
  16. There is no record of what Jesus Barabbas did when the sky grew black, for there is no record of what Jesus Barabbas did upon being set free in the place of Jesus Christ. Did he follow the train of the man who carried the heavy timber, to see what he had himself avoided? If so, what did he feel, if he felt anything at all, as Jesus Christ’s agony grew, and sundered the Father from the Son, and the day from the sun?
  17. Let us praise the sundering of the Father from the Son, and the day from the sun.
  18. His name, Jesus Barabbas, means Jesus, Son of the Father.
  19. The name Jesus means God Saves.  
  20. The crowd called for God Saves Son of the Father to be brought out, and saved.
  21. The crowd called for God Saves, who in most Christian doctrine is referred to as the Son of God, that is Son of the Father,to be crucified. That is, nailed to a piece of wood.
  22. Let us praise the crowd, and its calling, for it was a lynch mob.
  23. Let us praise the lynch mob for the choices it has made for us.
  24. Writing such things, in certain days, would have resulted in a lynch mob, for to say such a thing would certainly be blasphemy.
  25. Let us praise certain days.
  26. Let us praise the days that befell those who would have formed the corpus of the lynch mob. For the days move always, for in every day there is death.
  27. Shall we praise death?
  28. What of Jesus Barabbas, in the days after the death of Jesus Christ, who one could say was his brother? This is one of the great questions, unasked. His story goes untold, in history as in myth. The weeks, months, years that followed are gone.
  29. Would that the story of Jesus Barabbas had been told. It would not be a gospel, for gospel means good news. It would be an anti-gospel, the bad news, the news which is life as it is lived.
  30. What of Pontius Pilate, who asked What is truth? What of Pontius Pilate who brought out Jesus Barabbas, and gave him to the crowd, and who condemned Jesus Christ to be nailed to a piece of wood, Pontius Pilate, hated asker after the nature of the truth when the Truth, some believe, stood before him?
  31. The writer Victor Serge wrote that those who seek the truth find the truth, that’s the trouble with it.
  32. But perhaps it was Jesus Barabbas that gave us the truth, in going free, whereas Jesus Christ did not.
  33. Let us praise death, which did not save God Saves from itself.
  34. It was not in death that God Saves was reunited with God, who had turned away from him in his worst moment, his greatest agony. The Apostles’ Creed, a text still in use by modern Christians, tells us that God Saves, upon his death on the heavy wooden timber, on the hill above Jerusalem, which was called Golgotha, that is the place of the skull, descended into Hell.
  35. What did God Saves do in Hell? This, like the later life of Jesus Barabbas, is a mystery.
  36. God Saves, the Apostles’ Creed tells us, on the third day rose again, and appeared to his friends and followers, and eventually ascended unto heaven, and now sits at the right side of the Father.
  37. The Apostles’ Creed does not tell us whether God Saves spoke to God on the subject of God not having saved him. It does not tell us whether or not he asked God, again, as he had while nailed to the heavy timber, bleeding from his brow and his back and his feet and his hands: Why did you forsake me? Why did you leave me in a condition of despair?
  38. Because God had set a precedent on that day on the hill above Jerusalem, that he would forsake, that he would leave his beloved in a condition of despair, the Creed stays silent on this fact, as it is not a helpful aid in belief.
  39. Let us praise, again, the condition of despair, for in it we are like God Saves, nailed to the heavy timber, bleeding from brow, back, hands and feet.
  40. Blasphemy, all of this: a blasphemy performed for all to see, who were there that day at the place of the skull which we call Golgotha or Calvary, and is written in the good news which we call the Gospel.
  41. But blasphemy no longer brings forth the lynch mob, as it once did in certain days. Blasphemy no longer belongs to God, as the lynch mob which called for the death of God Saves once belonged to God.
  42. Blasphemy belongs to us, for God has given it to us.
  43. Let us praise the God who has given us blasphemy, who has placed it in our mouths, like the Sacrament, which in the doctrine of the Christians time immemorial is made of the flesh and blood of God Saves, the Son of God, and which saves us.
  44. For we are all Barabbas, Son of the Father, who walked free from the scene of the death of God Saves, the son of God.
  45. Let us praise Barabbas.





Writing this essay filled me with dread. I wrote the first half in one sitting, then set it aside for close to three months without looking at it, because I did not know, and did not wish to know, where it had come from or where it was going.