By: Matt Gordon
We are the choices we make—or something like that. We don’t have choice in all things, but much of what we become boils down to small decisions that end up informing how we mete out larger ones. I have a desk that raises. I’m choosing to write this while seated. A choice within a choice—I’m choosing my posture while choosing to write this. I’m doing all of this from a desk at a company where I’ve chosen to work. All this at a workplace I chose to show up to today despite coming off a holiday weekend and a wakeful night with my toddler. I’m drinking a Mountain Dew, a blue variety with a shark on it; what choice did I have really? They had me with the arctic shark, right?
Choices. We choose. The shirt we put on and the mate we go through life with and the things we buy and the websites we visit and the blog posts we read (or stop reading. Would a pic of a rockin’ arctic shark help?)
There you go.
Point is, we choose things all the time. At the beginning of Mark 15 we see a couple choices highlighted. You have this crowd of people, a ruler, and a big decision. First, comes the choice of the people. Each year held a custom in which the people got to release a prisoner. Maybe it was a person whose imprisonment was seen as unjust or a friend of the people or a family member of someone in power. Whatever the case, a person was selected by the people to be released. On the year in question, the crowd got to choose between Barabbas and Jesus. Barabbas was a leader of a rebellion and had committed murder in said insurrection. Jesus walked around a lot, said some things, and was rumored to heal people—pretty much the opposite of murder. Hmm. Classic difficult decision here.
Of course the people did what people do, they chose Barabbas.
This could be for a number of reasons. Why am I sitting when it is better for my body to stand? Why am I drinking arctic shark themed Mountain Dew when there are drinks aplenty at my disposal that are not marketed for a thirteen year old and won’t make me feel like a ninety year old well before my time? But I’m a bad a chooser. Surround me with a horde of others, ratchet up the emotions, and you can guarantee that wisdom is unlikely to win the day. No, noise will. And that is what they made—noise. Emotional noise tends to be the companion of bad decisions—and bad decisions, like the misery they create, love company.
The second decision is from the outsider—the ruler. Pilate is not part of the crowd; he is safely removed from it. From his vantage, the emotional noise is muted. He has reason and discernment as guides. But reason and discernment without courage are like a well-tuned car without tires; it is a flightless bird, a toothless shark. Pilate is not a sufferer of groupthink but a casualty from it. He sees the truth, he sees the crowd; truth, crowd; truth, crowd. And then, after weighing pros and cons and running the math on the behavioral economics, Pilate decides. Mark sums it up this way: “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them.” At the urging of the crowd, he released a murderer and was complicit in the murder of another. He chose.
We all do.
We look at our own best interest—sometimes at the wiles of the crowd and sometimes removed from it. But always self-interest gnaws at us. We look at the truth and then the crowd; the truth, the crowd. What will we choose?
As the noise of our world goes to eleven, will we stand with and for truth? Will we trust reason and discernment to guide us toward loving action, and then implement the necessary courage to choose what is right rather than what feels better for ourselves in the heightened, blinding moment of reaction? Or will we sit, slouched at desk and swigging Mountain Dew, dreaming of a better world but crucifying the prospect of such with each every tepid choice we make.