Mark 15:13

Again they shouted, “Crucify him!”

crowds shout and chant
the only thing they know
the shorter the better
the more rhythmic the better

so off with her head
so lock her up
so crucify him
so kill

were there conditions
ambiguous options
we’d have to negotiate
then where would we be

offer one choice
never more never less
tenaciously hold to it
as a center of the universe

get in our way
you’ll live to regret it
get out of our way
you’ll live to regret it

The penalty for a murderer who had participated in acts of insurrection against Rome—Barabbas—is crucifixion. The crowd has come to release Barabbas from this penalty. Their response here is in keeping with their intention. If there is a crucifixion to be had and it was going to be applied to someone, the crowd would want that crucifixion to be attached to someone other than Barabbas.

This accounts for the strange use of “palin” here. Since this is the first time Pilate has asked about applying a penalty to Jesus, “palin” can’t be used in its usual fashion of bringing back to mind a previous occasion similar to this one.

What is being returned to is the issue of release and the penalty attached to it. To release Barabbas, his expected penalty needs to return to Pilate for assigning. Thus the crowd’s response, connecting the penalty of crucifixion to Jesus.

It doesn’t matter if Pilate says, “Jesus” or “king of the Jews”. The crowd only hears, “Not Barabbas!”

Jesus becomes a nobody in stages. A disciple, Judas, betrays Jesus in the dark. The Sanhedrin resorts to lies. Pilate does not use Jesus’ name, but a derisive nickname to depersonalize his opponent. These last two political techniques have been used from time immemorial and to this day. The crowd also participates in the disappearance of Jesus before he is even dead. He is only, “Not Barabbas”, not a father’s son.

Without going the route of Docetism, that for which Jesus was anointed is already present before a physical death. All traces of Jesus have been erased. There is no Jesus, no movement. It’s over.

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