Center yourself by reading the following passage from the Gospel according to Matthew. Read it slowly. Pause and take a breath after each sentence.
Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. . . . The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” . . . . So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
As you read this passage, enter the story. Imagine yourself standing at among the crowd. People are jostling for position, trying to see Jesus. They strain to hear Pilate's voice. People push against you. You hear them shout "Barrabbas!" What do you do? Do you get pulled along with the crowd? Do you remain silent? Or do you take a stand against the violent crowd? You struggle to look toward Pilate. What does he do?
Sit with this scene for a few moments.
We all have our allegiances. For the chief priests and elders, they owed allegiance to the Temple. In their minds, they owed allegiance to God. They also owed allegiance to the Roman Emperor. In the end, as they weighed the competing allegiances, the demanded the death of an innocent man.
Think about those things to which you owe your allegiance, Maybe its your family. Maybe its your job. Maybe its your favorite sports team, or your political party, or your nation. Think about a time when that allegiance was more important than showing compassion to someone in need. For example, does your allegiance to a political party, for example, trump your compassion for someone who is on the other side of the aisle? Do your allegiances prevent you from showing kindness, love, and generosity to others?
The compassion of Christ knows no allegiances--the freedom we seek is not personal liberty, but the freedom to love generously.