Tuesday, 15 June 2010

I am Barabbas!

I wonder if like me you’ve heard the story of the trial of Jesus before Pilate many times, especially at Easter time. After questioning Jesus, Pilate offers to release one of two prisoners, depending on the choice of the crowd. The crowd choose Barabbas instead of Jesus, and Jesus is sent away to be crucified.

Previously when I’ve heard this story I’ve been struck by the unfairness of it, but thought no more of it. This year, I happened to be watching one of the film dramatizations of the life of Jesus Christ and it suddenly hit me – I am Barabbas!

John’s gospel tells us “Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion” (John 18:40). I believe Barabbas was one of the zealots who was fighting against the Roman occupation of the land of Israel, and had led an uprising against the Roman rulers. I have also taken part in a rebellion – a rebellion against the Creator God who made me for His glory – but against whose rule I rebelled and instead chose my own way. This rebellion against my God is a much more heinous crime than a rebellion against civil authorities, and deserves to be punished – by death, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Not just physical death, but eternal death, eternal separation from God.
Barabbas was in prison awaiting his death sentence. Jesus was then brought before Pilate. After being examined by the governor, Pilate declares of Jesus “I find no basis for a charge against this man; He has done nothing to deserve death”. (Luke 23:4; 15). He is declared innocent before Pilate. Moreover, He is declared innocent before God the Father – who says of Him “This is my Son whom I love, with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). He had no sin in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Yet Pilate does something strange. This is a clear-cut case, with one guilty prisoner, one innocent prisoner; in terms of determining the sentences this is a no-brainer, we might say. Instead, “It was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested.” (Mark 15:6). Pilate tells the crowd he will release Jesus. But “with one voice they cried out ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’...Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’...So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will” (Luke 23:18;20-21;24-25).

The innocent party is sent to be crucified; the guilty party is pardoned and set free.

Can the gospel message be any clearer? “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). The wrath of the Father against the sin of mankind was satisfied by the death of His Son, and is proven by His resurrection from the dead. In exchange for the life of sinful Barabbas, the sinless Jesus Christ was crucified. In exchange for my sinful life, the sinless Jesus Christ was crucified. In exchange for all of our sinful lives, the sinless Jesus Christ was crucified.

In order to appropriate this amazing, awesome gift, to be pardoned and to be set free “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Repent and believe that Jesus Christ died for your sin, that you too might be forgiven and set free.