Thursday, July 23, 2009

How could the crowd have preferred Barabbas over Jesus?

Luke 23:13-25
Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him; neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him;
I will therefore chastise him and release him." But they all cried out together, "Away with this man, and release to us Barab'bas" -- a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted out, "Crucify, crucify him!"

A third time he said to them, "Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him." But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

How could the Jews? How could the crowd have preferred Barabbas over Jesus?

To begin, let’s consider who was Barabbas?
We know that he was a murderer and they chose him over the author of life. We are told he was a rebel and they chose him over one who was obedient, obedient even unto death – death on the cross. He was a thief, one who came to steal and they chose him over one who came only to give – giving his life on the cross so that you might have life in its fullness.

So Barabbas was a rebel. That should remind us of who was the first rebel and what was the first rebellion. Barabbas was guilty of insurrection. What was the first insurrection? It was of course the insurrection of Lucifer over God. Lucifer was the first rebel when he said I will not serve. Barabbas was a murderer. Who was the first murderer? In John 8:44, Jesus said it was the devil himself. Barabbas was a thief. Jesus speaks of the thief in John 10:10. So we can see Barabbas is a picture of the devil himself.

What about the name of Barabbas? The Aramaic name of Barabbas is made up of two parts – bar (Son) and abbas (Father) – or son of the father.
We know Jesus is the true Son of the Father. Jesus came in the name of the Son of the Father given to Him by God the Father Himself. Barabbas came in the name son of the father given to him by himself. What does this remind us of? John 5:43 says I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.

If Barabbas serves as a picture of the devil, who do the Jews serve as a picture of in this passage? The bad news is they are in fact a picture of us. For it is easy for us to look at this scene of Jesus in His agony and say ‘How could they? How could the crowd choose Barabbas over Him?’ But isn’t that exactly what we do whenever we choose to sin?

Like the Jews we are choosing the devil over Jesus! Barabbas over Jesus
The murderer over the author of life.
The liar over the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The one who has only come to steal over the one who has come to give us life in its fullness.

When we look at the torture exhausted bloody swollen face of Jesus under the crown of thorns with the gaze still loving and patient and see with indignation fury and horror of the Jews choosing Barabbas over Him, we should see ourselves each time we choose to sin. And every time we are faced with the temptation of occasion to sin we should call to mind the same picture and ask ourselves how can we do what the Jews did? How can we reject Jesus and choose Barabbas?

In fact, the Jews have in many ways much more of an excuse than we do because although they knew how terrible how Barabbas was they did not really know how good Jesus was. They did not know that He was our Creator, our God, Him to whom we owe absolutely everything. Yet we do know all of this and we still choose Barabbas over Him every time we choose to sin. Like the Jews, each time we sin –to Pilates “What shall I do with Jesus?” we shout back ‘Crucify Him!’ And this is quite literally true because it is our sin that lies behind the pain and crucifixion of Jesus. It is our sin that made it necessary and each time we sin we add to the pain that Jesus suffered.

The Good Friday Reproaches
I led you out of Egypt from slavery to freedom but you led your Saviour to the cross.
For forty years I led you safely through the desert, I fed you with manna from heaven and brought you to a land of plenty, but you led your Saviour to the cross.
What more could I have done for you. I planted you as my fairest vine but you yielded only bitterness.
When I was thirsty you gave me vinegar to drink and you pierced your Saviour with a lance.
For your sake, I scourged your captors and their first born but you brought your scourges down on me.
I led you from slavery to freedom and drowned your captors in the sea, but you handed me over to your high priest.
I opened the sea before you, but you opened my side with a spear.
I led you on your way on a pillar of cloud but you led me to Pilates court.
I gave you a royal sceptre but you gave me a crown of thorns.
I raised you to the height of majesty but you have raised me high on a cross.
My people what have I done to you, how have I offended you, answer me.

Source: by Roy Schoeman – a Jew who experienced an unexpected and instantaneous conversion to Christianity.

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