March 15, 2020 BARABBAS Wants Jesus to Die
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
You see the title of today’s portion of our Sunday series ‘who wants Jesus to die?’ == it’s BARABBAS. This man named Barabbas is not a major figure in the Passion story of Jesus, but he does have a part. And, being mentioned in the Lord’s Holy Scripture IS a pretty big deal; and every person who comes into contact with Jesus of Nazareth, who is the very Son of God, is supposed to be affected for the ‘better.’ The Bible does not say whether Barabbas was affected in that better & eternal way or not.
So far, we’ve thought about why THE FATHER, and why SATAN wanted Jesus to die. Those two had very different reasons & purpose in their desire for Jesus’ death; and those two represent the very basic & foundational reality of our existence. God The Father is why there is a good creation & human life in the first place; and Satan is a key reason why this creation is ruined, cut off from God, stands condemned, & will one day be destroyed ~ with all human beings either going off into eternal death, or going to God into eternal life.
This is why we have a season of Lent. Underneath the historic scenes of Christ’s suffering & death is this battle of rebellious Satan against our Holy Creator over the souls of all people. This battle is made up of 2 basic things: one is the powerful love & mercy of = the God of life; and the other is the evil spiritual terrorism of Satan = the dealer of death.
WE are in the middle of a spiritual war. We can observe both sides; we see the wonders of this extraordinary creation, with the gifts & blessings of life; and yet, we can also see the painful wickedness of sin, the terrible evil of sinful people, the disease & injustice of this life against the innocent, and the great fear, sorrow & loss thru death.
This war began when some of God’s heavenly creatures -His angels- rebelled against Him, and were forcibly removed from heaven. On earth, God presented Adam & Eve with the two special trees in the Garden of Eden = the tree of life & the tree of death. He did this to show them that they were personally responsible for their lives in doing right & wrong. God also permitted Satan an opportunity to test their willingness to obey their Creator.
Adam & Eve were not ‘destined’ to sin, but they did sin. Satan’s words were mighty tempting. *Remember when God gave Satan permission to tempt & trouble Job? Job remained faithful to God. Likewise, Adam & Eve did not have to disobey God =that was not their ‘fate’; but because they were seduced & they did rebel, so all the rest of creation fell with them.
So then, history records many different skirmishes in this feud. Whether Satan is more or less directly involved, the spiritual war has been going on for 6,000 years; and all our faithful ancestors have been fighting against Satan & his followers. We’ve also been struggling against our own sinful natures, while faithfully waiting for God’s promised Messiah=deliverer.
Finally, according to His plan, the time came for God Himself to armor-up, and go head-to-head with man’s powerful original enemy. After Jesus was baptized, He immediately went into the Judean wilderness, and Satan came against Him with the worst temptations. Later, when Jesus was teaching about the kingdom of God, Satan had willing accomplices in the Jewish leaders who questioned Jesus, resisted Him, & stirred up opposition against Him.
Fallen angels tried to exert their powers by possessing people; but Jesus showed His miraculous power by casting out those demons & setting people free. The closer Jesus moved toward Good Friday, the more intense His battle became, until it was time for Jesus’ /betrayal, /arrest, /trial, /& crucifixion. That sequence of events was the long-promised turning point to show the whole world God’s grace, and His powerful victory over all His enemies.
The reason we begin this way today is because BARABBAS was one person among so many that Satan used in his overall war against God. This Barabbas may or may not have been aware of that; he might’ve thought he just ‘got lucky’ that day, without knowing that he was just another stooge for Satan to try to derail whatever plan God had to redeem the world thru the work of Jesus.
All 4 Gospels record this event with Barabbas. The name ‘bar–abbas’ means ‘son of the father,’ or could be ‘son of the teacher.’ It may mean that this man was a son of one of the Jewish leaders or Teachers of the Law; which could be why he hated Rome enough to be an ‘insurrectionist’ or rebel against Rome. Some may have considered him a hero in trying to resist Roman rule. However, he was among those who were committing murder in violent riots.
He’s also called a ‘notorious prisoner’, which might mean he’d been arrested many times as a rebel & law breaker. Finally, here he is facing the death penalty by crucifixion.
How easy it would be for Satan to see the cruel selfishness of this man, whose life was committed to lawlessness & violence.
This custom of releasing one prisoner during the Passover was probably a concession made by Rome to try to pacify the Jews; Rome considered them a strange people, & hard to govern.
Since Pontius Pilate thought Jesus was rather harmless and innocent, it was a clever move against the Pharisees to give the whole crowd a choice between gentle Jesus & a dangerous murdering thug like Barabbas. Since Barabbas had no honor or decency, no repentance or conscience, *what did he care about some weak Rabbi who wasn’t willing to fight Rome? Barabbas wanted Jesus to die so that he could be set free, and not suffer the consequences of his own crimes.
And Pilate wasn’t much better. So we’re told, “Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.” Pilate didn’t want to get blamed for a riot, so he ignored the ethics of ‘right & wrong’ and gave the crowd what it wanted = the condemnation of an innocent man.
That’s really all we know about this man ~ Barabbas.
So, what does that have to do with US? (I’m glad you asked.) Barabbas is part of Jesus’ story to show us a very large temptation that affects ALL of us. Which is this: How easy it is to make use of Jesus only insofar as He /serves our purposes, /makes our lives easier,
/or helps our favorite causes & issues. We are tempted to use Jesus for our own ends.
I’ll mention a few general things; we’ll let the Holy Spirit identify our own personal ones.
+Some people might belong to Jesus’ church just because it improves their public image; they use Jesus to make themselves look better, & not so they have a soul-strengthening faith-family. +Some belong just so they can have a place for a wedding or a funeral; using Jesus to get a few benefits. +Some people seek the Lord’s help when they are sick or scared, and then they get better, & now have no more use for Him, besides -maybe- a passing ‘thanks’ during the holidays. We all have the temptation to treat Jesus as an occasional /advisor, /counselor, /PR-man, /or doctor; not as a Savior & Lord.
We used to grumble about TV evangelists who preached a few things about ‘Je-ee-suss’, & then begged for money, or sold books & trinkets to support their ‘important ministry’, while living in mansions & driving luxury cars. It was obvious they used Jesus for their own worldly gain. That era of TV evangelist is mostly passed now; but using Jesus for selfish gain is not passed.
People use social media as their own ‘broadcasting channel’ to seek fame with many ‘followers’; to feel accepted, loved & adored. Many of them will use things related to Jesus in order to get people’s attention & positive feedback; they may not think much about the real meaning of things they post, or things they forward to their friends, as long as it has some reference to ‘God’ or ‘God’s blessings,’ or ‘Jesus’ forgiveness’, or ‘prayer.’
How about those who are seeking help on social media, like on a ‘go-fund-me’ site, and they know they have to make some reference to Jesus, or some spiritual sentiment, in order to get the attention of kind & giving Christians who like to help those facing trouble or injustice.
*Would you or I ever USE Jesus for our own gain? *Would we distract people with Him in order to escape some punishment or consequence? I know of a pastor who was pulled over for speeding, and tried to get out of a ticket by referring to himself as a ‘servant of the Lord.’ The patrolman responded, ‘Pastor, you of all people should know better.’ The lesson of Barabbas is a lesson about examining our relationship with our Savior Jesus, and making sure it’s based on sincerity and truth. We are to know Him; bring our sins to Him~ that we would be turned & forgiven & have a new life; and then to thanks & praise, serve & obey Him.
Barabbas was not in control of this custom; but he didn’t object to being an accomplice to an innocent man’s death. Satan could count on the Pharisees to stir up the crowd; but ultimately, GOD allowed Barabbas to be freed, because -otherwise- His plan of salvation would be hindered. If Barabbas had been crucified instead of Jesus, our sins would not be paid for. Then we would have no Redeemer, and would spend eternity separated from God in hell.
So the Father saw to it that His Son would die for the right reason, as the spotless Lamb in our place. It is amazing how God uses all things for good! The people chose to free a man named ‘bar-abbas’, the son of the father, so that The Heavenly Father’s Son could be crucified for us.
The Gospel itself is the ironic twist in this story of Barabbas: he wanted Jesus to die so that he could be set free. And that’s exactly what Christ accomplished, not only for Barabbas, but for ALL of us. The Gospel promise is that it’s OUR name that appears wherever the name Barabbas is written. Our name has a part in Jesus’ Passion story.
By our sins, large & small, we have been found guilty; but because of Jesus and His cross, we have been set free. And that is a marvelous gift of God’s grace & work by His own Spirit thru His Word and thru our Baptism. This is why we are not ashamed of the Gospel; for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe Him.
The spiritual battles continue; Satan will not stop fighting against God and us until the Last Day; and Satan will use his sinful accomplices to tempt & oppose all who look to Jesus as Lord & Christ. But between the cross and the empty tomb, we have been shown that God will always win. Thanks be to God, who has given us the victory thru our Lord Jesus Christ.