Barabbas Prepares for Crucifixion

None can say that it was the Jewish nation that murdered Jesus; it was all of us, i.e. our sins that took Jesus to the cross. Jesus could have stopped it at any time and called ten legions of angels to His aid (Matthew 26:53). He willingly went to the cross for all of us to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). We all need a substitute to take our place. It took more than a man, though, to pay the price for our sins. Only the sacrifice of God Himself could pay the price for us to be bought out of the slave market of sin where we were trapped. Christ is God in the flesh, and He alone paid the price to free us from sin.

20But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. 22“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” 24When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” 25All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” 26Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified (Matthew 27:15-26).

Inside the Praetorium, the official residence of Pilate, a man was awaiting crucifixion. Perhaps, he was reflecting over the many sins that he had committed over his lifetime. It was Friday morning, the day of preparation where the Passover lambs would be killed that day. He mulled over his approaching death and the fact that the soldiers would be coming for him at any time that morning. I am sure he had seen people being crucified before and was aware of the painful death that awaited him. Perhaps, he tried to prepare himself for it by praying, but God seemed a long way off to him. He was scared. What would death be like? He had lived a sinful life and had lived in hatred of the Romans for many years. He had been tried as an insurrectionist and for an act of murder, and he was found guilty on both counts. Now, all he could do was await his fate.

His name was Barabbas. In just a few hours, he would be dead by crucifixion, and he was sure that, if there were a hell, he would go there, for he had no hope. What would God do with him? Would he spend eternity in hell because of the murder and rebellion that he had committed? He had heard a commotion in the streets outside his jail cell, but he could see nothing. He knew that something was happening, but he had no idea of just what was going on. All he knew was that he was scheduled to be crucified that morning with two others.

Jewish tradition held that it was defiling for a Jew to be in a building that was not Jewish, so the Praetorium courtyard was used for the place of judgment so that the Jews would not be ritually defiled before the Passover. Barabbas trembled when he heard quite distinctly a multitude of people shouting from the direction of the large courtyard, “Barabbas, Barabbas!” He puzzled over why they would be loudly calling his name. Straining his ears to hear something further, his heart sank when he heard the words, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Ten minutes later, he saw the Roman jailer coming down the corridor with the keys in his hands. His heart skipped a beat. It was time to die. Instead of being crucified, though, the soldier angrily set him free. He found out that another had taken his place.

The Roman jailer came into his cell and unlocked the chains that bound him and, I’m sure, angrily told Barabbas that he was free to leave. Imagine the relief that must have flooded Barabbas’ heart to hear that Jesus would die in his place. Talk about good news! However, this is the reality that Barabbas faced that morning as he watched Christ carry the cross that was made for him. This is the story of a substitute that came to die for Barabbas and for you and me, also. Isn’t it time that you received this gift of eternal life that Christ has bought for you on the cross?

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 62 at this link, Jesus Before Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:1-25). Keith Thomas

What Was the Cup That Jesus Had to Drink?

We are meditating on what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus was crucified. God gave Jesus a cup with which to drink, so the question we wish to answer is, what did the cup represent? Here’s what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane:

38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:38-39).

There are two things that were seen as a cup that Jesus had to drink to the dregs there in the garden. The first is that the cup was a picture of the wrath of God that was deserved by you and me:

Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger (Isaiah 51:17; read also Jeremiah 25:15-17).

We deserved spiritual death because of the sins and choices that we have made in our lives. In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam that when you eat of the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil you would surely die. Adam did not die physically the day he ate, but spiritually he and everyone else born into the world, was separated from God and a barrier between God and man existed (Isaiah 59:2), a condition of death in the eyes of God. The prophet Ezekiel spoke about this punishment on sin, when he said, “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). Sin had to be judged or God would be accused of injustice. The punishment of sin must be maintained, God cannot just overlook sin and justice. For God to be love and just, the God of love came to pay the punishment in order that we may be freed from the penalty of sin.  Matthew tells us of the one prayer that the Father denied Jesus, “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:39). Christ would have to endure the full punishment of separation from God on the cross: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew27:46).

This God that we love and serve has made no other way of escape other than that His Beloved Son should go through this time of humiliation, pulling at His beard, spitting in His face, and flaying the skin off of His back, culminating in the torturous death of being crucified. There was no other way, no other solution. He didn’t tell man to wait until Mohammed. He didn’t change His salvation plan and tell man to go and see the Buddha. There was only ONE WAY and it involved God Himself becoming the substitute. Here we see the love of God revealed. God planned Operation Redemption. He Himself would pay the substitution ransom, the sacrificial price. Christ would drink the cup of God’s wrath. The price is free for us but it cost God His Son! He would take man’s place. The judgment was firm and just, the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4), but Jesus, God’s Son, would take our place, the just for the unjust to bring us to God.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the love of God said “no” to Jesus. It was not possible for there to be any other way but that He should take the cup and drink God’s wrath on sin to the dregs. If there was another way, don’t you think God would have taken it rather than watch His Son tortured and murdered?

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

When we truly understand all that God has done for us, the only response is love for the One who has made our freedom and deliverance from sin possible. Self-sacrifice is the “God way”. The way of the cross is the only way to God. We will look at the second thing the cup represented tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas