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

Who Had the Place of Honor at the Last Supper?

We are continuing our meditation of the last Passover meal that Jesus and His disciples had the night before He was crucified (Scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts). As they were all reclining around the table, the Lord spoke about the one who would betray Him:

21But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.” 23They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this (Luke 22:14-23).

It is John who gives us more information on this part of the conversation:

21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” 22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” 25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon (John 13:21-26).

Each of them were bewildered as to who it was. None of them were suspicious of Judas until Jesus revealed it to John at the table. We are told that John was reclining at Jesus’ right, with his head leaning against Jesus’ chest (John 13:25). This was not the place of highest honor; the person to the left of Jesus was granted that seat, he toward whom Jesus had His back turned. It is doubtful that Peter was in the place of honor since Peter could only whisper to John to ask Jesus who the betrayer was (John 13:24). We can’t be certain, but it is likely that Judas was seated in the place of highest honor at the table to the left and back of Christ. It would have been difficult for Christ to reach any other part of the table if He was reclining on His left elbow and side. With His left elbow on the mattress, Jesus reached onto the table and dipped His bread into the dish and gave it to Judas. This explains why Judas, out of earshot of the others, could say to Christ, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered “Yes, it is you” (Matthew 26:25). Judas had managed to seat himself at the position of honor to the left of Christ. I wonder how Peter felt about Judas being in the place of honor to the left of Jesus.

God will often put His servants through the test of Promotion. If you have ever wanted to be used of God in a way that brings life to others, you will be tested by others getting promoted over you. They will be noticed and thrust forward, seemingly leaving you behind. How you respond to this test reveals a lot about your character. Can you trust God when others are being promoted ahead of you? Do you promote and push yourself forward? Promotion comes from the Lord. “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men” (Proverbs 18:16). This test is one of the most difficult to experience for one whose passionate desire is to be used of God. The servant of God is often left on the shelf as a test of his character. The arrow that God wants to use in ministry runs straighter when it is left longest in the quiver:

He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away (Isaiah 49:2-3).

Are you still in the quiver waiting for God to use you? The wood of the arrow must go through many straightening and hardening tests before it can be used effectively by the Heavenly Archer. I pray that you would come through the character tests and serve Him faithfully.

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 59. The Last Supper (Luke 22:7-34). Keith Thomas