“Surveying the Cross” Barabbas
March 24, 2016
Message Summary: What was done to Jesus should have been done to Barabbas—and to each one of us. We can all rightly declare, “I should have been crucified.” But Jesus, God’s Son, took our place! Today, let us live with renewed commitment to this marvelous Saviour and reaffirm our faith in Christ, the everlasting solid Rock!
Note: The last two messages we have shared creative videos telling the stories of Simon of Cyrene and Malchus. For today’s message I found a similar one with six accounts leading up to Christ’s death on the cross, including a perspective from Barabbas. Although we hope you read our message we also encourage you to take 9 minutes to watch this video for a very moving perspective. If possible use full screen.
Listen to this message on your audio player.
“Then he (Pilate) released Barabbas to them” (Matthew 27:26).
As a very young Christian back in the seventies I was blessed by a song with the intriguing title, “I Should Have Been Crucified.” To this day, though I rarely hear the song anymore, I can still recall the words.
I should have suffered and died.
I should have hung on the cross in disgrace,
But Jesus, God’s Son, took my place.
The lyrics of that song is a great message about the Biblical doctrine of substitutionary atonement. But only one person in history could have sung or spoken that message in a literal sense. Barabbas, who was released in Christ’s place. He could rightly have said, “I should have been crucified.”
The Scriptures tell us very little about Barabbas and nothing about what became of him following his brief appearance in the Gospels as Christ’s substitute. He was a “notorious prisoner” (Matthew 27:16) who had been involved in murder and sedition (Luke 23:19). John 18:40 reports that he had taken part in a rebellion. In Roman law he deserved to die.
But he was released at the trial of Jesus, as the crowd clamored, “No, not him. Give us Barabbas!” I wonder what he thought when he heard this?
Since he was in the city it’s not unreasonable to assume that he likely witnessed the crucifixion, or at least the events leading up to it. What did this murderer think? When he was sitting powerless in the prison day after day, surely his mind had traveled numerous times to the place of execution where he would soon receive the death penalty for his sins against mankind. What did he feel as he witnessed Christ taking his place? Was his heart changed after seeing an innocent man die in place of a guilty man who was now set free? Did he eventually turn to the Lord who had become his literal physical substitute on the cross? * Heaven will have many of “the rest of the stories” that we’ve only been privy to a few chapters here on earth!
Bible teacher Donald Grey Barnhouse writes these thoughts concerning Barabbas: “He was the only man in the world who could say that Jesus Christ took his physical place. But I can say that Jesus Christ took my spiritual place. For it was I who deserved to die. It was I who deserved that the wrath of God should be poured on me. I deserved the eternal punishment of the lake of fire. He was delivered up for my offenses. He was handed over to judgment because of my sins — Christ was my substitute. He was satisfying the debt of divine justice and holiness. That is why I say that Christianity can be expressed in the three phrases: I deserved hell; Jesus took my hell; there is nothing left for me but His heaven.”
In several ways Barabbas is a type of the redeemed through all the ages.
- We, like Barabbas, are guilty, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
- We, like Barabbas, justly deserve death, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
- We, like Barabbas, are essentially passive as Jesus takes our place. There’s no suggestion that Barabbas had anything at all to do with his release. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
What was done to Jesus should have been done to Barabbas—and to each one of us. We can all rightly declare, “I should have been crucified.” But Jesus, God’s Son, took our place! Today, let us live with renewed commitment to this marvelous Saviour and reaffirm our faith in Christ, the everlasting solid Rock!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Jesus, thank You for dying in my place on the Cross! Just like Barrabas, I am the truly guilty and You are the sinless One who demonstrated Your own love for me in that You died for me while I was dead in my trespasses and sins. Just as You were lifted up on the cross, and just as You were raised up from the dead, You lifted the weight of sin from my heavy shoulders when I turned to You in forgiveness. Not only did You pay off my sin debt but the incredible, unearned bonus is that You also gave me the gift of eternal life. I am amazed when I consider Your extraordinary love for me. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. Amen.
Here’s a powerful nugget of additional insight on Barabbas in an article by James M. Boice, who in turn also quotes Donald Grey Barnhouse:
It was customary to free a prisoner at the time of the Feast of Passover. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” Pilate asked the crowd (Matt. 27:21). “He was astonished when the people replied, “Barabbas!”
Barnhouse pictures Barabbas sitting in the prison, staring at his hands, which were soon to be pierced by nails, and shuddering at any sound of hammering that might remind him with horror of his own impending crucifixion. Suddenly he hears a crowd roaring outside the prison. There are angry voices. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” He thinks he hears his own name.
Then a jailer comes to unlock the door of his cell. Barabbas thinks that the time for his execution has come, but instead the jailer tells him that he is being set free. The crowd has called for his release. Jesus of Nazareth is to die instead.
Stunned, Barabbas joins the processional that is making its way to Calvary and watches as Jesus is crucified. He hears the sound of the hammer and knows that the blows that are fastening Jesus to the rough wooden cross were meant for him. He sees the cross lifted high into place and knows that he is the one who should be dying on it.
Jesus cries, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The centurion who has commanded the execution party exclaims, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).
Barabbas must have been saying, “That man took my place. I am the one who should have died. I am the condemned murderer. That man did nothing wrong. He is dying for me.”
* A very interesting work of fiction concerning Barabbas has been written. It was also made into a movie conjecturing that he eventually became a Christian.
We passed several Amish one room schoolhouses yesterday and saw the children playing outside at recess. Looks like we unintentionally reveal our secret for our “on the fly” photos as we travel from business to business. Needless to say, our travels to five companies in one day would be quite a different, less interesting, workday if all we did was travel through a busy city with heavy traffic. Every one of our trips, especially in spring, summer and fall have so many interesting views with interesting people.
I took this photo yesterday…of a picture at Dienner’s Country Restaurant!
I would sure enjoy sitting down and visiting with some friends on this porch with a glass of iced tea or fresh lemonade.
“The Basin And The Towel” Video Michael Card Tonight we will have a Maundy Thursday service in our church in which we remember the Lord’s death in sharing Communion and also footwashing.
Since footwashing is not practiced in many churches (we did not practice it in other affiliations I have had) let me describe our practice: The men and boys go to one room while the women and girls stay in the main room. We sit in a circle and remove and socks and shoes. We move around the circle one by one having our feet washed and then in turn washing the next. Essentially washing is merely splashing some water on the feet and then drying them off. It’s symbolic of servanthood. We also sing hymns together.
Good Friday voices: Here are six accounts of witnesses leading up to Christ’s death on the cross, including a perspective from Barabbas. We encourage our readers to take the 9 minutes it takes to watch this video for a very moving perspective. If possible use full screen.
“I Should Have Been Crucified” Video Gordon Jensen
“When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” Video Homecoming Singers with several solos
An astounding 30 of the 89 accumulative chapters in the four gospels cover the period beginning with Christ’s triumphal entry through His resurrection and post-resurrection appearances. Mathematically this means that approximately 33% of the written material in the Gospels deals with a mere .05% period of His life! In the providence of God we have a much greater proportion of Scriptural revelation dealing with God’s greatest act of mercy in providing our redemption.
Here’s an interesting chart from a Study Bible that may be helpful as you study the Bible this week. It sure helps me to have a sense of when the events took place and is inspiring to read these Scriptures in the daily sequence leading up to Easter.
Jesus teaches stories and confronts the Jewish leaders: Mt. 21:28-23:36; Mk. 12:1-40; Lk. 20:9-47
Greeks ask to see Jesus: Jn. 12:20-26
The Olivet Discourse: Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21:5-38
Judas agrees to betray Jesus: Mt. 26:14-16; Mk. 14:10,11; Lk. 22:3-6
Jesus speaks to the disciples in the upper room: Jn 13-17
Jesus struggles in Garden of Gethsemane: Mt. 26:36-46; Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:39-46; Jn. 18:1
Jesus is betrayed and arrested: Mt. 26:47-56; Mk. 14:43-52; Lk. 22:47-53; Jn. 18:2-12
Jesus is crucified and buried: Mt 27:31-56; Mk 15:20-41; Lk 23:26-49; Jn 19:17-30
(This material is developed from an outline in the Life Application Bible)
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