GIVE US BARABBAS!(Questions 37-38)
37. What does it mean He "suffered"?
38. Why did He have to suffer under Pontius Pilate as judge?
We sometimes forget that Christ lived a life of poverty and humility. From the time He was born in a manger to the time He was put on the cross, He knew what it was to be poor, hungry, deprived, rejected and hated. Christ's life was no "cakewalk". Instead it was one of suffering-step by step until it reached its glory and exaltation upon the cross. For this part of the Creed we want to especially look at the last day of Christ's life-His so-called trial and punishment before Pontius Pilate.
Christ had been taken prisoner in the Garden of Gesthemane. He was taken to the High Priest of the Jews and determind to be a blasphemer(because He said He would destroy the temple). Even though the High Priest and his followers wanted to kill Jesus, they didn't have the authority to do so. To get permission, they would have to take Him before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate.
Pilate did not want to get involved in the religious wars of the Jewish people. He could have cared a less about what Jesus said about destroying the temple. In fact, by looking at the verse from the book of John, we can see that Pilate found no guilt in Jesus at all.
Pilate says those all important words-"I find no fault in Him at all!" He was wanting to release Jesus but the Jews were putting pressure on him. They were trying to convince Pilate that Jesus was an enemy to Rome and therefore deserved death. When Pilate didn't go for it, the Jews threatened to go over his head and tell Pilate's superiors that he let an enemy go free. Frustrated and angry at the Jews, Pilate decides to use of the Jewish customs to get back at them. This custom allowed Pilate to free a prisoner for Passover. He was certain the people would want Jesus freed. Instead, they bring up the name of Barabbas.
This Barabbas was a known thief, murderer and rebel. He had tried to start several revolutions against the Roman government and had killed Roman soldiers. This was a crime deserving of death. So when Pilate heard the name "Barabbas" he was probably shocked. There was no way he would want to let Barabbas go-for this man was truly an enemy of Rome. But Pilate had already opened his big mouth. Finally, with his back against the wall, Pilate ordered Christ to be whipped with forty lashes. He thought that once the people saw that Jesus had been beaten, they would say that punishment was enough and let Him go. This was not to be. We see what happened in verses 1-16 of John Chapter 19.
In the other gospels we are told Pilate washed his hands in water and said, "Let it be known that I am innocent of this man's blood". As we look back at this story, we might be tempted to say the same thing. We would like to think that if we were in that crowd we would have yelled to have Jesus set free. But if we are honest with ourselves we will admit that we are just as guilty as the Jews, the crowd, and yes, Pilate himself. For we all have rebelled against God. We all have tried to start our own revolution against God's rule. Some of us still do even as Christians. Do you believe the first question and answer of the Catechism, about not belonging to yourself, about belonging to God? If so, ask yourself this-do you put God first? Or do you put yourself first? If God is not first, you are a rebel and deserve to be punished.
Think of how Barabbas must have felt. He was ready to die. They had already made his cross. He had probably eaten his last meal. But then came the news, "Barabbas, you are free!" He must have thought it was a joke. But when they unlocked his chains and led him out of the prison things became all too real. Do you think Barabbas understood the grace he had been shown? Do you think he loved Jesus for taking his place on the cross?
How do you feel knowing that you have been set free from death by Jesus? You were in the prison of sin, God had already pronounced the sentence of death upon you. But then you heard the good news, "You dont have to die! Jesus has taken the punishment for you! You are free!" Perhaps like Barabbas, you didn't believe it at first. It was too good to be true. But God Himself has set His seal upon You and given You His word to trust in.
Romans 5:6-10 Prayer
©1998 Pomona Youth Chapel/Pastor Tim Shultz