Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Difference the Cross Makes

So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, "Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him." But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. But the governor said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." Pilate *said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all *said, "Crucify Him!"  Matthew 27:17-22

This coming Sunday is Easter and of course we are all thinking about the cross and what a difference it has made for us.  But what about some of the people who were actually there when Christ was crucified?  What kind of a difference did it make for them?  

Pilate had two people, “criminals”, to present to the people and for the people to decide which one they wanted to be released and which one they wanted crucified.  The two criminals on trial were Barabbas, a notorious criminal, and Jesus, on trial for saying he was the king of the Jews.  When Pilate asked the people “which one do you want me to release to you?” the people voted to let Barabbas go.  Pilate was surprised but Barabbas was floored!  He could not understand why he would be chosen by the same people he had committed crimes against.  The faces staring back at him were the very people he had robbed, and lied to.  How could they not want justice for him?

Pilate could not believe it either.  Exasperated, he asked the crowd, what am I to do with Jesus?  “Crucify him!!”  Pilate knew Jesus was innocent and no threat to the security of Rome.  He knew that the religious leaders were merely jealous of Jesus’ great popularity with the people and they wanted him out of the way, quickly, and fatally.  Pilate never thought that the people would choose Barabbas over Jesus.  He thought that would be the way to solve this very difficult dilemma by giving the people the choice.  He was expecting to hear that they wanted Jesus released and he would be loyal to the crowd’s decision.  Much to his dismay it didn’t turn out that way.  The crowd wanted Jesus crucified.  He had no choice now.  He turned Jesus over to be crucified after having him flogged. 
The perspective of Barabbas is one I have not thought of before.  He must have been very grateful but confused.  Why had the people let him go?  Why had they taken a perfectly innocent man and crucified him just like Barabbas should have been?  Why?

Barabbas was actually the first person Jesus died for.  Jesus died that we all may have eternal life, that we may live.  He died in place of Barabbas that day, and in place of all of us.  We are a little like Barabbas in that we are guilty of our sins but still He took the punishment for us just as much as he took Barabbas’ place.  We may not have been on trial but we are just as guilty. 

There is no information on what happened to Barabbas after he was released.  We would like to think that his life was changed forever.  He knew who Jesus was.  He had heard his teaching.  Maybe seeing Him actually die on the cross in his place changed his life forever.  How about you?  You were not present that day like Barabbas was but how has the cross made a difference in your life?  Has your life changed because of what He did for you that day?  Do you live your life differently or do you live without regard to His sacrifice that day?   Our sins nailed Him to the cross that day.  He made this sacrifice for our freedom.  He paid the price so you and I could be redeemed.  Let your life be a testimony of the difference the cross has made for you!

Scripture to claim:
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.  Mark 10:45

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