The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Give us Barabbas!

 

An interesting choice was presented to the people of Jerusalem around 30 AD. Do you want Jesus, or do you want Barabbas?

Jesus was accused of “perverting the nation,” claiming to be a king, and forbidding people to pay their taxes to Caesar (Luke 23:2). (How else could an apostate church use a secular government to put a good man to death, but to claim He was a national security threat?)  While Jesus had never encouraged tax evasion, He did readily admit to Pilate that He was a king. However He stated that His kingdom was not of this world, and this was why His servants were not fighting to protect Him (Lk. 20:20-25; 23:3;  Jn. 18:33-37). In an earthly kingdom, it is important to keep the king alive.

Barabbas was a Jewish “notable prisoner” of Rome (Matt. 27:16).  He was an insurrectionist and a rebel, who had both robbed and committed murder (Mark 15:7; Lk. 23:25; John 18:40).  When Pilate asked the Jewish people which of the two criminals–Jesus or Barabbas–they wanted released, they clamored for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus.

There is historical evidence that Barabbas was actually called “Jesus Barabbas,” which means literally, “Jesus, son of the father.”  The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible includes the name “Jesus” with Barabbas in Matt. 27:16-17, and other ancient historical writings also attribute this name to him.  As an insurrectionist, he was almost certainly a patriot who had either led or participated in an attempt to thwart Roman occupation of his homeland. He was probably something of a hero in the minds of many Jews.

Jesus Christ was the “Son of the Father” also. He came to do the will of His Father, which included going to the cross to atone for the sins of mankind. He declared that He came into the world to “bear witness to the truth.” (Jn. 18:37). He said He was the way, the truth, and the life–the only possible way to the Father. And He declared that any who are not with Him are by default against Him (Matt. 12:30).

In Matthew 5-7, Jesus taught the principles by which the Kingdom of God is operated.  He warned that a man cannot be ruled by both God and money; he will serve only one, so we dare not focus on what we will eat and drink and wear. We must have our treasures in heaven rather than on earth. He taught that His disciples were to love their enemies and pray for them that mistreated them. He taught that it was the meek, the merciful, the peacemaker and the persecuted that would enter the kingdom of God.  He even commanded His followers not to resist an evil person. We are to let the one who slaps us, slap us again; and we are to let one who takes our tunic have our cloak also. He said we must seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness above all else, and warned that it was a narrow and difficult way that leads to life. He declared that only a few people would actually walk the difficult way to life, though many would give him the lipservice of addressing Him as “Lord, Lord.” And He ends this passage with the stark reality that only those who DO His words will be saved. Those who merely hear His words will end in destruction.

It is important to remember that these teachings were delivered to a people oppressed and heavily taxed by an occupying nation. The nation of Israel, though apostate from God, certainly saw Rome as pagan and wicked compared to themselves. Yet Jesus did not lead an insurrection against Rome, or murder or rob anyone.  He did not spew venomous rhetoric against the occupying forces; in fact He healed a Roman Centurion’s servant out of pure compassion. Why?–The weapons of His warfare were not carnal. While He acknowledged He was a King, He was careful to make a distinction between His kingdom and others. And when Peter spoke out rashly that this King should not suffer, Jesus gave him the harshest possible rebuke, attributing his words to satan, and exposing his motive for agreeing with the devil–he cared more about “the things of men” than the things of God. (Matt. 16:21-23)

I submit to you today that professing Christians in America live in days very similar to the times of the Jews under Roman occupation. We live in a nation that once enjoyed prosperity and relative peace, the deterioration of which is due to our own sin.  We see our freedoms being taken away and we nostalgically long for the days of old. Like the Jews who prided themselves in having “the law of God,” and oblivious to how much perversion had entered the picture through their own apostasy, we pride ourselves in being in a nation that still has some shreds of Biblical truth remaining. Our justice system still bears a resemblance to the guidelines that God gave to Israel. Almost everyone knows the “golden rule” even if they do not obey it, and “God bless America” is commonly heard on the lips of those whose daily deeds call down curses upon themselves rather than blessings. We have joined the righteous fight to keep God’s name in our antichrist schools, and on the money we love more than God.  We hate the direction our nation is headed in and desire to throw off the “occupation,” but we do not seem to have enough sense to get on our knees and acknowledge that we ourselves have stopped loving God, even in our churches!

To add insult to injury, we have become a nation that judges other nations by our own hypocritical “form of godliness,” rather than a nation that judges itself by God’s Word. We are, by and large, not Good Samaritans stooping to pour oil and wine into the wounds of other nations (Luke 10:29-37), but instead good Pharisees stooping to any level of wickedness to preserve our own positions of authority and wealth (John 11:48).  We send out democratic “missionaries” to recreate overseas what we have here in America, because we are sure our righteousness is better than their righteousness, and sure this righteousness can be advanced by force.  In the meantime, we ourselves are drunk on pornography, the love of money, blatant promiscuity, and violence; we are lovers of ourselves.  Instead of condemning our own actions and seeking God’s forgiveness, we export these evils to other nations in the name of “freedom.”  We promise them liberty while we ourselves are servants of corruption.  We have been doing these things for many years, but we justify ourselves by blaming our current state of subjugation on our current leader. The apostate church is no victim of these events, carried along against her will; she is leading in this hypocrisy. But we are “the people of God!” Surely we cannot be to blame!  Surely if we rise up in the flesh, we can save our nation (and our money and our position!)

Before the “people of God” is set a choice. Do we want Barabbas, or do we want Jesus Christ?

We can choose “Jesus, son of the father” or we can choose “Jesus, Son of the Father.”  Which Jesus do you want?–the patriot Jesus or the suffering servant Jesus?

The first did the will of the one who was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44), and the second did the will of God, who desires all men to have life.  The first was a man who reacted in the flesh to secure a temporary carnal kingdom; the second was a Man who obeyed the Spirit of God to secure an eternal spiritual kingdom.  The first cared for the things of men;  the second for the things of God.  The first took the life of an enemy; the second gave His own life for His enemies.  The first was a national hero in spite of his evil;  the second was despised and rejected of men in spite of His good (Isa. 53:3).  The first took part in an insurrection that changed very little; the second took part in a resurrection that changed everything.

The Jews chose Barabbas.  Here was a man after their own hearts, for he loved their physical nation. They had hoped Jesus would help them to throw off the Romans, but He insisted on preaching this invisible “kingdom” into which only the meek could enter.  They had tried to crown Jesus king, but He had slipped away from them, content to rule only in the hearts of men who could hear His voice.  They cheered for Him when He rode into Jerusalem, but why did He go like a lamb to the slaughter rather than organizing an armed resistance?–How disappointing! His Sermon on the Mount was idealistic, but anyone with common sense knowsthese ideals don’t work in the real world! What is this we hear about Jesus telling Peter to put his sword away? Away with this useless man! Give us Barabbas!

How about you?

Which one do you want–Barabbas or Jesus Christ?

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