Jesus Or Barabbas?
A daily devotion for January 28th
1Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
2"Are you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate.
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.
3The chief priests accused him of many things. 4So again Pilate asked him, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of."
5But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
6Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
9"Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate, 10knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
12"What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked them.
13"Crucify him!" they shouted.
14"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"
15Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
16The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!" 19Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them (Mark 15:15a)
All the gospel writers tell us of Barabbas. He was a bloodthirsty revolutionary, hardnosed and bloody-handed; he was a murderer. The interesting thing about him is his name, which means
son of the father. And in a most dramatic historic coincidence, according to some old manuscripts, there is some evidence that his name probably was Jesus Barabbas: Jesus, the son of the father. I do not see how we could read and understand that without knowing that this is again God silently guiding events behind the scene, bringing things to light that otherwise would never be known. For this crowd is confronted with choosing between Jesus, the son of the father, who rules by force and makes his living by his wits; and Jesus, the Son of the Father, who rules by love and is ready to sacrifice Himself.
Why did they choose Barabbas? The answer seems to be that they were disappointed with Jesus. This was the crowd that, just a few days before, had welcomed Him into Jerusalem. The city was filled with people Jesus had healed. The eyes of the blind had been opened, the deaf made to hear, and the lame to walk. He had awakened within the people the hope, the flaming desire, that this was indeed the Messiah, come to deliver them from the yoke of Rome. All their ideas of messiahship centered around the thought that He would be the one who would set them free from the hated bondage of Rome. Now, when they saw Him standing helpless before the Roman governor, saw His apparent unwillingness or inability to make any defense or to do anything against the Romans, all their loyalty to Him collapsed. In anger and disappointment, they turned and chose Jesus, the son of the father, who lived by force—Barabbas the murderer.
We too face the same decision these Jews had to make between Barabbas and Jesus. Have you ever been disappointed in Jesus, disappointed in God? Have you ever expected Him to act in a certain way because of what you understood about Him and His life and His nature—but He did not do things the way you thought they should be done? I have been angry and disappointed in God. I have been all but convinced that He did not live up to His promise, for I was sure that I knew what He was going to do, and God disappointed me. My heart was filled with rage that God would act that way, despite the fact that God has told us all, again and again,
'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,' declares the LORD. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts' (Isaiah 55:8-9). We cannot figure out God. He will be true to Himself, He will never lie, He will never deceive us; but He is more than we can handle. He is bigger than we are. And like this crowd, when we get angry with God and upset with Jesus and turn from Him, there is always another Jesus Barabbas waiting in the wings for us to follow.
Lord I realize that life is confronting me all the time with decisions to choose Barabbas or Christ. Grant that I may choose the Lord Jesus, before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Life Application: What do we think of Jesus when our circumstances fail to match our expectations? Does that make us disappointed with Him? To whom then shall we turn?
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Copyright © 2007 by Elaine Stedman — This daily devotion is from the book The Power of His Presence: a year of devotions from the writings of Ray Stedman; compiled by Mark Mitchell. It may be copied for personal non-commercial use only in its entirety free of charge. All copies must contain this copyright notice and a hyperlink to www.RayStedman.org if the copy is posted on the Internet. Please direct any questions you may have to webmaster@RayStedman.org.