August 14, 2019 We Are Barabbas, By the Blood of the Lamb, Matthew 27:11-26, Exodus 12:23

jesusand pilate

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.  At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Matthew 27:11-26 (ESV)

We are Barabbas.  We are the guilty ones who deserved to be in Jesus’ place.  Even Pilate, who was not a guiltless man himself, could see Jesus’ innocence and the injustice of bringing Him to trial.  Pilate washed his hands of the responsibility of condemning Jesus (though one could argue that Jesus died for the sins of Pilate as well) as if to say he would not be party to the death of an innocent man.

We are Barabbas.  We identify with him.  We called to have him- Barabbas, the deservedly guilty scoundrel and murderer exonerated, and at the same time we called for the blood of Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, to be upon us.

Without realizing it, we played right into God’s hand.  The Great Exchange was made. The perfect Son of God was sent to be a ransom for the curse of Adam, to overturn sin, death and the power of Satan- not as a mighty warrior with an army and a sword, but as a suffering Servant, dying a ignominious death on a Roman cross.

The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, was sacrificed so Barabbas- and the rest of guilty humanity- could be reconciled to God and could inherit eternal life.

Even though the sins of humanity cry out through the ages: Crucify Him!, the broken and bleeding and suffering Jesus cries louder through unspeakable anguish and torment: It is finished!

For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. Exodus 12:23 (ESV)

In this everlasting Passover, the blood of the Lamb marks God’s children with the cross of Christ.  The Angel of Death must pass over those who are marked with His cross and covered by His blood. We are brought to this great salvation as a gift- by the grace of God and faith in Christ that are given to us in baptism, in the preaching and hearing of the Word, and in the sharing of the Body and Blood at the altar.

We have nothing to offer God but our sins.  Yet through faith in Jesus we are forgiven and our sins are washed away.

 

 

 

April 16, 2019 – Here Comes Your King, the Lamb, the Son of God- Matthew 21:1-11

litter

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Zechariah 9:9)

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.  Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” Matthew 21:1-11 (ESV)

In Jesus’ day important people and rulers would have been carried in to the city in a litter borne by slaves, as Pilate most likely would have been carried into the city of Jerusalem before the Passover celebration. Pilate’s arrival would have been an important display of Roman might and hegemony- an entrance that would let the people know in no uncertain terms that the Pax Romana would be enforced by force.

Riding on a beast of burden such as a lowly donkey was not how earthly kings traveled. A good comparison today would be when the President comes to town. He arrives on Air Force One, and is further transported by motorcade, where he is transferred to “the Beast” limousine and is surrounded by security and peripheral vehicles.  The President arrives with pomp and circumstance because he’s important.  The President is not just some guy riding into downtown on a BMX bike with a few of his friends- but that was the sort of arrival that Jesus had.  Jesus didn’t storm in like an Important Guy.

The people in Jerusalem didn’t even know who Jesus was until the disciples and those who accompanied Him announced his identity. Perhaps some of the general public of Jerusalem was familiar with Zechariah’s prophecy of their king coming to them riding on a donkey. There may have been whispers and fleeting fantasies that This Might Be the Guy who will raise up a coup to defeat the Romans, and restore Jewish autonomy.

Unfortunately what most people didn’t understand about Jesus then and still do not understand is that His kingdom is not one of political hegemony or earthly strength or material prosperity. Jesus came to suffer and to be wounded unto death for our salvation, redemption and healing. His way was not one of being carried in on a litter to be praised, but to be spat on and beaten, to take up the cross, and to be put to death.

As Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”-John 18:36

He was to be given as a lamb to the slaughter, the Lamb who bears the sins of the world.

The cries of “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday will turn in a few short days to, “Crucify Him!”

Jesus’ blood is upon us all. His blood is the blood of the Lamb, foreshadowed by the blood of the lambs spread on the doorposts during the Passover. We are the same people who cry, “Hosanna to the King!” one day, and we also cry, “Crucify Him!” as we sin and pursue our own way. When we were given the choice between Barabbas (the son of the father, of our father Adam) and the Son of God, we chose to save Barabbas, and in so doing, we sent Jesus to the cross.

The good news is that Jesus came to be King – not by upending Caesar or throwing the Romans out of Palestine, but by going to the cross. He did for us what we could never do- He made us worthy before God.

He paid the punishment that brings us peace.

 

April 6, 2017 – What is Truth? – John 18:37-38, Proverbs 16:25

pilate truthPilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” John 18:37-38 (NRSV)

Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death. Proverbs 16:25 (NRSV)

Pilate is one of the more tragic characters in the Bible. In judging and condemning Jesus, Pilate was put into a situation he didn’t rightly understand.  To his credit, at first he tried to do the right thing, but he ultimately got caught up in moral relativism (the philosophical assertion that truth is variable depending on its context, and upon who is discerning the truth) and went with what popular opinion dictated.  He chose the action that was the most personally and politically expedient for him.

The thought that clearly immoral actions are fine as long as popular opinion supports them and peer pressure backs them up is as old as time itself. From the first original sin of the Garden, to the first murder, to the Holocaust and other abominable acts of human beings, denying the truth and substituting our own pride is at the core of sin.

Popular opinion is probably the furthest thing from truth that there is in many situations. When we follow the rumor mill we are tempted to pass judgment without knowing the entire story. We let our pride cloud our decisions and actions until the truth- which is an absolute, not a variable- becomes lost in a fog.

Truth-2

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) As His followers we know and hear His voice even though we don’t always respond to Him the way we know we should.  The Holy Spirit constantly intervenes on our behalf, drawing us closer to Jesus and His voice, leading us to the Truth.

The Truth is that we are named, claimed and loved by God, and covered by the Blood of Jesus.

Pilate wasn’t able to extinguish the Truth. In fact, God transformed Pilate’s actions.  The actions that lead to Jesus’ physical death paved the way to our eternal life.

It is good to remember that, “What is truth?,” should really be seen as, “Who IS Truth.”