Posted: March 26, 2008 - 17:56 CT
several excellent sermons this past week, and wanted to
comment on two characters from the first Easter, Pilate
(original thought from Alistair Begg) and Barabbas (got the
idea while listening to Chuck Swindoll). I couldn't
think of a better subject for our first blog post than the first
Easter (scripture references: Matthew 27, Mark 15,
Luke 23, John 18).
First to Pontius Pilate (the Roman governor of Judea), as he
entertains the trumped-up charges leveled against Jesus by
the Jewish religious leaders. I believe Pilate, unlike
many of his portrayals, was probably a very intelligent,
capable politician, who could have risen to a position of
power in most eras or regimes. He immediately saw
through the falsehoods of the accusers, proclaimed Jesus to
be innocent and attempted to release Him. Although he
had found no guilt in Jesus, Pilate wavered when the crowd
threatened to report him to Caesar. The Roman
government did not have a large number of troops in Judea at
the time, so one of Pilate’s main duties was to do whatever
was necessary to maintain peace. We know from
historical records that he had previously been warned about
other uprisings in his region. As governor and judge,
he was bound to protect the innocent and administer justice,
but gave in to the demand of the Jews to avoid an uproar in
his region. Thus, he hands Jesus over to be crucified.
Begg states that Pilate intellectually discerns the truth,
but has neither the courage nor the moral ethics to do what
Many of us today face similar situations to the one Pilate
faced 2000 years ago. Do we follow our conscience and
do what is right, or do we go along with the crowd?
There are also many people today who intellectually
acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. They are
smart enough not to buy the argument that all religions are
the same, or that all roads lead to heaven. They
realize that two religions with conflicting teachings can't
both be true, but they won't take that critical step to
surrender to Jesus as Savior and Lord. They have a
spiritual, moral or ethical problem rather than an
Moving back to Jesus' trial, we find another interesting
character, Barabbas. As a last-ditch effort to release
Jesus, Pilate invoked a Passover custom in which the Roman
Governor could release a prisoner. He gave the crowd a
choice between Jesus and Barabbas, a revolutionary and
murderer, thinking the crowd would surely choose to release
Jesus over Barabbas. However, urged on by the
religious leaders, the crowd asked for the release of
Barabbas. Pilate then asked what would they have him
do with Jesus. The crowd called out "Crucify Him!"
Pilate attempted to reason with them but they kept screaming
louder, "Crucify Him!"
Now, during this time, Barabbas is sitting in a dungeon
cell, unaware of the proceedings. All he can hear is
the crowd screaming "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!", so he would
think the crowd is referring to himself. We can only
imagine the thoughts and dread racing through his mind as he
hears the crowd screaming and possibly the taunts from the
other prisoners saying, "Barabbas, they're calling for you".
Next, as he hears the guards coming, the keys clanging in
the lock, does he cower in the corner or defiantly stand
with his knees trembling? He then hears one of the
guards tell him that he's being released and probably thinks
it's a cruel joke, but they insist that it's true, that
another is to die and he is free to go.
Barabbas' first thought was probably to run far away before
they discovered their mistake or change their mind, but I
believe he could not resist seeing the man who was dying in
his place. He most likely followed at a distance as
Jesus carried the cross along the Via Delarosa. I
wonder if an involuntary gasp escaped his lips when he saw
Jesus for the first time, broken and beaten, disfigured with
strips of flesh hanging from His body from the Roman
flogging. When they arrive at Golgotha (Hebrew meaning
"the place of the Skull"), I try to imagine the thoughts of
Barabbas as he watches Jesus being laid on the cruel wooden
cross. Could he feel the spikes as they were driven
into the wrist and feet of our Savior? Did he feel
horror, remorse or relief as he watched the soldiers raise
Jesus up between the two other condemned men, most likely
members of his gang of robbers, on a cross that was
originally prepared for their leader, Barabbas himself.
How shocked he must have felt to hear Jesus forgive those
responsible for his crucifixion, to witness the darkness at
noon, and the Roman soldier confessing that "Surely, this
was a righteous man."
I wonder if Barabbas remained long enough to watch the
Messiah's lifeless body removed from the cross. I
wonder when and where he was when he heard the news that
Jesus rose from the dead. I try to imagine Barabbas...
and then it occurs to me... I am Barabbas!
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