Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Barabbas Instead of Jesus

I can’t get away from the account in the Gospels about Barabbas.  This story intrigues me because I see in it the beauty of the substitutionary atonement that Jesus provides for our salvation.   This is a pivotal point of Christianity that runs across the board.  Christians have always held that Jesus died for us, that He died for our sins.  Paul the Apostle states it clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that Christ died for our sins.  He repeats this in Galatians 1:4.  Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:24 that Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree.

The Lord Jesus died for our sins.  We can debate the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and His obedience to the Father but we cannot debate that Christ shed His blood for our forgiveness and that He died in our place.  He was condemned so that we might be saved by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-9).  Paul states that we redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Ephesians 1:7).  Hebrews 9:22 states that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness.  Our salvation is based on the Lord Jesus and what He did on the cross by dying for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

In Matthew 27 we see a  beautiful picture of this substitutionary work of Christ.  Here we find Pilate asking the Jews which they want him to release to them: Barabbas (an insurrectionists and murderer) or Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 27:17).  The crowd cries for Barabbas (Matthew 27:20).  Pilate asks them again and they again want Barabbas (Matthew 27:21) to which the crowd asks for Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:22-23).  Pilate washes his hands of this murder of Jesus (Matthew 27:24) and the people cry that they want His blood to be upon them (Matthew 27:25) to which Pilate releases Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:26).

What I find amazing about this account is that the crowd asks for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  They even want His blood to be upon them and their children.  They were speaking prophetically.  They were simply asking for what the Jews had asked for when they offered up the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:21-27).  Paul the Apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:7 that Christ is our Passover Lamb.  Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who is without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:19).  Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for our sins because He was perfect and He died in our place, condemned for our sins but bore our sins on the cross.  The guilty sinner (Romans 3:23) can now look to the Lamb of God to be saved (Isaiah 45:22).

This salvation is based not on our works but upon the work of Christ alone (Titus 3:5-7).  What could be do to appease the wrath of God?  What works could be possibly do to merit eternal life?  Can we keep the law of God perfectly?  Can we live our entire lives free from sin, completely obedient to the will of a holy and perfect God?  If someone says they can they are lying.  None can (Proverbs 20:9).

I have met people before who claim to never sin.  They will even tell me the date the last time they sinned and claim that they have not sinned since in word, thought, or deed.  I find that alarming.  I confess my weaknesses.  I am not perfect by far.  Ask my wife and she could name hundreds of my sins.  No I don’t wake up going out looking to sin or looking to disobey the Lord but I confess that I have not walked perfectly with the Lord.  I have fallen short many times.  I have not loved God perfectly nor have I obeyed Him perfectly.

This makes me so thankful for the crowd asking for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  I am Barabbas.  My heart has been wicked before God.  I have not been perfect as He requires (Matthew 5:48).  I have sinned (Romans 3:10-18).  But thanks be to God for the gift of His Son (John 3:16).  Jesus died for my sins.  Barabbas could not save for he was guilty of great sins.  Yet the Lord in His sovereignty allowed the hardened Jews to choose Barabbas (who is me) instead of Christ.  Jesus thus died in my place and in the place of Barabbas.  Jesus bore the sins of Barabbas as well as the sins of sins of the world (1 John 2:1-2).

My heart now longs to please God.  Not out of legalism.  Not out of bondage.  But my heart longs now to worship and please the Lord because of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Because of what Jesus did for me by dying in my place and taking my condemnation, I now rejoice in this great salvation, this great grace!  I pray because I am so thankful for what Jesus has done.  I long to see others saved because of what Jesus has done.  I long to praise my God because of what Jesus has done.  This salvation is all of Jesus and my boasting is only in the Lord Jesus who died for my sins (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

I often have read the story of Barabbas and wonder what happened to him.  Church tradition is that Barabbas did get saved and became a great preacher of the gospel.  How could he not?  He watched with his own eyes as the people chose him (and he knew he was guilty) for the Lord Jesus who had never sinned.  I am sure Barabbas had heard of Jesus maybe even heard Him preach.  I tend to believe tradition at this point and believe that Barabbas became a great preacher of the gospel.  His testimony would have been powerful as he told how Jesus took His place and was crucified on the cross where he should have died.

The story use to make me weep at the crowds choosing Barabbas.  I would talk to my Bible and say, “No, let Jesus go free.”  Yet I know that without the cross, I have no salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  The gospel rises and falls on Jesus taking our place.  Jesus fulfilled the words of Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 53 and He suffered in our place.

Thanks be to God!

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  1. The story of Barabbas is definitely amazing to think about; in the middle of the crucifixion we have an illustration of substitutionary atonement. I think it’s intentional in the providence of God. Barabbas name means “Son of a father,” and here we see the substitute of THE SON OF THE FATHER. It moves me everytime, if I can preach this every Resurrection Sunday and Good Friday…

    SLIMJIM

    03/26/2016 at 10:35 PM


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