Friday April 24, 2020
1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The 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, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But 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!”
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). As I sit and ponder these verses, I’m struck by the singular desire of the crowd. All reason and justice and equity burn away like kindling consumed by the fire of the crowd and their one imperative: Crucify. And yet we know that it wasn’t but a few days ago when crowds gathered to praise Jesus and welcome him into the city like the King that he is. This is truly incredible that Rome would grant the release of a known insurrectionist and murderer. Barabbas deserves the sentence he was given. There is a high probability he’ll do something again to end up right back where we find him here, before he is released. On death row. I’m perplexed by the crowd. And I’m stunned that God would allow this murderer to be set free instead of his Son.
“…the chief priests stirred up the crowd.” Those in authority used their power and influence to manipulate the crowd. And then I think about our current media outlets and news cycles and the words of Ecclesiastes are exactly right. It’s common to talk about how polarized we’ve become. Culture is divided. I’ve often heard some formulation of this statement expressed: “Never in my life have I seen our country more divided than it is now.” The arrival of COVID-19 highlights this sentiment where many Americans put their stake in the ground on what they believe are the sure assertions of many in the medical community who say we cannot lift “shelter in place” until there is a vaccine while others are firmly planted with the conviction that this has all been a blatant over-reaction without sufficient data that is having disastrous economic effects in addition to infringing upon our civil liberties. Depending on your media source, all of these aspects get spun and weighted differently. What is rarely shared and discussed and honored is the position most Americans probably hold…but maybe I’m giving us too much credit. That position is one of deep concern for the real and serious effects of the virus and how it causes suffering and death. That position is one of deep concern for the economic ramifications and livelihood of individuals and families through this time. That position is one of deep concern for the way our civil liberties are infringed upon in certain parts of the country. Maybe this is me being overly optimistic but I believe most of us have all of these concerns.
What isn’t new under the sun is people in authority abusing their power by manipulating the people according to their own special interest as opposed to being champions of truth and justice. Maybe for many, they haven’t seen a world this divided, but it has been and will be again until Christ returns. Crowds will be confused and stand up for the wrong causes. Leaders will fail us. We’ll let the guilty go free and imprison the innocent. Lies will masquerade as the truth. “Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains” (Mk 13:5-8).
As God’s beloved children, let’s stay focused on the gospel. May the banner of our life be the name of Jesus. I refuse to be distracted by the noise of the world today. Let us live in the love that Christ has for us as he gave his life for you and me. Let us pray and care for one another today. I’m thankful that this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Let us be glad that we are his. Let us rejoice in the love that would offer Barabbas new life even if Barabbas never accepted the invitation. In the words of C.S. Lewis, let us remember, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” I encourage you to click the link below and listen to another pastor’s powerful spoken word reflection on Jesus loving Barabbas.
Prayer for Today
Holy God, we trust you even when the answer is no. You know the plans you have for us and they are better than we could ever hope for. Through all of our questions and doubts and frustrations, keep us steadfast in pursuing you. You are our Rock and our Redeemer. We offer you all of our life today. Show us your grace. Amen
The First 15
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