Chapter 71

 

Barabbas

A Picture of Substitution

 

“And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it. And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing. And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee. But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled. Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? And they cried out again, Crucify him. Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him. And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.” (Mark 15:1-15)

 

            Mark 15 describes the slaying of “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Whenever we think about the death of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, we ought to always remember three things.

 

1.  The death of Christ upon the cursed tree was a substitutionary sacrifice. — The Lord Jesus Christ did not suffer for any crimes of his own. He did not die because of his own sins. He was not cut off from the land of the living for his own transgressions. The Lord of Glory died upon the cross for our sins, for the transgressions of his people, for the iniquities of God’s elect, which were imputed to him, when he was made to be sin for us (Isaiah 53:4-6, 8; Daniel 9:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18)

 

2.  The substitutionary sacrifice and death of our Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point, the essence, and the message of all the Word of God. — The law was given at Sinai to show us our need of a substitute. All the sacrifices, rites, rituals, and ceremonies of the Old Testament Scriptures, — all the priests, priestly garments, and priestly functions, — all the deliverances of Israel from the hands of their enemies, — all the services of the tabernacle and the temple, — all the psalms, all the prophets, and all the historical narratives, — the manna, the rock, the brazen serpent, the pillars of fire and cloud, everything in the Old Testament and in the New was written by inspiration of God the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ, to show us our great, glorious, almighty Substitute (Luke 24:27, 44-45; 1 Pet. 1:23-25; John 20:30-31).

 

3.  The cross of Christ, the doctrine of substitution, is both the revelation of the glory of God and the glory of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4-6; Galatians6:14). The death of Christ upon the cross, the sacrifice of God’s Lamb as our sin-atonement, is the life of our souls. Had the Lord Jesus Christ not died in our stead, the justice of God could never have been satisfied and we would all have perished in our sins forever.

 

            When the apostle Paul thought of these things, he said, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!” May God the Holy Spirit so graciously flood our hearts and souls with the knowledge of our crucified Substitute that we may ever have our hearts and minds fixed upon our blessed Savior and his great sacrifice of himself for us, and have the apostle’s words reverberating in our souls. — “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!”

 

 

A Fulfillment of Prophecy

 

And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate” (v. 1). — Why did these chief priests, scribes and elders carry the Lord Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea? Why did they not just stone him to death themselves? The reason is obvious. They had no legal, civil authority to do so. They should have known that the time of the Messiah was upon them, because Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49:10 had been fulfilled.

 

            Moreover, they must themselves also fulfill the Scriptures in their deeds; and the Scriptures required that our Redeemer be crucified in a publicly shameful way, not merely stoned to death, as Jewish law would have required (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). His body, according to the Old Testament Scriptures, had to be pierced and not a bone of it broken (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:36; Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; 1 Corinthians 5:7). Though they were so blinded by their unbelief that they could not see it, the Lord’s enemies were themselves simply fulfilling the purpose of God to the very letter of Holy Scripture, even in their rage against his dear Son (Acts 4:27-28; 13:28-29).

 

            How comforting it is to know that wicked men are never out of God’s control. They only do what his hand and purpose have from eternity determined must be done for the salvation of our souls. When Satan roars, when scoffers scoff, when mockers mock, when deceivers deceive, they only perform that which was long ago written in the Scriptures (2 Peter 2:3). Man, in the folly of his rebellion and unbelief, and Satan himself, even the demons of hell, all are but the unwitting vassals of the Almighty, our heavenly Father, to serve his purpose of grace toward us.

 

            Bound Jesus” — If the lord Jesus would set us free, he must be bound. As Isaac and the legal sacrifices were bound and laid upon the altar (Genesis 22:9; Leviticus 4:70), so the Son of God, when he was about to be made sin for us, was bound as a criminal, and was bound to the cursed tree for us.

 

An Example of Patience

 

When the holy Son of God stood before Pilate’s bar, he was falsely accused of many evils. The trumped up charges against him were all false. Yet, when he was accused, “he answered nothing.” What an example he set before us of patience and humility, bowing to the providence and purpose of God.

 

“And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it. And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing. And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee. But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled” (vv. 2-5).

 

            We can do nothing more dishonoring to our God and contrary to our faith than grumble and murmur against him when he sends trouble our way. And we never more glorify our God and exemplify the character of Christ than when we bear afflictions, false accusations, and injustices patiently (Isaiah 53:7; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 2:20-24;Psalm 39:1).

 

An Abuse of Power

 

And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified” (v. 15). — Pilate knew that the chief priests had delivered the Lord Jesus to him because they envied him (v. 10). He made some feeble attempts to release him and soothe his own conscience; but, in the shameful behavior typical of politicians and political appointees, Pilate was “willing to content the people,” even if he had to knowingly sacrifice his own conscience and the life of an innocent man to do it!

 

            I mention this, not to stir up more anger and greater disgust toward our president, congressmen, and senators. They are managing that very well on their own. I mention it that we may take a higher road than the rest of the world. Men in high places, without the knowledge of Christ, without even a hint of moral integrity, are to be pitied. They have nothing to restrain them from yielding to every temptation to great evil, except the prayers of God’s saints. Let us, therefore, pray for them, as the Word of God tells us (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

 

A Portrait of Depravity

 

“But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? And they cried out again, Crucify him. Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him” (vv. 11-14).

 

            In these days of universal compromise and ecumenical religion everyone is trying to remove every possible point of offense, take away all guilt and blame, and fix things up so that everybody is saved, and all their works, no matter how vile, if not saintly, are at least excusable. Historians are rewriting history everyday to suit the trends of modern thinking. Theologians are rewriting the Bible to mold it to the opinions of men. But all the rearranging of things by men will never alter facts.

 

            Here is a fact: — While Pilate and his soldiers (pagan Gentiles) were the ones who executed the Lord Jesus Christ, the Jews (the religious people, the people who claimed to be God’s servants) were them who cried, “Crucify him! Crucify him! Let his blood be upon us and our children!”

 

            We marvel at their act. They acted against evidence plainly presented. When they had opportunity given them in the eleventh hour to back away from their rash demands, they stayed their course to the everlasting ruin of their souls, the souls of their children, and of their children’s children.

 

Even when it meant the release of a known, notorious murderer among their wives and children, they stayed with their decision. They could not be persuaded to change course or alter their decision for good by any moral pressure or sane reasoning. Blindness was never more blind! Folly was never more foolish! Madness was never more mad! How can this be explained?

 

            The only thing on this earth that can explain such behavior is the fact that all men are totally depraved. The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. The carnal mind is enmity against God. It is not possible for any man to do anything good, or even to make a good, or even reasonable, decision apart from divine intervention.

 

            Let us not be found following the example of these lost, religious rebels. Let us not choose Barabbas over Christ. Let us not choose wickedness and despise righteousness. Let us not chose the world and reject Christ. Yet, that is exactly what we will do, unless God intervenes and stops us from fulfilling the madness of our own hearts’ lusts.

 

A Picture of Substitution (vv. 6-15)

 

“Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? And they cried out again, Crucify him. Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him. And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified” (vv. 6-15).

 

            What a beautiful picture we have here of the gospel. Barabbas, the guilty man, was set free. The Lord Jesus Christ, the holy, innocent Lamb of God, died in his place. A great sinner went free because a great Substitute took his place. Barabbas was spared because Christ died in his place. That is, in its very essence and glory, the gospel of God. It can be summed up in one word — Substitution (Romans 3:21-26; 5:6-8; 8:1-4, 32-34; 2 Corinthians5:20-21).

 

 

 

Don Fortner

 

 

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