Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Vision (9.11.14): Jesus or Barabbas?

Note:  Here are some edited notes from the introduction and conclusion from last Sunday’s sermon on Luke 23:13-25:

What would you think of a person who went to London but who stayed in his room the whole time and never ventured out to see Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, of the Tower of London?

Or someone who went to Paris, but who never saw the Eifel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees, or the Louvre?

We would say, “Well you were there but you didn’t really see the city.”

Now, what would you say to the person who says, “I know the Bible,” or “I know Christianity.  I’ve been there.”  But he has no understanding of the gospel narratives, their inspired accounts of the suffering and death of the Lord on the cross, and the central doctrines which they proclaim.  We’d say, “Well maybe you have read the Bible but you haven’t really seen it.”

Today we look again at Luke’s account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate.  We look, in particular, at the scene in which the Roman governor offered the people a choice of releasing Jesus (the sinless Son of God) or Barabbas (an insurrectionist and murderer) (Luke 23:13-25).  Notice three things about the narrative:

1.  Pilate’s repeated declaration that Jesus has done nothing worthy of death (see vv. 14-15; 22a; cf. his earlier declaration in v. 4).

Why do men die?  They die, because they are sinners.  This goes back to the fall and the curse given to Adam:

Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Get as much plastic surgery as you want (as some celebrities do), but you cannot fool death.

Eat as healthy and organic as you can (as many rightly do since we should be good stewards of our health) but your body will one day break down and collapse in death.

Even innocent babies die.  Why?  Though they may not live long enough to commit actual transgression they are sinners by nature.

We deserve death.  People were outraged—and rightly so—at the recent deaths of those journalists at the hands of Islamic terrorists.  But in another sense, they were only reaping the wages of sin, which is death (cf. Paul in Romans 6:23).  In truth, no one can say at the death of any man—no matter how brutal that death might have been—that it was unjust that he died.  We may protest the manner and timing of a person’s death but not that he died.  He died, because he earned death by his sin.

But Luke here reminds us that there was a man who was perfectly just and righteous, who was born of a virgin, and who did nothing that warranted his death.  He had no sin, and so he had no wages of sin which is death.  Look again at Pilate’s question in v. 22:  “Why, what evil hath he done?” and his own reply:  “I have found no cause of death in him.”

2.  The dreadful and sinful state of those who rejected Christ and demanded his death.

 They had an unholy and irrational hatred of Christ.  They ran in a mob and had a false unity in their sin one with another.  They had what Thomas Boston described as “a crook in the lot.”  They had a crooked or warped disposition in their hearts that made them love sin and hate Christ.  It is evidenced in their preference for Barabbas over Jesus.  Notice Luke’s description:  They got him “whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will” (v. 25).  Biblical theology says not that we have no free will. But it says our free wills are corrupted.  They are in bondage (as Luther said).  Consider Paul’s description of man’s predicament in sin:

Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

The only solution is to have our minds and our wills renewed in the knowledge of Christ.

3.  The anticipation of the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross:

What is anticipated in this trial scene is the substitutionary death of Christ.  A sinful man, a seditious man, and a murderer is let go, while a righteous man, a peaceful man, a life-giving man is sentenced to death.  Barabbas thus stands for all those who are released, who experience an exodus, because one man stood in our place and took the penalty in himself for our sin (2 Cor 5:21).

If we fail to grasp this, we have been to the Bible, but we have not seen it.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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