TODAY’S READING: MARK 15-16
“Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”…But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.” – Mark 15:6-9, 11
The chief priests, elders, scribes, and the whole council had bound Jesus to deliver him to Pilate.
How had they bound Jesus?
With their rules, their traditions, their laws.
With their desire for a king like the other nations had.
“Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” – 1 Samuel 8:5
They wanted a king to stand up to Rome, a king that would fight and war and conquer. That is what the kings of other nations did.
They were given one last chance to choose their king.
Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”
Do you want Jesus or Barabbas?
Jesus whose name is Joshua, Jehovah saves. Jesus who is Immanuel, God with us. Jesus who is the son of God. Jesus who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3).
Barabbas who is a rebel. Barabbas who is a murderer. Barabbas who is an agitator, a rioter. Barabbas whose name means son of a father.
Son of a father.
Now we come to the real choice.
Do you want the son of God, the son of the Father, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” and “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation?”
Or, do you want Barabbas, son of a father?
Do you want he son of God or the son of a father?
Who was Barabbas’ father?
In John 8:44, Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Barabbas, a murderer, the son of his father, the devil.
Do you want the son of God or the son of the devil?
Do you want the one who “had done no violence and there was no deceit in his mouth (Isaiah 53:9)?” Do you want the one who even Pilate asked, “Why, what evil has he done?”
Or, do you want the one who was a rebel, a prisoner, a murderer, and an agitator? Do you want the one who is violent?
Barabbas was involved in the insurrection. The Greek word for insurrection is stasis. It literally means a standing. Barabbas was one who stood up for himself, his life, his people, his country. Barabbas was one who would fight.
But, in Mark 8:35, Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it.”
But, Jesus didn’t stand like Barabbas, a murderer (in a revolutionary war mind you), the son of his father the devil.
In John 10:11, 15, 17-18 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep…For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”
Barabbas stood up, was involved in an insurrection against Pilate.
But, when Jesus faced Pilate, he laid down his life instead of standing up for it. Mark 15:3-5 says, “And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, ‘Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.”
In Mark 8:35, Jesus said, “But whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Standing up and fighting for our lives, trying to save them, is the way to lose our lives.
But, losing our lives, laying them down like Jesus, without a fight, without violence, without murder, is the way to save our lives.
Stasis, the Greek word for insurrection, or standing, is used infrequently in the New Testament. In the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, it was used for the priests standing to do their work of the law and sacrifices.
Hebrews 9:6-12 says, “These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing [stasis] (which is symbolic for the age then present). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered, that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.”
When the priests were doing their work, standing before the Lord, the first section of the tabernacle was still standing. It was not possible to enter into the second place, the holy place, the manifest presence of God.
But, Jesus, through his own body, the greater and more perfect tent than the tabernacle, offered his own blood. Instead of standing to do the work of sacrificing the blood others, goats and calves, Jesus offered his own blood by laying down his own life.
It was through the laying down of his life that Jesus opened the way into the second section, the holy place, the manifest presence of God.
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14)
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
Instead of standing, Jesus laid down his life to open the new and living way. It was the laying down his life that the way through the curtain, which divided the first section from the second, the holy place from the most holy place, was opened.
So, it was that when Jesus was delivered over by the Jews and laid down his life before them and Pilate to be crucified that “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38).”
So we have a choice.
Barabbas, a murderer who stood up for his own life to save it, the son of his father, the devil.
Or, Jesus, who instead of being a murderer was murdered and who laid down his life for others, the son of God.
The one who stands up or the one who lays down.
The murderer or the murdered.
Choosing the first will cause us to lose our lives.
Choosing the second will save our lives, taking us into the holy of holies.