I was just chilling in Matthew 27 last night and a bit throughout the week and I realised how much gold there is in that passage. Often we just take it as the classic easter story but don’t see how tragic and glorious it is in the same moment. A story of remorse, suicide, envy, but also of freedom and forgiveness.
Let’s just set the scene for a bit. Jesus has been rubbing the religious rulers up the wrong way with his teaching and healing. All throughout his ministry they’ve been trying to catch him out with cleverly worded questions but he’s always evaded their trap to also confront the problems in their heart. Go have a read, Jesus wasn’t a particularly polite or ‘politically correct’ individual. He actually was quite offensive. That’s why that wanted to get rid of him.
And all along through all this conflict, Jesus’ closest friends have been trying to figure out who he is. And often they got it wrong. Even as he told them what was going to happen they didn’t understand.
So we come to the trial. The religious rulers have convinced one of Jesus’ closest friends, Judas, to betray him. They place him before the high priest, just keep in mind this guys was pretty highly respected amongst God’s people. He’d been put in place to mediate between God and Israel. They seek out false testimony’s, people they know are lying about Jesus. They try to get him to say something himself:
“I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”(Matt 26:63)
Oh the irony! The one who is God in the flesh, being asked under the oath of his own name, to “blaspheme” against himself. So here he goes:
“You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matt 26:64).
And they condemn him. Calling his truth a lie and beating, mocking and abusing him. Here sits our God, abused and rejected by his creation, with those that claimed to be his closest friends denying that they ever knew him (Matt 26:69-75).
So now that they’ve got their juicy piece of evidence they march him off to the Roman governor to present their case.
As this is all going down. The guy that betrayed Jesus has been experiencing a deep remorse about what he’s done. He goes and tries to return the blood money, only to be refused and having the guilt pushed back upon him. So he killed himself. I imagine it is out of remorse that he does so, his response to his own sin is one of helplessness.
Pilate has before him a man, that he knows was brought to him by a people plagued by envy(Matt 27:18) and whom Pilate’s wife professes to be innocent (Matt 27:19). So what does he do? He does his best to keep his hands clean and decides that giving the crowd an obvious choice would solve this dilemma. He brings out Barabbas, a prisoner, notorious for his crimes and standing him beside Jesus. He says:
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
Falling to the pressure of their own leaders, the same that delivered him over, they ask for Barabbas. Here is where I had my moment. Can you imagine, standing there as Barabbas. You know you deserve to be crucified, you may have heard of Jesus, you haven’t done anything particularly nice to him. You know you’re hated, that everyone is aware of what you’ve done. You’re notorious. And your death sentence is passed onto someone else. Would you even think twice? I know I wouldn’t. I know my heart would be filled with such gratitude and thanksgiving. My underserving life free, and an innocent one condemned. Jesus goes on to be flogged, scourged, mocked and killed, while Barabbas walks the streets a free man.
Now, I had not the greatest of weeks last week. I was thinking too much. And I realised as I read this and talked about it that I was thinking too much about the wrong things. I’d been sulking in my sin. Sitting in my own mess, concluding there was nothing I could do. Being a bit like Judas, helpless in sin. This in a sense is right, we can’t do anything to free ourselves but that’s not the end of the story. There is a great gift of life you have placed before you. I can’t imagine Barabbas, after being freed, moping around the streets going on and on about how undeserving he is. I would think he’d be dancing, constantly remembering the guy who took it all for him, and joyfully sharing that with other people because he knows he is undeserving. What a relief, what a burden taken off my shoulders. To know that though I fail all the time, he never did. His righteousness is mine, while my sin was laid on him.
” I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than the watchman for the
more than watchmen for the