One Final Object Lesson
“Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. 7 And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion” (Mark 15:6, 7).
In the judgment hall of Pilate, the Roman governor, Christ stands bound as a common prisoner. About Him are the guard of soldiers. The great judgment hall is filling with people, while just outside the entrance to the hall are the judges of the Sanhedrin, priest, rulers and elders. In truth it was a mob, a mob driven by jealousy, hatred and fuel by unseen satanic forces.
The Sanhedrin after condemning Jesus, had brought Jesus to Pilate to have their sentence confirmed and carried out by the Roman authorities. According to Jewish ceremonial law, they refused to enter the judgement hall for fear of defilement which would preclude them from taking part in the feast of the Passover. Yet their hearts were murderous and filled with hatred which defiled their hearts, which they failed to see as true defilement, which made them unworthy to partake of the Passover.
The Jewish leaders failed to comprehend that the One standing before them in the judgement hall was the real Passover lamb and that since they had rejected Him, the great feast for them had lost its significance.
Pilot, having been woken from his sleep was in a foul mood, and hoped to dispatch of this case quickly. He was fully prepared and determined to deal with the prisoner in the harshest of terms. Pilot looked at the men who had brought the charges against Jesus and then, his gaze resting searchingly upon Jesus, and the countenance of Jesus caused him to stop and pause.
Upon Jesus face there was no signs of guilt, no expression of fear, no boldness or defiance. Pilate had seen and pronounced judgement upon many prisoners and none stood before him as this Man did. Jesus made a favorable impression upon Pilate, and thus Pilate’s better nature was aroused. He had heard of Jesus and His works. His wife had told him something of the wonderful deeds perform by the Galilean prophet, who cured the sick and raised the dead.
Pilate spoke in clear tones, “What accusations do you bring against this man?” Instead of directly answering, the Jewish leaders respond, “When those composing the Sanhedrin, the first men of the nation, bring to you a man they deem worthy of death, is there need to ask for an accusation against him?”
The Jewish leaders thought they could manipulate the vacillating Pilate to carry out their plans without doing do process and thus condemning to death a man they knew was not worthy of death. Rome and Roman authority held little regard for the life of a prisoner often being unconcerned with whether the prisoner was innocent or guilty.
But the countenance of Jesus was different, there was a calmness that prisoners never exhibit and an ere of innocents about Jesus that Pilate had never seen before. He had heard about this Lazarus, a man who had been dead four days, that this man who stood before him had been reported to bring back to life. So, he determined to know from this mob, what the charges brought before him at such an early hour as this were. Pilate responded to the mob, “If your judgment is sufficient, why bring the prisoner to me? Take Him and judge Him according to your law.” The religious leaders now squirmed, as Pilate continued to speak: “What is your sentence?”
The leaders answered, “The death sentence, but it is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” Then they asked Pilate to take their word as to Christ’s guilt and enforce their sentence. They as leaders promised to take responsibility of the result.
Pilot could not in his heart condemn Jesus and so he refused to grant this request until actual charges were brought against Him.
The religious leaders were now in a dilemma. They understood that they must cloak their hypocrisy under the thickest concealment, they must not allow it to appear the Christ had been arrested on religious grounds, instead they must put forward that Jesus was working against the common law. That he was a threat to the Roman Government.
In both Judea and Galilee insurrections against the Roman government were very common. Often the Jewish leaders had asked Jesus to calm the people for fear the Romans would think they were plotting against Rome.
Recently there had been a group of Galileans who had come to Jerusalem with the purpose to revolt against the Roman government. The result was that several of them had died in the temple of Jerusalem and their three leaders had been arrested, tried and found guilty of crimes against the government and sentenced to death.
This had caused problems between Herod and Pilate as Herod had accused Pilate of unjust treatment of those involved and that he himself, instead of Pilate should have tried the people.
Pilate decided that it was impossible for him to render a judgment and so sent to Herod the Galilean name Jesus to be tried by the Galilean ruler Herod. Through this Pilate and Herod became fast friends, but Herod could not render a verdict, and so he to after Jesus was humiliated and beaten, Herod had Jesus retuned to Pilate.
Pilate was disappointed to once again have Jesus standing before him and again wished a speedy end to this. Yet strangely Pilate was willing to have Jesus whipped to pacify His accusers. In this way, Pilate sacrificed justice and principle in order to compromise with the mob. This placed Pilate at a disadvantage with the crowd and the crowd sensed victory was near at hand.
Pilate was confused by conflicting emotions and also the passionate appeal by his own wife for him not to have anything to do with this situation.
It was the custom in pagan cultures, that at this time a year, a prisoner would be released, and with this custom, Pilate hoped to bring this matter to a conclusion. If he could convince the crowd to release Jesus, then this could all go away.
In prison at this time was a man named Barabbas. Interestingly enough his real name was Jesus Bar-Abbas, which means “our salvation, the son of the father.” In order to keep confusion from happening regarding the true Jesus and this Jesus called Barabbas, they dropped the name Jesus and changed what we would call the last name from Bar-Abbas to Barabbas. Bar meaning “son of” and Abbas meaning “father.” It made Bible translators uncomfortable to have a person charged with insurrection against the government and accused of murder (see Mark 15:7 and Luke 23:19). being called Son of the Father. But with this change comes a great loss of one last object lesson before Christ was crucified.
Adam when he was created by God was called the “Son of God” (see Genesis 5:1 and Genesis 6:2, 4). Yet we learn in Genesis chapter 3 that Adam sinned, or revolted against the government of God. This revolt by Adam, the result of his free choice, caused a death sentence to be pronounced upon Himself and all mankind. Death is the separation from God and the result of sin would therefore be total and complete and total separation from God. At the time of Adams fall, God promised that One would come and pay this penalty of total separation from God, the result of which would be death.
And now as Christ the Son of Man, who represented before God all mankind, stood in Pilate’s judgement hall. Pilate proposed, “Who do you want, Barabbas (Bar-Abbas the Son of the Father) or Jesus who they call king of the Jews. Barabbas the insurrectionist and murderer, being representative of Adam and all the sons of Adam (all people of the earth) that have revolted against the government of God. Barabbas represent the absolute worst society had to offer and Pilate now offered to the Jewish leaders a choice between Jesus the Christ or Barabbas the murderer and insurrectionist.
Either way there was to be a crucifixion that day. Barabbas and his two companions or Jesus and the other two companions. It made no difference to Pilate other than Pilate was convinced Jesus was innocent, but instead of conducting Jesus safely out of the judgement hall and to freedom, he offered before the people a choice. Death of an innocent Man for the freedom of an insurrectionist and murderer. From the crowd came back the reply “We Want Barabbas, Barabbas we want!!!” louder and louder was the cry until Pilate caved and asked, “What then shall I do with Jesus, king of the Jews?”
The crowd roared back “crucify Him, crucify Him!”
Pilate relented and sentencing an innocent life for the life of a insurrectionist and murderer.
The story could end there with us viewing Christ hanging on the cross, but there is one more aspect to this that we often fail to see.
Christ, throughout this whole ordeal continued to surrender his will to the will of the Father which put Jesus’ character in sharp contrast to the character of all others there that day or who have ever lived upon this earth. Jesus and the two companions of Barabbas were led to the place of the skull and placed upon their crosses. The crosses were lifted up and came to a jarring stop and they came to rest in the holes made to accept the placement of the cross. But as Christ was lifted up, he drew all men unto himself. The object lesson that had just been given in the innocent life of Christ for the sinful life of Barabbas struck home with some, causing them to search their heart and admit, perhaps this Jesus is indeed the Son of God.
This was particularly true of the two companions of Barabbas that were crucified with Jesus. They were as much guilty as Barabbas and so they suffer the fate of all sinners and that is death.
But there is one additional object lesson to be learned. Christ came, live and died a sinless life. The life of Christ revealed the holiness of His character which was a reflection of the character of God. The two hanging on either side of Christ were accused of being thieves, murders and insurrection against the government which is the same charges brought by Satan against every person that has ever lived and sinned. Yet by hearing the words spoken by Jesus and witnessing His character and great love for all mankind and even his love for those that persecuted Him, we have a choice to make. The two, one of either side of Christ, represent the two classes of people. Those who having heard and witness the life of Christ either in person or through the Sacred pages of the Bible and through the Christlike character of Christ’s faithful followers here on earth either accept or reject Christ.
One that witnessed these events was not convinced and so he cursed God while the other having seen and heard the same things, accepted the saving grace which is freely given from the cross to all those that accept Christ as their saviour.
Today, we do not hear the sights or sounds as the two that were hung upon their crosses did at the time Christ was sacrificed upon the cross. However, we have the witness of the testimony given by the disciples, apostles, and of the one who looked upon the uplifted life of Christ upon the cross and asked for forgiveness and to be accepted into Christ king.
The two hanging with Jesus both made a decision that day, one for eternal life and one against life. At this Easter season, we have the same question placed before us, do we accept the uplifted Christ as our saviour or do we like the insurrectionist, thief and murder who looked upon Christ and still rejected him do the same?
Early in Christ’s ministry when he spoke with Nicodemus, Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:14, 15). Christ was lifted up that day and he is asking for us to believe in Him and by believing we will have eternal life. And as his custom was after creation, during his ministry and after work of redemption was complete by His death upon the cross, He rested on the Sabbath day.