CSI – Barabbas

Which is your favorite movie and why?

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I love action movies. I love it when the good guy wins and the bad guy loses! My latest favorite movie is Equalizer! Bad guys get beaten, an innocent girl is freed to be and do, and the rescuer becomes a hero. Action movies are mainly about an intervention to save a person or a situation.

We were designed for Good.

Created to live in Eden – that is why we love and long for order, beauty, nice lawns, beautiful oceans and fruitful gardens. No one falls in love with the desert unless he has no other choice.

We love it when relationships are going great. We ache when we are not in harmony with dad or mum; when our marriages are out of step; when our relationships collapse; when we are not seeing eye to eye with the boss or a work colleague or even when you fight with a stranger on the road. We were created to live in harmony with others. “What can I do to fix my relationship?” we ask everyday. Good friendship feels great, because we were created for connection.

We were created for relationship with God. I love it when I feel tight with God. It is awful to feel separated from God. It is frustrating when you feel like God’s out of town.

We were designed for good. But we have been damaged by sin.

The creation and the systems have been damaged and the results are obvious: tsunamis, global warming, climate change, hurricanes and drought. Other evils in our environment include corruption, slavery, racism and ethnicity, injustice and oppression.

Each of us is damaged. Sin lives in us. Evil desires, greed, hate, fear and self-hate. We struggle daily to be better people. We hate it when we fall into sexual compromise, lie to others, take the wrong turn on the road or get caught up in corruption.

We have damaged each other, and our relationship with God is damaged (we fear God, hide from him and ignore him as we live independent of him).

When sin (wrong doing) checks in, things go south. Movies tell our stories. Someone cheats, and tears flow. Someone steals, and bullets fly. Good girls are abused or enslaved, and someone comes to fight for them. Terrorists blow people up, and Jack Bauer has work to do. Wrong choices have consequences. And sin calls for intervention.

Movies are about that. A desire for good life and good relationships. The mess caused by evil and evil people. And the attempt to restore life to what it’s meant to be. A prison break. A rescue operation. Freedom. Reconciliation. Restoration.

Man’s greatest occupation since Adam and Eve ate the fruit has been this: What is the way out? Is Eden still possible? Can we live good, joyful lives? That’s why we have pubs, religions, holiday destinations, corner offices, first class travel and relationship shrinks. We want the good life.

How do we deal with the mess that sin left? What is the way out?

There is a character around the cross that, I’m sure, longed to get back to his family. He had been in prison for a while. He longed for rescue, but it did not seem like there was any hope. Like all of us, sin and the authorities had imprisoned him. Let us investigate this guy and see what we can learn from him.

BARABBAS, The Man Who Missed His Cross

Before we look at this first character, let us examine the on goings of that day. A lot could happen in 24 hours. Jesus is arrested in a violent encounter by the temple guard on Thursday night at Gethsemane. From there, he was taken to the religious leaders for trial.

The following takes place between 2 am and 8 am:

Trial 1

At the residence of the former high priest, Annas (2 am). Here, with no formal charges, Annas who had been the High Priest two decades earlier questions Jesus either to try and have him implicate himself or to draw charges before he forwards him to his puppet son-in-law who was the High Priest that year.

Trial 2

Unofficial, took place at the home of Caiaphas, around 3 am. Not much happened here, Caiaphas needed to agree with his powerful father-in-law, confirm charges and call in the Sanhedrin for hearing. False witnesses could not establish a case. Eventually Jesus declared he is the Messiah, that he would sit at the right hand of God and come back in power. “Blasphemy” was the conclusion… a capital offense under Jewish law. But only Romans could execute by law.

Trial 3

Formal hearing before the Sanhedrin, the 70 men who formed the Supreme Court of the Jews. Before this Council of Elders, he declared that he was the Son of God. They did not bother to probe evidence or follow the rules of procedure (fast for at least a day after hearing, reflect on it then confirm verdict).

It was already day by the time they were done here, about 6 am.

Trial 4: Before Pilate, the leading Roman official, “when morning had come” (about 7 am).

Trial 5: Before the tetrarch or governor of Galilee, Herod Antipas.

Trial 6: Back to Pilate where he was handed over for crucifixion

By around 8 a.m. the trials were over and Jesus was on his way to the place of death.

First three trials were religious. The accusation was blasphemy and breaking of religious laws. Determined to have him killed, the religious leaders had to take him to the Romans because the Jews were not allowed by Rome to execute anyone.

The latter 3 were civil trials under Roman law. Jesus was accused of treason and insurrection, which were capital offences.

All six were mistrials. “Biased and fallacious in every way, these trials represent the darkest day in the history of jurisprudence,” writes Charles Swindoll.

Without a defense lawyer as required by law and with false instead of reputable witnesses, Jesus was declared guilty instead of proven guilty. Note that Pilate declared Jesus faultless, even though he proceeded to release him to the people for crucifixion: “I find no fault in this man.”

But let’s get back to the man who missed his cross.

Matthew 27:11-26

He was a rebel, murderer, insurrectionist and a robber. His cell was in a fortress not far from where Pilate stayed when he came to Jerusalem. Barabbas alongside others was waiting for his day on the cross. He had been charged and convicted. He had given up hope of ever seeing his family again. This was his Passover. The time to pay for his sins against Rome and the people.

The noise by crowds around the fortress could not allow any of the prisoners sleep. Barabbas suddenly heard his name. The crowds were shouting his name: “Barabbas! Barabbas. Give us Barabbas.” Then after a few minutes… “Crucify him!”

He must have thought, “It is over for me. Finally I am paying for my sins. I deserve it.” Was he sorry? Was he hardened and remorseless? We do not know. He thought of the cross, the highest form of torture unto death ever devised. Fear gripped him.

Barabbas, who was this man? ‘Bar’ in the language of the day meant son, ‘Abbas’ Father. Son of the father – a strange name. No given name.

Scholars and historians have deduced that this man was from a famous family, the father probably a rabbi. It is claimed that his first name was actually Jesus. That is why to help people make a choice Pilate asked, “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Christ?” Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Christ?

Later on, it is said, the believers could not use Jesus on Barabbas, so they dropped it and called the lucky criminal just Barabbas.

May be that’s why Pilate thought of offering the crowd Jesus’ namesake. He actually thought it was an easy straightforward choice: Murderer or the Messiah? A terrorist or a teacher of the good news? He knew this was out of envy, and his wife had warned him about this man, so by all means he wanted to let Jesus go.

Well, they chose Barabbas – he was set free. Jesus replaced him on the cross. Jesus took the cross of Bar Abbas (son of the father) to make us sons of the father.

Because he died, I can choose to live in freedom!

Jesus took Barabbas’ place on the cross. The cross designated for the leader of the gang, the innocent substitute took it. “Jesus Barabbas, you are free. Jesus the Christ, take his place!” Relief for the man! Agony for Jesus the Christ. A scandal in the making.

The Scandal: Jesus, the innocent King dies instead of the condemned subject.

So Jesus carried this cross originally meant for the criminal all the way to the place of the skull, Golgotha. (He got some help on the way) He took the way of the cross, with every determination to fulfill history, fulfill the predictions of the ages and become the sacrificial lamb the world had been waiting for. The Passover Lamb was finally here. The intervention is arrived. Relief is in the air. The seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head is come

The ark of Noah that saved a family pointed to the salvation of the cross

Isaac was to be sacrificed on Mt Moriah but God provided Himself a lamb and Isaac was spared. (Genesis 22) A pointer to the lamb of God who takes the sins of the world

The Passover lamb that instituted the Exodus, a journey to the Promised Land was a pointer to Jesus on the cross.

The wilderness snake of bronze lifted for the healing of those bitten by the venomous snakes was a picture of the cross.

Rahab put out a scarlet cord at the window and she was spared with her family when Joshua rolled into the city with his army.

Job cried for a mediator who would present his case to God, Jesus was presenting this case conclusively on the cross.

Jonah in the belly of a fish for 3 days was a sign pointing to Jesus.

Simply, the shadow of the Old Testament found reality in what peaked at the cross. Jesus came to fix the failure of Adam and all men.

Because he died, I can choose to live in freedom!

Freedom from the condemnation and limitation of sin. Freedom from death and disease. Freedom to live out the potential of relationship and rulership given in Genesis.

700 years before this event, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the crucifixion:

Isaiah 53:3-8

Because he died, I can choose to live in freedom!

I would imagine Barabbas might have come to the cross, to watch his partners in crime executed, but also to see the one who took his place. What did he do with his life? Continue with crime, or revenge on those who betrayed him?

Barabbas represents you and me. You may not be a murderer, but you have hated others and wished them bad or even death. You may not be an insurrectionist, but you have defied or spoken badly of authority. May be incited others not to obey policy at work. You have broken rules: traffic, moral, parental, and institutional.

There is a Barabbas in each one of us. Son of the father reaching out for freedom from Father God.  Make the choices!

Barabbas could not ignore the cross; he had to respond to it one way or another.

He could embrace the grace of forgiveness and resolve to follow the one who died for him.

We stand at the cross today. Looking up and seeing the innocent King hang on the cross intended for us. Would you choose grace and freedom?

The cross demands a response!

Jesus is the substitute offering for the penalty of sin. Isaiah had prophesied of one who would pay for the sins of the people. He did. He took the bullet for you.

What is your response today?

Because he died, I can choose to live in freedom!

The cross brought freedom in three areas:

The world around us – We can deal with the evils of the environment and community. What can you do about injustice at work, pollution around you, lawlessness on the roads?

Personal lives – We need to choose freedom from fears, shame and guilt. We can only experience that at the foot of the cross. A restored relationship with God. In which areas do you need freedom? What is holding you back?

Relationships – We need to choose freedom from the wounds, bitterness and anger of relations and seek healing and reconciliation.

What if you made a choice today to live in the freedom of Christ? What would happen if as Christians we went out together to bring to our infected world the healing of our relationship with God, the healing of our relationships with each other and the healing of the world around us!

From the cross, a river of healing flows for broken lives, families, relationships, societies and world.

What aches inside of you for redemption? What slavery do you need to be released from? What freedom do you desire: personal, relational or communal?

Choose to walk in freedom. Away from fear, shame, guilt, emotional pain, physical pain, disease, anger, addiction, lying, spiritual oppression, depression, lack, hate ….


2 Responses to “CSI – Barabbas”

  1. This sermon was packed with so much wisdom that I have found myself reading through it daily this week.

    My take home message and ‘Life line’ from it was:-

    “Because Christ died, I choose to live in freedom! Freedom to live out the potential of a relationship with Christ and rulership given in Genesis.”

    I choose to have freedom in the 3 areas below:-

    1) My Personal life – Through my relationship with Christ
    2) My relationships – I choose freedom from the wounds,bitterness, and anger of relations and choose to seek healing and reconciliation
    3) The world around me – as I impact the community around me.

    Thank you for this insight!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Joy… Great to hear that you are being blessed. Pray that the rest of the sermons in the series have continued to bless you.


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