This Week's Gospel Sermons
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April 4, 2010
This Man, but Barabbas”
When Jesus was on trial
before Pilate, the Roman governor could find no
fault in him, and so announced to the Jews, “I find no guilt
in him.” (John 18:38). It is evident that Pilate did
not want to condemn an innocent man. It is also evident that he
did not want to stir up the wrath of the Jews. In this situation
he said to them, “But you have a custom that I release someone
for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you
the King of the Jews?” (John 18:39). Pilate gave them a
choice of one of two men, Christ or Barabbas. Barabbas was “a
notorious prisoner” (Matt. 27:16), an insurrectionist
and a murderer (Mark 15:7), a danger to society. Christ
was an innocent man, “who committed no sin, nor was any deceit
found in his mouth.” (1Pet.
). He served humanity and “went
about doing good.” (Acts
). Surely the people would prefer the
release of this righteous man. They would not dare have a
desperado turned loose among them. But the people chose Barabbas
instead of Christ. “So they cried out again, saying, “Not
this man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John
People are still making the same kind of mistake today — still choosing robbers.
We have a choice between God
One of the sublimest thoughts to
occupy the human mind is the first statement in the Bible: “In
the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen.
1:1). Here is the most reasonable explanation of the origin
of the physical universe that has ever been made. Here we are
introduced to God, “almighty” (Gen. 17:1),
“from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalms 90:2),
“good” (Psalms 86:5). The very idea of God lifts
men up, gives them hope, and motivates them to a nobler plane of
conduct. Atheism does one thing: it ignores indisputable
evidence of the existence, the power, the wisdom, and the
goodness of God. Many things atheism does not do: it does not
offer man hope; it does not offer any incentive to a nobler
life; it does not offer sympathy and compassion and help to the
downtrodden and destitute. Atheism robs man of great and
wonderful blessings in this life and the life to come —and yet
some today choose this robber instead of the true and living
God. “Not God, but atheism.”
We have a choice between redemption
God has provided redemption for us
through the precious blood of Jesus Christ his son. “knowing
that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or
gold from your futile way of life inherited from your
forefathers,but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished
and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1Pet. 1:18,19).
We reach and appropriate this redeeming blood in our obedience
to the gospel, in being baptized into the death of Christ. “Or
do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into
Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3).
The guilt of sin robs man of both happiness and hope. “The way
of the transgressor is hard.” (Prov. 13:15). “The
wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23). “But for the
cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and
immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their
part will be in the lake that burns with fire and
brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8). Yet
many today are choosing this robber, and by their actions are
saying, “Not redemption in the precious blood of Christ, but
the guilt of sin and its consequences.”
We have a choice between righteousness
No one can love God and the world at
the same time. “You adulteresses, do you not know that
friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore
whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an
enemy of God.” (James 4:4). Jesus said, “No one can
serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the
other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You
cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24). “Do not
love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the
world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in
the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and
the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from
the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts;
but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1John
2:15-17). Worldliness makes an enemy of God and robs man of
the hope of eternal life, and yet many today say, “Not Christ,
but the world.”
We have a choice between truth
Jesus said, “and you will know the
truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32).
Peter said that we purify our souls in obedience to the truth. (1Pet.
1:22). God’s word is the truth. (John 17:17). We,
then, free ourselves from sin and purify our souls by our
knowledge of and obedience to the word of God. On the other
hand, error, that which is not the word of God, condemns. The
prophet from Judah believed a lie and was condemned. (1Kings
13:18,24). “For this reason God will send upon them a
deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in
order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth,
but took pleasure in wickedness.” (2Thess. 2:11,12).
Error robs man of any hope of heaven, and yet today people
turning from the truth of God’s word to the dogmas and
doctrines of men are saying, “Not truth, but error.”
We have a choice between obedience
If we are to enjoy salvation, we must
obey Christ. “And having been made perfect, He became to all
those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Heb.
5:9). Whenever we obey the Lord, it will have to be in the
present. The past is gone and is irretrievable. We have no claim
on the future, or any assurance of another day of life. Today is
the day of salvation. (2Cor. 6:2). Procrastination is
rebellion against God. One who delays his obedience is really
saying to God, “I will obey, but I will not obey now.”
Samuel told King Saul that rebellion was the same as idolatry. (1Sam.
15:23). Procrastination robs one of time that could be used
in the service of the Lord, and it could easily rob one of the
joys of heaven throughout eternity. Yet many are saying, “Not
obedience, but further delay.”
Why did the people choose the robber Barabbas
of the righteous Christ?
Their ignorance caused them to
make such a choice. Peter said that in ignorance they did it. (Acts
Wrong teaching and wrong influence caused them to make such a choice. “Now the chief priests and the
elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for
Barabbas.” (Matt. 27:20).
Prejudice caused them to make such a choice. They had closed their eyes, stopped
their ears, and hardened their hearts to the teaching of Christ.
Emotion, instead of reason, caused them to make such a choice. Pilate knew that
for envy they had delivered up Jesus. (Matt. 27:18).
People of the first century made a
terrible mistake in choosing a robber instead of Christ. May we
not make the same mistake today. This applies to Christians who
are in danger as well (Hebrews 6:6).
—S. Scott Richardson (With thanks to Billy Norris)