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Feb 25, 2018

Pilate #2 - Who's Your Jesus?

Passage: Matthew 27:15-21

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: Pilate: The Haunted One

Category: Pilate: The Haunted One

Keywords: barabbas, dream, haunted, jesus, pilate, pilate's wife

Summary:

Pilate presents two men to us. One is Barabbas – his name means ‘son of the father.’ But he’s not known for that. ‘A notorious prisoner,’ is how Matthew describes him. The other man standing before us is Jesus Christ. He also is the Son of the Father. In the language of the day he is also called Jesus Barabbas. Pilate presents these two: Both named Jesus Barabbas. Governor Pilate asks a question: Which do you want me to release to you? Who’s your Jesus? So who is your Jesus? For some it's your stuff, my stuff saves me and makes me who I am. For some it’s your health or lack of it. For still others it's alcohol or drugs or sex or pornography or gambling, those things make me feel free and alive, never realizing how enslaved I am and how they are killing me. For some their political party is their Jesus, that's what's gonna save me. Some think there is no Jesus for them, there is no atonement, only time served. And for the rest you try to be your own Jesus: life is up to me, my say, my control, my way. It’s my faith; I’ll make it up as I go. Matthew 27 sets up the choice: who’s your Jesus? You can’t avoid the question.

Detail:

Pilate presents two men to us.

One is Barabbas – his name means ‘son of the father.’

But he’s not known for that.

‘A well-known prisoner,’ is how Matthew describes him.

‘He had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder,’

note Mark, Luke and John.

Some old texts note that he went by the name Jesus.

Jesus Barabbas,

the notorious prisoner stands before us.

 

The other man standing before us is Jesus Christ.

He called himself the ‘son of God,’

That is, Son of the Father.

In Hebrew the word Bar means Son

and the word Abba means Father.

In the language of the day

he is also called Jesus Barabbas.

Luke 23 tells us that he too is charged

with ‘inciting the people to rebellion.’

 

Pilate presents these two:

Both named Jesus Barabbas.

Both charged with insurrection.

Both upsetting the powers that be

and the authorities of the day.

 

Governor Pilate asks a question:

Which do you want me to release to you?

Jesus Barabbas, who is a murderer,

Or Jesus Barabbas the Christ, the Son of God?

Barabbas with the power of force to take a life?

Or Jesus with the mercy and grace to save a life?

Who’s your Jesus?

 

You can do a lot with the power of a Barabbas.

You can make a name for yourself:

all four gospel writers know him.

The crowd knows who he is.

The authorities fear him.

You can make out like a bandit.

You can force a lot of control, even over others.

 

You can do a lot with the power of Jesus, too.

You can serve others.

You can forgive.

You can love your enemies.

You can even face death with hope.

But to be a servant rather than famous,

to do the right thing instead of the popular thing,

to live for others rather than yourself,

to give instead of get,

to love when you do not like,

that’s gonna go against the crowd.

You gotta be ready for judgment against you.

 

So aside from faith, we would choose Barabbas.

Which is what the crowd did.

Who’s your Jesus?

They chose against Christ.

When Billy Graham passed away

and passed into glory a few days ago

I thought again of the story of his coming to faith.

He believed the Son of God.

 

An evangelist named Mordecai Ham

came to Charlotte, NC.

Billy wanted no part of it.

After a few weeks, however, he became curious.

Ham was known for pointing out

sin in the communities where he preached,

and he claimed to have affidavits stating

that students at one of Charlotte’s high schools

were involved in immoral behavior

at a house across the street from the school.

Rumors then spread that students

would protest at Ham’s meetings.

And then a friend named Albert McMakin

invited Billy to attend,

“Why don’t you come out

and hear our fighting preacher?”

Billy liked the idea of a fighter.

The deal was clinched when McMakin

offered to let Billy drive his dairy truck

to the meetings.

 

Albert McMakin is not remembered,

Billy Graham is,

but if not for Albert,

Billy may never have acknowledged Jesus

as his Lord and Savior.

Albert knew what we should all know,

we fallen human beings would choose

against Jesus rather than for him.

And only the power of the Spirit can heal us.

 

One of Billy Graham’s messages speaks about

Jesus and Barabbas before the crowd:

“One of the ironies of human nature

is that it often has a way of rejecting the best

and accepting the worst.

Why did the crowd ask for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus?

The answer is in the biblical statement,

“The heart is deceitful above all things,

and desperately wicked.”

 

Look again at Barabbas, the prisoner.

That’s right – he’s identified as a ‘prisoner.’

For all his power he was trapped.

In chains.

He was a walking dead man.

And there was nothing he could do about it.

He couldn’t change either his consequences

or his life.

Imagine with me,

It is dark, damp and cold in his cell.

It smells like a sewer.

Worse, it smells like death.

There’s a rat running in the shadows.

He hears the rusty scrape of metal on metal not designed to give.

Then the marching clank of a soldier’s boots echoing down the narrow corridor.

The boots are coming his way.

And so are the catcalls:

‘They’re coming to get you, Barabbas!’

‘It’s the end of the line for you.’

‘What’ll it be, Barabbas, the lions or the cross!’

And Barabbas knows this is it.

 

And why not?

He is reaping what he sowed.

He’ll answer for what he’s done.

A life for a life.

 

The boots stop.

A key trips the latch of his cell door.

The gruff voice commands,

‘Barabbas, get up! It’s time!’

 

He stumbles down the hall,

pushed by the sharp tip of a centurion’s spear.

Regrets run thru his mind.

Hatred too.

Despair.

Is this really my end?

Is this really me?

Only fear is left.

And now he’s at the door.

No one who’s ever gone thru that door has returned. He’s seen that himself.

 

The guard pauses to find the key.

The lock tumbles.

The iron grate scrapes open.

Barabbas is blinded by the light,

his eyes hadn’t seen such brilliance in a long time.

He falls to his knees and winces

anticipating the sting of the lash.

But wait . . .

What’s that the guard is saying?

Get going, Barabbas.

Go ahead, you’re free!

 

What me?

Free?

How could I be free?

 

Someone else has taken your place.

At this moment another Jesus Barabbas

is carrying the cross that had your name on it.

Another Barabbas –

the son of the Father –

will pay your penalty.

You are forgiven and free.

You have a new life.

 

And he’s Barabbas again.

Not Barabbas the prisoner.

But Barabbas – son of the Father.

 

Jesus has done what neither Barabbas,

with all his power and force,

nor you or I, could ever do.

Jesus chose to bear the sin of Barabbas

so that he could set him free.

 

More like Barabbas the prisoner and murderer

came and continue to come after Jesus Christ.

The result in Israel

was the final destruction of the temple

and great disaster in Jerusalem in 70 AD.

The human crowd continues to choose

the power of Barabbas over the mercy of Christ.

Violence begets violence.

 

No one like Jesus has ever come since.

He is the One and Only Son of God.

Only because of him do we not only know God,

not merely experience Christ’s presence,

we are saved by grace

and our identity and belonging is secure:

only by his grace are we children of God,

and that is what we are.

Like Barabbas, we were trapped,

imprisoned, enslaved.

Feelings, fears, failings, forebodings

deceive us as they form our hearts

souls and minds

convincing us God’s love is not

what shapes us,

but what we carry in our hands and hearts.

 

Who are we?

My regrets.

My sin.

My mortality.

I’m a child of Adam.

So I defend myself:

I couldn’t help it.

What do you want from me?

I’m only human.

I carry chains, heavy, heavy chains.

 

We are each in our own broken human way

among the walking dead.

And there is nothing we can do about it.

I am too full of pride to simply trust and obey,

I’m excited by lust, gluttony, anger and the like;

sin looks like freedom to me.

 

But my world is dark, small, cramped,

more often like a cell than a home.

Imagine with me,

It is dark, damp and cold in this life.

Is smells like a sewer.

Worse, it smells like death.

There’s a rat running in the shadows.

One hears the rusty scrape of metal on metal not designed to give.

Then the marching clank of a soldier’s boots echoing down the narrow corridor.

The boots are coming your way.

And so are the catcalls:

‘They’re coming to get you,

some child of the Father you are!’

‘It’s the end of the line for you.’

‘What’ll it be, the lions or the cross!’

And every human being at some point

knows this is it.

 

And why not?

Don’t we reap what we sow?

We’re proud to answer for what we’ve done.

I did it my way.

I just gotta be me.

 

The boots stop.

A key trips the latch of the cell door.

The gruff voice commands,

‘Barabbas, get up! It’s time!’

Son of the father, child of Adam;

for each one of us it is appointed once to die

and after that to face judgment.

 

Regrets run thru our minds.

Anger too.

Despair.

Is this really my end?

Is this really me?

Only fear is left.

You are led to the door.

No one who’s ever gone thru that door has returned. We’ve seen that ourselves.

The guard pauses to find the key.

The lock tumbles.

The gate grates open.

Barabbas is blinded by the light,

his eyes hadn’t seen such brilliance in a long time.

He falls to his knees and winces

anticipating the sting of the lash.

But wait . . .

What’s that the guard is saying?

Get going, Barabbas.

Go ahead, you’re free!

Son of the Father,

child of Adam,

go ahead,

you’re free,

your sin has been paid for.

 

What me?

Free?

How could I be free?

 

Someone else has taken your place.

At this moment another son of Adam,

Jesus son of the Father,

is carrying the cross that had your name on it.

Another Barabbas has paid your penalty.

 

For all our pretending to rule and have our say

and determine what is and will be . . .

We’re trapped.

We’re prisoners.

We’re beholden to things and powers

that have gotten us to where we are today.

We can’t pay for our sin.

We live with regrets.

 

Jesus Barabbas stands.

Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Father.

Who took on a common name,

Even the name of a notorious prisoner.

He carried your name with him on the cross he bore.

 

Now will we take on his name?

Pilate stands before the crowd,

who do you choose?

Jesus Barabbas

or Jesus the Christ?

Who’s your Jesus?

 

For some it's health, that’s how I’ll measure

my life and my relationship with God.

For others it's your stuff,

my stuff saves me and makes me who I am.

For still others it's alcohol or drugs or sex

or pornography or gambling,

those things make me feel free and alive,

never realizing how enslaved I am

and how they are killing me.

 

For some it’s family;

this good gift can become an idol.

Telly Savalas that old actor tells about

the time he got a part in the movie

The Greatest Story Ever Told.

He called his mother to tell her the good news.

What’s the movie about? she asked.

It’s about Christ and the gospel he said.

His mother said, That’s great,

Telly I know you’ll make a good Jesus.

He didn’t have the heart to tell her

he was playing the part of Pilate.

For some of us, our spouse or our kids

become our Jesus –

that’s what is gonna give me joy and life,

my family saves me.

 

Some are too distracted by everyday life,

kids and school schedules and sports

and the next entertaining thing,

or admit it, you’re a work-a-holic,

and have nothing left for Jesus.

For some their political party is their Jesus,

that's what's gonna save me.

Some think there is no Jesus for them,

there is no atonement, only time served.

And for the rest you try to be your own Jesus:

life is up to me, my say, my control, my way.

It’s my faith; I’ll make it up as I go.

 

Who’s your Jesus?

How do you decide?

 

These two men stand before others

who are there out of self-interest alone.

Pilate figured he had a way out of this mess.

He was looking to protect himself and his position.

So he set up this choice.

But the chief priests and the elders

convinced the crowd that

the only choice was Barabbas the criminal.

Self-interest says the story,

that’s why they acted as they did.

 

Self-interest leads to death.

Jesus denies himself, and brings new life.

 

Men and boys, fathers and sons, notice this

with me for a moment:

The scene involves three men.

We can ask what makes you a man?

Pilate has confined himself to the material world.

Christ’s talk of another kingdom means nothing

to Pilate who is focused on the here and now.

But Pilate’s wife had a dream.

There is something beyond this world.

She has a spiritual experience

and it haunts Pilate.

The spiritual doesn’t speak to him

so in the end he has nothing to say.

 

Barabbas has also trapped himself

in the material world.

He was all about what he could get for himself

by his strength and selfish will.

But look where it got him.

There is a higher law than our own way.

He too winds up haunted

by the stranger who has his name,

who takes his sentence,

and sets him free.

 

We men and boys aren’t meant to settle

for material solutions.

Those answers wind up haunted.

We look for grace.

In those tough struggles look to spiritual solutions

in prayer,

sacrifice,

forbearance,

giving and forgiving,

for Christ is your saving strength.

 

Girls and young women:

Dua Lipa sings the most popular song right now:

New Rules

The song is about a bad relationship

and how she keeps getting drawn back into it.

But now she has new rules to protect her.

Guess what?

Those rules don’t save her,

at the end she sings:

I’ve got new rules . . .

but you ain’t getting over him.

 

Your rules won’t save you.

Those can’t be your Jesus.

The cross tells us there is really only one true Jesus,

no matter who you pick.

When by faith we define our lives

by this mercy of God,

and measure our actions not by what it gets us

but by trust exercised,

and sacrifice offered,

then powerfully graceful things happen.

 

And parents choose to sacrifice

for the future of their children.

And a friend forgives thru tears.

And a fellowship accepts us for who we are.

And you are called to drink a bitter cup, but you do.

And you are asked to do the right thing

tho it cost you.

And the only action left is to trust.

 

Every time there is a choice to make;

it’s always a choice between

Barabbas the prisoner and Bar-Abba, Jesus,

the Son of God.

 

It’s Pilate’s choice with the crowd

out of self-interest,

or it’s the trust that in the sacrifice of Jesus

I find blessing and identity and life.

Who’s your Jesus?