In the week leading to Easter, I have been reflecting on the account of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection as narrated in John’s gospel. Today, while reading through John 18, I was struck at how Jesus protected his disciples as he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, at Peter’s infamous failure of nerve as he was questioned about his own ties to Jesus, at the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders who were more concerned about obeying minor aspects of the law while plotting to have an innocent man murdered, and at Pilate’s lack of character as he put law and order before justice and truth.
Then the narrative moves to how Pilate stands before the crowd and offers to release Jesus (John 18: 38-40). Instead, the people – who had no doubt been stirred up by the Jewish leaders – call for the release of Barabbas, a common murderer – and for Jesus to receive the cruelest of death sentences in his place.
“How stupid these people were”, was my initial, self-righteous, thought.
And then it hit me. There are occasions when I am no different to these people. I can be influenced by the shouts, voices and demands of the culture and society around me. I can so easily put “Barabbas” before Jesus in my own life. And, as I look back, this has happened so often.
There are times when we all do the same. When we shout and demand things of God that we think we need for ourselves without understanding that He sees the big picture. When we put our own comforts ahead of what God wants for us. When we choose sin over living our lives fully for Him. When we are influenced by others to follow a course of action that we know, deep down, is destructive. When we lust, lie, deceive, judge or condemn. When we take the credit or glory that rightfully belongs to God.
And yet – despite our rebellion and our sin, despite the ways in which we are so fickle and inconsistent, despite those times when we shout out for all the wrong things – through Christ’s sacrifice we are free. Jesus hung and died on the cross that may even have been reserved for Barabbas. He has done the same for us. I should have been hanging there. So too should you. And yet – amazingly, wonderfully – He died for us, in our place.
Now that is something we need to be shouting out about to the world around us.