Jesus or Barabbas
I’m going to invite you to John, chapter 18 today. John 18 is where we’re going to be together. And this is a very powerful section. This is the anthem of our faith that we’re going to find here in these last chapters of John. We’re dealing with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection now as we get to the end of the book of John.
And I was reminded of something this week as we look at this gospel. From time to time, I’ll hear people comment like this. They’ll say something to the effect of, “You know, it’s good to see this written out in these stories, but if I could have been there in the first century my ability to have faith in it and believe in it would just be so much stronger. If I could just have been there when Jesus was there.”
And I just want to remind you of something that maybe we should not take for granted where we are in this day and age with the information that we have available to us and the opportunity we have to grow in our faith. I know sometimes maybe it would be cool if we were like Bill and Ted on Some Excellent Adventure going back to the first century and being able to be there for a part of some of this. But I want to remind you just how important it is where you are in this day and age.
When you think about the first century, these events unfolding, if you happened to be there for one of these events, if you were just one of those people in that was fortunate in that circumstance, you may have got to experience that event, but being able to tie the whole story together, to see how it fits and what it means for our lives, as it relates to the day-to-day living for Jesus. A lot of these people didn’t get that opportunity. Like you think Jesus walked around with the 12 disciples. Not even the 12 disciples completely understood everything that Jesus was doing until after the fact.
And here we are today in our time. And we have not just one gospel, but four gospels of how they communicate Jesus’ story and what it means for us. And we get the grander picture of how it all fits throughout the Old and New Testament. And not only that, then you have the history of seeing how these individuals then lived out their faith to the point that the first century church, they laid down their lives. Like the disciples that wrote the New Testament, they faced martyrdom because of having seen Jesus resurrected from the grave.
And so first century, yeah, you might have been able to see a miracle or two happen, but at this day and age, you get to see all of it unfold and how it all fits together for us. And I think it’s a far better position to be in, seeing how it’s historically played itself out and where it puts our faith today because of that. I think it’s an incredible place to be where we are, to have tangibly the word of God in our hands. I would far rather be in this position than hope to see some miracle in the first century, just being able to tie all this together.
And that’s where it leads us to in John, chapter 18, today, just in these final moments of Jesus’ life. This is that paramount story between Jesus and Barabbas as the Jewish people choose Barabbas over Jesus. And we’ll get to that in a little bit. But as we get ready to dive into this section of scripture, I’m going to give you just this first point in your notes that I want to really talk about in this section and then relate it to our lives.
I want us to see in this first part, verse 28 to verse 32, that Jesus has incredible self-control in these final moments here as he’s getting ready to be handed over to the crucifixion. In verse 28, it really starts off this way. Jesus has incredible self-control, self controls is the blank there in your notes. “Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas into the praetorium, and it was early.” And just to remind us where we are. The Romans and the Jews came together there with hundreds of people to overtake Jesus in the garden. They come to capture Jesus. Over 600 plus people come to capture Jesus. They take him into this mock trial before one who used to be the high priest, into Caiaphas, who was the high priest.
And then from Caiaphas into the Roman leaders, into Pilate. And they take him to the praetorium. And it tells us it was early. And I don’t even want to blow past that statement and recognizing the self-control of Jesus in these moments. I mean, if you consider everything that Jesus has gone through to this moment. Jesus has been up all night. The Bible tells us the weight of sin has been placed upon his shoulders, like to the point in the garden of Gethsemane he is sweating drops of blood. He’s been falsely accused. He’s been mocked. He’s been spit on. He’s been beat. And he’s been up all night throughout this.
Like you think about the self-control just for that statement to be true. How Jesus is just demonstrating his character and his conduct in these moments. Some of you, you just skip a meal and you get a little angry, right? I mean, this is Jesus up all night long having endured this. And then going from verse 28, it says, “They themselves did not enter the praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. Therefore Pilate came out to them and said, What accusations are you bringing against this man?”
So it kind of works like this, and this is so ironic. It’s just like religion in this story. If you caught it in these verses, they’re not okay with going into the praetorium because they think it might defile them, but they’re completely okay with killing someone in a mock trial. It’s just like religion, right? You strain at a gnat, but you’re okay with killing. This is where they’ve gotten to in this moment. “Ah, we can’t go in there. People will think bad thoughts about us, but let’s kill this guy.” Right? That that’s where they’re at.
And I think about, okay, so how does this relate to us today? And just the attitude that they’re carrying in this moment, how could they get even justify that? When I think about the trajectory of our culture. Our culture today is becoming more irreligious. And in fact, about 20 to 25% of Utah doesn’t even affiliate with any sort of belief system today. So one out of every four people you might encounter throughout your day, probably doesn’t associate with any sort of belief so they say.
But what I’ve come to find out about our culture is that even though people make not claim to have a religious affiliation, everyone still does. Because everyone has a belief system. In fact, I would say probably one of the more popular ones today that people might adhere to, we might just call virtue signaling. Virtue signaling in a lot of ways in our culture has become much like a religion that people hold to. And what I find interesting about it is when people are, when people are virtue signaling, what I find about those that like to look high and mighty, just like these religious people here, is that people honestly don’t really care about who they are. They more care about who you think they are. And that’s how virtue signaling works. Isn’t it?
It’s the difference between reputation and character. Reputation is who you think I am. And character is who I really am. And that’s really a lot about what religion is. Religion cares about how I look. Jesus honestly cares about who you are. A lot of this world’s obsessed with their image and their reputation. But can I just remind you, if you take care of your character, your reputation will take care of itself?
And Jesus, before this hypocrisy, still carries an incredible amount of self-control and goes on further from here. And the Jewish leaders said to Pilate, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” So Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.”
So here’s what happens. They come ripping with Jesus in there, and they’re not even going to go into the praetorian. They’re like, “Pilate come out.” You know, we’ve got to kill somebody. Right? And so Pilate’s like, “Ah.” You know, he gets out to where they are because they won’t come to him. And they’re like, “Listen, we’ve got a bad dude.” And he’s asking the question, “What did he do?” And they’re like, “Just trust us. He’s a bad dude.” They couldn’t even come up with a reason to accuse Jesus. They’re just saying to Pilate, “Just believe us on this one, Pilate. We’re going to ask you to kill him in a second, but just believe us, he’s a really bad guy.”
And they kind of put Pilate in a bad position because Pilate wants to keep the peace in Jerusalem, especially during the Passover. He doesn’t want any sort of insurrection. They’ve already gone to Pilate and gotten the Roman cohort, which is 600 plus to arrest this guy. If you’re going to bug Rome, he better be a bad guy. He better be up to something that’s going to cause a ruckus in Rome. Right? And so they bring him and they’re like, “Here he is. Just trust us.”
And Pilate’s response here is like, “You guys are wanting to accuse this guy over matters related to Jewish beliefs. Rome doesn’t care. Do what you want.” So Pilate sort of passes the buck to give them the responsibility of handling Jesus in these moments. But come to find out the end of verse 31, the Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” This happened so that the word of Jesus, which he had said indicating what kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.
Now, when you read a passage like this, they’re acknowledging what their ultimate goal is for Jesus. They want to kill Jesus. But they say here that they don’t have the permission to put anyone to death, which I find a little bit challenging to just take at face value. I think what they’re intending to say here is not just that they can’t put Jesus to death. That is partially true. But they can’t put Jesus to death the way they intend to put Jesus to death. What I mean is the Jews have already demonstrated that they have the ability to put Jesus to death. In fact, if you go back to the gospel of John, in John chapter eight, verse 59: They tried to stone Jesus. And John chapter 10, verse 31: They tried to stone Jesus. And Acts, chapter seven, the very end of Acts seven, in verse 54 to 60: They stone Stephen. They have the ability to execute judgment to the point that they would kill people, just not in the way they want to kill Jesus.
They’re caught in a difficult circumstance here, because if their religious leaders come against Jesus and kill Jesus, according to the same way that they have wanted to kill Jesus early in John, in the way they do stone Stephen, they have made no justifiable accusation against Christ. They put Jesus in a mock trial and couldn’t get enough witnesses to come against Christ, to testify as to what Jesus has done wrong. So to kill Jesus then that way would be wrong of them.
So they understand in order for Jesus to face death, they’ve got to have Jesus face death the way that Rome wants Jesus to face death. And the only way that they can bring Jesus to this point of death is for Rome then to bring the execution of the judgment. So therefore they don’t have the ability in Roman power to execute Jesus, and have no reason justifiable, according to Jewish law to execute Jesus. And so they say we’re not permitted to put anyone to death. And then it goes on and says, “This happened so that the word of Jesus, which he had said indicating what kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.”
This path passage is incredible for a few reason, this verse 32. The Jews were certainly not justified in killing Jesus. They couldn’t find any fault. And if they didn’t find fault, they would look bad by executing him. But not if they could get Rome to find a justifiable reason to execute him. The Jews likely thought, in Deuteronomy chapter 21, verse 23, it says: Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree. If they could get Jesus to hang on a tree then according to Jewish law, they would see Jesus as cursed.
But literally think through the theology that Jesus took on our curse so that we could be set free. And when they bring Jesus to Pilate their pursuit, their desire is for his crucifixion so that Jesus would look cursed. But God is greater. He’s about to demonstrate that he is greater and that he is really the healer, ultimate healer, of everything that looks broken and wrong in, in our world.
But this verse brings us to a very powerful way of viewing scripture. And the Bible reminds of this multiple times, that this again is a moment when scripture is being fulfilled. Scripture is being fulfilled. If Jesus had not been crucified, meaning if Jesus had been stoned rather than having been crucified, the Bible would not be true. Because the Bible prophetically hundreds of years before Jesus’ crucifixion proclaimed that Jesus would be crucified. In fact, the Bible prophesied Jesus would be crucified in Isaiah chapter 52, end of 52 to chapter 53. Isaiah prophesied Jesus would be crucified hundreds of years before the Persians invented crucifixion and the Romans perfected it. If Jesus had not been crucified, the Bible would not be true.
And what we see in this moment is God’s sovereign hand still in control in situations where man thinks they have control. That the power of God and the sovereignty of God is at work here. And God fulfills what he had prophesied. God fulfills what he foretold. Even in the worst of moments, God’s sovereign hand is there. And God’s big enough to work through any circumstances.
Let me ask you this. What are you worried about right now? What keeps you up at night? What challenges are you facing in your life? What rests heavy in your soul? Here we see the power of God working in the most difficult of circumstances to fulfill everything that he has promised. And the same God gives you promises of his love and care of your life too. Jesus, in these moments has incredible self-control, fulfilling everything that he promised in the midst of adversity that he faces.
So here’s the question we could ask ourselves, how can we be Christlike? How can we have this type of self-control? To the end of Jesus’ life he remains faithful in his pursuit. Because in our lives, I realize being human, we’re all fallen. And Romans chapter six, verse six says we’re all slave to sin, which means we give into our flesh. We’re influenced by our sin. And self-control is the ability to say no to fleshly desires and to remain fixed on a greater goal.
And that’s Jesus in this moment. His heart remains surrendered to a greater purpose of truth. Self-control is demonstrated by giving your life to something greater. It’s not about reacting, but about responding, and the purpose for which you were designed by God. And here in this next portion, this next section of scripture starting in verse 33, we’re going to see Pilate ask two questions. And the answer to these two questions, one of the questions Pilate asks, he doesn’t even wait for an answer for. But the answer to these two questions really help us determine in our own lives, how we can be Christlike.
So question number one, Pilate begins to ask verse 33. Let me give you the answer in your notes. How do we be Christlike? Answer number one: Serving a greater king and kingdom. See our challenge in being self-controlled in this life is that we lose control when we actually put ourselves in control. Because when we see all about us, anyone that comes against us, we feel the need to defend our honor, right? So we react in emotion to the circumstance.
How can we be more Christlike? Serving a greater king and kingdom? And here’s the question. Therefore, Pilate entered the praetorium again and summoned Jesus and said to him, “You are the king of the Jews?” And Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own or did others tell you about me?” So the way the Greek text actually reads when, when Pilate comes in and encounters Jesus for the first time, the way he poses the question he asks, “Are you the king of the Jews?” But the way he poses the question in Greek, it’s actually the you is emphatic. So he is saying like this, “You? You, the king of the Jews?” Pilate is blown away. No doubt Pilate has likely heard of the stories of Jesus. Though he may not have had interaction with Christ, he has heard the things that Jesus has done, the miracles of Christ, the way that Jesus is drawing crowds.
Pilate’s probably aware of this. And Pilate has probably concocted some sort of idea of what to expect and anticipate in seeing Jesus. And when he finally sees Jesus he looks at him as if you’re the one that’s supposed to be leading a revolution? You’re the insurrectionist that the Jews have woken me up and drug me out into this place in order to bring accusations against you? It is you? Pilate’s surprised by the appearance of Christ.
But I love what Jesus does in verse 34. Jesus sees this as an opportunity because anytime we have a moment to interact with Jesus, it’s always an opportunity for us to respond in a godly way. And so he says to Pilate, “Pilate, I’m glad you you’ve drawn this to the forefront here. But let me ask you, did you discover this on your own or parroting what other people told you?” And here’s what Jesus is saying. “Pilate, in order to come to me the way that you’re called to come to me, everyone must come through me,” right? Like you need to make a personal decision over who you think that I am. This is what Jesus is saying. You don’t ride the coattails of your mama and your daddy. Just because you grew up in a Christian home, doesn’t make you a Christian. It’s who you believe Jesus is that determines whether or not you’re truly a Christian.
And this is where Pilate finds himself with Christ. Jesus is saying, Pilate, how did you get to this conclusion? Is this something that you genuinely believe about me, or are you just parroting what you’re told? And then the conversation goes on from here in Pilate responds. Pilate said, “I’m not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priest handed you over to me. What have you done?” And Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” And Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king.”
Now this is a very dangerous position for Jesus to be in here. I mean, you think in Rome, if Rome didn’t grant you the opportunity or the place to be a king, that it would be very easy to lose your life in Rome to call yourself a king when Rome doesn’t acknowledge that you’re a king. But Jesus teaches us something important about what it means to recognize in our life who he is and what he’s about. What Jesus is saying here is my kingdom is not of this world. And so Jesus teaches two important thoughts. He teaches us who and how. He teaches us who do we surrender to by simply answering the question, who or what is king of your life? And then how we respond to the kingdom.
You want to learn to live a Christlike life? Serve a greater king and a greater kingdom. You want self-control? Live for a greater king and a greater kingdom. And Jesus has come into the place of Pilate and asks him, “Who’s your king?” In our similar position, we could ask ourselves who is king of your life? Who determines how you respond to the circumstances that you find yourself in day-to-day? Do you sit on your throne or does Jesus sit on the throne of your life?
And then how are we to respond? This helps us understand how to walk in the world in which we live. I love how Peter teaches us in first Peter chapter two, verse 11, just listen to this verse. It’s not on the screen. But Peter says this: Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against your soul. Peter’s picture of Jesus followers in this world is to recognize that you live for a completely different kingdom than the physical kingdoms of this earth. And therefore, because of that, he labels us as strangers, foreigners, and exiles in the book of first Peter. He’s saying, yeah, you’re in this physical kingdom, but you live for a different kingdom. You’re living for this spiritual kingdom. What Jesus is saying, my kingdom is not of this world. This world is not where we get our marching orders.
We determine how we are to live by being surrendered to our true king, who is Jesus. And in living for that king, we live according to his kingdom. And in the world in which we walk in physically, no matter where we are, we find ourselves as strangers, as exiles, as foreigners, because we belong to another kingdom.
Now let me help us to understand how do we think through that in our culture today? Very important guys, we as a church in, in this generation are poised in a very important position according to the trajectory of our current culture. And what I mean is in some cultures, morally, the government can align with the thinking of the church, meaning they take their instructions and how they orchestrate their laws according to how maybe Christians tend to think. And when that happens, sometimes we confuse politics with religion.
And as a church we can, as God’s people we can tend to check out in thinking through why we do what we do as God’s people, because the law tends to mimic what God’s people find important in life until a culture starts to misalign itself from God, and when they see themselves as in the driver’s seat of determining what is right and what is wrong. And when a culture rips itself from the hand of God, and then they themselves in the position of God to determine what is right and what is wrong, then God’s people have to think. You should think anyway, but you’re forced more into a position of thinking because you can’t take your cues simply from how politics dictates itself or how law is written within your land.
Because you respond to a greater authority. What is Jesus’s desire in my circumstances? What is the kingdom for which I am ultimately called to live for say about this? Does it no longer align with how the governing forces of your land orchestrate things, but rather who is Jesus? And how has he called you to live into this world? Exiles, strangers, foreigners, your kingdom is in another place.
And maybe for us today, it’s important to think about as things come down our path. Like how do you respond to critical race theory? To Black Lives Matter? To Blue Lives Matter? To identity questions, to sexuality, to gender sensitivity, to medical marijuana, to recreational marijuana, to vaccines, to politics?
Your kingdom is not of this world. You represent a different king. And we as people, we really have three options. Not as God’s people. Just in general as people we have three options. We can live like the world. We can live against the world. Or we can live for Jesus while in the world. When Jeremiah and his people were being taken into Babylonian captivity, that was the question on their heart. And God said to them, Jeremiah chapter 29, verse seven. He said: But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf for in its welfare, you will find your welfare.
God certainly calls you to bless, but to bless as you live for a different kingdom and a different king. You want to have self-control. Don’t take your marching orders from your emotions or what others say. You live for a greater purpose. And therefore we don’t react, but rather we respond. And when we respond, we respond in humble truth. That’s Jesus in this moment, the truth of who God is, but humbly. And the reason we respond humbly is because only by the grace of God, we’re able to be anywhere that’s beneficial in our life. And so apart from the grace of God, there is nothing we can hold onto. And the only reason we’re able to be where we are, is because of his grace. And so when we encounter other people that might be contrary to us, we want them to experience that same truth by God’s grace as well.
We walk humbly in his truth. And so the point number two then is this. “For this purpose, Jesus says, I have been born. And for this, I have come into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth, listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” The second point, if you want to live a Christlike life, is to stand on truth. It’s to stand on truth. If you want self-control, it’s not to live according to your truth. It’s living according to his truth. Stand on truth. If there’s anything that will be certain, it’s what Jesus has spoken. All of other things will pass away. But what Christ has said will in endure. Stand on truth.
Now here the amazing part of this question, and the most heartbreaking thing of this question. The amazing part of this question is Pilate is asking what is truth to the single greatest authority he could ever pose the question. Meaning if you’re ever going to ask someone this question, let it be face-to-face with Jesus. The heartbreaker of this is he never waited to hear the answer. And guys, I find in our culture, we’re like that today as well. That when we think about truth and what is truth, we treat truth like it’s relative rather than absolute. We treat truth like it’s subjective rather than objective. And it gets us in into trouble.
We say, things like what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me, and try to live as if truth is subjective or relative. But saying all truth is relative, it’s self-defeating. Like to acknowledge or try to even state that all truth is relative is self-defeating because that in itself is an absolute statement. It’s an objective statement. Like how could all truth be relative, but then you’re making a statement, like all of it. That would be an absolute, right? It’s an impossibility. It’s an incoherent thought.
But here’s the question. How do we find what is true? How do we discover truth? I find it that it’s difficult for us to reach an answer as a culture because we’ve made truth relative, or at least our ability to think about truth in relativistic terms. But the only way to discover truth is to appeal to something greater than yourself. Something objective, not subjective.
Let me give you an example. Relative truth, subjective truth. I could say something like this, “The Utah Jazz are the best basketball team to ever exist.” I really want you to believe that, right? But I know that not everyone will believe that. That is a subjective thought. That is a relative thought. Like someone could say today, “You know, blue Mustangs are the best vehicle ever invented.” I know nothing. I’m not a vehicle guy at all. I probably offended people that are by saying something like that. Bu that’s a relative term. It’s a subjective term. In order to find real genuine when truth it’s got to become objective or absolute.
So I’ll give you an example today. Like if I went through our crowd, if I stayed on the idea of the car for a moment, and I just determined who in our crowd has the most expensive vehicle in the parking lot. And I came to you and I said, “Give me your keys,” and you hand me your keys. And I say, “Now it’s my car.” You would object to that I think. I hope. Or unless you want to gift me with an amazing car, you would object to that, right? You would say, “No, that’s my car.” And I would say in a relativistic world, “That’s what you believe. And what I believe is I have the keys and I feel like it’s my car. Therefore it is,” right?
That’s kind of how we argue. We treat truth as relative or subjective. But the only way to determine whose vehicle it really is to become objective in our standard. We go outside of our personal opinions here, and we look to whose name is on the title? Who owns the deed, right? And whoever possesses it, that will determine for us what is true, what is real. It might work like this. For those of you in crypto, you might have recently decided, you know what I need to do. I missed the Bitcoin and I’m going to jump in on Doge. And I want to tell you, if you bought a Doge coin, you can believe all day long it’s going to become the next Bitcoin. But you are mistaken. You missed the ship as it was off to sail. That is never going to happen, right?
There’s what you hope to believe. There’s relative truth. There’s this subjective truth, this genuine desire within you. But then there’s objective. And when you look at the stock market and you see where Bitcoins are, then you recognize that your Doge is never going to hit that, right? Or maybe if I made it more personal like this. I would would say, “You know, in our culture, we’re confused with identity and sexuality.” What if walking into our church, we had, let’s say, a 50-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl, and they come in. And just to take the pressure off me, we’ll say you are the pastor of the church. And they come in and they say, “You know what? We want to get married and we want it to happen in a church. We want you to marry us.”
And you wonder, how am I going to respond to this situation? You question whether or not that that’s morally okay. And they say back to you, “Well, it may not be what you want. You may not think it’s true, but it’s true for us. We love each other. I love her and she loves me. And therefore, we should get married, because what’s true for us is true for us. And that’s just the way we feel.” And you feel differently.
How do you determine who’s right or wrong? Your feelings? You have to have objective truth. You go outside of yourself for a greater source, because all you have in that moment are a couple people arguing with each other over what’s right or what’s wrong. You have to have a standard that transcends people, experience, your feelings. And hopefully you have enough sense to not only say no, but call the police, right?
Jesus gave you two basis for objective truth when it comes to him. Jesus said in John 14, six: I am the way, the truth, and the life. And Jesus said in John 17, 17: Sanctify them through truth. Thy word is truth.” To say this to us, Jesus is who he says he is or he isn’t. The word of God is what it says it is or it isn’t. If it’s not, it’s not true. Don’t follow it. But if it is, stand on it.
How are we like Christ? How can we express that kind of self-control? By making our lives about a different king and a different kingdom that stands on truth. So here it comes to the end. Right? Got to get there at some point. And after saying this, he came out again to the Jews, Pilate, and said to them, “I find no grounds at all for charges in this case. However, you have a custom that I release one prisoner for you at the Passover. Therefore, do you wish that I release for you the King of the Jews?” So they shouted again saying, “Not this man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a rebel. Actually the better term there for our day and age would probably be a terrorist. Like Mark 15, 17. Barabbas is a terrorist. That’s who he is. That’s who they pick.
Pilate, in this moment, he’s trying to bring to the Jews what they want, but recognizes the crowd is standing against that. Pilate comes out and he tries to find way to condemn Jesus, but still release Jesus, knowing that he doesn’t find any guilt in Jesus. So he comes out as if to condemn Jesus, but having condemned Jesus hopes that the Jewish people will pick Jesus to be released because during this time they have accustom to release somebody. But to his surprise, they don’t choose the person that Pilate finds no fault in, though he condemn Jesus. Rather, they choose Barabbas.
It’s one thing to know what’s true. It’s something altogether different act upon it. And that’s where Pilate’s at. I’m recognizing that there’s no fault in Jesus, but I don’t want to act upon what I’ve discovered because the pressure of the crowd around him. They decide they want Barabbas instead. The Jewish leaders come before Rome claiming they want peace by killing Jesus and choosing Barabbas instead.
They accuse Jesus of being a rebel, but release the rebel and hand over the prince of peace. Nobody chooses Jesus. Yet what we find in the story is Jesus still continues to choose us. We commit treason against the king of Kings and still the king of Kings goes in the battle by himself for us. Like you think about the irony of this moment. The angels are the ones that cry, “Holy, holy, holy.” But the people are the one chanting, “Crucify,” and Barabbas is chosen instead of Jesus.
What makes this story just a powerful story to consider is that Barabbas really becomes a picture of all of us. Every day we have a choice between Jesus or Barabbas. A different king and kingdom standing on his truth or choosing Barabbas.
There was an early church father known as Origen. Something interesting about this story with Jesus and Barabbas, Origen was reading from some Latin translations in the early part of the third century. He was reading from some Latin translations of the gospel of Matthew when Jesus has brought before Barabbas. But he commented on something. As he was reading the translations, he commented on something the translators chose to do in this story, which really, I think draws the whole thing home for us.
He recognized that when these individuals translated it from Greek, which it written originally written in, and they translated it into Latin, that they added a word before Barabbas’ name. They put in the word Jesus, which it came down to Jesus, the son of God, or Jesus Barabbas in this story. And Origen started to write about this. And he said, here the reason that he thinks that the translator chose to put the word Jesus in front of Barabbas here is to make the story more personal. When you look up the word Barabbas, the word Barabbas means son of a father. Jesus means salvation. Jesus being son of God, it means salvation from God. Jesus Barabbas is literally saying trusting in salvation from men.
Those are the choices that we have in life. And this is what this story ultimately comes down to, Jesus or Barabbas. In our lives we have two decisions to make. We could walk the path of Pilate. We could acknowledge Jesus is who he says he is, but not act upon it. Or we can trust in Jesus. An Origen was recognizing here in his century that there were individuals that saw the significance of the stories that related to their own lives and needing to give themselves over to the Lord.
Hey guys, if I bring this back to self-control for a minute, most people think self-control. If you want to have self- control, the answer for your life is just to try harder at having self-control. But that’s not the biblical way of self- control. Self-control isn’t found by trying harder. Self-control is actually found by letting go of yourself and giving yourself over to one who is greater.
And that’s Jesus. You need a rescuer. You need a bigger purpose, a greater king. One that calls you not to simply react in your emotion to circumstance, but respond to his glory wherever you are. It’s not until you let go of the throne of your life and give it over to the king who is life that you find your circumstances, living and walking in self-control as you trust in him. Jesus became like Barabbas so that Barabbas could be treated like Jesus.
Guys, the same is true for you. Jesus has incredible self- control in these moments because his heart was being lived for a greater purpose, for the glory of God and the people he was called to rescue. Jesus’ heart was on you. You want to live for a greater purpose? Want to live in self-control? Let your heart be given over to a greater king and a greater kingdom, walking in his truth.