For Jesus, this day began with betrayal and ended with an agonizing death. But worst of all was the utter and complete separation from His Father which He experienced on the cross. His loud cry of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” must have come as He bore the wrath of God for OUR sins. Even with all of this pain and suffering, we still call this day “Good Friday.” Why? Because in His death, Jesus’ glory shone brightest. In His death, we find life.
FRIDAY, APRIL 19th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Matthew 26:57 - 27:61
Focused Passage for Reflection - Matthew 27:15-23
Reflecting on the Text:
Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor stationed in Jerusalem. As he did each year at the Passover Feast, he tried to win favor among the masses by releasing a prisoner. While it may seem like a strange custom to us, the lively crowd was engaged. But this time, Pilate set them up with a choice. For release, they could choose Barabbas…the worst of the worst. Or, they could choose Jesus…the man they had cheered just days before. One would go free. One would die.
Fairness tells us the bad man must die. Fairness tells us the good man should live another day. But fairness is often a measure of our own making and no one in their right mind would call this choice fair. The people were stirred by religious rivalry and hardened by providence. Led by the chief priests and elders, they chose Barabbas to live, and Jesus to die.
We struggle to understand, but this was the way it had to be. God had ordained Jesus’ sacrifice for a purpose. Barabbas did not go free because he was a better man. And though we would love to see it, the text gives no indication of Barabbas’ gratitude to…well…anyone. The whole story is one more example of the people’s hardness toward Jesus as He marched toward the cross.
But could there also be more to this story. Whether he was eventually converted or not, could Barabbas be a picture of something more on this Good Friday? Do you see the imagery? Barabbas was a notorious sinner, doomed to receive the just punishment for his sin. Jesus was/is the righteous and holy Son of God. And He served as a substitute, taking Barabbas’ place in death.
Maybe we hear the story and think to ourselves: Yes, but… And as soon as we do, we begin to minimize the grace of God. Today, as you consider Jesus on Good Friday, also consider the crowd that was given a choice. And finally, consider Barabbas. On this Good Friday, know that if you are in Christ, you are Barabbas.
Questions for personal reflection:
From this text, what do we learn about the person of Jesus and the priorities of Jesus?
What is stirred inside of you when you hear the words… “You are Barabbas”?
Do you feel a sense of righteous indignation? Or, are you drawn to love Jesus all the more?