I was in Colorado Springs on a sunny, Thursday afternoon, sitting in a hotel lobby, looking at a scenic, snow-capped Pike’s Peak, Bible open in my lap.
It sounds like a very serene, holy kind of pastor thing to be doing, right? Normally I would agree with you, but on this particular Thursday afternoon, I was anything but serene.
I’m a bi-vocational pastor, which means I have another full-time job in addition to being the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Coal City. I was in Colorado because my “other” job as the Suicide Prevention Program manager with the U.S. Army Reserves requires me to travel.
Sometimes it requires me to travel a lot, and Colorado was my last stop on a multi-state tour of duty. I had been in all four time zones over the last week and I had not written Sunday’s sermon yet.
Back to the hotel lobby, open Bible in lap, looking at the mountains thinking, “I am SO far behind this week!” Normally, my sermons are 95 percent done by Thursday afternoon. This week … well, you can see where I was.
We’re working our way through the Gospel of Mark leading up to Easter and this particular week I’m preaching on Mark 15:1-20. It’s the set of verses where Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate to face charges of treason and sedition.
Pilate finds no fault in him, offers to release a prisoner, and is surprised when the Jews call for the release of Barabbas, a murderer, and not Jesus, who they themselves hailed as the Messiah only a few days earlier. So, Pilate releases the criminal Barabbas and has Jesus “scourged” before sentencing him to be executed.
Side note: If you have a weak stomach, don’t look up scourging. It’s horrific and the stuff of nightmares.
So, I had read the text and I’m looking at the mountains wondering how to make a sermon out of this farce of a hearing and torture session.
As my mind was pondering deep, holy things (or something like that), I realized that of all the gross injustice of the situation, the thing that was bothering me the most was the fact that I really did not like Barabbas.
I mean, this guy was guilty! All of those things they were accusing Jesus of – this dude actually committed all of those crimes! He deserved the death penalty!
The cross that was made for Barabbas to be executed on ... well, they nailed Jesus on it. Jesus, innocent of all charges (as acknowledged by Pilate four times), was nailed to a cross as punishment for something someone else did.
Then it hit me: the reason I didn’t like Barabbas was because I am Barabbas.
And so are you.
We are all guilty (Romans 3:23) and deserve condemnation (Romans 6:23), but Jesus becomes our substitute (1 Peter 2:24).
Then I wondered if Barabbas thanked Jesus for taking his place.
Then I wondered, have I?
Because of Him, we’ve all gotten away with murder.