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March 20, 2017: Barabbas

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Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 18-21Psalm 67Matthew 27:11-26Romans 12:9-21

Matthew 27:11-26:

The crucifixion is getting closer and closer. Jesus gives no answer to the accusations brought against him. The governor was amazed that Jesus gave no answer. Led like a lamb to the slaughter.

Pilate’s discomfort at the possible innocence of Jesus is greatly increased by an apparently predictive dream that his wife had which made her urge him to have nothing to do with Jesus, that “righteous man” (27:19). He tries to find a way out of the predicament he found himself in (wanting to appease the Jewish leaders, and at the same time not wanting to kill Jesus). He offers to them the opportunity to have Jesus released (27:17). But instead they choose Barabbas (a notorious criminal, Luke 23:29) (27:20-21). The prince of life they condemn; a murderer they set free. Even at this moment Jesus is showing that he is the atoning sacrifice, the substitutionary sacrifice, for all our sins, even the murderous thoughts.

So in the famous scene Pilate washes his hands of the whole business—ceremonially indicating that the decision was that of the Jewish leaders and it was all their responsibility (27:24), a responsibility they are eager to take (27:25). Barabbas is then released, and Jesus is brutally scourged and then delivered to be crucified (27:26).

It is both a horrible and a beautiful thing to stare at the cross and this brutal deceit and vicious scourging. It is horrible, for never was such love so trampled under the vile hate of humanity. It is beautiful, because the love that took Jesus there was a love that is for us and so glorifies God. Our sin, oh this blessed thought, is nailed to the cross, and we are free. Praise be to God!

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