I believe we are coming up to the end of society and the world as we have known it. There is an anticipation, as well as disquiet, that most of us feel.
This seems like a replay of the last days of Jesus, as the BODY of Christ now walks the same path and faces the same challenges and choices. But also the same deep division of opinion has emerged as to how to handle those challenges.
The people of God have walked this path before, and we can learn much from their story, their responses, and their solution. That is why I titled this “Jesus or Barabbas”.
This Has Happened Before
The Jews in Jesus’s day believed themselves to be – and correctly so – God’s chosen people, in their own sacred land, provided by God. They had the Law and the Covenant, and any opposition or reduction in those promises and privileges was anathema to them.
However, the people of Israel were suffering under the oppression of a Gentile government who neither believed in their God nor heeded his laws. They were no longer self-sufficient and ruled by their own people, but were under the foot of hated rulers who imposed their own (ungodly) rules and laws.
First Century Rebellion
When Jesus was here on earth, you would think he would be incensed at the way God’s People were treated. You would think (as many of them did at the time) Jesus would do something to remedy that situation. After all, there WAS a group of political activists (Zealots) and Jesus invited at least two of them into his intimate group of disciples.
So Jesus was living at a time of stark division between those Jews who believed in getting on with life as best they could, and those who thought a violent uprising to overthrow these Gentile overlords was the only appropriate answer.
Give Us Our Freedom
Those who believed in fighting for their rights were disappointed in this mealy-mouthed lovey-dovey ineffective non-political messiah.
Jesus – they believed – was supposed to confront the Government, raise up an army of those who adhere to God’s Laws, and demand their freedom, their rights as Jews, a return to self-government…. did their scriptures not promise those things? Did God not promise to come and release them from bondage? Why else would he send a Messiah to Israel?
Now, sadly, we have a huge number of people, many of them religious, who are thinking in the same way. They are fed up with the current oppressive “Roman” powers, high taxation, ungodly practises like abortion, fed up with being told what to do, and fed up with biblical laws not being legally upheld everywhere.
A large part of the Church believes itself to be God’s Anointed, with the authority to decree God’s will upon earth; they will not brook any opposition either from Government or Christians who see things differently.
Like the Jews of the first century, the Church now sees itself as above all human law, God’s Chosen, the inheritors of God’s commands, and therefore exempt from this world’s legislation.
They no longer want a milquetoast saviour who won’t oppose the evils of this generation.
No, they say, loving your fellow man, submission to authority and trusting in God’s eventual deliverance are not going to get the job done – just as Jesus Himself did not do as they wanted when it came to the crunch.
The Humble King
Certainly many Jews believed, or hoped, (wrongly) that Jesus’s agenda was to overthrow the Roman leaders and even the king, and to install Himself as king in their place.
That too was the belief of those who threw down their garments and palm leaves before Jesus who rode into the city “on the colt of an ass” which they knew was a prophecy of the victorious arrival of their deliverer king! (Zech 9:9 and John 12:12)
That scripture did indeed prophecy the arrival of their KING – but NOT the kind of king they wanted, a warrior king coming to give them “their rights” and “their freedom” and coming to “end evil oppression and ungodliness in the land”.
Jesus IS King, of course. The mistake was in believing he had come at that time to end human government once and for all, instead of offering personal salvation and reconciliation with the Father. Salvation, by the way, could only be accomplished by his DEATH, so that would never happen if his followers did release him from jail.
Jesus Wrestles With the Options
Jesus knew, when he rode into the city, that what lay ahead for him was a cruel death. Don’t you think the devil had already presented all the less harrowing solutions to Jesus, and had suggested an easy way out?
Yes, in those tortuous days in the desert before his ministry, Jesus was shown what his fate would be, and was offered the alternatives. (Luke 4:1-12)
The devil said “Just bow down and worship me, because I’m the god of this world system, and I will give you authority and kingship, and as much peace and obedience as you desire. I will give you the nations! All you have to do is go along with MY system, not yours.”
We know Jesus chose the narrow path that led to death. Praise God.
Jesus is not yet King
Standing before the authorities Jesus actually told Pilate “my kingdom is not of this world” so the Roman officials need not fear that His followers would rise up in violent rebellion – indeed, Peter was told to sheath his sword, offer no resistance, these things MUST be.
John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
The disciples obeyed the Lord. They did not fight the Roman soldiers. They did not organise a protest march. They did not plan a violent rebellion against their rulers. Nor did they storm Herod’s House to overturn the ruling of Pilate.
The fate that Jesus was prophesied to suffer was crucifixion. He knew that. He had surely thought about the alternatives while he sweated blood in Gethsemane. He asked his Father, is there no other way?? I am sure the devil was very keen to present him with alternatives at that time too.
Nonetheless, Jesus said, not MY will, but YOURS, my Father, be done!” Mark 14:36 – Luke 22:42
Mark 14:36: And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (ESV)
Luke 22:42: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (NIV)
Nothing godly can be accomplished by taking matters into our own hands. That is a lesson that today’s Church needs to heed. We walk by FAITH, not sight.
More Tempting Offers of Freedom
As we know, Jesus WAS arrested and tried. He then had another chance to be released (as Pilate wanted). Pilate offered to release either Jesus or Barabbas.
The people were offered a straight choice, intriguingly the same choice before us today. Accept Jesus as your peaceful and individual Saviour, the only Way to reconciliation and forgiveness, and to an eternity of union with the Father.
OR, call to yourselves a rebel ‘saviour’, a violent zealot who wants to overthrow the Government and to give you all the freedom you desire.
Salvation now, or in the world to come?
The people wanted rebellion more than loving submission; they wanted freedom, their rights, godly laws, religious and social reformation more than salvation, that pie-in-the-sky promise that is no good as far as our land and people are concerned!
So they cry, give us Barabbas! John 18:40: “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” “Not this man,” they shouted, “but Barabbas!” (Now Barabbas was an insurrectionist.)”
Barabbas means, Son of the Father. But the true and genuine Son of God was taken away to be crucified.
Who Was Barabbas?
Barabbas was a zealot. In Matthew 27:16 Barabbas is called a “notorious prisoner.” In Mark 15:7, echoed in Luke 23:19, he was “in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection” against the occupying Roman forces. John 18:40 describes him as a bandit.
The name Barabbas may be an Aramaic patronymic meaning “son of the father” (bar abba) or “son of the teacher” (bar rabban), indicating perhaps that his father was a Jewish leader. According to the early biblical scholar Origen and other commentators, the full name of Barabbas may have been Jesus Barabbas, since Jesus was a common first name. If so, the crowd was presented with a choice between two persons with the same name. (Source)
A King Now, or Later?
Jesus was their true and future King! But he didn’t live up to their hopes. They wanted someone to replace their earthly and national ruler here and now; they wanted a Jewish ruler NOW, a person more in keeping with their everyday beliefs and requirements.
They completely believed that God and their scriptures backed them up in their zeal to overturn evil and reform the nation! God was on their side, they said.
So they called on Barabbas. The man they released was a different Son who was on trial for his part in a zealot uprising. It was he – rather like the Jan 6th insurrectionists – who believed he was doing no wrong when he plotted a coup against his own Government. Thus the people demanded the release of their hero rebel, Barabbas!”.
“And what shall I do to your Messiah, Pilate asked? Crucify him!!! they replied.” Can you imagine anything worse? The Son of God is led away to die, while a murderous rebel is set free to lead the people to the only victory they wanted.
Jesus or Barabbas?
But now we are reliving those days. Christians are coming under oppression, the days become dark, hearts long for freedom and righteousness – but at what cost? Their longing for justice, godly laws, a better world, is leading them to say, “give us Barabbas”.
Do we heed the Son of God and his divine instructions to respect all authority; do we faithfully await his arrival for the transformation of society, or impatiently overturn his promises – in effect, releasing Barabbas instead?
Is Sedition Justified?
Organised rebellion and sedition for a Christian (as Jesus demonstrated with his words and actions) is neither biblical nor godly. This world is evil and growing more evil every day, as the bible predicted, but our trust and faith is in God no matter what.
We do not rise up like God’s army on earth (as the false preachers insist) and demand that God’s laws be obeyed worldwide even by non-believers. This world is not going to be Godly until the Lord Jesus returns!
As I said at the start, we, the Body of Christ, are now embarking on the same perilous journey as our Saviour.
We are entering our last days and facing the same kind of mockery, rejection, persecution, misunderstanding and possibly even martyrdom for some.
We too are having our Gethsemane moment, where we question the Father’s plan of eventual planetary redemption and wonder if there is any other way – a way that is not so painful and disappointing for us. Not so far distant.
We want immediate victory – we want things to change NOW, and not at the cost of our happiness, our health and security, our freedoms and privileges.
Much less do we want to face the loss of our lives!
These are the thoughts that go through our human minds. Yet the Body of Christ is divided into those who listen to the devil’s alternatives, and those who say – I’m not happy about this, but I trust YOU, I believe in YOUR way, and I will submit only to YOUR will, O Father.
Jesus did not want pain and rejection either – that is, his humanity did not. All flesh longs to be happy and content, free of pain. Yet “not MY will but YOURS must prevail in all things, Father.”
What is the Greatest Evil Today?
The last days are days of evil. The bible tells us that.
2 Timothy 3-5
in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
We do despise the evils of this world, including corruption, greed and ungodly legislation. However, we need to understand that there is a far greater, but covert, evil happening at the same time.
The Alternative is a Lie
The biggest evil we all face, and especially as Christians, is the lies of the devil. They are designed to create heightened fear and panic (along with impatience) to such an extent that people unknowingly subscribe to HIS agenda for global transformation.
The devil wants an uprising. He wants anarchy. His hallmark is REBELLION. Rebellion is how he began, how he fell, and it’s what he stands for!
Now he is aiming for global rebellion so that he can respond to the call for a zealous, proi-active present-day ‘saviour’, and claim the world’s throne as the powerful, miraculous, loving “god of light” that will make this world good and clean again!
He promises restoration and cleansing NOW, not a biblical prophecy that never seems to happen in reality.
A change can come NOW, he says, by rising up against evil, instead of hanging around for some kind of messiah to eventually help you. And many are beginning to agree with him.
So we come around once again in history to the same choice, faith or activism, trust or fear, reliance on God or man?
Jesus or Barabbas?