Faithlife Sermons

2017-10-15 Luke 23:18-19, 25 Barabbas

Luke  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:50
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BARABBAS (Luke 23:18-19, 25) October 15, 2017 Read Mt 27:15-23 – A prof was out one day and the hard-nosed head of the department subbed. When the regular teacher returned, she thanked the class for its patience saying, “I know it’s difficult with a sub.” A guy in the back groaned, “Sub? That was no sub. That was a destroyer?” Well, a sub can be a good thing or a bad thing. Barabbas illustrates how God uses it to the good. Mt expands on Luke’s brief account. He’s here for a reason. Clearly God strategically placed him in jail at that precise time to illustrate both the folly and the greatness of substitution. It’s a physical event that depicts profound spiritual truth. He illustrates the folly of placing anyone or anything above Jesus in our life. But in a larger sense, he illustrations substitutionary atonement. Two scenarios picture the greatness of God’s gift of salvation. I. Barabbas as Substitute for Jesus Pilate is trapped. He doesn’t want to kill Jesus, knows He’s innocent. Even his wife has warned him not to fool with Jesus. But the Jews are set on death. So Pilate seizes on one more possibility. It is a feast time custom for the Romans to release a prisoner. So Pilate offers a murderer, thinking, “These people were cheering Jesus 5 days ago. Surely they will choose to release Jesus over a desperado.” He didn’t know how dramatically feelings had changed. It was driven by the leaders, yes. But the cheering crowds had anticipated a revolution by Jesus, driving out the Romans. Instead, Jesus had attacked their own temple, badly outdebated their best and brightest and dashed their fondest hopes. Pilate had not sense of all that. So he offered -- Jesus or Barabbas? So, who is Barabbas? Mt says he’s “notorious.” John 18:40 says a “robber.” Mark 15:7 says a rebel who “who had committed murder in the insurrection” – not a nice guy, but perfect for what God wants to show. His name means “son of a father”. But Origen says his first name is Jesus, and Pilate hints at it. Mt 27:17b: “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” Which Jesus do you want – Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus Christ? Jesus – son of a father, or Jesus, Son of the Father? Pilate was amazed when the crowd said, “Give us the murderer – crucify the other one.” Looks insane to us. Release the murderer and kill the Son of God? But we are all faced eventually with a decision – will we follow Jesus Christ as Lord, or 1 Jesus Barabbas, -- whatever idol in our life is above Christ? We all worship something. We all bow to something or someone we cannot live without. There is some god who gives out life meaning more than any other. If that someone or something is not Jesus Christ – then it is Jesus Barabbas – and it is just as spiritually murderous and rebellious as he was physically murderous. The Jews wanted a Messiah who would march to the beat of their drum. If Jesus would not do that, they’d find a substitute. So who or what is our substitute? An idol can be a truly evil habit or desire that we just can’t live without. But more often it is some good thing that has been elevated to a place above Christ which makes it a murdering presence in our lives. F. Scott Fitzgerald fell in love with Zelda, married her and they enjoyed a brief time of paradise together. But the stock market crashed; the rich became poor and Zelda suffered a breakdown requiring hospitalization in Switzerland. Scott worked tirelessly to support her recovery. He wrote: “If she would get well, I would be happy again.” She didn’t and he wasn’t. She alone made life worthwhile. He spent his last 10 years plagued by alcoholism and depression saying: "in a really dark night of the soul it’s always three o’clock in the morning." Anything wrong with loving your wife? No! But a good thing that pushes Christ out is an idol that will eventually kill. God’s gifts are rightly enjoyed when they are second to our love for Him. Not substitute is adequate. II. Jesus as Substitute for Barabbas Barabbas is also here to picture the profound concept of double imputation. Please don’t go to sleep; it’s actually an exciting concept with an intimidating name. Double imputation. So what does imputation mean? It means a transfer of credit. To impute is to credit someone with something they didn’t really do, good or bad. Like Groucho Marx got a letter from his bank with the standard phrase, “If I can be of service, do not hesitate to call.” Marx wrote back, “Dear Sir, the best thing you can do to be of service to me is to credit some money from one of your rich clients to my account.” That would have been a favorable imputation. He’d have gotten money he didn’t earn. Imputations can be good or bad. Suppose last parent, Dad, dies leaving you the only child. You are about to receive an imputation. You are now legally responsible for both his debts and his assets as tho you were him. You didn’t create those debts. You didn’t earn those assets. But they are now your legal obligation. His legal financial standing is yours, by imputation. 2 Similarly imputation is what happens when we come to faith in Christ. We are credited a new legal standing before God that we did not earn and do not deserve. II Cor 5:18: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus gets credit for my sin; I get credit for His righteousness. He does not actually become a sinner; and I do not become perfect. But my sin is assigned to him as tho He did it; and His perfection is assigned to me as tho I did it. Double imputation. Barabbas is a physical illustration of this most profound spiritual truth. A. Barabbas’ Perversion is Imputed to Jesus Barabbas is a thief, insurrectionist and murderer – all capital crimes. He’s a bad guy, and his sin has caught up with him. So here he sits in his cell getting ready to be crucified – probably that same day. Justice was swift in those days. He knows all about crucifixion. He is thinking about scourging that awaits; he is thinking about the nails in the hands; he is thinking about the suffocation; he is thinking about the excruciating humiliation and pain. He hears the crowd crying, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” and thinks it will be any minute. Just then the soldiers open the door. Barabbas stands, resigned to his fate, but the guard says, “You’re free to go.” Barabbas is startled. “Free to go? How can that be?” The guard, knowing he is guilty as sin says gruffly, “Let me show you, you scoundrel.” And he takes Barabbas out. Barabbas sees Jesus, and having heard of the exchange, he thinks, “Wait a minute. That’s my beating he is taking. That’s my cross he is bearing. Those are my nails he is about to suffer. That is my death he is dying.” And he is right on the money. What's happened? The insurrection of which Jesus had been wrongfully accused has been credited to Him in place of Barabbas. Barabbas’ guilt has been placed on Jesus. Barabbas’ penalty will be paid by Jesus while Barabbas walks. Legally, it’s as tho he never did any of those things. He has no guilt, and he owes no price. The law has declared him righteous. Is he actually righteous? No. But his crimes have been imputed to Jesus. It’s a physical illustration of a spiritual reality. Jesus wasn’t just dying in Barabbas’ place; He was taking the guilt for every person who would ever place their faith in Him. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin.” Jesus didn’t become a sinner; but He was credited with every sin of every eventual believer. He took legal responsibility and paid in full for our trillions of sins. Our amazement should be no less than that of Barabbas. 3 I Pet 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” Amazing! Staggering truth! Jesus took my guilt and paid my price. My sins were imputed to Him so He could pay the price I owed so He could bring me to God the moment I repented. And the Father? He declared me righteous – not because I am, but because Jesus was and paid my guilt in full. Every last piece of it. That’s the gospel. That’s good news. There’s a great Stephen Pastis’ “Pearls Before Swine” strip. A mouse holds up his cell phone. You see the words, “Clear Recent Calls”; the mouse deletes them. Next comes up “Clear Browser History”; the mouse clears it. Then “Delete All Texts”; the mouse deletes them. Finally; “Erase Every Bad Thing You’ve Ever Done in Your Life.” With a single click, he deletes them all, then says, “Cell phones just get better and better.” Right, but they can’t actually delete your guilt. But Jesus can if you will repent and ask Him. B. Jesus’ Perfection is Imputed to Barabbas So, the sins that rightfully belong to Barabbas have been credited to Jesus. But there is another aspect to imputation. Not only does Jesus get credit for Barabbas’ crimes, but Barabbas gets credit for Jesus’ righteousness. 24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder.” One moment Barabbas is preparing for his crucifixion; the next, he is leaving the building – like he never did anything wrong. Who should have been going to the cross? Barabbas. Who should have been going free? Jesus. But Jesus gets Barabbas’ sin; Barabbas gets Jesus’ perfection. That’s double imputation! It’s all illustrating a great spiritual truth, which is -- Just as Jesus takes the sin of Barabbas physically, He spiritually takes the sin of all who will ever believe. And just as Barabbas gets credit for Jesus’ perfection record, so all believers get credit for Jesus’s sinless life. Your mess for His perfection! This is the Bible message throughout. Seven hundred years before Christ, Isaiah prophesied in Isa 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Who gets credit for our sin? Jesus does. And once they are credited to Him, He pays the price for every one clearing our way to the Father. I Jn 2:2: “He is the propitiation (satisfaction – penalty-payer) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” I Pet 2:24 4 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” When we bow our heart to Christ, acknowledge our sin and our desire to follow Him, God takes the book that lists every sin we ever have or ever will commit – every one. He tears the pages of our record out and pastes them into the record of Christ on the cross, thus freeing us forever from being judicially charged with those sins before God. Great news. But we still lack something. You say, “How could that be? What do we lack?” Great question! Now we have no sin to answer for; but we also have no righteousness. And Jesus says in Mt 5:20: “20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” So, get the picture. You cannot enter God’s presence in heaven with any sin. But you also cannot enter without righteousness. You say, “Well, isn’t lack of sin the same as righteousness?” No – it’s not! Remember Adam and Eve? Created with no sin, right? No sin nature. No personal sin. BUT no acts of righteousness either. They were innocent, not righteous! To be righteous requires being tested and passing the test. So here we are with sins forgiven, but with no positive righteousness. We no longer have guilt, but neither do we have righteousness – EXCEPT, guess what? At the same moment our sins are imputed to Christ – at that same moment the perfect life He lived is credited to us. So in place of the record of sin that God just tore out of our book, He inserts the record of the perfect life of Christ as tho it were ours. This is the wonder of double imputation. That’s why II Cor 5:21 is just about my favorite verse in the Bible: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” That’s priceless. The Father transferred my record of selfish ambition to Jesus at the same time He transferred Jesus’ record of perfect obedience to me. He goes to the cross; I go scot free – forgiven and cleansed from the inside out. Remember the old Jerry Reed song – “She got the Goldmine; I Got the Shaft”? In a far more profound way, that’s what repentance gets us. The perfect Son of God gets all the havoc we have created; we get the perfect record He’s created. It’s an unbelievable trade. And it’s all because what God demands; God provides. He loves us that much. Never say God doesn’t care! When Barabbas walked out of that prison, he was breathing the fresh air of freedom that rightfully belonged to Jesus Christ. Did he ever breath the spiritual fresh air that Jesus was about to pay for? Did Barabbas benefit from the profound spiritual truth that his physical life illustrates? We don’t know. 5 We are not told. But we know this. We can. We can have Christ’s life in exchange for our death if we will repent our old life and accept His new one. Conc – Ernest Gordon’s book Miracle on the River Kwai is about some WWII Scottish soldiers forced by Japanese captors to build a jungle railroad. But unlike some groups, this group had degenerated into barbarous, individual behavior. One afternoon a shovel was missing. The officer in charge was enraged and demanded the shovel be produced or he would kill them all. No one budged. But as he raised his weapon, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun picked up a shovel and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the body and carried it with them to a 2nd tool check. This time there was no shovel missing; in fact, it was discovered there had been miscount at the first check. No shovel had ever been missing. Word spread like wildfire thru the whole camp that an innocent man had given his life to save his companions. The effect was profound. Not only did the men begin to treat each other like brothers, but when the Allies finally swept in, the survivors, when confronted with their captors, instead of exacting revenge said, “No more hatred. No more killings. We need forgiveness.” That’s Barabbas’ story. He shows what God offers in Christ. My guilt for His forgiveness; my sin for His righteousness; my death for His life. Let’s pray. 6
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