Tuesday of the Week of Lent III
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up…Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the people to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified.” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified.” (Matthew 27:15-18, 20-23)
Additional Daily Bible Readings: Genesis 46:26–47:12; Psalm 61; Matthew 27:15–31
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2B8e5CY
Before leaving the parish in Colorado Springs, I preached a few “country music sermons,” making some slight reference to a current, popular song heard on country music radio. My wife didn’t appreciate them, but I thought they allowed preaching to connect with culture. In that vein, a current country music song has the line, “I think most people are good.” While I like the tune, it doesn’t pass the biblical theology test. Most people are not good. While some people sometimes do good deeds, the bottom line is that we are sinful people. We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. Even St. Paul writes that he knows the good that he wants to do, but does the opposite (Romans 7:19)!
This is why Jesus died for our sins. Because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we are saved by God’s grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation (atonement, reparation, satisfaction) by his blood, to be received by faith (Romans 3:23-25). If all people were basically good, choosing good, doing good, there would be no need for a Savior!
The account of Pilate releasing Barabbas, instead of Jesus, is truly the story of our redemption. We deserve to die as judgment against our sin. If the world were fair, that’s what would happen. Each and every one of us would die an eternal death, as “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). St. Paul continues, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We don’t know much about Barabbas, even though literature and film have fictionalized him as a character variously depicted as honorable, innocent, and misunderstood! Matthew makes it clear he was a “notorious prisoner.” In Mark, Luke and John, he is described as a rebel in prison because he had committed murder in the insurrection. Regardless the details of Barabbas’ life, Jesus dies in his place. Jesus is innocent, Barabbas is not. That is the story of our lives, as we said. Jesus is innocent, we are not. Jesus dies in our place. Thanks be to God!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, as the wages of sin is death, thank you for the gift of eternal life, as you have died in my place and risen to give me eternal life. Amen.
Lenten Response: Pray a prayer of confession for sins, and read Romans 6 as assurance of our forgiveness and redemption.
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.