I am Barabbas; A Sinner Set Free
On this Good Friday morning, as I reflect and remember what Jesus did for me, I realize that this year, my 42nd year of life, and my 32nd year as a believer, this year is the very first year I have truly accepted the free gift of my salvation. I would feel a little sad about this if I wasn’t so darn happy to finally see the truth and know the fullness of God’s grace.
It wasn’t this day or even this week that I made the connection. A few months ago, I read through the 23rd chapter of Luke, after listening to a sermon about the thief on the cross. The message proclaimed how the promise of paradise, from Jesus himself, came after the thief voiced his belief in Jesus as the Messiah. His hands and feet pierced, so no work could be done, no kneeling in shame could take place to earn the Lord’s favor. All that was required was his belief to earn his party in paradise. #graceparty
But, what stuck out to me in the Gospel of Luke that day was not the thief, but the accused murder who was set free, Barabbas. I have heard his name and the story many times. But this time was different. This time as I read I realized God’s love for Barabbas. He desired for Barabbas to be set free. This murdering, rebel, troublemaker, God loved. Knowing that he may never acknowledge his savior, knowing he may never love him back, knowing he may just go on sinning, he graciously gave him freedom.
If Barabbas walked away, in shock at his freedom, rubbing his sore wrists, as he headed to celebrate with his motley crew, never realizing the gift he had been given, it would be very sad. It would not change his freedom from prison, his pardon from death. But, he would miss the fact that he was freed because he was fully accepted, fully loved, and adored by the creator of heaven and earth. This is the truth that has brought many a sinner to his knees.
If Barabbas had left the scene and actually realized the weight of his escape from death how would that change things? What if he had realized what happened made no sense in the eyes of justice? Even behind the prison walls, he had heard stories of Jesus of Nazareth. He had heard of hope, of healing, the teaching of a God who loves. It hadn’t really mattered to him until it did. Until it literally set him free. Now he was humbled. How could he pay Jesus back for replacing him on a cross? For giving him a second chance?
But, Jesus did not free him so he could get something in return. He freed him because he loved him and he wanted him to have life, not death. He made the choice to take his place knowing there was absolutely nothing Barabbas could do to pay him back. The price was much too high to be repaid.
Similarly, I have spent my believing life thinking I needed to show the Lord my appreciation for my salvation. I thought I needed to look a certain way, act a certain way, do Christian things in Christian circles, tell the unchurched about him, all while I bear the fruit of his spirit, and I needed to love him with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my mind. And when I could not do it, I felt like a failure. I felt I was constantly disappointing him. I doubted my salvation all together. There was no joy, no peace, no freedom.
I once read a study about prisoners and the effects of their daily work on their rehabilitation. Prisoners who were made to do remedial, pointless tasks, with no outcome or purpose, such as moving rocks from one field to another and then back again, experienced violent outbursts, rage, depression, and a higher rate of suicide. Those who were given purpose in their daily work, such as building structures or teaching fellow prisoners to read, were highly more likely to be rehabilitated.
Imagine being released from prison and returning to the yard to move heavy rocks from one field to another only to finish and move them back again. All the while the prison warden and the guards are screaming “GO! Why are you still here? You are free!” If the task was pointless while you were an inmate, how much more pointless as a free man?
As believers, we have access to all Jesus has, life in him and with him. How do we access this gift of abundance? We believe. We believe that there is nothing we did to earn his love, we did nothing to deserve his forgiveness, and there is nothing we can do to keep it. That is what truly sets us free. Walking in and trusting in his goodness, his mercy, his grace. Living from a heart that feels truly loved and accepted is what frees us from sin, addiction, and bondage. This is our purpose. A great purpose. To be loved, to show that love to others, to allow Christ’s love to live through us is effortless. If you are striving to make it happen, it is not faith. If you have any part in it, Jesus has none.
The prison was sin. Its wages were death. But, he took your place, with no strings attached. Now thank him and receive it. Believe it is true and celebrate.
Happy Easter. He is risen.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Enter His rest,