Not This Man!

"Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber" (John 18:40).

The Lord Jesus had been pushed around all night. After His poignant betrayal by His trusted disciple Judas Iscariot, He was led bound to Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest Caiaphas (v. 13), and then He was shoved into the palace of Caiaphas to be tried before him and the elders and scribes (v. 15; cf. Mt 26:57). There, He was falsely accused, insulted and ridiculed, spat in the face, blind-folded, and buffeted (Mt 26:66-68; Lk 22:63-64). Then, that prophecy might be fulfilled, He was brought before Pilate to be judged by him (v. 28-32). Pilate knew our Lord was innocent (Lk 23:4). But he refused to protect Him as a governor should. All he wanted to do was to push him back to the Jewish Sanhedrin to do what they wanted with Him. He cared not whether they would kill Him. It was only for fear they might tarnish his own name that Pilate kept Him (cf. Jn 19:12). But when the opportunity came that he might shirk or share responsibility with regard to the Lord, he had Him sent to Herod (Lk 23:4-6). Herod, likewise, found no fault with Him (Lk 23:15). But he together with his men arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe and then ridiculed and mocked Him (Lk 23:11). Oh what pain and sorrow must have filled the heart of our King of kings and Lord of lords as He suffered the wickedness of men created in His Father’s image!

Our Lord, suffered all these, patiently and silently as a lamb led to the slaughter (Isa 53:7). He could have called upon more than twelve legions of angels (Mt 26:53) to protect and deliver Him from the pain and indignity that He was suffering. But He would not and did not. Why? Because He had come in order to lay down His life for those He loved. How infinitely great is His love toward us!

By comparison how infinitesimal is our love towards Him! Few of us, having read about Peter’s over-confidence (Jn 13:37) and subsequent fall (Jn 18:15-18, 25-27), would dare to claim that we would never betray our Lord. But most of us,—I trust,—desire that we would remain strong under persecution for the Lord if it should come our way. Yet, that not withstanding, how many of us can honestly say that we are not living like the Jews when they said to Pilate: "Not this man, but Barabbas!"

Pilate knew that the Lord was innocent. He did not want to be party to His death if He had a choice. He wanted to release Him though he was not prepared to protect Him. He came up with a foolproof plan. He would offer to release him to them in accordance to the custom of the Passover in those days when the governor would out of good will release a prisoner unto the people (v. 39). We need have no doubt that there were more than two prisoners under Pilate’s custody in those days. Were there not two malefactors crucified with the Lord? Why then did Pilate offer only Barabbas apart from the Lord Jesus? Why not the other two malefactors? Barabbas was a robber (Jn 18:40). He had made insurrection and committed murder (Mk 15:7). Why only him? Surely it was not because Pilate thought that the people held Barabbas as a national hero and would desire him to be released. Matthew makes it very clear that Pilate made the offer because "he knew that for envy they had delivered [Jesus]" (Mt 27:18). Pilate, no doubt, offered Barabbas as a choice because in the eyes of the people he would have been the most hateful of the prisoners in his custody! It was a foolproof plan. Surely they would choose to have Jesus released. Then they can do what they want to him and he would not care. But imagine his shock when they demanded to have Barabbas! This spineless governor, then "took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it" (Mt 27:24). Only then, did he deliver the Lord to be crucified.

Surely, we are not like the Jews. Surely, we would not ask for Barabbas when we have to choose between him and our Lord. But yet, do we not?

Have you not have occasion to choose between Barabbas Mammon and Christ Jesus? Barabbas Mammon would have you sell your family and the Lord’s Sabbath to him. On the other hand, choosing Christ may mean loosing your job. Whom did you choose?

Have you not have occasion to choose between Barabbas Pride and humble admission of sin in Christ Jesus our Lord? Barabbas Pride promises you a good standing in the eyes of all who behold. On the other hand, choosing Christ may mean being seen as weak and indecisive to the world. Whom did you choose?

Have you not have occasion to choose between Barabbas Laziness and diligence in Christ Jesus? Barabbas Laziness offers you more time to laze around, and more time to watch television rather than the exhausting task of prayer and reading the Scriptures. On the other hand, choosing Christ may mean forgoing a favourite programme. Whom did you choose?

Have you not have occasion to choose between Barabbas Ignorance and the Lord and His wisdom? Barabbas Ignorance offers you a blissful ride in your life. You will not offend anyone and you would not need to change your attitude or your current lifestyle. On the other hand, choosing Christ may mean the beginning of division in the family (Mt 10:34). Whom did you choose?

Have you not have occasion to choose between Barabbas Excuses and Christ Jesus and active obedience to His word. Barabbas Excuses provides a quick remedy in your heart when the preaching of God’s Word smites it. On the other hand, to choose Christ would often mean dramatic changes in your life and even persecution. Whom did you choose?

I trust that Barabbas in all its manifestation is hateful to all true believers when its disguise is exposed. I trust that like the apostle Paul we hate all that displeases God or is detrimental to our walk with the Lord. Yet, I must ask myself: Have I consistently chosen Christ over Barabbas? Oh how many times my old man has tempted me to choose Barabbas! Oh how often I have been tempted by the momentary gratification that Barabbas offers! But Christ laid down His life for me, how can I be so ungrateful as to choose Barabbas over Christ?

What about you, beloved brethren? Whom do you choose? As we prepare for the Lord’s Supper next Sabbath, let us meditate on what the Lord has done for us. But let us not stop there. Let us ask the Lord to search our hearts to see if there be any wicked ways in us. Let us consider if we have chosen Barabbas and repent of our ingratitude. Let us pray that it may never be found in our hearts,—when we have to choose between Christ and the Barabbases that come our way,— to say, "Not this man!"— J.J. Lim