Give Us Barabbas

Mob mentality is a frightening thing that leads people to do and say things that would be unthinkable as an individual. In the African nation of Rwanda, in 1994, urged on by radio broadcasts and simmering anger, one group of people rose up against their neighbors and in 100 days around 800,000 people were slaughtered by machete wielding mobs!  History is full of similar stories – people whipped up by propaganda who take to the streets, destroying, killing.

We like to think ‘not me,’ don’t we?  We want to believe that we are above being influenced in that way, incited to hate by leaders who stir some visceral reaction in us.  A study of human behavior would suggest that swaying the mob is all too easy.

In John’s Gospel the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders had come to a crisis moment. After He was betrayed by Judas and handed over to the Roman authorities, the mood of the people shifted. Those who had been swept up in adulation at His triumphal entry, now heard the accusations being leveled. They were further goaded by Pilate who kept repeating that Jesus was their king.  When he offered to release a prisoner in the Passover tradition, John says the mob “shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!”  He adds this footnote – “Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.” (John 18:40, NIV)  Barabbas had committed real crimes, Jesus had only cared, loved, and taught them of God’s invitation. Yet, they choose the lesser over the Lord.

Later in the day, after Pilate had questioned Jesus again, he offered to free Him, suggesting that perhaps a flogging would suffice. But those who usually hated Roman authority, who had nothing but contempt for Caesar, were now a thoughtless mob and “they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.” (John 19:15, NIV)

Will you stand with Jesus today?  When the crowd pushes back against faith, when His call to a live of love puts you at odds with those who are cruel or hateful, will you courageously stand?

In the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives a promise in the context of resistance: “God blesses those people who are treated badly for doing right. They belong to the kingdom of heaven. God will bless you when people insult you, mistreat you, and tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me. Be happy and excited! You will have a great reward in heaven. People did these same things to the prophets who lived long ago.” (Matthew 5:10-12, CEV)

If we are persistent in commitment, we will find ourselves going against the flow.  And, no matter how kind, how good, we are the fact is that if stand with Jesus, you are going to experience rejection.  Paul told his spiritual son this:  “All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).  It is not a maybe, could be, possible outcome! It is a certainty.  Stand with Christ, stand against the world.

What kind of difficulties may come our way if we won’t go with the crowd?

Personal insults are inevitable. You will find yourself the butt of jokes. You may be looked down on, considered a fool.

Physical intimidation is surely possible.  Martyrdom is not just a thing of the past. In many places in the world, in 2018, people are imprisoned, beaten, and even killed because they bear the name of Christ.  Those of us who are privileged to live our faith under the protection of the law, should give thanks for that, and pray for those who are being persecuted for loving Jesus.

Social pressure is part of being a Christian, even in America. “Lighten up,” we hear. “You are way too serious about your religion,” our family may say.

Stand! Not angrily, not with fists raised, but with the quiet courage that Jesus demonstrated, trusting Himself to the will of the Father.  What a tragic thing to allow ourselves to be caught up in the mob, and hearing the words “Give us Barabbas” come from our mouth.

Here is a word from the Word. “If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!”  (1 Peter 4:14-16, The Message)


The Stand

You stood before creation
Eternity in Your hand
You spoke the earth into motion
My soul now to stand 

You stood before my failure
And carried the cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon Your shoulders
My soul now to stand

 So what can I say
And what can I do
But offer this heart O God
Completely to You

 So I’ll walk upon salvation
Your Spirit alive in me
My life to declare Your promise
My soul now to stand

 So I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all
I’ll stand
My soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours

 Joel Houston © 2005 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

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