Blessed… And the Guilty Go Free

15 It was customary during the festival for the governor to release to the crowd one prisoner, whomever they might choose. 16 At that time there was a well-known prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. 17 When the crowd had come together, Pilate asked them, “Whom would you like me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 He knew that the leaders of the people had handed him over because of jealousy.

19 While he was serving as judge, his wife sent this message to him, “Leave that righteous man alone. I’ve suffered much today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and kill Jesus. 21 The governor said, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”

“Barabbas,” they replied (Matthew 27:15-21, Common English Bible).

When I was a kid I liked to play the classic Parker Brothers game Monopoly. Playing that game is the only way I have ever been to jail other than as a visitor. The funny thing about the game is, you do nothing to land yourself in jail but yet that is where you just might find yourself during the course of a game. Sometimes you might find yourself there more than once during a game.

You end up in jail but you really did absolutely nothing wrong. Oh, but you did. There might have been nothing you could do about it. You landed on the “Go to Jail” corner or you drew the wrong card from Chance or Community Chest. When that happens you read those infamous words, “Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass “Go.” Do not collect $200.

Now you find yourself in jail and you did nothing wrong. Am I correct?

Well, no, I’m not. You did do something wrong. You may not have been able to help it but, you landed on the wrong square or drew the wrong card. Now you must “pay your debt to society.” It really doesn’t seem very fair, but it is the rule in the world of Monopoly.

What really isn’t fair is, while you are sitting there in jail, hoping to roll a double to get out or passing the three skipped turns when it is declared you have done you time and are free to go, your buddy across the table ends up in jail. He/she doesn’t even spend a turn in jail because they have been sitting there, holding a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. They surrender the card, walk away, and the guilty go free.

Pilate listened to the stories the priests brought to him. They wanted Jesus killed but Pilate could see nothing he did wrong. Even Pilate’s wife knew Jesus wasn’t guilty, calling him righteous.

Pilate, using an old tradition of releasing a prisoner at Passover gives them an offer he thought they would never take. They wouldn’t possibly want a rebel and murderer like Barabbas released instead of Jesus. Pilate took a risk and he failed. And, because of that, a guilty man walked away free. It would seem that Barabbas used his “Get out of Jail Free” card. An innocent man would be sentenced to die.

When we read the story of the events surrounding Jesus’ death we often like to think we would have done things differently. “I wouldn’t have let Barabbas go and then crucify Jesus.” I have heard this comment and other similar comments. The thing is, whether we want to admit it or not, the is a really good chance we would have acted just like everybody else.

“I wouldn’t have yelled ‘Crucify Him!” Again, we all would probably have fit in well with the crowd. Besides, we are already guilty. No, we might not have yelled for the release of Barabbas, but we are guilty of a roll in his death with each sin we commit.

Though he had no real acting part in the movie, the story goes, when Mel Gibson filmed the crucifixion scene in The Passion of the Christ we actually do see him in the movie. Well actually, part of him. We see his hands. It is reported to be Gibson’s hands that drive the nails into Jesus’ feet and hands. He says, the story goes, that he knew he too was guilty of crucifying Jesus and seeing his hands in the movie reminded him of his roll.

We are all guilty. But, at the same time, because of faith, we are also like Barabbas in another way. We are the guilty who walk away free. The grace of God is bigger than the sin that could convict us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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