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


Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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