Thursday, April 26, 2007
If you haven't already, I recommend that you buy the Repristination press translation of John Gerhard's 'Sacred Meditations.' It's the best devotional book I've ever read. It is filled with the warm, faithful meditations of one of the classic "rock-ribbed" Lutheran dogmaticians of classic Lutheran orthodoxy. It manages to be pious without becoming pietistic. It is a must read for the serious Christian.
Here is an excerpt:
"When the people would have made Christ a king He fled from them; but when they sought to put Him to a shameful and ignominious death upon the cross, He freely and voluntarily offered Himself. If thou wouldst become more and more conformed to Christ, take more satisfaction in the shame the world heaps upon thee, than in the empty glories it offers to thee. If thou canst not lightly esteem the honors of this world for the sake of Christ, thy Savior, how couldst thou rise to that point of love that thou wouldst pour out thy life for Him? There is no other path to the attainment of true glory with Christ than through a holy contempt for world glory, just as Christ Himself thorugh the ignominy of the cross entered into His glory. Therefore choose rather to be despised, to be lightly esteemed, to be scorned in this world, that thou mayst be honored of God in the world that is to come."
Thursday, April 05, 2007
He was not a likable person. He was a scoundrel, a wicked man. He was a bloody, violent, incorrigible criminal. The Jewish authorities certainly never would have lifted a finger to save the likes of Barabbas. But he was convenient. He was a tool. Barabbas was fortunate that the Jewish authorites hated the this Jesus of Nazareth so much, they were willing to release a murderer and an insurrectionist to the streets in order to insure our Lord's condemnation.
And so our Lord took the punishment due Barabbas. It was his condemnation, his flogging, his humiliation, his cross, his nails, his nakedness, and his death, but Christ became his substitute. Surely, if it hadn't been for the jealousy and hatred of the Jewish rulers, Barabbas, rather than Jesus, would have occupied the central cross that morning. It was Barabbas who would have been crucified, and rightly so, between two thieves.
But by the predetermined plan and purpose of God, our Lord was crucified and Barabbas went free. The one in whom Pilate could find no guilt took the place of the one in whom Pilate could find no earthly good. Barabbas is a wonderful illustration of the substitutionary atonement. God punishes His own, dearly loved Son, so that a nasty sociopath like Barabbas could go free.
I wonder where Barrabas went after this. I wonder if he ever realized what exactly happened there at the cross. If ever anyone should have appreciated the magnitude of our Lord's passion, it should have been Barabbas.
Yes, Barrabas, you are fortunate. You have a substitute. He has stepped into your place and paid the ultimate price for your sin, your idolatry and blasphemy, your despising of God's word, dishonoring of your parents, your murderous passions, adultrous thoughts, petty thefts, slander, and covetousness. Every crime you committed has been charged to His account. He died like the lawbreaker you were and still are.
Go Barabbas and gaze upon His wounds. See your substitute horribly blasphemed, forsaken by God and men, naked, bleeding, and dying for you. Mark it well, Barrabas, for this is what it took to set you free.
But remember, Barabbas, you are only one of many. He did it not for you alone, but for the whole world. He did for every Barrabas born of the seed of Adam. He did it for us all.
The joyful gospel of Pilate that surely rang in the ears of Barrabas as if it were a dream, rings also in our ears. "Barrabas, go, you are free." It is the gospel of Christ to every sinner. Someone has taken our place. The punishment due us has been paid by the innocent lamb of God, and God says to each of us, "Barrabas, go, you are free." We surely deserved every condemnation pronounced upon Barrabas, but an innocent victim has taken our place.
Like Barrabas there is blood on our hands. It might not be the blood that the geniuses in forensics are interested in, but is blood nevertheless. The blood on our hands is the blood of hatred and unjust anger, our covetousness and thefts, our adultery fantasies, our plotting to obtain what belongs to another, and our rebellious, scandalous, wicked turning from the one who made us and requires better. Those stains cannot be washed away by human effort. We are guilty and punishment is required.\
And because God intervenes in human history under the court of the pagan Pilate, the innocent is condemned and the guilty go free. Praise the Lord, for our innocent substitute does what Barrabas could never do. He goes condemned to the cross and thereby breaks the power of sin, plunders hell of its power, and lets all the condemned go free.
And like Barrabas there is no longer room at Calvary for us. We have been released from judgment, we have escaped death, and we are free to go. Yes, Barabas, you are free.