Posted

Though most do not see it, we as believers in the 21st century are in grave danger because pastors and church members fail to hold fast to Christ and His Word. What follows are just a few of the dangers currently threatening churches and believers.

1) Mixed-up priorities — Each and every one of us is a sinner, and we will die in our sins and be condemned to hell if we neglect the salvation God offers and gives through the promises of His Word and Sacraments; and yet we pay little heed. We neglect God’s Word and we fail to partake of His Sacraments.

a) This is evident in that sporting events, shopping centers, entertainment venues, and even doctor’s offices are full but churches in which the truth of God’s Word is proclaimed are empty. This reveals how so many see little need or benefit from the care and nourishment of their souls.

b) Jesus called upon sinners to repent and believe the gospel of forgiveness and life in His name (Mark 1:14-15; 16:15-16). He said in John 8:24: “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

2) We take sin lightly — both pastors and church members fail to recognize the dangers of sin. Those calling themselves Christians continue to live in open and willing disobedience to God’s Word, recorded for all to read in the Bible, and pastors say nothing even though the end result is death, spiritual and eternal.

a) The Bible warns in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, and you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus by the Spirit of our God.”

b) Hebrews 10:26-31 says: “For if we willfully continue to sin after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation, which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who despised Moses’ law died without mercy in the presence of two or three witnesses. How much more severe a punishment do you suppose he deserves, who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded the blood of the covenant that sanctified him to be a common thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine,’ says the Lord, ‘I will repay.’ And again He says, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

3) Both pastors and people underestimate the enemy. We are opposed by the devil, the world, and even by our own flesh. Yet, we are willing, even delighted, to dabble in sin — to hear and spread gossip, to view sexually suggestive images in print or on TV or our electronic devices, to entertain evil thoughts and desires, to give in to the weaknesses of our own flesh or the temptations placed before us by the world.

a) Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober and watchful, because your adversary the devil walks around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Paul warns in Ephesians 6:12: “For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Cf. Ephesians 6:10-20.

b) Sin easily deceives and entangles us, and it brings about spiritual death and damnation. The writer to the Hebrews says, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). James includes this warning in his epistle, in chapter one, verses 13-15: “Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil; neither does He tempt anyone. But each man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. Then, when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin; and when sin is finished, it brings forth death.”

c) Our own flesh is corrupted by sin and deceives us, as Jeremiah writes in Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is more deceitful than all things and desperately wicked.” Our flesh desires and longs to indulge in sinful pleasures. Paul describes its corruptness in these words: “Now the works of the flesh are revealed, which are these: adultery, sexual immorality, impurity, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, rage, selfishness, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I previously warned you, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

4) Pastors fail to preach against sin as sin and warn of the consequences of sin, that their hearers might repent and take comfort in the Gospel. Pastors and churches say nothing against (and sometimes even endorse) such things as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, same-sex marriages, transgenderism, drunkenness, drug abuse, gossip, etc., etc., etc.

a) Pastors are to administer the office of the keys, forgiving the sins of penitent sinners and retaining the sins of the impertinent as long as they do not repent. This means that pastors are to rebuke as sin all that the Bible calls sin, and pastors are to proclaim God’s promise of pardon and forgiveness to all who repent and look to God for mercy in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus said to His apostles in John 20:21-23: “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As My Father has sent Me, even so I send you.’ When He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained.’” Cf. 1 John 1:3ff.

b) Pastors are responsible for warning God’s flock when they fall into sin or error. In the book of Ezekiel, in chapter three, we read these words: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel. Whenever you hear the word from My mouth, then warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you do not warn him, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you warn the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity. But you have delivered your soul” (v. 17-19; read v. 16-27)).

5) Pastors fail to preach the promises of the Gospel to penitent sinners that they might hear and take comfort in the forgiveness, pardon, and life eternal won for them by the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the cross (cf. 1 John 2:1-2). So often because pastors fail to preach against sin and its consequences, they also fail to preach Christ crucified as the only hope for sinful people. Pastors sometimes prescribe human works and efforts as a solution to sin, leading to utter failure. And, sometimes, pastors, fail to offer any Gospel comfort at all, leaving troubled souls to despair. We have an example of this failure in the words of the chief priests and elders of Israel to Judas after he recognized his sin in betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:3-6): “When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? You must see to that.’ So he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed. And he went and hanged himself.”

6) Both pastors and Christians imagine that they can preserve and maintain their own faith apart from the regular hearing of God’s Word and reception of the Sacraments. Yet, the Bible clearly tells us:

a) “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17); and “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. As it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17).

b) St. Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-17: “But continue in the things that you have learned and have been assured of, knowing those from whom you have learned them, and that since childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through the faith that is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Paul commands Timothy as a pastor to: “Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

c) Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching.”

7) We neglect to encourage one another with God’s Word and pray for one another. Yet God’s Word urges us:

a) “Confess your faults to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much” (Hebrews 10:25).

b) “Brothers, if a man is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, watching yourselves, lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2; cf. Matthew 18:15-18).

c) “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

In summary, we Christian pastors and church members need to wake up and get serious about God and the teaching of His Word. We need to acknowledge our own sinfulness and weakness and be aware of the constant threats against our souls coming from without through the devil and others around us in the world, as well as from within because of our own sin-corrupted hearts. We need to cling to the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word and the right administration of the Sacraments that we might continue to repent of our sins and take comfort in the Gospel of forgiveness and life through faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of all upon the cross.

Hold fast to Christ Jesus and to the true teaching of His Word!

Pastor Randy Moll
Good Shepherd Ev. Lutheran Church in Rogers, Ark.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

Author
Categories ,

Posted

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As My Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” When He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained.” John 20:21-23 (Read John 20:19-23; Cf. Luke 24:46-47; Matt. 18:15-18.)

Jesus has fulfilled the Scriptures. He has suffered and died for the sins of all and is risen again! Now He gives to His church a mission — an assignment and duty. He said to His chosen disciples, “As My Father has sent Me, even so I send you.”

He gave to His disciples the Holy Spirit and a task to carry out — to preach “repentance and remission of sins” in Jesus’ name “to all nations,” beginning right where they were, in Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-47; cf. Matt. 28:16-20).

And God’s called ministers today are still to forgive the sins of those who repent and turn to Christ Jesus in faith and to retain the sins of those who do not repent. As Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained.”

Jesus is not here giving to any person, or to a church, the power to forgive and retain sins according to their own whims or choosing. Rather, He gives to the church and its ministers the duty to preach and proclaim that all should repent and turn to Christ Jesus for forgiveness and life. To those who repent of their sins and turn to Jesus the church proclaims God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus (cf. Psalm 32:1-5; John 8:11; 1 John 1:7 — 2:2). To those who are impenitent and continue on in their sinful ways the church, through its ministers, proclaims God’s wrath and punishment upon their sins! Cf. Matt. 18:15-18; John 8:24; Hebrews 10:26-31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

Thus, when God’s ministers rightly apply and proclaim God’s Word and counsel, forgiving the sins of penitent sinners and retaining the sins of the impenitent, their words are as certain and true as if God Himself had spoken them from His throne in heaven! Cf. Luther’s Small Catechism, explanation to the Office of the Keys.

What is genuine repentance? It is not simply going through the motions of acknowledging that we are sinners, asking God to forgive us, and then continuing on in our sinful ways (cf. Luke 3:7ff.)! Rather, it is acknowledging and sorrowing over our sinful ways, turning to Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for forgiveness, and then (as a fruit of repentance) seeking God’s help and aid to amend our lives and live for Christ Jesus, who died for us and rose again (cf. 1 John 1:7—2:6; 2 Cor. 5:15, 17; Psalm 51).

God would have each of us live in continual repentance, examining ourselves in the light of God’s pure Word, being genuinely sorry for our sins and trusting in Jesus’ shed blood for forgiveness, and then continually seeking (in God’s strength) to live our lives according to God’s Word.

Are you genuinely repentant? If so, you are in Christ and have complete forgiveness for all your sins (cf. 1 John 1:7ff.). But if, on the other hand, you are unwilling to give up your sinful ways and turn to God for forgiveness and life in His Son, Jesus Christ, you remain dead in your sins and under God’s wrath and judgment! Cf. Mark 16:16.

Dearest Christ Jesus, we have sinned in thought, word and deed and have failed to live in accord with Your perfect will. Forgive us for the sake of Your holy and precious blood, shed for us upon the cross, and grant us Your Spirit and give us a genuine desire to please You always. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

Author
Categories

Posted

Audio of this Message

1 At the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And then there was a great earthquake. For the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his garments white as snow. 4 The soldiers shook for fear of him and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid. For I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here. For He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and indeed, He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him. Listen, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 As they went to tell His disciples, suddenly Jesus met them, saying, “Greetings!” They came and took hold of His feet and worshipped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell My brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Matthew 28:1-10

It had been a painful week for the followers of Jesus. They followed Him as He rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as the Messiah and King of the Jews. They heard His words as He taught in the temple. They heard His laments and rebukes because of unbelief and heard of the judgments to come. They saw His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. They witnessed His trials, the horrors of His crucifixion and saw His lifeless body taken down from the cross and hastily laid in a nearby tomb before the sabbath day began.

Now, all that remained was to complete His burial before returning home. Jesus was dead. All His teaching about forgiveness of sins, the kingdom of God and eternal life in God’s kingdom was buried with Him in that tomb.

The Gospel of Luke tells us of the women (Luke 23:55 – 24:3): “The women who came with Him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was placed. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath, they rested according to the commandment. Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. But when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.”

For many today, Easter Sunday is a day to properly finish Jesus’ burial. Lent is over and we can now put Jesus’ sufferings and death behind us and move on to other things — at least for another year. It is a day to say His life and death have meaning and His legacy lives on in our hearts.

But Jesus wasn’t in the tomb! Instead, an angel was there and announced to the women: “Do not be afraid. For I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”

And, as the women hurried to tell Jesus’ disciples the news, Jesus met them and greeted them. He was alive — not just in spirit, but bodily — they held his feet and worshiped Him.

His death was full payment for the sins of the world. God accepted the atoning sacrifice of His Son and raised Him up, proving that all who look to Jesus and His cross in faith are justified and forgiven (John 3:15-18; Rom. 4:23-25; 1 Cor. 15:17-20; 1 John 2:1-2).

Jesus truly is the Resurrection and the Life as He said to Martha in John 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

He lives and we shall live also (John 14:19; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). With Job, we can say: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God, whom I will see for myself, and my eyes will behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).

All His words and teaching are indeed true! He shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15) and all who trust in His name shall reign with Him in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 7:9-17; 21:1-7)!

Therefore, we come today not to eulogize Him in death but to celebrate His victory over sin, death and the devil for us, and to rejoice in the new and everlasting life He won for us by His death and glorious resurrection on the third day!

O crucified and risen Lord Jesus, grant that we might see and believe the message of the angel and rejoice in Your triumph over sin and death that we might have the certain hope of forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting through faith in Your name. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

The strife is o’er, the battle done

Author: Francis Pott

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!

The powers of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions hath dispersed;
Let shouts of holy joy outburst: Alleluia!

The three sad days are quickly sped;
He rises glorious from the dead;
All glory to our risen Head! Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
Let hymns of praise His triumphs tell! Alleluia!

On the third morn He rose again,
glorious in majesty to reign.
O let us swell the joyful strain: Alleluia!

Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,
From death’s dread sting Thy servants free,
That we may live, and sing to Thee: Alleluia!

Author
Categories ,

Posted

“I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in security. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You suffer Your godly one to see corruption. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:8-11

As we consider Jesus’ sufferings and death for the sins of the world and His glorious resurrection from the dead on the third day, it is fitting to consider what this historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection, attested to by hundreds of witnesses (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3ff.; Mark 16:1ff.) means for each of us as believers, and Psalm 16 is one of many passages of God’s Word to consider.

After Jesus Christ suffered and died for the sins of the world, His body was laid in the tomb. But, as the psalm states, and Peter testified at the feast of Pentecost, and Paul at Pisidian Antioch, Jesus’ body was not left in the grave and did not see corruption and decay. Rather, His body was raised up to life again on the third day — a glorious and heavenly body — and was received up to the right hand of God the Father in heaven, where there are “pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16).

In Acts 2:22-33, we read: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with powerful works and wonders and signs, which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know. You have taken Him, who was handed over to you by the ordained counsel and foreknowledge of God, and by lawless hands have crucified and killed Him, whom God raised up by loosening the pull of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope. For You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy with Your presence.’ Brothers, I may speak confidently to you concerning the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. But being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of his seed according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he foresaw this and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. God raised up this Jesus, of which we all are witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this which you now see and hear.”

In Acts 13:34-39, we read: “That He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give You the holy and sure blessings of David’ [Isa. 55:3]. So He says in another Psalm: ‘You will not let Your Holy One see decay’ [Ps. 16]. For after David had served by the counsel of God in his own generation, he fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw decay. But He whom God raised up saw no decay. Therefore, brothers, let it be known to you that through this Man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by Him everyone who believes is justified from everything from which you could not be justified by the Law of Moses.”

So also, because Christ has died for us and is risen again, we who place our faith in Him have been justified and raised up to spiritual life in Christ Jesus and have the LORD God at our right hand to preserve and keep us — we shall not be moved. We have a glorious inheritance awaiting us in the promised land of heaven.

In Ephesians 2:4-7, we read: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and He raised us up and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

1 Peter 1:3-5 tells us: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that does not fade away, kept in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

All who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are baptized into His name are children of God and have an eternal inheritance awaiting them (cf. Gal. 3:26-29).

Because Christ has paid in full for all our sins and is risen again, our hearts, too, are glad; we trust in Him and rejoice in His mercy and forgiveness toward us.

Speaking of the blessings promised to Abraham, the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 4:23 — 5:2: “Now the words, ‘it was credited to him,’ were not written for his sake only, but also for us, to whom it shall be credited if we believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our transgressions, and was raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and so we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

And, when we die, our bodies rest securely in hope — looking forward to that day when the dead in Christ are raised up with glorified bodies and will be forever with the Lord. Because Christ’s body saw no corruption but was raised up again on the third day, we can be certain that we too will be raised up and we shall see, in our resurrected and glorified bodies, our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20ff.).

Job, thought to be a contemporary of Abraham and Isaac, said (in Job 19:25-27): “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God, whom I will see for myself, and my eyes will behold, and not another.”

And Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: “But I would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and arose again, so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall be forever with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

Because of Christ’s death on the cross for the sins of the world, and because He rose again in victory, we have the confidence that we will be raised up in Christ’s likeness and that we will enjoy the pleasures which are at God’s right hand for evermore!

We, as believers, can say with David: “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied when I awake with Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

“Jesus lives! And now is death but the gate of life immortal; This shall calm my trembling breath when I pass its gloomy portal. Faith shall cry as fails each sense: Jesus is my confidence!” (Lutheran Service Book, Page 490, v. 5).

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

Author
Categories ,

Posted

15 Now at the feast, the governor was accustomed to releasing to the people a prisoner whom they chose. 16 They had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that they had handed Him over out of envy. 19 When he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man, for I have suffered much today in a dream on account of Him.” 20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and kill Jesus. 21 The governor answered, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!” 23 The governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, “Let Him be crucified!” 24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail, but rather that unrest was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this righteous Man. See to it yourselves.” 25 Then all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But when he had scourged Jesus, he handed Him over to be crucified. 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium, and gathered the whole detachment of soldiers before Him. 28 They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him, 29 and when they wove a crown of thorns, they put it on His head and put a staff in His right hand. They knelt before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spit on Him, and took the staff and hit Him on the head. 31 After they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. Matthew 27:15-31

After examining Jesus, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, knew that He was not guilty of any crime — especially not of a crime deserving of death. Even Pilate’s wife knew that Jesus was innocent and begged Pilate to have nothing to do with the condemnation of Jesus. And so, in an attempt to appease the Jews and release Jesus, Pilate offered to do according to his custom at the Passover and pardon and release one prisoner to the people.

Matthew tells us in verses 15-18 of our text: “Now at the feast, the governor was accustomed to releasing to the people a prisoner whom they chose. They had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you — Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that they had handed Him over out of envy.

The choice seemed obvious. Barabbas was a notorious prisoner who was a robber, a rebel, and had committed murder in the rebellion (cf. John. 18:40; Mark 15:6-7; Luke 23:). Jesus’ alleged crime was His claim to be the Messiah, the true Son of God and the King of a spiritual kingdom made up of all who hear and believe His words.

We read in Luke 23:13-19: “Pilate called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, ‘You have brought this Man to me as one who incites the people. And truly, I, having examined Him before you, have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him. No, neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing worthy of death has been done by Him. I will therefore chastise Him and release Him.’ For he was obligated to release one man to them at the feast. But they all cried out at once saying, ‘Take this Man away and release Barabbas to us!’ This man had been thrown in prison for an insurrection in the city and for murder. Therefore Pilate spoke to them again, desiring to release Jesus. But they cried out, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’”

If you were in the crowd outside the Praetorium on that first Good Friday and you heard these words of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, offering to release unto you either Jesus or Barabbas, what would you say? Would you ask that Jesus, who was innocent and without sin, who claimed to be the very Son of God, be released unto you? Or would you join the crowd in asking for Barabbas?

And, what would you say after the crowd asked for Barabbas and Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus, who is called Christ? Would you join the crowd in crying out of Jesus, “Let Him be crucified”?

We say we would not but, if we remember why Jesus was crucified and condemned, we must admit that every time we sin, we do say of Jesus, “Crucify Him!” When we sin, we add to the burden of His cross!

Now, if you were Barabbas, in a prison cell and chains, expecting to die for your crimes, what would you do if the soldiers came and set you free — if they told you that you had been pardoned by the governor and were free because an innocent man by the name of Jesus was being crucified in your stead? How would you feel?

Isn’t this exactly what has happened to each and every one of us? We are guilty of sin — we have broken God’s Law and are guilty of insurrection (rebellion) against God Himself! Which commandments have we not broken? We deserve to be condemned by God to the eternal fires of hell which He prepared for the devil and his evil angels!

But what has happened? God’s word of the Gospel has been proclaimed to us — we have been told that God punished His own dear Son, Jesus Christ, in our stead — that Jesus suffered upon the cross the full and just punishment for all our sins, the punishment that we deserved (cf. Isa. 53:4-6).

In Galatians 3:10,13, we read: “For all who rely on the works of the law are under the curse. For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the Book of the Law, to do them.’ … Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us — as it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’”

And, in 2 Corinthians 5:21, we read: “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Instead of condemning us to the eternal fires of hell which we deserve, God instead reaches out to us in mercy and offers and gives to us pardon and forgiveness for all our sins. He offers and gives to us eternal life instead of death and eternal damnation because Jesus Christ, His own dear Son, suffered our punishment for us!

Now, we don’t know for certain what happened to Barabbas after this, but we might just consider a couple of hypothetical possibilities. What if Barabbas had rejected Pilate’s offer of pardon and forgiveness? What if he had said, “I want to be tried and judged on my own merits”? There seems to be little doubt but that he would be condemned and probably put to death — possibly even on a cross.

What if he accepted his pardon, walked out of his prison cell and went back out robbing and killing and rebelling against the Roman Government? Would he not be arrested again and condemned for his new crimes?

What about us? Christ died for our sins and rose again and God reaches out to us with His offer of pardon and forgiveness, calling upon us to repent and look in faith to Christ Jesus and His cross. What if we say, “No, thanks. I will stand before the judgment seat of God on my own merit”? The Bible is quite clear. If we refuse to accept God’s pardon through faith in Christ, we stand condemned for our sins and will be punished because we did not believe in the name of God’s only begotten Son and our Savior.

As John 3:16-18 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned. But he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

And, what if we accept God’s pardon but then use our gift of freedom to intentionally continue on in our sinful ways? Will we not be judged and condemned of God for continuing to rebel against Him?

The Scriptures leave no question about the end result. Hebrews 10:26-29 says: “For if we willfully continue to sin after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation, which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who despised Moses’ law died without mercy in the presence of two or three witnesses. How much more severe a punishment do you suppose he deserves, who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded the blood of the covenant that sanctified him to be a common thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

It is true that we by our sins are guilty of the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. With the crowd on Good Friday, we by our sins say of Jesus, “Let Him be crucified!”

But because Jesus went to the cross for us, we, who are guilty like Barabbas, have God’s gracious offer of pardon and forgiveness through faith in Christ Jesus! When we trust in Christ, God graciously forgives our sins against Him, and He offers and gives to us everlasting life with Him in heaven.

Let us give thanks to our Savior for bearing upon the cross the guilt and punishment for our sins that we might be acquitted and partake of the everlasting blessings of heaven through faith in Jesus’ name. And, let us use our lives here in this world to the praise and glory of Him who has redeemed us and set us free.

Oh, dearest Jesus, we thank and praise You for bearing upon the tree of the cross the guilt and punishment for all our sins that we might be pardoned and forgiven through faith in Your name. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

Author
Categories ,