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Sunday, April 23, 2017

I AM BARABBAS

I AM BARABBAS
I was reminded of something today at Church while sitting in sacrament meeting and waiting for the sacrament emblems to be blessed and passed.  It is a time of both self-reflection as well as pondering about the Savior and His priceless sacrifice for me individually as well as for all of humanity.
In light of the fact that we just recently passed Easter weekend, when the stories of this time in the Savior’s life tend to be more closely examined and remembered, I thought of the side-story often overlooked in the midst of the atonement, crucifixion and resurrection miracle.  I speak of when Jesus stood on trial before Pilate.

During the time of Christ Jerusalem was under Roman rule.  In attempt to appease the religious Jewish population, it was customary at the time of the Feast of the Passover for the Roman ruler, in this case Pontius Pilate, to release a Jewish prisoner and pardon his crimes.
We all know the story of how Pilate brought forth both Jesus, a sinless in man in whom he found no fault, and a man named Barabbas who was identified as a “notable prisoner, an insurrectionist and a robber.”

Clearly the distinction between the two characters could not have been more dramatic.  On the one hand was a sinless being, who taught of love, kindness, forgiveness and charity, who went about doing good and healing the sick and lame.  On the other was a known criminal, rightly accused of his crimes and fully deserving of punishment according to the laws of justice.


But the raucous crowd, emboldened and inflamed by the Pharisees and Sadducees who sought Christ’s death because of the threat they felt he posed to their wicked way of life and control of religious power, cried out for Jesus to be crucified.

Pilate, knowing that he was innocent, eventually relented to appease the crowd, setting Barabbas free and turning Jesus over to be scourged and crucified.  We all know of the gruesome events which then followed as that justice was meted out.
But the thoughts I would like to focus upon today are in relation to the reactions of Jesus and Barabbas.
I am sure that upon realizing he would be set free, Barabbas was no doubt shocked and overjoyed.  We don’t have a record of what actually happened or what was in his heart, but I envision him probably high-tailing it out of there as fast as he could go before anyone changed their minds.
But through this whole process Christ stood silently, patiently, neither begging for relief nor trying to plead his justly innocent state.  Instead, he willingly submitted to process and voluntarily offered himself to take the punishment he did not deserve, but which Barabbas surely did.

So as I sat in church today pondering on the meaning behind the upcoming sacrament and what it represented, I came to an understanding of something…. “I AM BARABBAS”.
In fact, each and every one of us is Barabbas.  All of us have fallen short of perfection.  All of us have sins and darker sides of our nature that we may try to keep hidden at times, but which nevertheless put us on the wrong side of justice.  We are all spiritual criminals deserving of a punishment for our wrongdoings.
We may try to plead our case or justify our deeds, but the fact remains, we are all spiritually guilty to some degree or another.  We are all Barabbas, justly in spiritual prison for our crimes.
But alongside of us stands Jesus the Christ.  Sinless, perfect, flawless and completely deserving to be free from justice or punishment.  But stand there He does, patient, loving, so willing to pay the price for OUR misdeeds.
So with the recognition of this fact, that indeed we are all Barabbas, I ask the question: “What is our reaction to this situation?”
Do we take for granted this priceless offering in our behalf, and seek to run away from punishment somehow and hide among the teaming and frenzied masses of the world, hoping that perhaps we won’t have to face justice if we just blend in with the crowd and adapt to the level of those around us?
Or do we spiritually scramble in gratitude past the Pilates of the world and throw ourselves at the feet of the One who willingly offered Himself in our behalf?
This is essentially the situation we face each week as we prepare to partake of the holy sacrament.  Do we take it casually, simply trying to blend in the hopes that we don’t really have to face punishment for our sins and wrong doings?  Do we ignore the One who so willingly and lovingly paid the price so that we won’t have to, mindlessly partaking of the bread and water while our thoughts are caught up in other things?  Do we go through each day focused upon our worldly thoughts and cares… or are our hearts drawn out and knees bent in gratitude to Him?
Do we come to a realization of how truly fallen we are at any given time?  Do we recognize our brokenness and how much we deserve the punishment for our faults and sins and how desperately we need Him to pay the price of justice to restore what we can never repay?

Do we have that recognition each day of our lives?
What does Christ ask of us in return for the payment of this horrible debt which He paid in our behalf?  Nothing more than a broken(humble) heart and a contrite (repentant) spirit, as mentioned in many scriptures, but which is summed up so beautifully in Psalms 34: 18-19 “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”
Such a small price to ask in return for what He so willingly suffered and sacrificed in our behalf!
May we all do a better job at remembering that we are all Barabbas, and never take for granted what He so freely offers us in our behalf.  May we not run away in attempt to hide among the crowds and distractions of life, but instead come to His wounded feet in humble and repentant worship as He deserves.

I believe that when we do, what we find is not a life running and hiding from our fears, but a Love that is liberating, everlasting, cleansing, redeeming, uplifting and more magnificently divine and joyous than we can begin to imagine!
I am Barabbas… and so are you.  And may we always remember it!