Last week we heard Pastor Carlos Porte of the Reformed Church in Venezuela speak about the urgent needs there. There are tremendous shortages of food, medicines and other basic needs. We also learned that many people have an income of $1.50 per month. Imagine being in that situation where you only have $1.50 per month to live. It’s astounding! We are taking an offering in the next week or so to give them some help. Just think. If we send them one thousand dollars, we are giving one person an income for 50 years. Think about that! Imagine having virtually no income and then someone giving you an income for 50 years! How would you respond? I can’t imagine anyone being ho-hum about it and just shrugging it off. It is a big deal and something that demands a response.
Today we are going to read again about what Jesus did for us. Our Lord Jesus gave us not only gave us life; he gave us eternal life. He saved our lives from eternal punishment and death. What is our response? As we read this morning of what Jesus has done, let’s not be blasé` or ho-hum. Let’s marvel at the love of Jesus shown to us. Let’s read Mark 15:1-15.
I. Let’s first look at the next trial for Jesus.
After being condemned to death, Jesus now is taken to Pilate, the Roman governor. While the local leaders were allowed a fairly high level of legal independence, the right to execute someone was given only to Roman rulers. The Jewish leaders would have to convince Pilate that Jesus had committed a capital offense in order for Pilate to agree to have Jesus executed.
Mark says on this Friday morning, the Jewish leaders came to a formal conclusion. They officially sentenced him to death, but they couldn’t kill him. Mark says that they brought Jesus to Pilate early in the morning. This too fits in with how the Romans did their justice for a Roman governor would hear such cases at the crack of dawn.
The charge the Jewish leaders brought against Jesus was that of treason. Specifically the Jewish leaders accused him of being the King of the Jews. Pilate was thus likely expecting to see a hardened and rebellious freedom fighter. Of course, Jesus was nothing like a resistance leader.
Pilate asked Jesus to respond, but Jesus refuses to answer these charges. If Jesus doesn’t defend himself, Pilate will have to find Jesus guilty. Jesus remains silent as the suffering Lamb of God as was prophesied by Isaiah. Isaiah 53:7 says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Jesus’ silence proves that he is indeed the Messiah as promised by Isaiah.
III. Pilate then proposed a bargain.
It was Pilate’s custom to release one prisoner upon popular request at Passover. Verse 7 tells us that Barabbas “was in prison with the insurrectionists” and that he had “committed murder in the uprising.” This uprising must have been well-known enough to be remembered by Mark’s readers 30 years later when Mark wrote his gospel. Evidently Barabbas had been an instrumental person in this uprising. In the course of this uprising he had murdered another person, likely a Roman.
Pilate was trying to maneuver his way out of a jam. He calculated that the Jews would certainly choose Jesus because Jesus was obviously quiet and peaceful. Barabbas was nothing more than a murdering thug. Imagine that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad was somehow arrested and was being held along with a Me Too protester.
However, at this same time a crowd had also gathered to make their case for Pilate to release a prisoner, quite likely hoping to gain the release of Barabbas from Pilate. The choice of Barabbas from this group of people’s perspective makes sense. Here is Jesus, who to them is an imposter; one who raised the hopes of many but would not take up arms against the Romans. On the other hand, here is a proven freedom fighter, Barabbas; the choice was obvious to them.
Pilate knew what the Jewish leaders were up to by their stirring up the crowd. Pilate knew that they were trying to use him to kill Jesus. And so Pilate appealed to Jesus being King, likely hoping the people would want their king. He really wanted to let Jesus go, but the crowd would have none of that. Pilate asks what he should do with the “one you call the king of the Jews?” He again wants them to embrace Jesus as their king. Their cry, upon the prompting of the Jewish leaders, is: “Crucify him!” They not only wanted Jesus dead, but shamed and humiliated. Pilate’s cry echoes through the ages: “Why? What crime has he committed?” Pilate, the official representative of justice, declares Jesus to be innocent. But the crowd simply shouts all the more, “Crucify Him!”
And so wanting to please the people, Pilate gives Jesus over to be crucified. But while we are amazed at these events, let’s not forget that we are the cause for this injustice for we deserved to die, but Jesus took our place. In the movie The Last Emperor, the young boy anointed as the last emperor of China lives a life of luxury with a thousand eunuch servants at his command. His brother asks, “What happens when you do wrong?” The boy emperor replies, “When I do wrong, someone else is punished.” To demonstrate, he breaks a jar, and one of the servants is immediately and severely beaten. However, when we as God’s servants, sinned, our King was punished and in fact was killed instead of us.
IV. Finally let’s look at Jesus’ sentence.
Verse 15 says, “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them....” Pilate was really afraid of these people for they could cause him all kinds of problems. It word got back to Caesar that Pilate had released a person who claimed to be king, Pilate would be in trouble. Besides the crowd was growing more and more out of control. And so Pilate released Barabbas to them and had Jesus flogged. This echoes the statement in Isaiah 50:6 where the Messiah would be given over to the smiters. After being flogged, Jesus was given over to be crucified.
So what do we do with these details of Christ’s suffering? While Jesus suffered horrible injustice, remember that God arranged these things so that Jesus, though innocent, would be found guilty. Jesus is not some poor victim but willingly and gladly went to the cross. Hebrews 12:2-3 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set “before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus joyfully and gladly endured the scorn and shame of the cross for us. Jesus is not the innocent victim, but he is the innocent Lamb of God who willingly and joyfully carried on himself the sins of the world.
That should cause us to marvel at our Lord’s great love for us. If Jesus were a victim, we should pity him and feel sorry for him. Since Jesus gladly endured this, we must humbly thank him for his great love shown to us. In many respects our name is “Barabbas.” We willfully and eagerly rebelled and have sinned blatantly. We deserved to die and yet because of Jesus we have been given our life. As a result, we owe Jesus an eternal debt of gratitude.
Our lives have been saved from death and we know who did that for us! Do we just swagger on by and ignore the One who saved our lives? Do we bow in gratitude and ask what we can do to serve our Lord. You see, the question is what do we do with that life that has been given to us. We must first of all thank our Lord. We must thank him in our words and expressions of praise and worship. We must thank him in every part of our lives so that our whole lives, every single part of our lives, are lived as a way of saying thank you to God.
Hebrews 12:3 also gives us something else to consider. This verse says, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” It is easy for us to grow weary in doing what is right and good. It is easy for us, when facing so many challenges, to lose heart and grow weary. Let’s remember what Jesus did and keep on living for him. Let’s be glad to suffer for the sake of Jesus. Let’s be willing to press on, serving him in every part of our lives. Jesus joyfully endured the cross for us. Let’s joyfully serve him even in our trials.