Dear Barabbas,

Everyone will probably be talking about the crucifixion of Christ today, but I won’t. I have this strange feeling that you and I need to stop and think about a few things first. Did you ever stop and turn around to see what was going on after your release? I saw you as you walked away. You were laughing, jeering, and welcomed by the crowd. What does the record say again?

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while 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 because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” (Matt. 27:15-23)

I remember it well, don’t you? It’s funny how trauma sticks like that. My voice was hoarse for a week after that day. I can still remember the faces in the crowd as I stood along side them. It was a multitude of faces that no man could number. Many of those faces, along with my own, were foaming with hatred. Why were we so angry again? I almost felt outside of myself with anger. I had a stone in my hand. I still have it. I keep it on a shelf in the family room. It’s not some relic but a reminder, maybe even in some way a reminder of the condition of my heart then. I saw other faces too. Some were sad. Some were frustrated. Some were confused. But none could take their eyes off of Him. It was as if everyone’s gaze was forcefully fixed on Him by divine decree. We awed at the sight – bloodied, beaten, forsaken, despised. Humanity seems drawn to blood. He lifted His head and looked out and there we were, eye to eye. It was unavoidable. We all lost that staring match. What had we done?I had to turn away.

But something strange has happened over the years since that day. Many of those to whom I speak don’t seem to think their faces were in the crowd on that day. No matter how hard I try to convince them they don’t want to own up to the fact that they were there, that they condemned an innocent man. This is why I write to you. Have you forgotten you were there? I find myself straining to make them realize that we cheered for you that day, Barabbas, not Him. We walked away embracing you that day, not Him. You sat in our streets, ate at our tables, played with our children that day, not Him. You were welcomed into our hearts that day, not Him. Barabbas, do you remember? I’m sure you do.

Please consider my plea, Barabbas. Everyone must remember that they were there that day when we crucified the King. All of humanity stood guilty of crucifying the Lord of Glory. We were there, but not as a spectator, but as a participant, a guilty participant – plotting, scheming, betraying, bargaining and handing him over to be crucified. We may try to wash our hands of responsibility like Pilate, but our attempt will be futile. Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, leading us to faith and worship, we have to see it as something done by us leading us to repentance. Only the man who is willing to own his share in the guilt of the cross, may claim his share in its grace.(1) You were there Barabbas. You were there, and so were we. All of us. Guilt betraying innocence.

I see the crowd in Pilate’s hall,
their furious cries I hear;
their shouts of “Crucify!” appall,
their curses fill mine ear.
And of that shouting multitude
I feel that I am one,
and in that din of voices rude
I recognize my own.

I see the scourgers rend the flesh
of God’s belovèd Son;
and as they smite I feel afresh
that I of them am one.
Around the Cross the throng I see
that mock the Sufferer’s groan,
yet still my voice it seems to be,
as if I mocked alone.

‘Twas I that shed that sacred Blood,
I nailed him to the Tree,
I crucified the Christ of God,
I joined the mockery.
Yet not the less that Blood avails
to cleanse me from sin,
and not the less that Cross prevails
to give me peace within.(2)

Do you see your face in the crowd?

A fellow criminal set free,

Scott Autry


 

(1) John Stott, The Cross of Christ, pg. 63
(2) Horatius Bonar, Twas I That Shed The Sacred Blood

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30). Octavius Winslow said of this passage, “There never existed but one Being who in truth could affirm of His work — “It is finished!” Incompleteness and defect trace the most vast, elaborate and accomplished products of human genius and power.” John Flavel comments, “In that one word is contained the sum of all joy, the very Spirit of all Divine consolation.” A.W. Pink said it was the cry of jubilation. Our beloved Spurgeon said it was, “…an ocean of meaning in a drop of language.” But what exactly was finished on the cross? Listen along and find out about the glorious finished work of Christ, a work of love!

I have set my bow in the clouds… (Gen. 9:13)

Since the days of Sir Isaac Newton science has concluded that there are basically seven colors in a rainbow. There is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, and indigo. Rainbows are a common occurrence today that many simply overlook. But what is the purpose of a rainbow?

God created the rainbow and set it in the clouds thousands of years ago as a sign of the covenant He was making between Himself and the earth and all that it contained. This covenant was a promise to sustain the Earth until the Promised One (Gen. 3:15) would come. This covenant was on the heels of His outrage against and the destruction of the Earth’s inhabitants. God saw that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). From Gen. 1 to Gen. 9 there is this motif of creation, fall, and redemption that is repeated throughout the rest of the scriptures. In fact Gen. 1:1 to Gen. 3:15 is a microcosm of the grand story of creation, fall, and redemption ending with the great covenant promise in Gen. 3:15 that God would one day send a Redeemer to crush the head of the serpent, who is Satan. And what God promises, God delivers.

In the rainbow we see a picture of hope and redemption. We can hear echoes of the cross of Christ in it. One might even argue poetically that the various colors of the rainbow communicate something of the story of redemption and the heart of God. As one artist said, “Colors are meant to bring glory to the Light.” But many miss the real significance of the rainbow due to the modern association of it with things like girls lunchboxes, Care Bears, and homosexuality. Mankind has done with the rainbow what they do with everything else that God creates – they twist it, pervert it, hollow it out, and suck it dry of any of its God intended meaning. You can hear the reverberations of “Has God really said?” (Gen.3:1) in all of mankind’s actions toward the things of God, even in a rainbow.

So how can we hear an echo of the cross in the rainbow? It all stems from the Hebrew word in Gen. 9:13 for “bow.” The word is qesheth (keh’-sheth) and its significance has nothing to do with girls lunchboxes, Care Bears or homosexuality. The word is used in association with archery. It denotes an archer’s bending of a bow for shooting an arrow. This bow is a battle bow. This is very significant because of the aim of the bow. You see, the bow is cocked and aimed. God is its master archer and He never misses. When He fires the arrow it never misses its intended target. But the significance of the aim of this bow is that it is cocked and aimed, not at Earth…but at Heaven. The bend of the bow is pointed upward from the Earth. God is painting a picture for us. His battle bow is set in the clouds to show where man’s ultimate redemption will come from one day. It will come from God Himself. The Judge steps off the bench and steps into the criminals place. He fires the bow at Himself.

It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand (Isa. 53:10).

the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

But mankind has twisted the meaning of the rainbow. And when mankind twists, perverts, hollows out and sucks dry the meaning of the rainbow, they are aiming ultimately at the cross of Christ. If they aim to distort the shadow, they aim to distort the substance. And the cross is the substance of the shadowy rainbow. It is at the very heart of God. Aim at it, and you aim to murder the One who made you. But given the chance, this is the ultimate aim of every sin, isn’t it? We dethrone God to enthrone ourselves. There are no vassals or vice-regents in the kingdom of your heart. Only one can reign.

Homosexuals, when they fly the rainbow flag in proud opposition against what God has clearly revealed (Mk. 10:6-9; Gen. 1:27, 5:2), aim at the cross. Why? Because the cross puts their sin on public display – not in proud acceptance, but it open shame (Col. 2:15). It is the height of wickedness to take what God has placed in the clouds as a sign to point to His own death for sinners and wave it as a banner of pride. It’s akin to a cross being worn around the neck of a prostitute, or to use a biblical example, it is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout (Prov. 11:22). This is the spirit of antichrist, the spirit of evil (2 Thess. 2:4). This is mockery.

Thanks be to God, however, that what sinful man tries to redefine on Earth, God has fixed in the heavens, unreachable by stained hands. And never forget the rainbow. It is God’s. It is His to define, just like marriage. And never forget that the bow has already let loose its arrow, found its target, drank to the dregs its blood, and laid it low.  Hope in this One who was slain is the only true freedom mankind has – even for His enemies who wave His banner of love in taunting opposition.

μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται…καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε

(1 Cor. 6:9,11)