God isn’t as religious as you think He is.

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“It is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

This statement might just be among the most anti-religious things Jesus is recorded to have ever said. In one sentence, Our Lord turns over the tables of our religious presumptions and drives out the money changers of self made religion.
The words of Jesus here, must have made every Pharisee in town feel squeamish. He says something here that flies in the face of two prevalent forms of religion. In one joyful declaration or Lord knocked the legs out from under what I call, “The probationary gospel” and the “Cash and Carry Gospel.” Both of these are rampant in our culture today, and are as deadly to the soul today as they were in Jesus day.
1. “The probationary gospel” is a lie that portrays our heavenly father as nothing more than an irate deity, fuming over us with his bony finger poised over the Hell-button, just waiting for an excuse to drop the trap door open and send us screaming into the abyss. It’s a probationary gospel because it is entirely dependent on our good behavior. Imagine God saying to us at conversion, “Alright you little sinner. You’re forgiven for now, but if you don’t keep it clean you’re going back to the darkness.” It’s a fake gospel that says, ” If you die having even the smallest sin unconfessed, you’re going to hell !” Really? A salvation that is only as strong as my ability to confess? A gospel that depends on my goodness is no gospel at all.
Jesus says, “It’s your father’s good pleasure…” Your father was and is pleased to give you the kingdom. His salvation is not an act of obligation, but of divine love. If you are saved you are not on probation. You are not under the wrath of God any longer. God is your father and He is pleased to give you his kingdom and everything that comes with it. This leads to the second point.
2. “The cash and carry gospel” otherwise known as the health and wealth gospel. There are many preachers who are selling the gospel short, by making it primarily about money and health and material things. While I have no problem believing that God will meet all our needs and even give an abundance at times, the notion that the kingdom of God is about material things falls short of the message of Jesus.
The Pharisees loved money. If Jesus message had been about wealth and financial gain, they would never have crucified him. They would have flocked to him. I fear today that many preachers would have quite a following of Pharisees had they preached their messages in his day. The gospel is not about making it in this world, but in the next. Jesus said, “Its the father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The kingdom of God is what is being offered here, not the kingdoms of this world.
The message of the gospel is not about how God can make you wealthy, healthy and successful in this life. Too many people become Christians because someone told them Jesus could improve their lives. While that is certainly true, that is not what makes the gospel good news. The good news is that we have an eternal kingdom that never fades, an eternal hope with greater riches than this world could ever offer.
Our lives are hidden with Christ (Col. 3). When prosperity preachers offer us mansions and cars and money they are thinking too small. If you read the verses that follow Luke 12:32 you will see Jesus inviting us to strip ourselves of any concern for material things and go after the real riches found in him. Paul tells us that “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink (i.e. material things) but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
Friends, Jesus came preaching a message that is liberating to the soul! It liberates us from legalism and materialism, among other things. He liberates us by showing us a father in heaven who is not nearly as religious as we are. God is not religious, God is love. He is Holy love. He calls us to free ourselves from the bondage of sin and self, by faith in him. When we turn to Him by faith we find a heavenly father who takes great pleasure in giving us a kingdom that never fades, never falls, never dies. He’s not inviting you to the burden of religious duty or the greater burden of materialism. But to the freedom and joy we were created for. This comes only through turning by faith and surrender to Jesus Christ, who died to open the door for us.

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53 and counting….

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I turned 53 yesterday. That puts me two years away from a senior citizen’s discount. I’m trying to wrap my brain around the fact that in seven years. Lord willing, I’ll be sixty. Say what? After 50 birthdays start to become more and more important. (insert chuckle here)

It’s kinda weird to celebrate 53 years, partly because I still feel much younger than that. Even though it takes me longer to get up out of a chair, and I’m getting used to the fact that I can’t read anything without whipping out my reading glasses, I still feel pretty young. I still have lots of energy…most of the time, but I go to bed much earlier now than I did just a few years ago. But whatever delusions of immortality I had in my twenties are long gone. I know that one day this earthly life will come to an end, and statistically, that could happen in just a couple of decades, despite my hopes of living to be a hundred ( I think that would be very cool but only God knows about that.).

It’s kinda creepy to think about your life ending, but at my age I can’t help but at least tip my hat in acknowledgement to that weird guy with a sickle, standing in the shadows. I know one day he’s gonna come knocking and escort me to glory. Fortunately, because of Jesus the trip will be a short passage into life. I think if it weren’t for Jesus I would be in great fear of death. How sad it would be to think that my life was just an existence until death. But I have great hope that this short life is just  a warm up for eternity.

However, despite my great hope, I still feel some apprehension about the future. I’m done looking back with regret about the past. I’ve looked back and seen God’s hand on my life and for that I give thanks. God has blessed me beyond my expectations. But I can see also that I wasted a lot of my life being way too self concerned. God has graciously worked in and through this little clay pot of a life despite some basic mistakes. Here’s a short list of things I could get really depressed about if I tried.

  1. Too much talking. Too little listening.
  2. Too many hours spent on computer games. Too little on relationships.
  3. Too much time looking for affirmation. Too little time giving it.
  4. Too much self preservation. Too little self sacrifice.
  5. Too much concern for appearances. Too little concern for substance.
  6. Too much convenience. Too little perseverance.
  7. Too much fear. too little faith.
  8. Too much self. Too little others.
  9. Too much resentment. Too little forgiveness.
  10. Too much flesh. Too little Spirit.

I’ve spent enough time thinking about previous years and how I could have given more and loved better. I wept. I’ve confessed. I’ve mended fences…or at least tried, some refuse to mend. But as the Bible says, “There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh.” I’m done trying to fix yesterday. It’s time to move ahead into the life God has for me and my loved ones.

The great news of the Gospel is that God is always calling us forward to new life. I’m ready to move into the gift of life with a new zeal for God and His kingdom. In my short 53 years, despite all the ups and downs, one thing has remained. Jesus Christ, my wonderful savior has held my hand all the way. His love is greater than my regrets, stronger than my fears, and more powerful than my insecurities.

He has been unswervingly faithful and undeniably capable in all situations.My king has kept me in His nail scarred hands even in my worst moments. He has given me a wonderful family, amazing friends and tremendous opportunities. The great news is that no matter how long I live on this planet the best is always yet to come. Quite frankly, I have no intention of winding down at this point. My God has given me a great gospel to preach and a great life to live and I feel that I’m just now getting started. I want the second half to be greater than the first. I want my life to burst with God’s glory so brightly that you’ll have to wear sunglasses to my funeral!

If you have read this far, thank you for indulging me. I want to encourage you to live your life completely for Jesus Christ. He is the very ground of your existence. He is the reason for every breath you breathe. He alone can give meaning and lasting purpose to your life. In fact, He alone can give you your life. To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Then he saw you.

Then he saw you.

Mark 16:14-20

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world…’ ” v. 15

Yeshua just stood there in the corner of the room grinning and drinking in the reactions. Mary Magdalene squealed an “I told you to so.” type of laugh, then settled into her normal “Don’t mess with this girl.” stance, while the two who had seen him earlier stood together like a couple of bosses. The rest were frozen in disbelief. Then the reality seized them.

The silent shock evaporated into shouts, and tears. Yeshua held out his hands and embraced them all. Simon Peter nearly trampled the others to the floor and embraced his Lord, both men sobbing for the longest time.

After nearly an hour of embracing and talking, apologizing and forgiving each other all of them reclined around the table on the floor. Yeshua seemed to get a kick out of them staring at him while he ate. Crumbs and drops of wine don’t fall from the mouth of a ghost. Eventually he got them to eat as well. John nearly passed out when Yeshua decided to have some fun. He lifted up his wrist and peered through the hole at the beloved disciple, making him a bit queasy. After that everyone laughed and relaxed a little.

Usually meals together involved a great deal of mundane chatter, but what do you talk about at a time like this? When everything you thought was gone forever is suddenly given back to you, at your least deserving moment, what do you say in return? How do you say thanks in the face of such amazing grace? Moments like these are rare and only happen by the grace of God. They are neither earned nor deserved, they are just granted and received and passed on to others. Such a gift is never fully received until the recipient pays it forward. That is what Yeshua would tell them to do.

Eleven men and a few women sat there basking in this miracle of miracles. There was no doubt that they were dining in the very presence of God. They all marveled at such a gift, especially Simon Peter. They all wondered what they could possibly do in return. Yeshua, looked around the room. Before speaking he peered with a loving intensity into each of them. His gaze seemed to embrace each one completely, despite their weaknesses, fears and doubts. These were his brothers and sisters forever. In his eyes his saints were flawless. He saw what the future held for each of them. He saw how they would live, where they would go, what they would suffer and how they would die. Then he looked farther.

He saw generations of believers from every tribe, every tongue and every nation hearing his name, joining him at his table along with these. He saw men and women of all races and stations in life, kings, queens, thugs, terrorists, prostitutes, professors, and all sorts receiving his grace and passing it along until every nation on earth knew his name.

He continued to look. He saw some things that hurt to think about. He saw crusades and so-called “Holy wars”, inquisitions and witch hunts, and all sorts of evil done in his name. He saw wealthy religious empires trampling the poor into the dust. He saw church splits, political games, and sexual abuse perpetrated by those claiming to serve him. He saw self satisfied saints pushing people out rather than bringing them in, easy believism with no call to follow, and a gospel that calls people to a false prosperity. But even through all of those things he foresaw, he knew it would be worth it. Such darkness would serve only to form a contrast to accentuate the light.

Despite the darkness he saw billions saved and changed through the centuries. He saw Hospitals, orphanages, universities and charitable organizations, all birthed by the true work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. He saw faithful grandmothers kneeling beside their beds, saints sharing pieces of forbidden scriptures in prisons, and little children bringing their shiny offerings to Sunday school to help the missionaries around the world. He saw good neighbors caring for each other and faithful churches transforming communities. He saw innumerable seeds of grace springing up across the centuries. But do you know what he saw that really touched his heart? What really made it worth all the toil and perils?

He saw you. He saw you in this moment. Right here. Right now hearing his gospel. He saw you being invited to come, just as you are with all your good and bad, all your strength and weakness, all your joy and brokenness, and join him at this table of incredible grace and pass it on. When he saw the look in your face he smiled and said to his Apostles:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation….”

And that is the beginning of the gospel. It begins afresh every time someone joins him at the table. Let it begin with you today, and every day let it begin again, until the whole world knows.

Did he or didn’t he?

Mark 16:9-13

“and they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.” v. 13

“Enough!” Peter shouted. His eyes were weary with grief but still had enough fire in them to burn your skin right off. In three years the disciples had learned when to back off and just let the big fisherman alone.

“I expect such tales from that crazy Magdalene woman, but you should know better! He’s dead! Gone. And if I hear any more of these wishful stories you just might join him. Besides if he were alive do you think he’d ever trust us again?”

Peter stormed out and climbed up on the roof top to be alone.

The two who had claimed they had seen Yeshua sat on the floor and looked hopefully around the room to the others. The other eight men swam around in awkward silence trying to avoid eye contact. It was clear that no one in the room was ready to believe that Yeshua was actually alive. After a few moments the silence gave way to Levi’s words to the two men.

“Brothers, I know these have been terrible days for you..for all of us. There is not a man here who would not want to see Yeshua alive again….”

“Levi we talked with him!…He said…” Levi holds his hand up.

“I know you two met someone who reminded you of him, and you felt a fire burning in your heart. Maybe God sent someone along who reminded you of Yeshua to comfort you. It’s okay to feel this way, but He’s gone. You’re going to have to face that.”

The two looked hopelessly at one another. One started to speak, but the other said, “It’s no use. We shouldn’t have expected…”

Bartholomew tried to reason with them. “You know brothers, in a sense Yeshua is alive. In our hearts. Yes. In a spiritual way. We can believe he is alive, because he lives in our memory.”

The two didn’t respond, but the others seemed to take comfort in that. Then from the entrance of the room another voice cutting through the dusty air.

” Leave it to a group of men to miss the obvious!” Dumbfounded, the men turned to see Mary Magdalene glaring at them like a mother reprimanding her sons. Then she mockingly waved her hands and pranced around the room mimicking Bartholomew’s words in a deep man voice,

“Maybe he lives in our memory. Maybe in a Spiritual sense he is alive. Blah Blah Blah! Are you serious? Why did Yeshua call such thickheaded men!”

She stood there with both hands on her hips, and in a confrontive stance. One they had seen from her many times. Andrew looked at the stairway praying Peter didn’t come down. She just glared defiantly, “Where is that Simon Peter! Bring him down here. He doesn’t scare me!”

Nobody moved.

“Look at you little boys, sitting here feeling sorry for yourselves. Three of us have seen him in person, The other women went to the tomb and it’s empty….”

Thaddeus weakly suggested, “Maybe somebody stole him…”

“From under the noses of Roman soldiers, they moved a gigantic stone, and just walked away with a dead body? I suppose the whole squad just happened to fall asleep at the same time, and nobody heard the noise.” Mary placed both fingers on her temples and closed her eyes.

“Men”

The another said, “Um maybe Yeshua wasn’t really dead and when he came too he pushed the stone and escaped….”

Everyone laughed at the idea of that one. A man having endured such blood loss, suddenly finding the strength to move a half ton stone then sneak past a squad of soldiers,undetected, didn’t seem too likely.

Mary Magdalene looked out the window then at the two who had claimed to see him alive. Then she took a deep breath and spoke a final word. By this time Simon Peter was standing at the end of the staircase. Mary fired the next words right between his eyes.

“You men have a decision to make. You can sit here and rationalize and feel sorry for yourselves, coming up with theories you can feel comfortable with if you want to. You can all sneak back to your lives acting as if nothing happened, and forget all Yeshua has done. That will certainly be easier. Or you can put on your big boy clothes and take a chance that maybe Yeshua, as always, did what he said he would do. He said he would be killed and on the third day rise again. So did he or didn’t he? ”

Then she turned, threw up her hands and walked out, “Men! Can’t do anything with them.”

Night maneuvers at high noon.

Mark 15:33-41

“And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” v. 33

… It was as if the gods themselves had stopped running the universe in honor of Yeshua, as if he were one of their own. There we stood wrapped in darkness in the middle of the day! Still stunned by the day’s events, I tried to pull myself together and keep some semblance of order among the onlookers. We hadn’t exactly planned for a night watch at high noon, so there were no torches or firelight. There were just dark silhouettes, shadowy movements, and voices from all directions.

For three confusing hours we stood there standing guard blindfolded. The robe I had won still embraced me. This Yeshua’s death was somehow changing me, but I couldn’t understand why. All I knew was the whole world seemed to be in mourning. So I just stood there clutching the robe as if for dear life, and listened to the voices hidden in the darkness.

A group of women stood behind me trembling with deep sobs. Their pain tore through my armor into my own soul. They just may have been the only friends this man had.

But I had to keep it together, so I fumbled awkwardly away from them making my way closer to the cross of Yeshua. My effort to keep it together was destroyed as one voice rose into the obscure mid-day darkness. It’s sound was more than I could take.

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

“My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

The sound of this man’s heart falling into pieces pushed me over the edge and into the abyss of sorrow. I fell headlong into despair and grief. How could a man I had never really known, never spoken to, have such an impact on me?

I had beaten him in the courtyard, dragged him through the streets of Jerusalem, staked his body to a sadistic cross and stood in the dark listening to him die. Before today he had only been the subject of occasional gossip, or the butt of a joke in the barracks. So why, after thousands of crucifixions, was I the one being crucified? It seemed that way.

Why was I standing there, looking like a blubbering clown in a cruel comedy, dressed in armor and a bloody robe weeping for a man dying on a cross in the dark?

I tried again to shift my attention away from Yeshua.

I listened to some bystanders whispering something about a guy named Elijah, coming to take Yeshua down from the cross. So I tried to peer through the murkiness to be sure no one made such a crazy attempt. You never know what a fanatic may do in a situation like this.

I heard the centurion order a few soldiers to make their way to the temple. It seems there was some disturbance there. The massive veil that guarded their holy place had been torn down or something. I was ordered to stay in my position and try to keep order.

How could I keep order when I was struggling to keep myself together?

But I did the best I could. I stood by the cross, weary from this horrific day. I found myself leaning backward up against the cross. I sunk into it hoping to sneak in a little rest. I could hear the broken rhythm of Yeshua’s breathing. The cross vibrated with every thrust of his body, as he had to push himself up on his nailed feet long enough to suck in a mouthful of air then crash back down in pain.

Push up. Breathe. Crash down. The spikes tore into his flesh, exacting a toll for every breath.

Push up. Breathe. Crash down. The weary cross tottered with every movement.

Push up. Breathe. Crash down. Then it stopped.

Silence. Stillness. Darkness. He was gone.

I fell deeper into the splintery cross my sword falling helplessly into a stream of blood on the ground. I was thankful for the cover of darkness at that moment. No one would see this soldier who had been so strong and proud at sunrise, now totally disarmed by the end of the day.

I’ve defeated many a strong man in battle. I always expected to die in a sword fight at the hand of a warrior. But I never expected to be taken out by a dying man on a cross. He had slain me with a strange kind of grace. I was pierced by his wounds. I felt dead, but strangely alive at the same time. I didn’t understand this insanity. All I could do was lean into the cross, drop my weapons of war and rest in the unexplainable warmth of that bloody robe.

After a few moments I heard familiar footsteps. I was shaken at the approaching image of my commanding officer. If he saw me like this I was dead. But somehow it didn’t matter what happened to me. This moment with Yeshua was worth dying for. The centurion walked toward me, his footsteps stopping just ahead. I braced myself for a barrage of curses and threats. I felt his heavy hand on my shoulder with a gentleness I had never expected from him. He said, “Surely this man was the Son of a god.” Then he walked away shaking his head….

The exercise

Mark 15:16-20

“and they began to salute him, ‘Hail King of the Jews!'” v. 18

“Well, men I have a special treat for you today!” The commander blared in the kind of sarcastic tone only a military commander can master. We stood there a little unnerved as he went on.
“It seems these mewling Hebrews are bickering again, only this time they’ve handed over one of their Prophets for a little exercise.” 

Whenever our commander says “a little exercise” he says it with a sadistic bite that let’s us all know, somebody’s about to get a beating. I have to be honest, I kind of enjoyed these “exercises”.

I’ve been stationed here in this dirty place for six years now. I patrol the streets of this flea infested country and do what I can to keep peace. I haven’t seen my family or my home in forever, and with all the angry stares I wonder if I ever will again.  I have to watch my back every minute if I don’t want to find a dagger between my shoulders in some alley. 

I don’t speak Hebrew, but curses sound the same in any language. Don’t these fools know we’re here to improve their lives? If only they could see the glory of Rome and her gods, they would want to evolve out of this obsessive, intolerant religion of theirs.

So you can understand my sheer enjoyment when they bring us a piece of Hebrew flesh to butcher.  This one, they say, thinks he’s some kind of king. These Jews and their kings! What a joke. The commander speaks as they bring in the “King”

“Now men, we’re going to have a little coronation today. Just remember we have to keep this one alive because he has a full day ahead of him.” We all knew what that meant. Another stinking body hanging beside the highway. He would be crucified with the others.  

 “let’s get started.” We all had a good laugh watching the commander dress up “His majesty” in a robe and parade him around while we bowed mockingly. Then one of the Centurions made a crown  of thorns and slammed it down on his head with such force blood literally spit out in all directions. There he stood in the center of the pavement while we shouted, “Hail King of the Jews!” For the next hour or so we took turns unleashing our rage on him. He just stood there and took it. This was my chance to unload on these Hebrews and I meant to enjoy every moment of it. But I have to admit this Jew was a little different than most.

Most of the time they either fight back or they scream for mercy. I was kind of hoping he would too. But he just seemed to absorb it all. After awhile I stepped back to let some of the younger recruits get a few punches in, while I tended my knuckles. That’s when things became a little weird. I made a crucial mistake in my business. I started to feel for the guy. And I began to notice to looks on our faces, and what I could see of his.

Years ago when I was a young boy I saw a pack of wolves tear apart one of my father’s sheep. Today reminded me of that. We were a pack of wolves tearing apart an innocent sheep. This is why it’s not advisable to think too much at one of these exercises. Thinking leads to feeling and feeling makes you vulnerable. It’s best to keep up your guard or that lamb might get too close, then you’re done for.

I watched him in the midst of that pack. It was like he literally absorbed our hate for this people and their god. I found myself sinking back to the perimeter of the mob. All I could do was watch them toss him back and forth, sending his blood spattering on their faces. There wasn’t a man there who wasn’t covered in his blood.

I found it easier to stand in the back ground and join the chanting, “Hail King of the Jews!” but I found myself losing my sarcastic edge. I just kept saying it and watching him. “Hail …King…of the Jews!” Hoping this frenzy would soon end I chanted with an unexplainable sense of empathy, like I was starting the believe it. “Hail…King….”

Why was I weeping now? “Hail King…” My heart felt weak. I feared being noticed, so I made my way to an outer room. I looked down at my bloodied hands trying to understand what was happening to me. Weeping broke into a torrent of unexplainable sobs. I’ve done these “exercises” a hundred times. But this time I couldn’t escape the eerie feeling that something really terrible and powerful was happening.

Regaining my composure, I rushed back to the pavement, hoping no one saw my reddened eyes. The frenzy had stopped. The commander ripped off the mock robe and dressed him. All the soldiers stood there exhausted, some smiling, others maybe a little shaken. As they led him out I just stood in the back repeating those words, hoping no one would notice the change in my tone. “Hail King of the Jews!”

I spent the next hour cleaning up and trying to shake myself back to normal. I had been assigned to the execution in the afternoon. I tried to prepare, but nothing could prepare me for what would happen next.

Turnaround

Mark 15:6-15

“Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner…” v. 6

“So I get to be the carrot on the stick, eh?” Barabbas knew what this game was all about. He had seen it every year. “He stands there on his perch above those groveling puppies and tosses them a bone from the dungeon to keep them quiet.” The prisoner stabbed the guards a thousand times with his eyes while they walked him out of that rat hole.  He had to shield his eyes from the first sun he’d seen in days. The muffle of the gathering crowds blasted away a month of silence from his consciousness. “Look at them, like a bunch of hungry chickens at feeding time. Pathetic fools.”

Three men stood together waiting for a decision to be made. “Why don’t they just dispense with the formalities and get this over with?” He snarled. Hate filled him to overflowing and poured out in all directions. It washed over the crowd of puppets below, who would say or do anything to keep the breadcrumbs coming off the table. “If they put up with this Pilate, they deserve him!” Then it washed over the soldiers. “Prancing around with swords and spears spouting off about strength and honor. Cowards in armor, they are.” Then it splashed onto the religious leaders, buzzing in and out of the crowds like bees. “The only god they have is jingling in their purses.” But the tidal wave of his hostility crashed on the head of Pilate. “Our benevolent Governor, Pilate, one of Rome’s finest! Ha!” Barabbas greatest ambition was to “be the one who plunged the first dagger into that man’s pompous flesh, and rip open that sack of dung he calls a heart!” Then he glared across the pavement, just to the left of the Governor. “Who is that poor sap? Looks like the good governor can’t decide which carrot to throw”

Barabbas took a break from the circus around him to “study the competition.” Just to the left of the governor stood Yeshua of Nazareth. “What have we here?” he thought to himself. Yeshua stood quietly, hands and feet bound in the same fashion as Barabbas. His face was slightly swollen, blackish red fist prints decorated his cheek bones. Blood crept out the corner of one eyebrow, mingling with sweat and grime and traced the outside of his temple. “Looks like his troubles have just begun.” Barabbas thought to himself. Looking a little closer he began to recognize the man behind the blood and bruises. He heard someone say, “The Rabbi from Nazareth.” Barabbas had seen this man before. “I’m a dead man for sure.” He told himself. “There’s no way they’ll pick me over this one.”

Barabbas never was much for religion, or religious people. To him it was no less a game than politics. “It’s all to keep people in line!” He often said. He saw through the fake prayers of money hungry Pharisees. It was no different than Pilate’s pompous crowd pleasing prisoner releases and pompous speeches. The right words, the right motions can make people do whatever you want. But still he admired this Yeshua. Barabbas had heard him teach before being arrested. This rabbi seemed to at least believe his own words, unlike the others who used God to get people to follow them. “If there is a God, this guy knows him!” Yeshua seemed of a different stripe than the rest. Standing there, He looked more like a King, even a god, than a criminal. There was a serene sadness about him. What struck Barabbas the most was that this Yeshua seemed to be the only person in this whole circus who wasn’t thinking about himself.

“This is it.” He thought. “No way they’ll pick me.” He looked down at the religious leaders, as they milled about the crowds. He could tell they were doing what they did best. They were working the crowds to sway them. “I’m sunk now.” He thought. Surely they were out to save the good man on the left. “Even religious people know the difference between good and evil, don’t they? They’ll surely pick one of their own to save.”

Silence fell beneath the Governor’s outstretched hand.  “Who shall I release to you? The King of the Jews? or this murderer.” Barabbas could feel his whole life crashing down on his shoulders. He knew this was it. Once the leaders got the crowds on their side, they would save their King, and Barabbas would be killed. “This is one decision they’ll get right for a change.” Barabbas thought. He knew he was guilty, and this Yeshua had been clearly set up by someone who wanted him dead. No sense in hoping for mercy, he knew his fate was sealed.

In the next few seconds the crowds would be calling for Yeshua, then they would crucify Barabbas. “God, if you’re out there, I’m not asking you to get me out of this. Just….Oh what’s the use!” He hung his head and waited for the verdict. “How could I expect God to let this innocent man die in my place? Such a thing would be unthinkable.” What kind of God would let a completely innocent man shed his blood in the place of a clearly evil man? What kind of God would allow such a ridiculous turnaround of justice?

Then the chanting started…

Hours later, Barabbas sat on a lonely boulder staring at three crosses in the distance. All he could do was let it all wash over him. Was he a lucky fool in a display of religious stupidity, or had God just done the unthinkable? Was it dumb luck or something more? Had he merely escaped death or had something more profound just taken place?

Was Yeshua a poor idealist, or did he look like a king for a reason? “If he was a king, I’d sure like to live in his country. He would be a king worth following.” Barabbas snickered at himself for such silly thoughts, got up from the rock and started walking, not sure where road would take him.  He simply knew his life would be a bit different now, though he wasn’t sure how.