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A Foretaste of Freedom

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
December 9, 2022 12:00 am

A Foretaste of Freedom

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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December 9, 2022 12:00 am

So far in his series "Christmas Choices," Stephen has taken us from the throne of heaven to a stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem to show us important decisions that have made the gospel so unforgettable. But in this message, we'll witness one of the most shocking decisions yet as the Jews decide to kill their long-awaited Messiah.

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Barabbas was a hero among the Jews. He was their Robin Hood.

He was a patriot who had already succeeded in killing Roman soldiers. He was the kind of Jesus, Yeshua, they were waiting for. Pilate is asking the people, who do you want to have released? Jesus, the one who is called Christ or the one who is called the son of the rabbi.

Imagine the irony here. Which Jesus do you want to keep? The son of the rabbi or the son of God? What did Barabbas have to do to gain his freedom on the day Jesus was crucified? Nothing. All he had to do was walk out of prison and accept his freedom. That's it.

Why? Because his freedom had been paid by Jesus. The hardened criminal walked free because Jesus literally hung on the cross that should have belonged to Barabbas. That is an amazing illustration of Christ's redemptive mission. Friend, to this day, salvation comes to those who simply accept the freedom offered by Jesus.

Please settle in and listen intently to this message that Stevens called a foretaste of freedom. Thomas, a young man from our church, is enrolled in Masters Seminary in Los Angeles. He had been witnessing to some of the homeless people that lived around the L.A. library in that area where he frequented.

He hadn't had much progress. The email went on to tell me that one afternoon, recently around one o'clock, he walked out of the library and noticed in broad daylight a gang of young toughs beating up on an old homeless man. And Thomas went over to them and told them to stop, which they did. A few moments later, as he was standing there on the sidewalk, one of the guys came up behind him and hit him in the head with a brick. He severely cut his ear and knocked him down.

The other young guys jumped on him and began to beat him. It was only when the already injured homeless man crawled on top of Thomas to protect him from their fists that these gang members ran away. An ambulance was called and the email went on to say the emergency personnel thought Thomas was just another gang member and did very little to help him. In fact, they told him to stop complaining about his ear, which they promised him would never heal back. When he got to the hospital, they refused to see him until he literally became unconscious. After 28 stitches in his ear, he was released. But because his wallet had been stolen along with his computer and cell phone, he had no money and no way to get back to school.

And no one believed he was in seminary and no one had heard of Masters. A staff member, though, overhearing the conversation at the hospital, gave him $10. And a cab took him back to seminary where he was given proper treatment by a doctor that belonged to Grace Community Church. The gentleman who sent me this email added a line at the bottom of the email that the homeless people in that area will probably listen to Thomas now.

I'll bet they will. I read recently that one of our soldiers in Iraq actually sacrificed his life for the four other men riding in the back of an army truck. A live hand grenade was thrown into the truck by militants. There wasn't hardly enough time to think, much less escape. But one of those soldiers still in his teens jumped toward the grenade, covering it with his body just as it exploded.

He was instantly killed and his comrades lived. There's something about a story of sacrifice and risk for someone else's life, isn't there? To suffer for a total stranger who is unable to offer you anything in return or maybe even to go the distance and give your life in order for somebody else to live. Without a doubt, the greatest illustration of sacrifice, death for life, physical harm in exchange for physical freedom is often overlooked in our rush through the narrative of Christ's life. The Christmas story is, for the most part, idealized. It is sanitized for consumers who want a little Christmas cheer but don't really want to bother with the reality of the incarnation.

It's sort of a blip on their calendars. The Christmas story, ladies and gentlemen, isn't really all that pretty. It commenced in a dugout animal shelter filled with the smell of manure and animal feed and the screams of a young girl in labor. It culminated on a blood-soaked cross where that child grew up to give his life. It climaxed in a borrowed tomb that was abandoned by the resurrected Lord. It is a story of deep sacrifice, one life for many. Paul wrote to Timothy and put it this way, For there is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all. 1 Timothy 2.6. The word ransom, antilutron, was used by the Greeks to refer to paying money to release someone. It was used for the payment of a ransom to have prisoners of war released or paying the ransom price to have slaves freed.

Jesus Christ used the word himself recorded in Matthew 20, where he announced to his disciples the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. His life would be the payment that would allow prisoners of sin to be released. By the way, the ransom was not paid to the devil. The devil did not demand payment, nor was he owed anything by God.

God owed the devil nothing. God the Father was owed everything. It was against him that we sin. It is the Father who demands payment for the penalty of sin.

The Father's wrath must be satisfied against the sin and the debt of sin and guilt in this world. Jesus Christ will pay the ransom to the Father. This theological truth, this choice of the triune God, this incarnation purpose was graphically illustrated in the life of one man who occupied a unique place in the saga of the incarnation of Christ. One man who literally became an illustration of the ransom and release from prison. To me, there is hardly a better chapter in this divine drama than the exchange of two prisoners, though unlikely on a Christmas Eve, I think it perfectly illustrates the reason Christ was born.

Would you turn with me then to the gospel by Matthew Chapter 27? There are four prominent parties in the scene in this prisoner exchange. Pilate, Jesus Christ, Barabbas, and the crowd.

We have time to look briefly at each. Verse two informs us that Jesus was bound and delivered over to Pilate, the governor. The intrigue needs to be said for just a moment. Pilate was a rather prominent political leader in the first century in Israel, while Galilee was still under the ultimate authority of Herod Antipas, the same Herod who will have John the Baptist beheaded. Pilate was appointed governor of Judea, answerable to Herod. That's why he sent Jesus to Herod and Herod sent him back. Pilate had already established a reputation for being a merciless man who cared little for the Jewish people he governed.

He was married to Caesar Augustus's granddaughter, which obviously gave him political clout and quite a bit of arrogance. He has already been warned on one occasion by Rome to keep the peace, to not stir up the religious sensitivities of the Jews, which he could care less about. And now this encounter of Christ with Pilate, look at verse 11. And Jesus stood before the governor and the governor questioned him, saying, Are you the king of the Jews?

And Jesus said to him, It is as you say. And while he was being accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. In other words, Jesus refused to defend himself against his accusers, fulfilling what Isaiah had prophesied centuries earlier, that he would be 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. Isaiah 53, six to eight. Somewhere in the midst of this mock trial, Pilate's wife gets a message to him.

Verse 19 of this chapter informs us the message was sort of like this. Don't do anything to this man. I've had a dream about him and he is a just man. In other words, he's telling the truth. He's not a liar. He's not a deceiver.

He's a just, could be rendered righteous man. He's telling the truth. The truth about what? Well, John's gospel informs us that the chief priests told Pilate that Jesus was to be condemned because he said he was the son of God. Luke's gospel adds that Pilate heard the people condemn Jesus because Jesus claimed to be king. Now, Pilate gets a message from his wife informing him that she had had a dream that Jesus was innocent. Perhaps these claims were true. And so he asks, the Lord referred to here in this conversation by the Gospel of Matthew. Are you really the king of the Jews?

I think he was sincerely wondering. The Romans were incredibly superstitious to begin with, which made matters only more intense. They were given to place great importance on premonitions.

They had their soothsayers by the thousands. They were never secure with their gods, their pantheon. They were always afraid that they might offend the gods. Pilate's wife knew well her own grandfather's superstition, his fear of thunder and lightning.

I have just finished the last few pages this week of the biography of Caesar Augustus by Anthony Everett, in which he recounts, among other things I thought interesting to this particular context, how Augustus always carried around with him a piece of seal skin as a good luck charm, kind of like a rabbit's foot. He believed that it would protect him against thunderstorms. He was terrified of lightning. On one occasion, a flash of lightning scorched his carriage, killing a slave who was walking ahead of him carrying a torch. And thanks for his narrow escape, Caesar Augustus built the magnificent temple of Jupiter Tonans, the god of thunder, in the capital city of Rome, and he visited there often. This was the culture of these political rulers, incredibly superstitious.

Maybe this dream was a warning. The truth is, Pilate didn't want to mess with Jesus, so the question was, how could he be sensitive to the Jews' religious beliefs and at the same time let Jesus go? Verse 15 is his clever solution. Now at the feast, the governor was accustomed to release for the people any one prisoner whom they wanted. At that time, they were holding a notorious prisoner called Brabus.

This was a stroke of courtroom genius. A custom was carried out at Passover by the Jews. The Mishnah, a Jewish commentary, informs us that this practice was to illustrate the deliverance from bondage, from the prison cell of Egypt, by the blood of the Passover lamb ultimately that died in order to protect their homes from the death angel. The Jews were effectively saying, as we celebrate the death of the lambs and our former deliverance from prison, from the bondage of Egypt, we will illustrate that by allowing one prisoner, one guilty man to be released, thus illustrating that the ransom for his release has been paid by the blood of the lamb.

Can you believe this? What irony. Actually what incredibly meaningfully planned redemptive work by God. Jesus, the lamb of God, will be killed and he will physically, literally at that moment, represent the deliverance of one prisoner who will be released by the ransom of his blood.

Here you have the setting for both spiritual and physical truth, the illustration of a ransom being paid and a guilty man set free. A pilot expected people, of course, to allow Jesus to go free. However, they were surprised with his choice.

Look at verse 21. The governor said to them, which of the two do you want me to release for you? And they said, Barabbas.

Pilot, I'm sure, was shocked. He responded and said, then what shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ? And they all said, crucify him. And he said, why?

What evil has he done? But they kept shouting all the more, crucify him. The irony, ladies and gentlemen, of the scene which Jesus had been born to fulfill. The thing that makes it even all that more dumbfounding and at the same time deeply moving is when you understand a little more about this prisoner, Barabbas, really isn't his name. It's an Aramaic term.

It's an expression. Bar simply means son. And the last part of the expression, Abbas, literally means father or fathers, which is rather strange. It doesn't tell us his father's name. We still don't know what the criminal's name was. What's so significant about this man that he is simply referred to as, you know, the son of the father, the son of fathers.

It doesn't make sense. One biblical historian answers the riddle by pointing out that a custom existed in the first and second century where the greatest and most revered rabbis of the Jewish nation were affectionately referred to as Abbas. They were the fathers of the people. Barabbas was the son of one of the Abbas. He was a widely known and respected rabbi. Barabbas was known as the son of one of the fathers. He was, in effect, a preacher's kid.

There is an unwritten volume of grief and sorrow behind the scenes of this young man who sits in jail awaiting death. John's gospel called him an insurrectionist. That meant he joined a growing number of men who hated Romans, hated Roman rule, was passionate about overthrowing the yoke of Roman authority in Palestine. Mark informs us that Barabbas was a murderer. He's already killed. There's dried blood on his dagger.

More than likely it's Roman blood. Barabbas was zealous for his people, misguided but passionate. He was tired of waiting for the one his father had preached and taught long and hard about the coming one who would rescue Israel from the yoke of Rome. He was tired of waiting. His dagger could do more than his father's sermons ever could.

It was time to act. Matthew here in this text added in verse 16 that he was notorious. The word implies actually great favor. He was for many a hero. He was a redeemer of sorts. So just with that little expression, we're informed of his heritage and what he evidently had betrayed and abandoned, what he had walked away from. Matthew lets us know that he was finally captured by Rome and they were glad to have him behind bars, this famous murderer, this insurrectionist, this famous son of a famous rabbi who had given Rome a great deal of heartburn. But what was his name, this prisoner? In some of the oldest versions of the Syriac and Arminian translations of the New Testament, his name was given, later dropped, more than likely out of a desire to disassociate him with the precious name.

Why? Because his name was Iesus, Jesus. Origen wrote in the late second century that his name was Iesus and he was called Barabbas. Jesus, the son of the fathers, the son of the famous rabbi, one of them. In the days of Christ, Jesus was a common name, reserved, of course, for generations for him alone, but in that day, it was simply the New Testament counterpart to the Old Testament name, Joshua, Yeshua. It meant deliverer, redeemer, godly leader. Lots of little Jewish boys during the days of Jesus were running around with the name Iesus. They had been given the name with the hope of their parents that the little boys would grow up and be godly men, they would be deliverers, they would lead the people in God's way. So this faithful rabbi and his wife had a little boy and they were so thrilled with the goodness of God and their hearts and hopes were stirred for their son's future, they decided to name him Yeshua, Joshua in the Greek, Iesus, deliverer. If you go back with that in mind into Matthew's account, it's interesting that Pilate consistently distinguished one of them from the other by referring to Jesus, the one who is Christ. Pilate is asking the people, who do you want to have released? Jesus, the one who was called Christ or the one who was called the son of the rabbi.

Imagine the irony here. Which Jesus do you want to keep? The son of the rabbi or the son of God. I agree with one commentator that Barabbas was a hero among the Jews. He was their Robin Hood. He was a patriot who had already succeeded in killing Roman soldiers. He was the kind of Jesus Yeshua they were waiting for. He was the kind of Messiah they wanted.

Pilate here has shot himself in the political foot. He now has to release this famous outlaw leader of insurrection and hand over to the mob, the one he knows is innocent of wrong so that he will die. Can you imagine for a moment Barabbas in his cell? The Praetorium is no less than fifteen hundred feet away from the Tower of Antonia, where Barabbas is being held. If you recall the conversation between Pilate and the crowd here, and you think through it as you work your way through verses 21 and 22 and 23, in this conversation that is held between Pilate and the crowd, Barabbas would have been able to hear the crowd, but not Pilate. Which meant Barabbas heard the crowd scream his name. Barabbas!

In answer to Pilate's question, who do you want released? He heard them cry, Barabbas! Barabbas! And then in answer to Pilate's second question, which he would not have heard, what do you want me to do with Jesus who was the Christ?

He would hear the crowd cry. Crucify him! Crucify him! Barabbas! Crucify him!

Barabbas! Crucify him! Can you imagine him in his cell? One author wrote, as hardened as he was, he probably grew faint. He may have stared at the palms of his hands in growing horror of the awaiting agony. He had seen crucifixions. His father had been right all along. It was futile to fight against Rome. Then he heard the sound of the key in the lock, felt even greater terror, and suddenly he was released from his chains and told he was free.

Free! He was probably in a daze when he emerged in the sunlight. Slowly the truth would unfold for him. Jesus Christ was dying in his place.

Donald Gray Barnhouse added his imagination to the scene as he wrote, stunned, Barabbas walks nearer to the center of the scene and sees the procession begin toward Gogatha, what must have been his thoughts. He hears the echoing blows of the hammer striking the nails and looks down at his own hands. He had thought that this was his day. He had thought that the nails would tear his flesh.

And here he is breathing the air of springtime and looking at the dark cloud that is gathering in the sky. Did he say those hammer blows were meant for me, but he is dying in my place? They crucified him. He took my place. He died instead of me. Ladies and gentlemen, this deliverance of undeserving, guilty sinners is being reproduced spiritually every day.

This is the gospel. He was born so that he could die. To give his life a ransom for many. To pay the price for the captives who believe.

I've often wondered what did Barabbas do next? Did he believe? I'm sure he walked out of prison. I'm sure he accepted it. I'm sure he felt the joy of his release. Did he believe that his freedom had been paid by the lamb who literally hung on his cross? What an illustration, my friends, of Christ's redemptive mission.

To this day, salvation comes only to those who identify with Barabbas. Guilty of sin. Disobedient of the law. Guilty of crimes and misdemeanors.

Disappointment to a religious or righteous heritage, which we all have, especially in this country. Caught by the law. Bound to the penalty of sin. Imprisoned without hope. A death sentence to be served.

Unexpected release. A prisoner exchange. A message. Another man's death is the ransom for your life.

You accept the message. You walk into freedom and forgiveness released from the guilt of your crimes. One man said that Christianity can be expressed in these three simple phrases. We deserved hell. Jesus Christ took our hell. There is nothing left for us but heaven.

In your life and mine, believer, there has been a prisoner exchange. Matthew 27 is a foretaste of freedom that is illustrated for all who accept Christ and take his exchange for themselves. This is what Christ chose.

This is why he came. His death for our life. His perfection for our depravity. His purity for our guilt. His righteousness for our unworthiness. His glory for our shame. What a Savior.

Man of sorrows. What a name for the Son of God who came. Ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah. What a Savior.

Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with his blood. Hallelujah. What a Savior. When he comes, our glorious King, all his ransomed, home to bring, then anew this song will sing. Hallelujah.

What a Savior. We'll continue to bring you messages on the theme of Christmas in the days ahead. Today's message is called, A Fortaste of Freedom. If you'd like to listen again or share it with a friend, you'll find this message at wisdomonline.org. You'll also find a resource that will help you understand the Gospel and the offer Jesus makes to take your place so that you can go free. It's a resource we call, God's Wisdom for Your Heart. Access that resource today, then join us next time here on Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-10 07:22:08 / 2022-12-10 07:31:32 / 9

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