by Tad Lindley
There is a picture of a billboard advertising a defense lawyer, Larry L. Archie, going around on the internet. His byline is, “Just because you did it, doesn’t mean you’re guilty.” Unless you are the one who committed the crime, most of us view that as a problem with our legal system; those with the money to afford a lawyer like Councilor Archie can often get away without paying the same price as those who are stuck with a public defender.
The OJ Files
Perhaps one of the most famous examples is the OJ Simpson murder trial. He had excellent legal defense, and as a result walked away a free man after killing his ex-wife and her male companion. (He was later found guilty in a civil trial and then wrote a book detailing the murders, If I Did It).
How about this guy
There was once a man named Barabbas. He, too, was a murderer. It is not clear how many people he killed, but just like Simpson, he was arrested. Interestingly while Barabbas was in jail waiting for trial, Jesus Christ got picked up on an arrest warrant in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:47-53). Jesus was immediately arraigned that night (Luke 22:54-63), and possibly was incarcerated that same night in the same jail as Barabbas.
For whatever reason, Jesus had a much speedier trial than Barabbas did. The very next morning, Jesus had his criminal proceedings (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 18) at a place in Jerusalem called the Praetorium. The judge in the criminal trial was a man named Pilate. He clearly discerned the innocence of Jesus and was fully expecting to give him a whipping and then release him (Luke 23:13-17).
A crazy corruption of justice
Typically Pilate released a prisoner every year at this time (the Feast of Passover). It was his intention that Jesus would be this prisoner. The crowd there went berserk at the suggestion. Now pause for a moment and realize that Barabbas was probably able to hear only the loudest portions of Jesus’ trial. The holding cells for other prisoners would have been nearby. And coached by the priests, the crowd began to shout out, “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas!” (Luke 23:18)
What did Barabbas hear
It is likely that Barabbas heard yelling going on somewhere near to his holding cell. And suddenly out of the cacophony he could make out a single word, “Barabbas”, his own name. He would likely not have heard the voice of Pilate to the crowd when he tried to convince them to release Jesus instead, nor would he have heard Pilate ask, “What shall I do then with Jesus?” (Matthew 27:22). But he would have heard the shouts from the crowd, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Having heard the crowd shouting his name, and then calling, “Crucify him!” Shortly thereafter he would have heard the footsteps of Roman soldiers coming to unlock him and lead him to be crucified.
But that’s not what happened
But that’s not what happened. As he realized that he would never again hold his wife in his arms, that he would never snuggle his children again, he heard the voice of the soldier say, “Barabbas, we have orders to release you. Stand to your feet and go home.” And instead of the murderer hanging on the cross between two thieves, it was Jesus. Jesus was completely free of guilt and yet he died the horrible, humiliating death on the cross.
He became guilty so we don’t have to be
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. (I Peter 3:18) He went to the cross so that we who believe in him might be set free. When the Jewish people of Jerusalem realized that by calling for Jesus to be crucified they had become murderers, they asked the disciples, “Brothers, what should we do?” To which Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38) Remission of sins means, you did it, but you’re not guilty anymore. If you are living life trapped in sin, telling yourself that you are a spiritual loser who can’t be saved, think again, Acts 2:38 is for you!
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.