Barabbas or Christ
Luke 23:18
And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas:

We speak of the choice in the Lord's passion, which is —



1. It was six o'clock in the morning. Conscience-smitten, as never before, Pilate perceives the mob — the Lord in their midst, with a white garment, and the crown of thorns on His head — returning from Herod, and approaching his palace. "Suffered under Pontius Pilate" — thus it runs in our imperishable creed, surely not to erect a monument to a weak man, but to warn us every Sunday. Christ suffered under indecision and doubt, .under fear of man and flattery of man. We speak, however, of the peoples choice. It was the custom to release unto them a prisoner at the feast. Pilate tries to avail himself of that custom. They shall decide with perfect clearness and consciousness. The decision shall be made as easy as possible for them. They shall examine and compare. "Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?" — thus asks Pilate. We have to make the same decision. Here, Christ, with the word of truth and life, which answers the deepest cravings of our heart; a light in our path which has never deceived any one. There, the wisdom of the world, with its devious ways and vain speech; with its final bankruptcy of all knowledge, asking, What is truth? Here, a love that seeks our salvation, that remains always true, even when human love is wavering; a love that never suffers the redeemed to be torn from its hand. There, selfishness, falsehood, and cunning; and finally, the comfortless advice, See thou to that! Here, forgiveness and peace; there, in spite of outward prosperity and splendour, a sting in the conscience that cannot be removed. Here, even in times of tribulation, the conviction: "The Lord is with me; His rod and His staff, they comfort me." There, in times of want and distress, murmuring obstinacy and despair. Here, hope that lasts beyond death, and that anchors itself in the mercy and promises of God, therefore, even in dying, able to triumph: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" There, illusion upon illusion, for we never know what may happen, until death at last dispels every illusion I Who could still be doubtful about the choice? It is true many for a time allow others to decide for them. They move along as they are directed; they believe because others have told them so. Many avoid the decision even when commanded by the Word of God. But this is sure: There will come serious hours for each one, according to God's design and will, when he must decide of his own free will, when the refusal to decide will be practically a decision. There is only the question: Are we capable of choosing? Are we really free? Does the decision lie in our hand? Indeed, there arise unbidden so many voices in the heart against it; so many evil influences act upon us from childhood. The heart is by nature deceitful above all things — now most exultant, now afflicted unto death. Luther, as you know, wrote a little book on the bondage of the will, or "that free will is nothing." He compared it to a staff without life, a hard, cold stone. In this Luther is right, and is on the side of Paul, who says, "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Romans 9:16). It is true that deep in our hearts there is a tendency to resist the truth, a proneness to sin and sensuality, a spirit that says "No" to the word and will of God. But, on the other hand, God embraces us with His unseen arms, and in spirit speaks to us. Conscience can be silenced, but not killed; the hunger for the life and peace of God will be felt again and again. As the flower is attracted toward the sun, the bird of passage to the south, the iron to the magnet, so the human heart is drawn to God and His Word. Both are destined for each other. We can and ought to choose; that is our privilege and responsibility: our salvation is left in our own hands.

II. A SIGN OF THE PEOPLE'S DEEP SHAME AND GUILT. Israel also had a choice. But in choosing it incurred the deepest shame and guilt. "And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this Man, and release unto us Barabbas!" There is no wavering nor delay, no answer to the question, "What evil hath He done?" There is no inward struggle, and no examination, but the most frivolous levity, which is swift to condemn, even in the holiest and most important cause. Indeed, Pilate warns them several times, and God's voice warns them through him, to think and to deliberate once more. But their levity turns into stubbornness and hardening of the heart. How many still decide for unbelief without hesitation, without having carefully examined! They merely repeat what others maintain; they merely follow their own natural inclination. They are opponents of faith, not because they reflect too much, but because they reflect too little. It is a simple condition of equity that one should examine before rejecting, and that one should compare what Jesus gives with what the world offers. Levity, however, does not examine, it postpones. It finds pleasure in the moment, and avoids all that is disagreeable. When hours of distress and helplessness again come upon us, our only resources are falsehood and deceit — human help and human counsel, which soon shall be changed into shame. Alas! how many there are whose thoughtlessness turns into stubbornness, and from that into entire surrender to the power of darkness.

(W. Hahnelt.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:

WEB: But they all cried out together, saying, "Away with this man! Release to us Barabbas!"—

Guilty Compromise
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