Allen Jackson - Choosing Barabbas - Part 2
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It's good to be with you again. We're gonna continue our study on "Choosing Barabbas" in this session. You know, I hate to admit it, but our parents were right. The friends you choose determine your future, and the choices you and I are making these days about our relationships with our discretionary time, a lot of our time we don't have choices over, it's already determined for us. But that time that's mine to choose, the people I choose to give that time to are really writing my future in many, many ways. We don't wanna choose Barabbas, we want to choose the King and give him our very best. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, most of all, open your heart to the invitation of God today. He has good things for you.
I told you I'd to talk to you about Barabbas. In John chapter 18 and verse 39, we're gonna step into the middle of Jesus's passion. He's been arrested. He's already been before the high priest. They've made their decision to hand him over to the Romans. They've taken him to Pilate, the governor of Judea, the Roman governor. It's the Romans that have the authority to crucify Jesus, the Jews don't crucify people. And they've given him to Pilate, and Pilate begins the interview process, you know the story. His wife gets involved, I had a dream, he's an innocent man. Pilate has enough discernment to recognize that the Jews are jealous of Jesus and his influence with the crowds. He doesn't really suspect he's done anything worthy of execution, but he doesn't have the courage to face down the people whose allegiance he needs, and he thinks in order to govern the city of Jerusalem.
Perhaps his position would be at risk, certainly the peace of the city would be at risk, it might have a monetary impact upon him, so he's looking for a way out without having to stand up for the truth. Don't do that. Stand up for the truth. The pressure on Jesus that day was far more than the Sanhedrin, it was far more than the high priest, it's far more than the inhabitants of Jerusalem, it's the spirit of antichrist, hates Jesus. That same attitude, the pride that got Satan cast out of heaven that he wanted the worship that was rightly due Jesus directed towards himself, and he led a rebellion, and he lost his place in heaven. And behind all of this activity directed at Jesus is that spirit that wants that worship for himself. It's the bargain Satan made, presented to Jesus at the temptation in the wilderness.
If you'll fall down and worship me, I'll give you the authority over all these kingdoms, and Jesus quoted to him from Scripture. Well, now Pilate thinks he's found a workaround. He has a habit, it's a holiday in Jerusalem, and during the holiday, he releases a prisoner. It will win him support from the general public. And he's gonna stack the deck in Jesus's favor. He brings the most murderous person forward from the prison, he's an insurrectionist, a violent man. He doesn't have great friends, he doesn't have great support in the public square. I'm sure in his mind Jesus has multiplied hundreds, if not thousands of followers and advocates. He's a miracle-worker and a healer, and he said if I give them a choice between Barabbas and the healer, I'm off the hook.
John tells us what happened, it's John 18:39. "'It is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release the King of the Jews?' And they shouted back, 'No, not him, give us Barabbas.' Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion". It's unimaginable, it's illogical, it's irrational. You can't really understand that passage apart from spiritual forces any more than you can understand what's happening in our world these days apart from spiritual insight. Pilate brought before the Jewish people two men, Jesus and Barabbas. Barabbas is a criminal, a violent man, an agitator, and the Jewish people said, "Give us Barabbas". And when Pilate said, "What do you want me to do with Jesus?" they shouted, "Crucify him," it's in Matthew 27.
And then maybe the most stunning part of the whole narrative is the people received what they asked for. They got Barabbas. They said to Pilate, "We have no king but Caesar". It's an unimaginable thing for the Jewish people to say. It's almost beyond comprehension. "We have no king but Caesar". Do you know the outcome of those two choices? The Jews have been ruled by Caesars for the next 19 centuries, until 1948. Jerusalem and the Jewish people were under the authority of a succession of Gentile rulers. It's as if the Barabbas's of history have been turned loose upon them. That scene that I just read to you forms the essence of Jewish history. But before you point an accusing finger at them, or shake your head in disbelief or wonderment at their lack of insight and understanding, the New Testament tells us that at the end of this age, the human race is gonna do something similar.
And when I say the human race, many, many people who imagine themselves to be under the umbrella of the church. Sitting in church does not make you a Christ follower. We all understand that fundamentally, 'cause most of us have sat in church and we had no intention of being a Christ follower. There were reasons we were there, there were reasons we want to be identified, but we really had little, if any intention, of honoring the Lord. But there's a point ahead of us, and I don't believe it's that far ahead of us, when humanity will say we don't want the Spirit of Christ to rule over us. We don't want to say Jesus of Nazareth is Lord, Christ, and King, We don't wanna yield to his authority. We don't wanna yield to the authority of the Word of God. All those things I said to you just a few moments ago, we will not choose those.
Give us the leader of our choice. And there'll be a leader had been prepared, a brilliant, talented, supernaturally-empowered person, and we'll say we want him. And what happened to the Jewish people is gonna happen to the entire human race. God will give us what we choose. Those of us who choose Jesus will be under his government, and those of us who reject Jesus will be under the government of the antichrist. It's a biblical scenario. The overthrow the antichrist is depicted in Revelation 19 where Jesus appears from heaven riding on a white horse. What brings Jesus back is the defeat of the antichrist. Let's read a portion, it's Revelation 19 in verse 11. "I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and he who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and wages war".
Who's on that horse? The Lord, "His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written on him which no one knows except himself, and he's clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following him on white horses". Some people are a bit offended when we use language attached to Jesus that is combative, but the Bible clearly tells us there's armies in heaven. In fact, the title attributed to God throughout the Old Testament is the Lord of the armies. We haven't paid enough attention, because we thought we could secure our futures on our own, with our own legal systems, and through our own resources, and our own diligence, and our own cunning. We didn't need to depend upon God. But COVID has begun to shake that.
We've understood a vulnerability we didn't realize was there. And we're not finished with the shaking. There are more vulnerabilities to be exposed. Don't be frightened, buckle your seatbelt. Understand your foundation. Be certain you know what secures your future. Verse 15, "From his mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it he may strike down the nations. And he'll rule them with a rod of iron, and he treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God. And on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, the King of kings and the Lord of lords". It's a scene of Jesus coming forth as God's appointed ruler to deal with wickedness in the earth. The solution is coming. It's why you want to be an advocate for Jesus. And unashamed, unmistakable, courageous, assertive, advocate for Jesus. "Well, not everybody will like me". You're absolutely correct, they won't, but the Lord of lords will.
I want to suggest to you that the storms that we are witnessing are a preliminary conflict of what's ahead. The fundamentals of the tension aren't going to change. The underlying motivations aren't going to change. Ideas, and values, and behaviors which are in opposition to God are being promoted and celebrated, and I believe you'll see that increase with more boldness, and more arrogance, and more animosity from those who don't capitulate a biblical worldview. Attempting to honor God is currently ridiculed in the public square. It's being subjected to censorship. It's being mocked. And I believe those things will increase. Don't be frightened, you've got the map. There's some turbulence ahead, but the King is watching over us. We have an assignment. Peter, and James, and John, and our friends that we meet in the gospels and we follow through the Book of Acts, they met opposition in place, after place, after place, but they were unrelenting in their advocacy for Jesus.
That's our assignment as well. We're gonna see them one day. We'll sit down with them. We're going to ask them to fill in the blanks in all the parts of the story that weren't in the book that we had when we learned to follow them on their journey. And we're gonna give an account for the courage with which we advocated for Jesus. You don't want to just say to them, "Well, you know, I went to church even when it rained," because most of us don't. That's a different discussion. But the brazenness and the boldness with which ungodliness and immorality is being celebrated is difficult to even understand.
I went downtown Nashville last night, and we haven't been doing that a lot lately, and I don't know whether it's because I hadn't been there in a while, or because of the COVID shut down, but anyway, I found that I had two responses, one was encouraged, and the other has given me pause all day. I was encouraged, Downtown Nashville, Lower Broadway was filled with people, it was alive again. New stores, and new shops, a tremendous investment in the area, it was filled with young people, and people visiting Nashville, excited to be there. It was good to see the life again. 'Cause we had dinner, I was looking out the window of the restaurant where we were seated, and there was a steady parade down Broadway, and through the Nashville area, of a kind of traffic that has increased dramatically since I had been there.
The one that first caught my attention was a tractor. Not some fancy tractor, it was just a tractor, you could haul hay with it, we could bush hog with it. It was pulling a trailer, not a fancy trailer, you could haul hay with the trailer. Except this trailer was filled with young women, predominantly, busy dancing, and drinking, and interacting with the crowds along the street and the people that were filling all the rooftop dining facilities, I'll say that generously. But it wasn't a unique mode of transportation. There were open buses, and there were pedal wagons, there was a steady stream of transportation filled with young people, most of whom were young women, not entirely, dancing, and drinking, and reveling with the crowd.
And this was the early part of the evening. The trajectory of what was happening suggested that what was to come later would be even greater expression of debauchery than what we were watching. And the time I was there, honestly, I was busy with other things, and I had other things to think about, but as I've gone through my day today, it has weighed more and more heavily upon me, because this is where we live. This is the place we have an assignment. I've grown up here since childhood. Nashville was celebrated internationally for other things. For our great academic institutions, the Athens of the South. There was a building, a replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park, and the many universities in Nashville. We were celebrated for our academic prowess. Nashville was the center of Christian publishing.
The city of Nashville was arguably the largest and most influential city at the heart of the Bible belt. There were a set of values that predominated this region, centered in Nashville, built upon a historic Judeo-Christian faith. And what's happening downtown Nashville at the moment doesn't reflect that. I don't say that with anger. If it's happening in Nashville in the early parts of the evening, I can only imagine what's happening in other places. Folks, there is a conflict unfolding, and we can't hide in our buildings and say it's not our responsibility. This is our watch. We are advocates for Jesus of Nazareth. We're children of the King. We spent the last year doing something, as far as I know, has never happened in human history before, where we took healthy people and we quarantined them. We used to do that to sick people.
I believe the fundamental beginning of the resolution is those of us who imagine ourselves to be Christ followers yielding our lives to the lordship of Jesus. It's not my life that God will bless it to give me the trinkets I want while I travel through time. I have been entrusted with a short number of days under the sun, and will I yield them for the glory of God? What exactly are we doing, and why aren't we processing it, and what are we thinking about, and how committed are we truly to that? I'm not giving you the answer, I'm asking you to think about it, reflect upon it, pray about it. In Revelation chapter 5 and verse 1 he says, "I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne, a scroll with writing on both sides, and sealed with seven seals, and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?' But no one in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. And I wept and wept, because no one was found who was worthy".
It's a really emotional scene. The scroll is a book, formulated differently, but the same idea. And John understands it has a message that he's desperate to know, but there's no one with the authority to open the book. And when he hears that answer, he's brokenhearted and desperate, and he begins to weep. And it says, "Then one of the elders said, 'Don't weep, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed.'" Who's the Lion of the tribe of Judah? Say it louder. Who's the Lion of the tribe of Judah? That's right, he is, he still is. He has triumphed and he's able to open the scroll and its seven seals. And then he turns to see the Lion, and he said, "I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne".
Jesus is still the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In fact, it's from the tribe of Judah that we get the word Jew. It's just a contraction of the word Judah to identify the Jewish people. Jesus didn't become a Jewish man for 33 years, he identified with the tribe of Judah for time and for all eternity. Bear that in mind the next time somebody is trying to get you to condemn or be angry with the Jewish people. Be cautious, you're getting mixed up with the brothers and sisters of Jesus. It bears some caution. But you and I have been given a biblical assignment to yield our lives just as Jesus did. I'm about done, I'm going to give you an invitation. Romans 12:1, it says, "I urge you brethren by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living and a holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship".
Again, I think we've had a mistaken idea of the expression of our faith, and we were unable to do that, and we could flourish in it because there were so many things that stabilized our lives. A legal system, an affluent nation, opportunities, so many, many good things about our lives, we're uniquely blessed. I've had the privilege of traveling a bit, folks, and there's just no where in the world like where we live. I know it's popular right now to be critical and to denigrate our nation, and there are certainly things that need attention and can be better and improved, and we need to be committed to that, but we also need to be grateful for the blessings we've had. Anybody that tries to motivate you with hatred and division does not have your best interest at heart.
We have been blessed, but because of those blessings, we imagined we were invulnerable because of what we could accumulate, or we could acquire, or the knowledge we possessed, or the people we know, or the things we've done to secure our lives. And God has begun a shaking, and I believe he's asking us to awaken to the reality that only he can secure our futures. And that our relationship with him is not to be defined by a membership on a church role, or identification with a denomination, or because we imagine we have an improved set of morals over our neighbor, but because we have yielded our lives to the authority of Jesus of Nazareth.
Please don't think about someone else just now. I want you to think about yourself, and the life you lead, and your commitment to the truth and the integrity of the Word of God, and what you advocate for, whose approval you most want. Are you an assertive advocate for Jesus? Are you committed to obedience, or is it a casual thing to you? Are you consistent in listening to the Lord? Do you, in a regular way, incorporate God's Word into your life? I wanna invite you away from the casualness of that previous faith, because it will not be adequate for what's ahead. It's the most unusual season we're walking through, but I believe God has prepared us. I believe God has prepared us.
I brought you a prayer, I'm gonna invite you to pray it with me. It's a prayer of repentance, and a prayer of alignment, and I would encourage you to make it a prayer beyond just the time we're going to read it together. Take it like medicine this week. Read it morning, noon, and night. Pray it until it becomes in your heart. God will give you your own expressions. He'll give you applications from your experience. The Holy Spirit will quicken the things that are appropriate for you and the choices you're processing, and the ones that are not. What we want to say to the Lord is I will lay down my will that I might receive yours. Again, not to become passive, folks, it'll take all the strength and courage you have to follow Jesus. People that think following Jesus is easy aren't following him. Have you found the prayer? They'll put it on the screen as well. Let's read this together.
Almighty God, only you can deliver us from the tyranny of darkness. It's only your holiness and righteousness that can bring freedom. Forgive us for ignoring your invitations. For giving our hearts to things which dishonor you. We turn away from the pursuit of pleasure, the love of money, and self-absorption. We choose to honor you above all else. Forgive us for ignoring your truth. Forgive us for accommodating ungodliness. Forgive us for preferring the acceptance of others more than we have desired your approval. Look upon us with mercy. Pour out upon us a spirit of holiness and the fear of the Lord. May our hearts be turned to you, in Jesus's name, amen, hallelujah.