HE DIED INSTEAD
Over two thousand years ago, on a Friday following the Passover festival of the Jews, a prisoner in Jerusalem was in great agony and upset. He was to be crucified on that Friday for the murder, lootings and all kinds of atrocities committed by him in the city. He was Barabbas.
This stone-hearted man was in great fear of the crucifixion awaiting him. His undaunted spirit started troubling him, visualising the cruel torture before crucifixion and the slow death, hanging on the cross. He knew there was no escape. The one, who had been fearless of death and had committed murders and robberies, is now terrified and was shivering. The reason for this fear was his knowledge of what crucifixion meant. He had witnessed crucifixion in his childhood and he knew very well that the person to be crucified would be tortured by the soldiers, the ferocity of which is indescribable and beyond bearing by humans. He had seen the soldiers whipping their victims with all the force at their disposal, and enjoying the sight of blood flowing through the wounds caused by the whipping. They derived a sadistic pleasure out of the sufferings. After torturing the maximum possible, he knew that a heavy wooden cross would be placed on his shoulders and he would be dragged to the spot of crucifixion, slashing all the way with a hooked whip piercing the body and bleeding profusely. The crowd on both sides of the road would be jeering, shaking their heads, shouting "Aye, Aye!" He also knew that on reaching the spot, the soldiers would strip him of his clothes, lay him on the cross and without any mercy would drive the twelve inch long nail through the palms of his out-stretched hands and through the feet to the cross, and all the blood remaining would sprout out like fountains, even on to the clothes of the soldiers standing by, and his screams nobody would even hear because of the uproar of the crowd and the soldiers.
They would plant the cross with such a force that the body would shake and hang on the cross on those three nails in the scorching sun and, with the ridicule of the onlookers and passers by, he would reach the height of his bitterness and would die having broken his legs.
Barabbas, visualising all these, became restless and staggering inside the dark cell, waited for his tormenters to come and to drag him out to be crucified.
After a few hours of experiencing this mental torture, he could hear the footsteps of the soldiers approaching. One of them came and opened the door of his cell. Barabbas was trembling and could not even stand straight because of fear. A few minutes of silence passed, and then the prison officer spoke "Barabbas, you are free."
Barabbas was shocked. He thought he heard it all wrong. And he looked at the officer in total disbelief because he knew that, once a prisoner is sentenced for crucifixion, he could never be released. The officer again spoke: "Yes, you are set free, you may go." Barabbas could not believe his ears and started mumbling "Release for me, how is it possible? Is it really true? Then what about the crucifixion?" Then the prison officer told him that another person was going to be crucified that day in his place and asked him to leave. The officer and soldiers left.
Barabbas also left the prison as a free man. There was a lot of excitement outside. He found people running through the streets, some shouting for joy, some looking out in astonishment and women beating their breasts and crying. He knew there was something wrong and he joined the crowd, which led him to Golgotha, the place which he knew as the place of crucifixion.
There he saw three persons hanging on the cross. He went a little closer and recognised two of them hanging on the sides. They were his co-prisoners. But, who was on the middle cross, he wondered. He went a little more close and read the writing on that cross, "Jesus Christ, the King of Jews."
In Your Place
Barabbas remembered the words of the prison officer and thought about the middle cross, which was meant for him and the man on that cross was dying in his stead. He looked up to the cross again. He felt a shudder in his heart, and tears started flowing through his eyes. He also heard a still small voice saying, "Barabbas, I am in your place. I am hanging in your stead, and I am in place of your agony and death. I suffered all these to give you freedom."
The story of Barabbas ends here. Though the story is a fantasy, surely the Lord is talking to you and to me. Jesus is telling us from the cross, "I was wounded for your transgressions, bruised for your iniquities, and with my stripes you are healed" (Isa. 3: 5). For the sins that our hands and legs have committed, our hands and legs should have received the nails; but instead, His hands and legs were nailed; for our sinful thoughts, the crown of thorns was placed on His head instead of ours and for the sins of our hearts, his heart was pierced. And He shed His blood for us. What a sacrifice!!
All these Jesus suffered for us, for without shedding of innocent blood, there is no salvation. So, Jesus bore our sins and shed His precious blood on the cross for our salvation, for our redemption, for our deliverance and to give us a place with Him in the eternal kingdom.
Dear reader, will you accept this Jesus as your personal Saviour, if not already done? His everlasting love is ready to accept you as you are, even if you are the worst sinner. He will never forsake you. He died on the cross for you and for you only. He rose from the dead and lives forever for you. He defeated Satan and death. Surely, He will come again to gather His elect. Believe all this with all your heart, come to the cross with your cross, confess your sins and receive His cleansing and anointing. Hear, what the Bible says," But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law having become a curse for us." "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us" (Eph. 1: 7).
"He entered once for all into the holy place, taking not the blood of goats and calves, but His own blood. Thus securing an eternal redemption (Heb. 9: 12).
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1: 9). The disciples of Jesus, out of fear of the Jews, hid themselves in a locked room and were worrying about their plight. Some of them even went out for their old profession--fishing. The people who received many good things from Jesus, through the miracles, were in deep sorrow as Jesus was killed and there was none to fulfil their needs. The high priests, the Pharisees and scribes were jubilant that they had done away with the one who was their critic and opposed their piety.
Putting an end to all these speculations, Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, rose from the dead, defeating Satan and death. He rose to life to the disappointment of the high priests , Pharisees and scribes and to the joy of the sorrowing people. To the delight of the frightened disciples, He rose for us and He is with us. He is alive for ever to guide us, lead us, comfort us and to fulfil all our needs. He abides with us and He is in us. Then He said, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Jn. 28: 20). He conquered the world and gave us peace and victory over sin, Satan and death.
Now, we are not ours, but His; it is our responsibility to obey His commandments. Jesus summarised the Ten Commandments into two, that is, love the Lord God with all your mind, heart and soul, and to love your neighbour as yourself. Love God and be Holy. Love your neighbour and tell them what Jesus has done for him/her. This is our bounden duty. Jesus said, "Go into the world and preach the Gospel to all creations and make disciples of all nations." So this is our responsibility. Let us carry out the will of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit will help us to do so. When the Gospel is preached to all nations, the end will come, and Jesus, as promised, will come again, to take us to be with Him in the everlasting Kingdom. Let us be ready always, as we do not know the time.