2020-1-26 The Exchange

The Exchange
Mark 15:-15
January 26, 2020

Prayer for Illumination:

Lord God, you spoke the earth into existence. You sustain your creation with rain and you sustain us with bread. But man does not live by bread alone. We live by and through your Word. Cause us to hunger for it and to only be satisfied when we have taken it in. Feed us with your Word today. In Christ, amen.

And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.[1]

This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

We have been studying the Gospel of Mark so that we can see the real Jesus. We live in a time and place where people re-imagine familiar stories. We are constantly taking classic stories and re-imagining them. Disney took Hamlet and re-imagined it into The Lion King. ABC took Grimm’s Fairy Tales and re-imagined them into the TV series Once Upon a Time. We re-imagine stories.

And that is not just limited to fictional stories. We re-imagine are inclined to re-imagine Jesus as well. People on the left and people on the right are inclined to re-imagine Jesus into their own image. We are always inclined to re-imagine Jesus into someone who fits our ideals and desires.

So we have been looking at the Gospel of Mark so that we can see who the real Jesus is. We want to know the real Jesus, not one culture has re-imagined for us. The way we see the real Jesus is by studying Scripture.

We are coming to the climax of Mark’s gospel. We are coming to the very reason why Jesus came – so that he might he might be a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). The climax of Mark’s gospel is the crucifixion. The Sanhedrin has condemned Jesus for being the Messiah. They have found him guilty, even though he hasn’t committed any crime. But they are unable to execute Jesus. They need the Roman government to execute Jesus. So they bring him before Pontius Pilate.

The Exchange

And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

The chief priests take Jesus to Pontius Pilate as soon as day breaks. And as they hand him over to Pilate, they change the charge. When they met in Caiaphas’ house, they charged Jesus with Messiah and condemned him. We saw that last week when we looked at the trial of Jesus and Peter. They charged Jesus with being the Messiah and condemned him to death. But being the Messiah isn’t a violation of Roman law.

When they take Jesus before Pilate, they need to change the charge. And they change the charge to Jesus proclaiming himself as king. They claim that Jesus has set himself up as a rival king to Caesar. The Sanhedrin knows that Rome jealously guards and protects the title of king. They would allow certain people the title of king but only if that person was submitted to the Emperor. Any person who was not granted the title of king but called himself king was quickly removed. Rome wanted to make sure that all the people within the empire knew who was in charge. Rome. So the Sanhedrin tells Pilate that Jesus was claiming to be King of the Jews.

Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea from AD 26-37. He was the longest governor of the province. His reign was characterized by heavy-handed tactics. He was quick to use force to put down any protest. Many Jews protested when he had Roman military stands which had the image of the Emperor on them placed around Jerusalem. The Jews were offended because it violated the second commandment. They protested en masse and he responded with force. If that wasn’t bad enough, he had also taken funds for the Temple and used them to build a 23 mile long aqueduct. Pilate was not the most popular governor nor was he afraid to use heavy-handed tactics for his benefit.

The Sanhedrin comes to Pilate accusing Jesus of claiming to be a rival king. But Pilate doesn’t seem to believe them. He realizes that the Sanhedrin had accused Jesus because they were envious of him (Mark 15:10). Even though the Sanhedrin has accused Jesus of claiming to be a rival to king to Caesar, Pilate recognizes that their accusation is solely because they are envious of him. Jesus is a popular preacher and teacher and they are envious of his popularity.

And because he recognizes that the reason Jesus has been accused is due to the envy of the Sanhedrin, he tries to release him.

Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.

There are two forms of amnesty according to Roman law. There is the indulgentia, which is pardon of a condemned criminal. As Americans, we actually practice this. Often one of the last things a president will do while in office is to issue pardons. He will pardon convicted criminals. But there is another form of amnesty in Roman law, abolitio. Abolitio is the acquittal of a condemned person. Pilate wants to acquit Jesus of his condemnation.

So he asks the crowd outside of the palace who they would rather have acquitted of their condemnation, Jesus or Barabbas. Barabbas was an insurrectionist. We don’t know much about him. But he was someone who led a revolt against Rome. He murdered people as he tried to overthrow Rome. The name Barabbas means “Son of the Father” in Aramaic. He was someone who set himself up to be a political messiah. Pilate presents the crowd with a choice, which son of the father do they want acquitted and released? Do they want Barabbas released or do they want Jesus released? Do they want an insurrectionist released or do they want the Messiah released? Do they want a false son of the father released or do they want the true Son of the Father released? Pilate assumed they would choose Jesus.

The crowd chooses Barabbas. The crowd clamors for Barabbas. The chief priests stir up the crowd so that they choose Barabbas. They chant “Barabbas! Barabbas! Barabbas!” whipping the crowd up into a furious frenzy so they choose him. They choose this false son of the father instead of the true Son of the Father. They exchange the true Messiah for a false messiah.

How often do we do the same thing? How often do we exchange the true Son of the Father for a false son of the father? How often do exchange the Messiah for a false messiah?

It’s not always as obvious as choosing Barabbas over Jesus. Exchanging Jesus for Barabbas isn’t always as obvious as clamoring for Barabbas over Jesus. It can be as simple as finding our identity in something or someone other than Jesus. If we find our identity in our work, we have exchanged Jesus for Barabbas. If we find our identity in our husband, our wife, our children, our family, we have exchanged Jesus for Barabbas. If we find our identity in ourselves and our abilities, we have exchanged Jesus for Barabbas.

When we exchange Jesus for Barabbas, we are hoping that he will save us. When we exchange Jesus for something else, we are looking to that as our messiah. We are hoping that whatever we find our identity in will save us; that it will answer the cry of our heart.

And at first it might satisfy. At first it might seem as though what we have exchanged Jesus for has answered the cry of our heart and we are saved. For a while it will satisfy. For a while it will feel as though our cry has been answered.

But after a while whatever we have exchanged Jesus for will no longer satisfy. It will reveal itself as a false messiah. It will take our hearts and our desires and tear them further apart. Whatever we find our identity in other than Jesus will eventually show itself as a false messiah and fail to save us.

Maybe we find our identity in our family, our spouse or our children. In finding our identity in our family, we make that our messiah. We are expecting our family to save us. They won’t be able to bear the weight of expectations, desires, and needs. It will drive away our husband, our wife, our children.

Maybe it’s not our family where we find our identity. Maybe it’s our work. And in finding our identity in our work, we make it Barabbas. But the truth is there will always be more work to be done; work to be done better. Our job will not satisfy. It will take and take from us until there is nothing left. It will not save us. It’ll kill us.

Maybe it’s not our families or our work that we find our identity in. Maybe it’s our selves. We think “I’m smart enough; I’m strong enough; I’m capable enough”. No matter how smart we are now, eventually we will meet someone smarter. No matter how strong we are, eventually our strength will leave us as we age. Our abilities and our bodies cannot save us.

If we exchange Jesus for anyone or anything else, we will fail to find the salvation we are looking for. We will be left unsatisfied and our cries will go unanswered from the false messiah. Whatever Barabbases we have chosen over Jesus will fail us. They will provide to be false messiahs.

The only person who can save us is Jesus. The only Messiah who can satisfy and answer the cries of our hearts is Jesus. He is the only person who will not be crushed by the weight of our expectations and desires. He is the only one who will not fail us. He is the only one who will say to us “I have finished the work”.

Leave these false messiahs behind; let Barabbas stay imprisoned. Do not exchange Jesus for Barabbas.

Pressure to Get Rid of Jesus

And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Pilate is not in a predicament. He just tried to have Jesus acquitted through popular appeal, but the people exchanged Jesus for Barabbas. The people have made their choice. They have clamored for Barabbas and have publicly acquitted him. What is he to do with Jesus? Is the crowd sure they want Barabbas?

The crowd cries out “Crucify him!” Crucifixion was a truly awful way to die. It had been around for centuries but the Romans perfected it. They reserved it as a special form of capital punishment for people who led insurrections and those they wanted to make an example of.

Pilate knowing that the only reason Jesus was before him was because of the envy of the Sanhedrin, he asks “Why? What evil has he done?” Even though he failed in his attempt to have Jesus acquitted of his crime, he still tries to have the people free Jesus. But the crowd continues to shout even louder “Crucify him!” They drown out Pilate with their clamoring.

Pilate really is in a predicament. What is he to do? He knows that Jesus hasn’t committed any crime deserving of death but he doesn’t want a riot on his hands just before Passover. What is he to do? Pilate gives into the pressure to get rid of Jesus and have him crucified.

This often causes people to stumble a little and to question the historicity of the gospel. Pilate was a man quick to use force, not afraid to kill people for protesting. And yet here he is slow to kill Jesus. That often causes people to doubt the historicity of the gospel.

While it is true he was a man quick to use force and killed protestors without a second thought, that doesn’t mean Pilate wasn’t hesitant to kill Jesus. While he could get away with heavy-handed tactics, if it got back to Rome that he was killing people without cause he could be deposed. And he didn’t want to lose his position as governor. So he was somewhat hesitant to kill and innocent Jesus. But he gives into the pressure to get rid of Jesus.

We will experience pressure to get rid of Jesus. The world is, was, and will be hostile to Jesus. It will continue to despise him and try to stamp out any remnant of Christ and his Church.

When Mark was writing his gospel, Rome was pressuring the Church to recant. They were trying to stamp out any remnant of Christ and his Church. Nero had blamed Christians for burning part of Rome when he was the one who probably started the fire. As a result, Christians were being thrown to lions in the Coliseum for the amusement of Roman citizens. Others were dipped in wax and burned alive to light the way into Rome. Others were crucified. There was pressure to get rid of Jesus.

In the early third century, Perpetua was martyred. At this point in time, Christianity was still illegal. So Christians met in secret. As the Church in Carthage was meeting, Roman officers entered and arrested the believers. Some of the Christians recanted and were released. But not Perpetua. She continued to profess Christ even though her father pressured her to recant. She was put to death with other believers as Rome tried to stamp out the Christian faith.

Even today there is still pressure to get rid of Jesus. For the last several years, the Chinese government has been cracking down on underground church. On December 8th, 2018 the Chinese government arrested over 100 Christians who were worshipping together at Early Rain Covenant Church, one of the underground churches in China. One of the people arrested was Wang Yi. Yi is the pastor of Early Rain Covenant church. On December 29th, 2019 Wang Yi was sentenced to nine years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business activities”. The Chinese government is trying to stamp out Christ and his Church. They are trying to pressure people to get rid of Jesus.

At times we think “that can’t happen in America, that won’t happen in America”. Even here in America there is pressure to get rid of Jesus; there are people trying to stamp out Christ and his Church. I don’t think the pressure will ever be like it is in China, where the government is actually persecuting Christians. But we will feel pressure to get rid of Jesus.

Some of the ways that we currently experience pressure is over morality. Within the last few generations, our culture has changed views on morality. It is most obvious in the areas of sex, sexuality, and marriage. Within the last generation there has been a radical shift on those issues. Where once sex was viewed as something between husband and wife after they married it is now considered odd if people don’t have sex after three or four dates. Scripture makes clear that sex is reserved for marriage and marriage is reserved for one man and one woman. Culture will pressure us to change those beliefs.

Culture will also pressure us over the exclusivity of Christ. It is very common for many Americans to say something along the lines “all religions all valid; they all teach the same things”. They will pressure us to say that as well even though Jesus says that he is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except him.

We will experience pressure to get rid of Jesus. It may be in big ways and it may be in small ways. But we will experience the same pressure that Pilate faced. That pressure might even been to exchange Jesus for Barabbas.

Let us instead, cling tight to Jesus. Let us hold to his word. Let us not give into the pressure to get rid him, but let us hold tight to Jesus Christ. Let us not exchange the true Messiah for false ones.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 15:1–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.