The Scriptorium

Who Will Go Free?

At all times, we are faced with this choice. Matthew 21.15-26

Matthew 27: Crucified (2)

Pray Psalm 142.1, 2.
I cry out to the LORD with my voice;
With my voice to the LORD I make my supplication.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare before Him my trouble.

Sing Psalm 142.1, 2 (5, 6).
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
With my voice, O Lord, I cry – hear my plea for mercy, Lord!
My complaint mounts up on high, bringing You my troubled word:

Refrain vv. 5, 6
            Lord, You are my Refuge strong!
            O receive my plaintive song!

Read Matthew 27.1-26; meditate on verses 15-26.

1. Who wanted Barabbas to go free?

2. Who wanted Jesus to be crucified?

We are all Barabbas. We are guilty of sins worthy of complete separation from God, and of isolation in misery for eternity.

But as Jesus was chosen to die, and Barabbas to be set free, so we have been freed from our sins and eternal punishment by the sacrifice of Jesus. The little drama with Barabbas (vv. 15-18, 20-23) is designed to show us two things. First, as I’ve suggested, it sets before us a picture of what Jesus has achieved for us: freedom! Second, it reminds us that such freedom must be jealously guarded. The same people who welcomed Jesus with salutes and praises just a few days ago, were now easily persuaded to call for His crucifixion. They had no power to resist the influence of the religious leaders, and no courage to stand up against the desires of Rome.

All of that reminds us why we need the Holy Spirit, for in ourselves, on our own strength, we are all Barabbas, and we are all that mindless, shrieking crowd.

The mention of the dream of Pilate’s wife is curious (v. 19); but it serves to remind us of the choices we must all make in life: for the righteous path or the sinful way. It also serves as a final reminder of the righteousness of Jesus, making His crucifixion an absurd judgment on the part of men trapped in the lie.

Pilate considered that, by washing his hands publicly, he could exonerate himself from all guilt in this unjust act (v. 24). Isn’t that, too, like so many of us? We think a little external show of piety is all it takes to make us right with God and His justice. So we go to church, put on our Christian happy face, and nod in agreement with the sermon. All so that others can see that we are certainly not guilty of trashing Jesus and denying His rule in our lives. A close reading of Psalm 50 should remind us that God is not impressed with externals when the proper internal motivations and attendant obedience are not present.

The people spoke prophetically in verse 25 when they invoked the blood of Jesus on themselves and their children. One way or the other, Jesus’ blood will determine their eternal destiny. His blood is sufficient to pay for all the sins of all people; but it is efficient unto salvation only in those who believe. All who become covered with His blood, within and without, washed and thoroughly cleansed by it, will know eternal life.

The deal done (v. 26), Jesus is handed over to the Romans. They knew what to do from there.

1. How could these people have been so suddenly swayed against Jesus? How can we guard against that ever happening to us?

2. In what sense does Jesus’ blood atone for everyone? In what sense does it atone only for those who believe?

3. Why must we include a warning about the coming judgment when we share the Good News of Christ and His Kingdom?

Here was their choice: Let an acknowledged criminal go free, or free one whose guilt was still disputed. If they should choose to let the known offender go free, would it not be even more fitting to allow the innocent to go free? For surely Jesus did not seem to them morally worse than acknowledged murderers. But they instead chose a robber. This was not just any robber but one who was infamous for wickedness in many murders.
John Chrysostom (344-407), The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 86.2

Thank You, Jesus, for setting me free from sin. Keep me free today as I…

Pray Psalm 142.3-7.
Trust in the Lord. Declare your confidence in Him, and call on Him to set your soul free from every care and distraction, that you might serve Him fully today.

Sing Psalm 142.3-7.
Psalm 143.3-7 (Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
When my spirit faints away, You my falt’ring pathway know.
Where I take my journey they traps have hidden to my woe.
Refrain vv. 5, 6
            Lord, You are my Refuge strong!
            O receive my plaintive song!

Lord, look to my right and see: None takes notice of my plight.
Is there refuge left for me? Is my soul out of Your sight?

Hear my cry, Lord, I am low! They are strong who seek my soul.
Jesus frees from every foe; He will keep and make me whole!

Out of prison lead me, Lord; thanks and praise to You shall be.
Righteous men armed with Your Word will Your grace bestow on me.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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