Luke 23: 13-25
Here comes Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail. Hippity Hoppity Easter’s on its way…
America is getting ready to celebrate Easter. The Bible states that the first thing that happened is that Jesus came into Jerusalem lowly riding on a donkey. Branches were cut down and spread on the road in anticipation with many spreading their clothes on the road (Matt.21:8). It is Palm Sunday. The multitudes who went before and those who followed Him cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Hosanna in the highest!” Hosanna means “Save Now.” People were acknowledging out loud that Jesus was the Messiah. They were acknowledging that He was the Christ who had come to deliver them. The Bible teaches that hundreds of thousands of people flocked to Jerusalem for Passover. Passover was celebrated as the feast commemorating the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian bondage (Luke 22:1), a tradition that still stands today.
This, to me, does not sound like Peter Cottontail. Today I place before you Chances or Choices…Jesus or Barabbas…
When I was little, I would have a brand new outfit for Easter, which included, most of the time, a little hat and certainly gloves to match. Flowers were ordered from the local florist and delivered the day before “the big day.” We lived right across the street from the First Presbyterian church, in St. Albans, W. Va. We awoke to full Easter baskets that were carefully arranged on the large round dining room table. They had been filled the evening before with colored Easter eggs, awaiting the “Easter Bunny” who would hop right in the front door and fill them with candy.
The family (except my dad) would attend church service and show off our new clothes and then come home, have an Easter egg hunt, and a big dinner. Of course, the Easter baskets fizzled out as we got older and were replaced with material gifts. Church fizzled out as well. The choice was given to us at a certain age whether or not to continue having to attend. I can tell you I couldn’t wait till I didn’t have to go. My choice had been set early on and I was just waiting for time to pass me by so I could act upon it. So what did all of this excitement and hoopla mean when I was little? They were good memories that I tried to recapture with my family when I became older but it was never quite the same. Why? What was it all about, Alfie?
When my life was going down the tubes and I needed more than an Easter basket full of candy, I was driven (though I didn’t know by whom at the time) by the Holy Spirit to the Bible. The only thing I remembered about Jesus was in relation to the Crucifixion…but what did it mean? When I would bother to read it, it was with always with a remorseful heart. Tears would blop out on my cheeks and I would say,” I want to get this but I don’t get the “thees” and “thous.”
Much to my amazement, I discovered (finally after having shock treatments) that the Crucifixion meant everything to me, but the choice of my future would have to be mine. God was not going to make me come after Him. He would lay the “carrot” before me, so to speak, but the choice of whether or not success of future life was mine. THAT crucial week of our history was the week that God sacrificed His Son on a cross, paying for your sins and mine, so we could have Resurrection Power. This single act given, straight from Heaven itself, could change our current state of existence if believed.
The choice is before you as you read this now. I have already drawn the line in the sand and made my decision. What choice will you make? Jesus came so that we could have life and have it more abundantly, but we behave as though we have no power at all. When I first started to delve into the Word of God, I kept coming across the word POWER. Well, I wanted some power, don’t you? This one act brought us the POWER if we will believe.
The Elders of the people, the chief priests and the scribes, didn’t like Jesus shaking up their religiosity (They represent the people in the churches.) He had already been doing great miracles and they didn’t like it. He had also gone into the temple, taken a whip and had gotten very upset, telling everyone that His Father’s house shall be called a house of Prayer (John 2: 13-22). But religion wanted Him gone. However, He was a man on a mission. He knew God had sent him. He knew what He had to do. But the flies in the ointment were the greatest supposedly well-learned teachers of the day. They stirred up the people to come against Jesus. They had been doing things (God) their way for years, and here comes Jesus doing things a “new way.” They knew it would cause an uprising and they wanted Him gone. Therefore, they took him to Pilate, the Governor.
The Romans had taken from the Jews the right to inflict capital punishment, thus Pilate would have to execute any sentence. It was the custom to release one prisoner at Passover celebration. Pilate knew, the scripture states, that Jesus had been handed over to him because of envy (Mark 15:10). Can you imagine what would happen today in a church if someone came in doing miracles by healing the sick, raising the dead, opening blind eyes to see?
Peter, who was one of Jesus’ first disciples, was spying on what was taking place as Pilate interrogated the Lord. Prior to Jesus’ captivity, He had told Peter that he would deny Him three times. The exact words were, “You will deny Me three times before the cock crows” (Matt 26:34). You have to imagine this scenario. Peter had been with Jesus day in and day out. He knew in his heart that He was the Son of God. But now, faced with public awareness, knowing that they intended to kill Jesus and probably whoever else was with him, he became very scared. He had seen Jesus perform miracles and it had been revealed to Peter divinely that He was the Christ (Matthew 16:16). He knew, yet he got scared….choices. How many of us get scared in the heat of the moment? To believe in the Word of God when all the circumstances point to our very own defeat and maybe death? Choices… He shrunk back.
Now please understand this scenario. Jesus was taken to Pilate. Pilate knew He was guilty of no wrongdoing (Luke 23:4), but the people wanted him ousted. Changes. Pilate, not wanting to pass judgment on him, sent him to Herod (Luke 23:7). Jesus spoke nothing. Herod sent Him back to Pilate because he found no fault in Him (Luke 23:9). Pilate and Herod had been enemies but now became friends (Luke 23:12). Pilate told the crowd he found no fault in Him. He knew in his heart that Jesus had done nothing deserving of death, but he also knew that he had to calm this crowd down or there would be an uprising. Luke 23:20 again states that wishing to release Jesus, he again called out to them….
So here, we have “The People's Choice”
Barabbas OR Jesus
Barabbas was a rebellious murderer. Jesus, on the other hand, had only preached hope, a new kingdom of which you cannot see, faith, healing and above it all, love, but the people persisted and as the scripture states (Luke 23:18) “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas.” They liked their status of superiority over man and did not want Jesus messing this up.
(Luke 23:21) says “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
(Luke 23:22) Then Pilate said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.”
But the voices prevailed. Then, Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested.
He washed his hands of Jesus’s blood.
Voices cry out I want it my way! I am not going to do this. It hurts too much to believe that God could really heal me. I want, I want, I want. The voices prevail out to Heaven and the choices are made to “have it your way.” Defeat and death come to you when they don’t have to. Their ways of believing, their ways of thinking, their wants and desires and what they were used to were being shaken by Jesus and they didn’t want it. Give me what is comfortable! Choices. Give me Barabbas!
Barabbas represents your way. Jesus represents a better way. Do you want something that will ultimately lead to your resurrection of new life or do you want to stay in the muck and mire of your current life that fits like an old shoe? The choice is before you. Jesus OR Barabbas?
You can shout and mouth off about what you know, what you think you know, and what you have. You can make the choice to be in rebellion as Barabbas did. God will let you have it.
You can make the choice to stand up for Jesus. Yes, you will suffer and yes, people will call you crazy. But, you have a King who died a horrible death for you that you might live with peace and to be able to hope for something more than you have known.
Peter denied Jesus three times (Luke 22: 57-62) and the text said Peter wept bitterly. Peter looked straight at Jesus as He was being held captive, knowing what he had done and still made a choice to deny Him three times. This was the same Peter who stood up boldly not too long after the Lord's death, burial and resurrection, proclaiming in front of everyone that Jesus was the Christ, the risen Lord, and the Messiah. Changes. This time he didn’t shrink back.
We all have choices to make because of resurrection week. The choice is before you. Jesus or Barabbas? Will you be singing “Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord," or here comes Peter Cottontail? Do you want changes?
Life your way or the Savior’s way? There is a big difference.
It is your choice to follow the risen Lord this year. It is not just by chance that you have read this. The choice is up to you. Peter denied the Lord three times. Pilate gave the people three chances not to crucify Jesus. Choices you make do hold great consequences at this moment.
He said, “Turn to Me I’ll set you free from the bondage you feel inside.
I promised you I’d give you peace abounding love and happiness.
I’ll fill the void of emptiness. I’ll give you joy unendless.
My grace is yours…just believe in Me and you will live for eternity.
Jesus said, “I died for you to give you grace. Would you have died for Me?”