Christian Churches of God
Freedom and Responsibility
(Edition 2.0 19940327-19991022)
This paper looks at the responsibility of individual Christians in the light of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the crucifixion in place of sinners like Barabbas is examined.
Freedom and Responsibility
The First Day of Unleavened Bread celebrates Israel’s departure from Egypt, and the Exodus types our departure from Egypt or sin (the totality of the system of things set up by and controlled by the fallen Elohim, the demonic Host of this world).
One of the things that characterises Egypt, or spiritual Egypt as we understand it, is that it is a system aimed directly at preventing and opposing the worship of the True God. For example, Egypt operated under a solar calendar – a calendar at variance to the lunar-solar calendar established by God for the worship of Him. While Israel remained in Egypt it would have been impossible for them to correctly worship the One True God simply from this point alone. The basis of the calendar of Egypt would have prevented the worship of God.
The Law of God, including the Calendar, is being restored. However, even as we are involved with the restoration of the Law, there are forces at work attempting to tear down what restoration has already taken place. There have been attacks on the concept of the unchanging nature of God's Law, and it (the Law) as a binding obligation on Christians today.
It is claimed by some that the Holy Days are biblical traditions of God. If the Holy Days are simply traditions, it becomes much easier to dispense with them as unnecessary, or non-binding requirements on Christians.
There is no doubt that a creeping anti-Nomianism is prevalent in the Church today. Anti‑Nomianism comes from two words: anti meaning opposed or against, and normas meaning law. Anti-Nomianism means "lawlessness" or "anti-law". Indeed, once you abandon the worship of the True God for some other fictitious god of human imagination, a process of lawlessness and degeneration begins as outlined in Romans 1:18-32.
What has this to do with the Passover season? Well, in the closing hours of Christ's life two events and two men are mentioned. And there are important lessons to be learned from these events and what happened with these men. Matthew 27 picks up the story of the first of these individuals. Barabbas was a notorious criminal of first century Palestine.
Matthew 27:11-16 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. 12And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. 13Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? 14And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. 15Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. 16And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. (KJV)
Mark 15:6-7 adds a few more details.
Mark 15:6-7 Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. 7And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. (KJV)
Luke 23:13-25 completes the picture.
Luke 23:13-25 And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: 15No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. 16I will therefore chastise him, and release him. 17(For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) 18And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: 19(Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) 20Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. 21But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. 22And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go. 23And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. 24And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. 25And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will. (KJV)
Here we have an amazing picture. Here was a man, Barabbas, a notorious convicted criminal. He had been convicted of both murder and sedition, making him liable for execution under both Roman and Jewish law. Yet, he was set free at the expense of an innocent man, Jesus the Messiah. Jesus had not broken Roman law, nor had he transgressed Jewish (that is, God's) law. There was no legal basis for his conviction.
More than this, the entire process of judgment had been subverted. Jesus had been betrayed by one of his own disciples. He was tried by the Sanhedrin on charges of blasphemy, and then had the charges switched to sedition against the Roman state when he was handed over to Pilate. After being examined by Pilate, he was found innocent of these charges.
Yet Pilate committed the judgment of Jesus to the howling mob. Incredibly, the crowd called for Christ's blood to be upon them:
Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. (KJV)
In doing this, they were in fact fulfilling prophecy. Recall that when the Passover lamb was killed the blood was smeared on the doorposts and on the lintel. In calling for the blood of Christ to be upon them, Israel, or the Jews as they were here, was fulfilling what the striking of the blood on the door-frame pictured – being covered by the blood of the Passover Lamb of God.
But now consider Barabbas. He deserved death but was set free. Imagine the feelings of elation he would have experienced. Try placing yourself in his position and consider all the things that would go through your mind: freedom to live with his family, friends and relatives once more; a new lease on life; thoughts of "who is this man who is going to die in my stead?"
What happened with Barabbas, however, was not just an isolated event in passing. The story of Barabbas is significant because he was a type of all humanity. All of us have sinned. All of us have incurred the death penalty upon ourselves (Rom. 6:23).
1John 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. (KJV)
The term hate here means hatred, but it is also used elsewhere of loving less by comparison. Partiality is the spirit of murder. It is sin (Jas. 2:9). If any of us have ever hated someone else or shown partiality, then we have participated in the spirit of murder spoken of here in John. Barabbas, of course, was a murderer in literal fact. Barabbas was also guilty of sedition and being involved with insurrection. We may not have been involved with sedition and insurrection directly against the governments of men, but we have all rebelled against God (Rom. 3:10-17; 8:7) and thus placed ourselves outside of the will of God and indirectly participated in the spirit of sedition against God.
So Barabbas was a type of all humanity and each of us individually. Now Barabbas was set free in exchange for the person of Christ. The cross (stake) Jesus was crucified on had been intended for Barabbas. The flogging and beating Christ received had been intended for Barabbas. So the example of Barabbas shows us the high price that was paid for our freedom.
Lastly, when we consider Barabbas' name we find something most fascinating. His name literally meant son of the father. Bar means son – for example, Simon Bar-Jonah meant Simon, son of Jonah; Abbas or abba means father. So too we are sons (generically speaking) of our Father in heaven (Rom. 8:15). Thus we see that the example of Barabbas teaches us, among other things, the high price paid for us to be sons and daughters of our Father – sons and daughters set free from deserved death – by the price of the blood of our elder brother, Jesus the Messiah.
Immediately following Barabbas being set free, Christ was taken away and scourged. We pick up the story in Luke 23:26.
Luke 23:26 And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. (KJV)
Imagine the situation. The scourging Christ received was the intermediate death. Christ would have been greatly weakened and his body pommelled, bruised and lacking in strength. He was virtually flayed alive. Initially the Roman soldiers placed the cross on Jesus’ back:
John 19:17 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: (KJV)
Jesus went out carrying his own cross. However, it seems that Jesus must have stumbled or slipped or perhaps collapsed under the weight of the cross – the details are not given to us – and it was obvious to the soldiers that Jesus would not be able to carry his cross all the way to Golgotha, the place of the skull. One of the soldiers decided to draft someone from the crowd, and called on a passing fellow, Simon from Cyrene. Consider Simon's thoughts at this point: "Why are they bothering me? I haven't done anything wrong. I don't want anything to do with this matter. What if they make a mistake and nail me to the cross instead of him? I wonder what he did to deserve this death?"
"Carry it now!" the soldier would have barked at him. Probably he was prodded along up the path either before or behind the wounded, beaten Jesus. After carrying it to the top he no doubt dropped it and disappeared back into the crowd as quickly as possible.
Once again, what happened with Simon was a lesson for us. What Simon of Cyrene did was in type what all of us must do. We must become like Jesus Christ and share in his burden.
Matthew 10:24-25 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? (KJV)
The servant is not greater than his master. Jesus' sacrifice pays the penalty of our sins, but it does not remove our responsibility to obey God. There is still much God expects us to do. And to those whom much has been given, much will be required. So there are parallels between Simon's service to Christ on that Passover day and what God expects of us now.
When Jesus walked the dusty roads of Judea, many people followed him. Some had questions. Some wanted healing or a favour. Some wanted to see a miracle or display of divine powers. Some wanted a feed. But a few were moved enough to accept what Jesus taught. At one point Jesus stopped and laid a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of those who were drawn to his teachings. Jesus places this same responsibility on us today and he gives us the criteria of discipleship in Luke 14.
Luke 14:26-27 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. (KJV)
The term hate here means love less by comparison. Simon's example is that he shared in carrying the cross of Christ. The cross came to be the ultimate symbol of Christian persecution. It was a symbol of shame (Heb. 12:1-3; 1Cor. 1:8-25). The whole concept of the cross is a willingness to lay down one's life for others. Jesus was willing to do this (Jn. 15:9-17). Jesus was persecuted for his message and so will we be if we are faithful to that message (Jn. 15:18-21). Jesus was willing to lay down his life, both figuratively in coming to live among us as a mortal human, and in actual fact through his being persecuted and ultimately being put to death in a shameful and unlawful manner.
Jesus says he counts us as his friends. If he counts us as friends, so too we must be willing to lay down our lives in the same way, both figuratively and literally, for him and, by extension, his brothers and sisters – our brethren in the Church. Bearing one another's burdens is to bear the burden of our Master (Gal. 6:2; Phil. 2:1-4). We must also be prepared to lay down our lives in literal fact if that is what God asks (Lk. 14:28-33).
The lessons of Barabbas and Simon of Cyrene are profound. We were freed by Christ so that we might be sons and daughters of our Father. Now having been freed, we have a responsibility to shoulder a way of life to live and a message to proclaim. Let us be about our Father's business.