“But they cried out all together, saying, ‘Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas!’ (He was one who had been thrown into prison for a revolt that took place in the city, and for murder.) But Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept crying out, ‘Crucify, crucify Him!’ And he said to them a third time, ‘Why? What has this man done wrong? I have found in His case no grounds for a sentence of death; therefore, I will punish him and release him.’ But they were insistent, with loud voices, demanding that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail. And so Pilate decided to have their demand carried out. And he released the man for whom they were asking, who had been thrown into prison for a revolt and murder; but he handed Jesus over to their will.” Luke 23:18-25 NASB
The events in Jerusalem on that dark Friday, as recorded here in Luke’s gospel were driven by behavioral irregularity. Two chapters previously, we read about Jesus’ triumphal arrival into Jerusalem. Crowds of people flocked to shout, ‘Hosanna!’ to the Messiah as He rides into the city on a young colt. Palm leaves and cloaks were strewn about the roadway in adoration of the One they believed would set them free of occupation and subjection of the Romans. But they didn’t understand His message or His mission. In Jesus’ oration at the Synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4), he reads a scroll containing the words of Isaiah the prophet,
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind. To set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ Luke 4:18-19
Jesus was the fulfillment of these words. HE was anointed by the Father to bring good news, heal the sick and set captives free. But it was not freedom from political/social captivity. It was captivity from sin and death! He came to open the eyes of our hearts to our true condition before God and to give us a way out!
Praise the Lord!
But it became apparent to the Jews at Jerusalem that this Jesus was not about to topple the Roman Governor, let alone Caesar! He wasn’t going to execute a coup attempt. Instead, the Jewish leaders felt threatened by this “Teacher” and rejected His claim to be the Messiah. They wanted rid of Him but they wanted the authorities to do it for them to deflect their culpability. Instead, the Romans were manipulated into dealing with Him. A frenzy ensued. A setup, whereby Jesus, not the freedom fighter they expected, was replaced, as part of a bizarre custom, by the sort of fellow that better represented the insurrection the Jews wanted. Despite Pilate’s efforts to declare Jesus innocent, their voices began to prevail. The same voices that hailed Jesus’ arrival were now shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
There is an old saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” The loudest and most distracting and irritating noises need to be removed. The inconvenient message needs to be diminished and silenced. The message that calls for repentance and a turning back to God needs to be eliminated as it doesn’t fit the agenda of an “informed” or “enlightened” age. What voices prevail in our lives today? What messages don’t suit the world’s agenda and make us feel uncomfortable, even as believers? What messages and narratives are from God, and what are from Man? It’s arguably becoming harder to tell these days, isn’t it? The message of Salvation is marginalized, declared fake, irrelevant, and offensive. Virtues, as taught by Jesus, are canceled, and declared as troublesome. The preaching of the Gospel is now considered as “hate speech.” Just like it was here in Luke’s gospel, with deadly intent. But let’s not be put off telling it! The Good News is the same and just as powerful as it was on that dark Friday. And that leads me to another thought-what message are we putting out there? Condemning? Judgmental? Aggressive? Divisive? Fearful? Are these aligned with the fruit of the Spirit? (Galatians 5:22)
As we reflect this week on the events leading up to “Good Friday,” as we look at the prevailing voices here in the text and in the present time, let us consider the One who said the least on that day-Jesus Himself. “Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” Isaiah 53:7
Dear Lord, as we reflect on Your sacrificial death and the circumstances around it, may we pause and examine ourselves. Lord, reveal our irregular behavior, and may our beliefs that shape that behavior be challenged and reset in accordance with Your Word. Thank You afresh for the Cross, for what You achieved on my behalf with great pain and sorrow; for enduring the separation from the Father so that we can be reconciled to Him. We thank You that You prevailed! You rose again and you reign. May our prevailing voices shout in unison and with conviction, Hosanna in the Highest! AMEN.
[As adapted from The Bondage Breaker and Stomping Out The Darkness by Dr. Neil Anderson and Dr. Dave Park.]