A Tale of Two Jesus’ Part 2

April 4, 2010

And so this is how it would end, it wasn’t what he expected at all. On Friday he had watched as they crucified the carpenter and he walked free. And that is how it should have ended, a happy ending for him, a not so happy ending for Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter who almost became king.
He had spent his entire life pursing violence, and only as an adult had he attached his violence to a cause, the cause of Jewish freedom, he had become a Zealot, one of the freedom fighters seeking to rid Israel of its Roman oppressors. And of course violence begets violence and one day he killed a man, sure the man deserved to die but the Roman authorities didn’t see it that way and he was arrested and sentenced to die. And not just die but to die on a Roman cross, a horrible violent death that fit a horrible violent man.
But that changed when Pilate, the Roman governor offered a sop to the crowd, because it was the Passover celebration he would grant freedom to one prisoner.
And then he presented the two for the crowd to choose from. And tradition tells us that both men shared a common name, Jesus. There was Jesus of Nazareth, the man who preached love and forgiveness, the man who played with children and healed sick people. The Jesus who the crowds had welcomed into Jerusalem only a week before, waving palm branches and shouting Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
And then there was Jesus Barabbas, or possibly Jesus Bar Rabbis, which means Jesus the Rabbis’ son. And he was a preacher of a different sort. His congregation were those who were demanding an end to the Roman occupation and rule. Perhaps if they had of won they would have been considered heroes but they didn’t win and so they were terrorist and criminals and murderers. Hated by the Romans and distrusted by the ordinary people of the day Barabbas really didn’t see the crowds picking him and yet when offered the choice and it is recorded in Matthew 27:15-17 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
A simple choice, “Should I free the one that you wanted to crown as king just a week ago or should I release the one who has been terrorizing the country side? You decide.” It should have been simple but listen to what Luke writes Luke 23:18-21 Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas was in prison for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government, and for murder.) Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
I don’t even think Barabbas expected that. And so the Gospels tell us that Pilate washed his hands and said “Fine, go ahead but his blood will be on your hands not mine.” And Jesus the Nazarene was crucified and Jesus Bar Rabbis walked away. And that’s how it should have ended, but it didn’t. Because that was Friday and today is Sunday.
Tradition says that Barabbas followed the procession to the cross and watched as Jesus was crucified, that makes sense, if only in a gallows sort of way. After all Barabbas above all people knew that it should have been him on that cross.
I wonder if Barabbas made his way to the tomb to watch as they buried Jesus? Perhaps like Yogi Berra, his philosophy was “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”
But that was Friday and today was Sunday. On Friday Barabbas was the winner and Jesus was the loser. On Friday Barabbas lived and Jesus died, on Friday love hung on a cross and hate walked free. But that was Friday and today is Sunday.
Because history would be measured not from Friday but from Sunday. And on Sunday Jesus of Nazareth became the focal point of human history and Barabbas became just a sad footnote. You might say, “That’s all she wrote.” Because we know nothing else for certainty about Barabbas, he walked away from the cross on Friday and walked into obscurity. Tradition tells us that he was later killed while involved in another rebellion attempt, which goes to prove you can’t teach some people nothing.
You would think, that Barabbas would have been more aware of the fact that Jesus had taken his place on the cross and when the stories of the resurrection began to surface that if only out of curoristy he would have checked the stories out. And that as a result of the reurrection that Barabbas’ life would have been turned around and he would have become a Christ follower. But there is no evidence of that at all, and as rich as tradition is with stories of the disciples and other early followers of Christ there is no mention of Barabbas.
And that has to be because while he was very aware of the fact that Christ had taken his place on the cross he couldn’t or wouldn’t believe the resurrection or if he could accept the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead it made absolutely no difference in his life.
And there are people in the world just like that today and I probably wouldn’t be too far off to say there are people like that in this room today. They have no problem with Good Friday, they get the fact that Jesus died on a cross, they can even process the fact that Jesus died on a cross for them but boy the resurrection, they either can’t or won’t believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Why is that? Probably for the same reasons that kept Barabbas from accepting what happened and the same reason that some people today feel that the resurrection is simply a myth. So this morning we are going to look at some of the objections there are to the resurrection as well as explanations that are sometimes offered up to explain away the resurrection and answers to those objections and explanations.
You see the issue of the resurrection isn’t just one of those doctrines that we can accept or not accept it is at the very core of who we are as Christ Followers. Paul told the early believers in the Corinthian church 1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. So obviously Barabbas didn’t believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead or didn’t care. And that doesn’t matter at all, my question to you would be: If you don’t believe in the resurrection, why would you call yourself a Christ Follower?
1) Maybe He thought the Resurrection was Impossible. Maybe he heard about it and just said “Nope, never happened that’s impossible.” On the face of it this is probably the most common objection to the resurrection. Dead men aren’t alive they are dead. And I will be the first to admit, it is impossible. But then again if it wasn’t impossible it wouldn’t mean a whole lot would it, if people were raised fromt the dead was an everyday occurance it wouldn’t mean a whole lot, would it? Within the scope of things Christians have never denied this point as a matter of fact it is the foundation of our faith.
Our faith acknowledges that a person cannot come back from the dead, but our faith doesn’t believe that Jesus was just a person; instead we believe that he was God. And if God put the rules of nature into force then God can step outside the rules of nature. We see that time and time again throughout the bible, they are called miracles and you either believe in the supernatural or you don’t.
And we believe it not just because one person said it happened but because the bible records numerous people who witnessed it. The first were the ladies who are mentioned in this account, and then we read that Christ appeared to the 11 remaining apostles and then other disciples. Paul spells it out for us in 1 Corinthians 15:4-7 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.
Or maybe Barabbas thought: Ok, I’ll buy into the fact the tomb was empty, so what? There could be other explanations. And there have been various theories presented thought the years.
2) Maybe He Thought They Went to the Wrong Tomb. Obviously the women were upset, they had witnessed the brutal execution of a close friend, it was early in the morning and maybe in their confusion and in the dark they arrived at a tomb that hadn’t been used yet and thought that it was the tomb that Jesus should have been in but wasn’t.
But let’s think it through, Jesus wasn’t buried in an unknown tomb, two thousand years later we even know the name of the man who donated the tomb, it was Joseph of Arimathea. And we are even told in Luke 23:55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. They had been there just two days before and even if they had gotten mixed up and went to the wrong tomb don’t you think Joseph or someone else would have pointed out their mistake? And these were women, if they didn’t know where they were going they would have asked somone for directions. And when they went back and told the disciples we read that Peter rushed to the tomb and it was empty. What are the chances that he would have gone to the wrong tomb as well?
And if this was indeed the wrong tomb then logic would tell us that there had to be a right tomb, a tomb with Jesus body in it. And if there was a right tomb with a body then it would have been a relatively simple thing for the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities to say “Hey dummies, you went to the wrong grave, here’s the right grave with the body of Jesus right where it’s supposed to be.” But they didn’t, why? Because the woman had gone to the right grave and there was no body in it.
3) Maybe He Thought the Body Had Been Moved. Ok, the question then begs to be asked, Who stole the body? A) The Romans B) The Jews or C) the Disciples.
Well we can deal with the first two together because the Romans and the Jews had nothing to gain by removing and hiding Christ’s body and everything to lose. The Jews and the Romans didn’t want an empty tomb to bolster the claims of the Christ Followers, they wanted a body. They wanted to be able to say “Hey look everyone, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead here’s his body and he’s still dead.” But they couldn’t do that because they didn’t have a body.
Instead we read this account of what happened after the tomb was found empty Matthew 28:12-13 A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’
So maybe the disciples did steal the body. But why? When Christ was arrested the apostles all scattered. We only hear about two of them actually following Christ and John hid in the shadows and Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.
So all of a sudden this sorry lot become ninja’s sneaking up on a group of highly trained Roman soldiers, roll aside the stone that sealed the tomb and disappeared into the night carrying the body of their friend. And then they use this act of deception to found a religion based on a high moral code of integrity and honesty. Seems a little far fetched to me. But there is no record of the soldiers being punished for falling asleep on duty, no record of the apostle’s being forced to tell where the body was hidden.
Add to that the fact that every one of the disciple eventually faced persecution and death for their faith and not one of them broke and admitted where they hid the body. They were a braver bunch then I would have been.
I know that there are all kinds of people who are willing to die for what they believe in, remember 9/11 and all the suicide bombers we hear about on the news. They are willing to die for their faith because they believe that it is true, but if the apostle had of stolen the body of Jesus they would have been willing to die for something they knew was false.
4) Maybe He Thought Jesus Wasn’t Really Dead Some people have called this the swoon theory. There are some people and even some churches that teach Jesus was dead but he was simply unconscious and in the coolness of the tomb he revived and people thought he had been raised from the dead.
If you understood the reality of the crucifixion you would realize just how implausible this theory is. The Romans crucified people all the time, and it was done to kill people not just render them unconscious.
Think about it, by the time he got to the trial he had already been awake for 24 hours, then he was repeatedly beaten, flogged by a Roman soldier, forced to carry a cross to his place of execution, had a crown of thorns pressed into his head, was nailed to a cross and left for hours in the Palestinian sun and then had a spear thrust into his side.
A Roman centurion who supposedly had all kinds of experience at this kind of thing pronouncing him dead, he pulled down off the cross and stuck into a cold tomb where apparently with no medical help he spontaneously revives, moves the rock in front of the tomb, slips by the Roman Guard and then this half dead bedraggled man in desperate need of medical help convinces his apostles that he is the risen Lord and conqueror of death.
5) Maybe He Was Concerned Because The Accounts Seemed Contradictory. And if we read the accounts in the four gospels they do all contain different details. But if they were all the same the objection would be that they were obviously just copying one another.
The question should be are the key elements the same? And they are. They went to the tomb and they found it empty. Who arrived there first or second is really irrelevant, were there angels inside or outside, depends on who you ask and when they got there. If you asked the team who went to Africa about our trip you would hear things from me that you wouldn’t hear from the other four and vice versa does that mean those things didn’t happen? No, it means that event had more meaning for some of us, or we noticed something that others didn’t.
On my trip to Sierra Leone a few years ago I saw a monkey run across the road, the two guys in the backseat missed it and the monkey was gone when the other vehicle passed by, does that mean that there was no monkey? I asked our driver what type of monkey it was and he said it had to be a fast monkey because the rebels had eaten all the slow monkeys.
Our daughter and her husband are finishing up bible college. This semester they are doing their internship at Kings Valley Wesleyan in Quispamsis, and they are living in Saint John. So if I told you there were in Bible College, and Angela told you they were working in Quispamsis and Ruth told you they were living in Saint John who would be telling the truth? The answer is: all of us. Just because there are different details doesn’t mean they contradict each other. In fact, each statement compliment the other.
6) Or Maybe It Just Didn’t Make A Difference. Maybe he had heard about the resurrection, maybe he had even seen Jesus after the resurrection and it just didn’t matter. There are people here today who believe that Jesus lived, and they believed that he died on a cross and they even believe that he rose again but it doesn’t matter.
And for whatever reason Barabbas either couldn’t or wouldn’t allow the resurrection to change his live. And it really doesn’t matter because Barabbas is dead and it’s too late for him, but what about you?
So where are you at this morning? There are two questions that you need to answer before you leave here today. The first one is “Did Jesus truly rise from the dead?” and remember the scripture that we started with 1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.
The second question of course is even more important and this is “If Jesus truly did rise from the dead what does that mean for me?” It’s not enough to believe here, in your head if you don’t do anything with it here, in your heart.
A lot of people are going to miss heaven by a matter of inches. They’re good people, maybe attend church weekly, and have even read the Bible and agree with it all. But they’re still going to miss Heaven by a matter of inches, because they believe in their head but they haven’t received in their heart. They have a knowledge of who Jesus is but they have no experience of Him. And that’s tragic.