Pontius Pilate was the governor that Tiberius, the second Roman emperor, had appointed to oversee Judea. Twice in our text, Pilate declares about Jesus before the crowd, “I find no fault in this man.”
The issue is never whether or not Jesus was innocent or guilty. The issue is what Pilate would choose when he was faced with the most important decision of his life — what would he do when he was confronted with Christ?
The suspense plays out for us whenever we skip ahead to chapter 19, verse 16. Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified.
But I contend that a more significant amount of suspense still surrounds this passage of scripture because the suspense now concerns you and me. Today, you must “Take Your Pick.”
1. Take Your Pick Between Two Types of Kingdoms
The kingdom of this earth is founded on the notion of power. Under that category, you could include terms such as military authority, political advancement, financial abundance, and social advantage.
But Christ makes it known that the kingdom of heaven does not consist of human configurations; rather, it rests upon God’s conception of truth.
Pilate could not comprehend such a concept. He asks, “What is truth?” Truth in the kingdom of this world, after all, is relative. You have your truth; I have mine.
So it is that the kingdom of heaven and its truth run counter to this world’s way of thinking. Jesus would include terms such as personal sacrifice, loving spirit, humble service, and abundant grace.
As such, the fullness of truth came among us in the person of Christ. The King of kings says, “for this I was born,” referring to His natural birth. Then, the King of kings explains, “and for this I have come into the world,” alluding to His heavenly-sent mission.
Jesus, as fully God and as fully man, came to restore all that is fallen. He came to restore what the apostle Paul refers to in Romans 1:18-32 as that which we twisted … as that which we distorted into a lie.
To witness truth, then, is to see the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52 and 53 marred for us, to see Him despised and rejected for us, to see Him bear our sorrows, and to see Him bear our transgressions. To know real truth, to encounter truth in action means to look at the sinless Son of God hanging on Calvary’s tree.
A street preacher was delivering a message when a princess rolled up in a royal carriage. The eyes of the crowd immediately turned toward her, so the street preacher obliged.
“What if I were to auction off this royal lady today?” the street preacher declared, “Who would be the highest bidder — the world or Christ? The world would offer to pay riches, honor, and pleasure for her. But Jesus would offer to pay for her with His own life. My lady, which of the two bids would you choose?”
That is the choice Jesus presents to Pilate, who ultimately chooses the path of Tiberius and a worldly kingdom. It is the choice Jesus also offers to us —
(a) The kingdom of earth, which advances power and wealth along with its worldly accolades and pleasures.
(b) Or the kingdom of heaven, which advances truth and grace along with its lasting purpose and love.
Take your pick!
2. Take Your Pick Between Two Types of Men
Pilate makes an initial attempt of satisfying the crowd without having to sacrifice Jesus by offering Him back to them as a king. But upon the prompting of the religious rulers, rather than to receive Jesus, the people demanded the release of a man named Barabbas.
Let me draw your attention to precisely who Barabbas was.
The first part of the name, Bar means “son of.” The second part of the name, Abba in Aramaic stands for “father.” In other words, his name transliterated into Greek is “son of father.”
Further, in the older manuscripts of Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 27 and verse 16), we see that his full name was actually Jesus Barabbas. And according to Luke 23:18-19, Barabbas was not merely a thief, he was also a murderer.
Do not miss the irony of this text. The one who was an earthly “son of father” was released, while the one who was the heavenly “Son of the Father” was condemned to die. In other words, the sinless Son of God — Jesus Christ — went to the cross instead of the sinful son of an earthly father — Jesus Barabbas.
Do not miss the impact of this text, either. I am the son of an earthly father. I am a Barabbas. … I, too, am a murderer and a thief!
Frederick Dale Bruner states it simply and beautifully when he writes, “He who did nothing wrong was condemned for everything, so that we who have done everything wrong would be condemned for nothing.”
I am not saying here that Barabbas was set free as a follower of Jesus. Not even remotely. But do not miss the implication of this text — profound sinners like you and me can be set free because Jesus takes our place. The crux of the matter comes down to what version of man you will choose.
You see, we are all sons of an earthly father Adam. That is why Paul highlights in Romans 5:18: “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”
When confronted with satan — who Jesus says in John 8:44 was a murderer and a liar from the beginning — Adam chose the path of the one who John 10:10 confirms steals, kills, and destroys. Isn’t that the path of Barabbas?
So, when faced with two diametrically opposed characters — the witness of saving truth or a rebellious thief — the people’s choice was the same as that of Adam’s. Let me advise you today not to follow that path.
Take your pick!
3. Take Your Pick Between Two Types of Glory
Palm Sunday reveals that Jesus is the promised King, but He is not the King that this power-hungry world desires or recognizes.
So not surprisingly, as 1 Corinthians 2:8 reveals, our world never truly received its King. At once, they sing out to Him: “Hosanna, hosanna in the highest!” Then, in less than one week’s time, coming to our text today, they cry out: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
Here, we witness two heart-cries: Hosanna to Crucify.
How quickly the world changes its allegiances. How quickly someone can go from hero to scapegoat.
Those who are wise will recognize that the things of this earth and that the praises of this world are fleeting. The purposes of Christ alone will prevail. Only the things of God have eternal value.
A young man in Great Britain was awarded full scholarship opportunities to study at Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, and other top notch universities. Everyone expected him to go on to become a wealthy, renowned physician or lawyer. However, he shocked his family when he revealed to them that he committed to attend a small Bible college in order to study theology.
“Son, don’t you want to make a name for yourself in the world!” his father pleaded.
To which, the young man replied, “Yes, Dad, I do. The question is which one.”
The matter before us isn’t what one chooses to study or what one chooses to pursue as a career. The story isn’t about that at all.
The meaning behind the story is not what we do, but why we do it.
(a) Will we live for the fleeting glory of this world or for the blessed glory that is to come?
(b) Will we set our sights on the temporary love of this world or on the eternal love of Christ?
Take your pick!
Friends, it all comes down to this. Take Your Pick —
1. Between power and truth
2. Between judgment and justification
3. Between the temporal and the eternal
At only 27-years-old, John Calvin wrote The Institutes of the Christian Religion, one of the greatest theological works ever. His brother Charles, however, chose to lead a life equally as worthless and infamous as John’s life was worthy and noble.
How do you explain the difference? Not in heredity: they came from the same parents. Not in environment: they came from the same influences. The difference is simply in their personal choice.
In the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, an old knight guarded the Holy Grail — the cup that Christ would have drank from on the night of the Last Supper. As Indiana Jones entered the room, followed by a group of self-centered, power hungry individuals, the knight said that they had to pick out a cup for themselves. Then, the old knight added, “But choose wisely.”
That is my admonition to you today. Take your pick, but choose wisely. I encourage you: Let Jesus be the King of your heart.
NOW WHAT:RESPOND TO THE TEXT:
What will you do when faced with the most important decision of your life? What will you do when you are confronted with Jesus Christ?
Choosing to follow Christ entails loving others as He loved us: it is a selfless, sacrificial love.
In John 19:5, Pilate says, “Behold the Man.” Pilate did not know it, but he was speaking about perfect manhood: the sole representative for humanity who could bring about our justification for life. In John 19:14, Pilate says, “Behold your King.” Pilate did not know it, but he was speaking about perfect deity: the one true Messiah who alone could bring about our victory over death. Do you believe that Jesus was Son of God and Son of man, sent to take your place?
We need Christian plumbers as much as we need preachers, Christian mechanics as much as we need theologians, Christian physicians as much as we need missionaries. Just ask yourself: “Why do I do what I do?”