Just days away from Easter, we are all doing our best to focus. Lenten sacrifices are winding up, soon coffee will fill a cup that has sat empty for 40 days. Instagram accounts will be revisited. Sugars will be eaten. Wine will be tasted. Soon Easter ensembles will parade the hallways of churches. Brunches will be attended, eggs hunted. Soon Easter Sunday will come and go and days into next week, forgotten. Never really thinking about Easter Sunday again, until next spring.
But that’s in a few days.
Today I’d like to edit this one tiny sentence in the Bible, if that’s ok. I feel like it would help make us all feel a little better this Easter. I remember watching the Passion of the Christ when it came out, feeling like jumping from my seat and screaming at the screen, “It didn’t have to be this way!” The gut-wrenching scene of Pilate ALMOST freeing Jesus. We see with our own eyes that he knew Jesus was innocent. I wanted him so badly to set Jesus free. I wanted the crowd to make the better choice, to hang the right man. I didn’t want it to be Jesus. Please, please, anyone but Jesus.
The crowds, when asked “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”
“And they said, Barrabas.”
And they said,
Barrabas Jesus. There we go, that’s better.
Now Jesus can be set free. If freed, he could have stayed among the men. Healing, leading, caring, teaching. He could have continued proclaiming the promises of God and sharing with so many what it was like to be holy, perfect, and an exact representation of God. He could have been freed from the suffering. He could have dined more with the disciples and at a good, old age, died a quiet death.
They (could have) said, Jesus.
But they didn’t. Instead, Jesus was sentenced to death and suffering, unlike anything we have ever known.
Jesus hanging on the cross. You’ve seen it in images. It’s simply too much for our minds to comprehend. That someone, for some reason, laid bare before man, with nails through his hands and feet, for the sake of … our freedom? No way. I can’t wrap my mind around this.
“If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” People mocked, as they hurled insults at Jesus. “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him.”
Jesus! Please! Just come down from the cross and prove you are God. Please. Save yourself the agony. Especially since you’re doing it for me. Please don’t suffer for me.
But Jesus “cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.”
At the moment of his death, the veil of the temple was torn, the earth shook, the rocks split.
The centurion now knew. “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Barrabas was set free because Jesus had to endure the suffering and agony of death. He was the chosen one. He was God’s plan for redemption and salvation. It couldn’t have been Barrabas. Barrabas was a sinful, dishonest man – the kind of man Jesus had to die for.
I’m actually Barrabas. Jesus was chosen to suffer instead of me.
It had to be Jesus.
I have experienced pain and suffering. My husband and I have held each other and wailed as we watched our week-old baby boy endure a spinal tap and many tests for fear of bacterial meningitis; a dropping body temperature and high jaundice levels are not good in a week-old baby boy. Our suffering was short-lived, but impacting. I remember my Dad coming to the PICU to see our baby in the incubator, and reminded me as he put his hands on Preston how he had put his hands on my tiny newborn hands when I was a newborn in an incubator. He knew my pain. No one knows suffering like one who has suffered. Specifically, in the way you are suffering.
By God’s grace, Jesus knows our pain. He knows the pain of suffering himself. He knows that suffering can lead to hope and healing. Which is why we celebrate on Sunday. Easter is the reminder of our spiritual freedom from suffering because Jesus died to set us free.
Before the weekend starts, I want to encourage you to stop and remember Jesus’ suffering on the cross for you and his glorious resurrection that defied death and proved he was and is the Son of God. You can read the Easter story in Matthew 27-28.
This post is dedicated to baby Reagan. Stay strong, girl. Please visit www.robandannemarie.com and join us in praying for their continued hope and healing.