|Volume 22 Number 9 September 2020||
There are many Bible characters about whom we know much. Such people are the subject of frequent studies and may even have whole books or chapters of books devoted to them and the lessons we can learn from them. There are other people, though, mentioned in the Bible about whom we know little. These people may only be mentioned in passing or are found in only one or two places in the Bible. Often these people are overlooked, and yet they appear in our Bibles for a reason.
John 20:30-31 tells us that Jesus did many things that were not recorded in the Bible. The things that were recorded are to strengthen our faith. Second Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that everything in the Bible is from God and is for our learning. With this in mind, there can be no doubt that these little known, forgotten men and women of the Bible can teach us valuable lessons today.
Many people are familiar with the trial of Jesus that led to His crucifixion. However, who has considered Barabbas, a man whose life was changed as a direct result of that trial? All four Gospel accounts record something about Barabbas. In Matthew 27:16, one reads that Barabbas was “a notorious prisoner.” Mark and Luke record that Barabbas was a rebel and a murderer (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18-19). John adds that Barabbas was a robber (18:40). One last reference is all the Bible reveals about this man. Acts 3 details an account of Peter and John healing a lame man. Afterwards, Peter preached to the crowd. In his sermon, Peter reminded the crowd of the trial of Jesus and referred to Barabbas. “But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you” (Acts 3:14).
From these five passages, we know Barabbas was in prison for murder, robbery and rebellion. He was guilty of breaking Jewish law (Exodus 20:13, 15) and Roman law (rebellion). Under both Jewish and Roman law, he could be executed for his crimes (Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 24:17). The only other thing the Bible tells us about this wicked man is that he was released from prison. We do not know any details of his crimes or what he did with his life after prison. However, there are at least three important lessons we can glean from careful consideration of this incident in history.
First, Barabbas literally received a second chance at life by the death of Jesus. Today, we spiritually receive a second chance at life by the death of Jesus. Scriptures repeatedly proclaim that Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10) and “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Since we all sin (Romans 3:23), become separated from God (Isaiah 59:2) and are deserving of death (Romans 6:23), Jesus took our place on the cross so we could have eternal life (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:9; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18). Barabbas received a second chance after committing crimes against his fellow man. By the death of Jesus, we can receive a second chance after committing sin against God. No matter the sin, if we repent and obey Christ’s commandments, we have hope of eternal life. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The Bible does not tell us if Barabbas took advantage of his second chance at life, but if he repented and obeyed, Jesus would save even him. As long as we are living and have the mental capacity to choose right from wrong, we have a second chance at eternal life through the death of Jesus.
Second, Barabbas was released from prison and Jesus was crucified because of a mob mentality or mob rule. Each of the Gospel accounts of Pilate’s interaction with the crowd states they “cried out” for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:23; Mark 15:13; Luke 23:18; John 18:40). Matthew indicates that the crowd was so adamant, Pilate gave in to their demands because “a tumult was rising” (Matthew 27:24). Instead of thinking for themselves, the people allowed the chief priests and the elders to persuade and stir them up to demand Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be killed (Matthew 27:20; Mark 15:11). In Acts 17:10, the Jews who heard Paul preach did not take his word at face value. Instead, they “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). The mob at Jesus’ trial did not “search the Scriptures,” but instead listened to the lies of the chief priests and the elders. In all areas of our lives, but more so in matters that affect our souls, we must “search the Scriptures” and “try the Spirits” (1 John 4:1). Second Timothy 2:15 reminds us to study God’s Word for ourselves, and Galatians 1:6-9 tells us not to believe “another gospel.” Our eternal destiny lies in not following the crowd in the latest innovation in worship, salvation, morality or any other aspect of Christian living, but rather “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Third, the chief priests and the elders incited the crowd against Jesus out of envy (Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10). They had a hidden agenda. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, envy means “to look with ill-will.” Someone who is envious does not want another to have what he wants for himself. Before Jesus began His ministry, the people followed the chief priests and other Jewish leaders. However, Jesus’ teachings were very different (Matthew 5:28-29; Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32) and attracted large crowds (Matthew 4:25; 8:1). Long before Jesus was arrested and turned over to Pilate, the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Him. “For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath” (John 5:16). In the weeks before Jesus’ arrest and trial, the chief priests and the Pharisees became even more determined to kill Jesus (John 11:45-57). In the days before the Passover, Matthew 26:3-5, Mark 14:1-2 and Luke 22:1-2 record the chief priests, the scribes and the elders looking for a way to quietly take Jesus away from the crowds to kill Him. Envy, a hidden agenda, led the chief priests to stir up the crowd against Jesus. In our lives, we need to be mindful of possible hidden agendas when conflict arises. When we hear negative or damaging information about fellow Christians, check the facts. Paul instructed Timothy to believe accusations against elders only with two or three witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19), and the same consideration should be given to others as well. The love we are commanded to have for one another “believes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). In other words, love compels us to believe the best about someone until we have the facts to prove otherwise. Christians are commanded to be united in Christ (Ephesians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10). When issues arise, do not let hidden agendas like envy tear the church apart. Stand firm on the Word of God (Philippians 1:27) against the “ravenous wolves” of false teachers (Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29).
We may not know much about Barabbas, but we can still learn lessons from his life. Like Barabbas, the death of Jesus gives us a second chance if we will obey the commandments of the Lord. We need to beware of following the crowd to destruction — our own or someone else’s (Matthew 7:13). Seek the facts and look for hidden agendas when conflict arises. Be thankful for the lessons available from the lives of forgotten men like Barabbas.
Studying through Revelation
Revelation is a book people often avoid because of its apocalyptic language and imagery. However, John’s language and the revelation given to him by God (Revelation 1:1-2) make this book one the Christian should be eager to read. Here are a few things I learned while studying this beautiful volume.
One, worship is important. In Chapter 4, John gave a beautiful image of God’s throne, surrounded by majestic creatures who worship God day and night (Revelation 4:8-11). Immediately, John was in the spirit (Revelation 4:2). What a beautiful image for the Christian who desires to worship God for all eternity (Psalm 86:12).
Two, God wins. Suffering and hardship are inevitable, but for the Christian, these are not forever. Being washed in the blood of the Lamb assures the obedient that God will have the final say for their good. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice (John 10:11, 15), and He will make sure His sheep do not suffer forever (Revelation 22:3-5).
Revelation is not the easiest book to understand, but it cannot be ignored. It should be valued (Proverbs 30:5). It guarantees a happy ending for those who believe in Jesus and obey His will (Revelation 2:10).