Jesus could have chosen to spare himself from a horrific death. In the first century, the Romans had perfected the ‘art’ of crucifixion. It was a slow, agonizing ordeal, intended to strip away all
human dignity and send a macabre message of ‘obedience or death’ to all who might oppose them. As God, he understood the horror waiting for him on the cross. And as man, he knew the depth of the unspeakable pain he would suffer.
Why didn’t he save himself?
He could have lifted his body from the nails that bound him and established himself as the ruler of the world. He may have commanded a dazzling light to streak through the clouds, and lightning to split the horizon with a tremendous roar, leaving those around him trembling. The people of Israel had waited for centuries for their Messiah to come. He could have stepped down from the cross and taken the crown awaiting him.
But instead, he chose to sacrifice his life so we could all be free. He suffered the cross so he could rise again after three days, and we would know everything spoken of by the Prophets, and all he had professed during his ministry was true. With his death, Jesus offered each of us something to hope for beyond this flawed world.
Barabbas likely never understood Christ’s sacrifice. But we know he gave up his life simply because his love for us is infinite. It’s a love so selfless it’s incomprehensible for the human mind to truly fathom.
Saint Augustine once wrote, ‘God thirsts, that we might thirst for him’
Webster defines the term as a longing or ardent desire. In Psalms, King David poetically wrote of his personal love and desire for the Lord. ‘As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you O’ God.’ (Psalms 42-1)
Each of us has longed for God during moments in our lives when challenges seemed insurmountable, when we were suffering, or when we had lost hope. But to think God the Father thirsts for us is an amazing, if not humbling concept.
Have you ever thought your transgressions to be so egregious you couldn’t turn to God and seek his will in your life? Have you huddled in the darkness believing you, like Barabbas, were unworthy of his love? In my own life, during times when I have strayed furthest from the path God planned for me, I’ve felt undeserving of his forgiveness.
A feeling of unworthiness of the Almighty Father’s love is a human extinct existing since the beginning. In chapter 8 of Luke’s gospel, when Peter suddenly realized Jesus was the Messiah, he fell to his knees and cried out, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5-8) But Jesus didn’t reject Peter that day. And when Peter denied Him three times prior to his passion on the cross, Jesus returned in the last chapter of John to reassure him of his infinite love and forgiveness.
At the beginning of this story, the soldier told Barabbas ‘another’ had taken his place. Over 2000 years ago, Jesus took our place. Though none of us had yet been conceived, he did so willingly because he loves us and has great plans for each of us.
The words in Jeremiah, chapter 29, tell us of God’s love and desire for us. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope” (Jeremiah 29-11)
Many of us spend our lives seeking to understand the specific plans God has defined for us. We often follow paths of our own making, before discovering these journeys only lead to disappointment and suffering. The Lord’s plan for my life unfolded slowly, over the course of almost 50 years. My journey was fraught with bumps, blind alleys, and self-induced wounds that took me to a dark place in my life. But despite my sins, God loved me enough to raise me from the ashes and shine a path for me. One that led to him.
Truly, none of us will ever be worthy of him. We are all flawed and broken, but he loves us unconditionally despite our flaws. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. And it’s never too late to seek him.