Riverside Community Church

Grace - Part 6

What’s so Amazing about Grace?

Grace: More than we deserve, Greater than we Imagine

Punishment avoided Barabbas



His jail cell was small, it contained only one small window.  The view from his window took his breath away.  He only had to look one time for the air to get sucked out of his gut.  He turned his back to the window and slid down the wall and sat in the dirt.  He didn’t say anything.  There was nobody to talk to, nobody to cry with, there was nothing to say.  He was terrified.  For a man who wasn’t afraid of anything . . . he was now horrified. The image in his mind was causing his hands to shake uncontrollably. 


What caused his fear?  What did he see?  He saw the hill.  He saw the place of the crosses – there were going to be 3 crosses there tomorrow and one would have his name on it. Barabbas.


About a 1/4 mile away there was a group of men.  With every passing second, this group was growing in size.  They weren’t happy and were voicing their disapproval to anyone who would listen.  Many of them had been up most of the night; they were tired and angry.  They were looking at the Roman governor in charge.


13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this Man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion.


I have examined Him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against Him.


15 Neither has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; as you can see, He has done nothing to deserve death.  16 Therefore, I will punish Him and then release Him.”


18 With one voice they cried out, “Away with this Man!  Release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)


That last sentence explains the life of Barabbas – a rebel and a murderer.  He was a troublemaker, a law breaker and a man killer.  What was Pilate supposed to do?  You don’t extend grace and freedom to a murderer.  But the crowd thinks so.  Instead, the crowd wants the innocent man to be killed.  But Pilate responds, ‘He’s not guilty.  He has done nothing to deserve death.’


Maybe Jesus is guilty of stirring up the crowd, of misapplication of scripture, or just giving a bad look to the wrong person.  Pilate doesn’t know, and frankly doesn’t care.  He doesn’t know who Jesus is.  Maybe Jesus deserves a lecture and a warning.  Maybe He deserves a beating; but He doesn’t deserve death.  Pilate had nothing to gain by releasing Jesus.  He even made 4 attempts to release Jesus.  He told the Jews ~


-They should settle the matter (John 18:28-31)

-He referred the issue to Herod (Luke 23:4-7)

-He wanted the Jews to accept Jesus as the prisoner released at Passover (Mark 15:6-10)

-He offered a compromise - scourging instead of the cross (Luke 23:22)


Even in Matthew 27, Pilate’s wife gets into the discussion and tells Pilate “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”  Pilate wants to release Jesus, saying, “I find no fault in Him ” - John 18:38.


Has anybody ever said that about you?  With that statement by Pilate, he speaks a very important and deep theological truth.  He said what Paul would later say in:

2 Corinthians 5:21 ~ God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 

        -there’s grace -my sin on Jesus, Jesus pays for my sin, I am now made righteous

Jesus took my place; Jesus took your place.

-ask Barabbas how it feels, he’s free, forgiven but he can still see the middle cross with his substitute on it.

The apostle John, echoed the same type of statement,

saying in 1 John 3:5                And in Him is no sin.


Can you imagine, He never once broke the laws of Rome, and He never violated the laws of God?   Can you imagine someone leading a life that had no fault?  In Proverbs 20:9, we read, “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?’”  Who can say that?  Not a single one of us.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned           ALL but one, Jesus -in Him is no sin


Remember when we were in school, and a teacher would make a mark in their book when you did something wrong?  Maybe you weren’t listening, or sleeping in the class, or spit ball fights, passing notes, chewing gum, or talking too much.  Whatever it was, they would make a tick mark next to your name.  At the end of the semester, the marks would be calculated into your final grade.  For some of us it might not look all too good. 


Now, what if God kept a book like this.  Oh, but wait. God does keep a book like that, all my sins recorded, nothing hidden, everything exposed. I’ve got so many marks on my page that it’s completely black with marks.

I, like Barabbas, look out of my own cell window and have no hope, I despair but then I see the hill, the cross, the substitute, my substitute, my Saviour.

I cast my eye to the book, the record of wrongs, I look at my page again only to see white, pure white, shining, like snow, like white wool and it’s spotless white. Oh, such grace.


My heart was black with sin,

Until the Saviour came in.

His precious blood I know,

Has washed me white as snow.

And in God’s word I’m told

I’ll walk the streets of gold.

Oh, wonderful, wonderful day,

He took my sins away


2 Corinthians 5:21 ~ God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 

-that’s amazing grace, more than you deserve & more than can imagine

What does your page look like? I can tell you assuredly; your page is either black or white. Sin’s black marks are still resident and staining. Or is the black sin washed away by the red blood until no mark remains and whiteness prevails.

-only you know the colour of your heart, black or white -there is no grey

        You are either forgiven, grace asked for and grace received in faith in Christ and now white as snow    OR black, where sin remains and sin’s punishment looms.


God calls to you; hear His words.

Isaiah 1:18

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.


Listen to part of Peter’s sermon from Acts 10

39 “We are witnesses of everything he (Jesus) did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”



We see this in Revelation 20:12 ~ The dead were judged by what they had done, which was written in the books.


We want a God who’s passionate, all powerful, filled with love and grace and intimately involved in our lives, as scary as that might be.  We can’t have a god who will ignore our sins, yet a god who will bring healing when we’re hurting.  That’s not a god, that’s wishful thinking.


If we can admit that God is going to punish sin, and our page has more marks on it than we can count, then where does that leave us?  This leads us back to Barabbas.


Because, just like Barabbas, we deserve to die.  Just like Barabbas we’ve rebelled against the king.  We’ve hurt people and ignored the laws of God.  We find ourselves imprisoned as well.  Not in a literal jail, but in unforgiveness, guilt, fear, anger.  We find ourselves against the wall, waiting, listening for the footsteps of the executioner.


And we hear him come, he unlocks the door to our jail cell.  It’s over, we don’t need to look up, because we know what he’s going to say.  We know the outcome of the story.  But then the executioner says something we never thought we’d hear ~ “You’re free to go.  Jesus took your place.  They’re punishing Jesus instead of you.” 


You let it soak in, but you don’t wait more than a few seconds.  Before you know it, you’re outside in the bright sunshine, your eyes are adjusting to the sun.  You’re trying to understand what just happened.


Paul tells us, Grace happened!  24 God in His gracious kindness, declares us not guilty.  He has done this through Christ Jesus - who has freed us by taking away our sins.

25 For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us.  We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed His blood, sacrificing His life for us.  Romans 3:24-25


Isn’t that an amazing statement about God, for us?!  Who did this?  Who initiated this?  Not you and I!  It was God who SENT Jesus to free us, by taking away our sins.  God saw our rebellion and sent His Son to satisfy His anger against us.  This was God’s plan before the creation of you and I.  It was God’s plan before the creation of Adam and Eve.  God knew this was going to happen so He had this plan.


So, 19 He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless lamb of God.


20 God chose Him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days He was sent to the earth for all to see.  And He did this for you. 1 Peter 1:19-20


Before there was a sinner, there was a Savior.  Before there was a disease, there was a remedy.  Before there was a Barabbas who needed a substitute, there was a substitute who was ready to take his place.  That substitute was Jesus. 


What did Jesus do?  He took away our sins.  He didn’t sweep them under the rug.  He didn’t pretend they never happened.  He made a public display of our sins.  He took our sins to the cross.  He not only suffered an excruciating death, but He also received the punishment of God.  The anger and wrath of God was poured out upon His Son, so that it would never be poured out upon His other children, you and I.


He took that record book that has all of your marks, and He crossed out your name, and He put in the name of His Son . . . Jesus.  And if He had only done that, we could call that grace, but He has promised to give us grace upon grace, and He turned the page to the one page in the book which bore no marks whatsoever . . . and you know what He did?


He marked through that name and He wrote yours!


This means that if you’re in Christ, when heaven sees you, heaven sees Jesus.  Because you’ve been credited, you’ve received in your account, the perfect life of Christ, that you didn’t lead or deserve.  And Jesus received the rebellious lives that we’ve lived.


It’s the great exchange. . . He became what we were . . . so that we can become who He is.


We don’t know whatever happened to Barabbas.  We don’t know how he responded when he learned that Jesus would die in his place.  Maybe nothing happened in him and his pride got the best of him and he thought, good for him, good for me.


Maybe he was so shame filled that he cowered in the corner and watched and flet incredible shame, but never went a step further. 


He could have stood up and said, ‘I don’t deserve this, but thanks be to God for the indescribable gift of Jesus was the true Son of God. 


I would like us to be the Barabbas who stood up in the jail cell and steps out into the world and follow Jesus all the way to the cross.  I want us to stand on the hill of calvary,along with Jesus. 

August 20, 2023