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The tale of the men named Jesus (Sermon April 9, 2017)

Matthew 27:11–54 (NRSV) jesus-barabba

Pilate Questions Jesus

(Mk 15:2–5; Lk 23:2–5; Jn 18:29–38a)

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Barabbas or Jesus?

(Mk 15:6–14; Lk 23:13–24; Jn 18:39–40)

15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified

(Mk 15:15; Lk 23:25; Jn 19:16)

24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

(Mk 15:16–20)

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

(Mk 15:21–32; Lk 23:26–43; Jn 19:16b—27)

32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36 then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37 Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’ ” 44 The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

The Death of Jesus

(Mk 15:33–41; Lk 23:44–49; Jn 19:28–30)

45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”


For the past few weeks we have been walking with Jesus through the last year of his ministry. Last week we went with Him and His disciples to Bethany to the estate of their friend Lazarus who had died. And when Jesus left Lazarus was a bit less dead. How would you react if you had witnessed this event? Have you ever actually considered your reaction?

Well there were a couple reactions to this event within the religious circles in Jerusalem. The first was crown him King! The second was just as emotional but had a more negative look kill him before they make him king.

Today’s passage takes us into the last week of Jesus life. Jesus leaves Bethany and he goes into Jerusalem for the Passover feast. If we were to look at all the accounts of this last week of Jesus’ ministry we would see that Jesus road into the city on a donkey’s colt and the crowds cheered and worshiped him laying their cloaks and palms down before him. This only caused the group that opposed Jesus to push harder. They convinced one of Jesus’ own disciples to betray him. This betrayal is something I have often contemplated, in the chapter previous we can get a hint into why Judas betrayed his teacher, he was upset that Jesus allowed a woman to anoint his feet with costly perfume when she could have sold the perfume and given that money to the poor. Of course, Matthew tells us that Judas was not concerned with the poor just the money, but it causes me to pause because Judas’ argument could have been pretty convincing.

Jesus was betrayed, He was betrayed by someone within his own inner circle, and the seeds of that betrayal had religious highlights. We give Judas a bad rap and rightly so, but have we faced similar situations and failed just as bad?

Jesus stands before the governor accused. The man asks him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” This question is a political question, one that would require a yes or no answer. If yes, Jesus would be charged with treason and executed. If no, Jesus could be charged with starting a riot and again executed. The governor was not one that was opposed to the death penalty and mastered it as if it were an art form. Jesus answered, “You say so.”

What type of answer is that? It is a plea of no contest. Pilate, no matter how Jesus answered, would lay that title on Jesus because as far as he is concerned any leader or teacher within the Jewish population is a threat to his position. But Pilate had a custom according to Matthew to release one prisoner during the Passover Feast. He chooses two men to stand before the people, both carry the name Jesus. This is something that is very interesting. The name Jesus is a Greek translation of the name Joshua which means Jehovah is salvation. Two men named Jesus stood before the crowd which will you choose?

We do not know exactly what the crimes of Barabbas were but legend would state that he was a militant leader, who reminded the people of Israel of the Maccabean revolts which freed them from their overlords which gave them liberty for around three hundred years. Jesus Barabbas would have been a potential military leader, or a king who would lead them into battle. If this were the case Pilate presented the people with two kings.

But he also presented the people with two sons. It is always important to remember that there are real lives attached to every story we read. Connected to these people are others, and everything that happens deepens the story with each person affected. There is always more to a story than what meets the eyes. The brutal governor of Jerusalem, Pilate, acted the way he did for reasons because he was connected to people and his behavior reflected the relationships he had. Pilate was charged with keeping order in province of the Empire that did not want to be subjects of Rome. He was a political appointment to this post and the one that appointed him was losing favor in Rome so Pilate needed to prove his loyalty by keeping Israel off the radar. He did this through quick and heavy handed judgments. The offer he made before the people is an oddity to his personality. It is a concession, it is offering the people of Israel an olive branch of peace. I will be merciful and give you back a leader if you will only subject yourselves to the rule of Rome. Jesus Barabbas is also a son, he is connected to others and has family and friends who would do anything to keep him alive.

There is a deeper story being played before us. Jehovah is salvation, but where does our salvation rest? Barabbas or Christ? The name Barabbas means son of a father. We have a son of a father and the son of God standing before the crowd. Jehovah is salvation through a father or man, or Jehovah is salvation through God. We have a picture of faith and where our faith lies right before us. Is our faith, our hope of salvation resting in the hands of men, or is it in the hands of God. Do we put our trust in the hands of mankind or do we entrust our lives to God?

How we answer that question is very important. Look at the lives we see in this passage. Pilate the Governor of Jerusalem seeks to release all guilt from himself and pass it onto the people. The soldiers act with mockery and brutality. The crowds react with self-interest. And Jesus enters a plea of contest. Why is there violence and a protective attitude on one side and not the other? Because deep down we all know that this life is short and that within a heartbeat we can lose everything. In one moment, the stock market can crash and our financial security can vanish like smoke in the wind. Look at world news and we can see once secure leaders of nations are being toppled by their own people or more vicious rebels. In the kingdoms of men our faith is placed on ourselves, and our security is in how well we can defend what we claim. The larger the empire the more violent the empire must become to protect itself till it no longer cares for the people living under its rule but is instead interested in preserving the empire.

Two Jesuses stood before the people. Two Jesuses whose name points to where salvation lies. Where will we place our hope? One of those men walked free that day, the other was led away, flogged, mocked, forced to carry a cross through the city and up to the top of a hill, and was nailed to that cross and left to die. Two Jesuses one was the son of a father, the son of a man the other as far as the Romans were concerned was no one. History will tell us that the personality of Barabbas led the people of Israel into a revolt invoking the wrath of the Empire and ultimately the destruction of everything the people held dear. The soldiers knew that day was coming when they let Barabbas walk, but the other Jesus they did not know how to read and it terrified them. He did not lead a rebellion in the same ways. His weapons were mercy, charity, and healing. His arsenal was food and prayer. Yet when he died they said, “Truly this man was God’s Son.”

Two Jesuses stand before us. In them is the image of our hope for salvation. In which do we entrust our lives?

About jwquaker

I’m sure everyone wants to know who I am…well if you are viewing this page you do. I’m Jared Warner and I am a pastor or minister recorded in the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Yearly Meeting. To give a short introduction to the EFC-MA, it is a group of evangelical minded Friends in the Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. We are also a part of the larger group called Evangelical Friends International, which as the name implies is an international group of Evangelical Friends. For many outside of the Friends or Quaker traditions you may ask what a recorded minister is: the short answer is that I have demistrated gifts of ministry that our Yearly Meeting has recorded in their minutes. To translate this into other terms I am an ordained pastor, but as Friends we believe that God ordaines and mankind can only record what God has already done. More about myself: I have a degree in crop science from Fort Hays State University, and a masters degree in Christian ministry from Friends University. Both of these universities are in Kansas. I lived most of my life in Kansas on a farm in the north central area, some may say the north west. I currently live and minister in the Kansas City, MO area and am a pastor in a programed Friends Meeting called Willow Creek Friends Church.


2 thoughts on “The tale of the men named Jesus (Sermon April 9, 2017)

  1. I was just reading this morning Fox’s warning to the priests, people and magistrates of the city of Hamburg. It also portrays two Jesuses, the one of truth and the other of man’s making. I am struck with Jared’s ending question, “In which do we trust our lives? The Jesus, in whose image we are remade, if in truth we are come to God? or Do we trust in the Jesus we make in our image? The “Christian Church” has had a Christ down through the ages that allows us to be conformed to the world and made in the image of the God of this world. But in this warning to the city of Hamburg Fox calls them (and us) to come to the Jesus who destroys the God of this world and our peace with it. As mentioned in the above post, there are consequences that depend upon the choice we make, consequences both temporal and eternal. For the sake of any wishing to read the passage, I am copying it below. It is a couple pages long.
    “You have painted and garnished the inside of your outward houses and high places; but look within your hearts with the light of Christ, which he hath enlightened you and every man that cometh into the world withal, and with it you may see how foul your hearts and insides are with sin and evil, which Christ tells you ye should make clean; who told the Pharisees how they “painted the sepulchres of the righteous,” and they themselves were full of rottenness and corruption. Therefore look into yourselves and your own hearts, what you are full of. To paint the sepulchres of the righteous apostles, and make a trade and a profession of their words, without the same holy ghost, power, light, and truth which they were in, will not stand the day of God’s vengeance. Therefore repent while you have time, turn to the Lord with your whole hearts, and do not think yourselves secure without a sense of his immediate almighty protection. For it is not all your works, nor all your own strength, power, and defence that can protect you. It is not for you to look at them, and think yourselves secure, and to sit down in your security, and let your hearts be merry, and at rest, and at ease. When the Lord brings a scourge upon you, that you are filled with terrors and fears, remember you were warned, that you were set down, but not in the true rest. Then all your own strength and force will stand you in no stead ; you will acknowledge that it must be God that must protect you. Therefore take warning; for your priests and people are too high, are swallowed up too much in this world. The vanities of it carry your minds away from God; your care is more for the world than for God, and more after the riches of this world than after the riches of the world that has no end. Know you not that all your heaps of outward treasure must have an end, and that you must leave them all behind you? therefore I am to warn and advise you, both high and low, priests and people, to come to the grace, light, and truth that comes by Jesus Christ; to the manifestation of the good spirit of God, which is given you to profit withal; that with this grace, truth, light, and spirit of Christ, you may turn to him from whence it comes, who saith, “Learn of me;” and God saith, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.” So all the children of the new covenant, that walk in the new and living way, do hear Christ their prophet, that God has raised up, and anointed to be their teacher and priest. So now, God doth speak to his people by his Son, as he did in the apostles’ days. The Lord is come to teach his people himself by his grace, light, truth, and spirit, and to bring them off from all the world’s teachers, made by men since the apostles’ days; who have kept people always learning, that they may always be paying of them. And he is come to bring them off all the world’s religions, to the religion that he set up in the apostles’ days in the new covenant, which is pure and undefiled before God in his sight, and keeps from the spots of the world, &c. And the Lord is come to bring them off all the world’s churches, to the church in God, which Christ the heavenly man is head of; and to bring them off all the world’s worships, to worship God in spirit and in truth, which Christ set up above sixteen hundred years since. So all men and women must come to the spirit and truth in their hearts, by which they must know the God of truth who is a spirit: and then in the spirit and truth they will worship him, and know what and whom they worship. Also the Lord is come to bring his people off all the world’s temples, that with the spirit they may know their bodies to be the temples of the holy ghost. And the Lord is come to bring his people off all the world’s crosses, pictures, images, and likenesses; to know that the power of God is the cross of Christ, which crucifies them to the world, and brings them up into the likeness and image of God man and woman were in before they fell; and so to Christ that never fell. This work must all know in their hearts by the light of Christ Jesus, who “is the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” It is called the light in man and woman, and the life in Christ the word; who saith, “Believe in the light, that ye may become children of the light.” And the light lets you see all your evil actions that you have committed, your ungodly ways you have walked in, and your ungodly words and thoughts. If you hate this light, and love the darkness, and the prince of it, more than this light, which is the life in Christ, the Prince of life, and will not come to it, because your deeds be evil, and it will reprove you, Christ tells you, “this light is your condemnation.” Then what is all your profession good for, when you remain under the condemnation of the true light, in which you should believe, and so become children of light, and out of condemnation? Therefore, every one must believe in the light, if they receive Christ Jesus; and to as many as receive him, he gives “power to become the sons of God.” He that hath the Son of God, hath life; they that have not the Son of God, have not life; and if you have not life, what good doth all your profession of the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation do you, any more than the Jews, scribes, and pharisees, that would not receive Christ the life, upon whom God brought his overflowing scourge. Therefore do you take heed, for your strength will be no better than theirs, if you have not God and Christ’s supporting power, when God’s scourge comes upon you, and you are filled with horrors and fears. My desires are, that you may all repent, from the highest to the lowest, and not grieve, nor quench, nor vex, nor rebel against God’s good spirit in you, nor “walk despitefully against the spirit of grace,” nor turn from it unto wantonness, which would teach you, and bring your salvation. If you do, how can you escape the overflowing scourge of the Almighty, and the wrath of the Lamb? My desires are, that you may all obey God’s good spirit of truth, which will lead you out of all evil into all truth, and reprove you for your own righteousness, and for your own judgment and sin, and bring you to cleave to that which is good, to forsake that which is evil, and to turn to the Lord, who will receive you in his mercy and kindness: by which means you may escape the overflowing scourge in the day of vengeance, which dreadful day is coming upon all evildoers. This is a warning to you, both for your temporal and eternal good; for you to read in your assemblies, and your priests in their churches; so that all people may hear and fear, as you will answer it at the terrible and dreadful day of judgment. G. F.” (Works of Fox, Vol. II, pp. 379-381)

    Posted by Ellis Hein | April 9, 2017, 1:06 PM

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