Friday, April 3, 2015


I was in prison, awaiting my penalty, when I heard them coming.  Angry they shouted, "Crucify him!  Crucify him!"  Fear gripped my heart, tightening my throat.  Though I knew I deserved it, the thought of crucifixion terrified me.  My time had come.  Soldiers rattled the iron gate and called me out.

"You are free to go," they declared. 

What?  No crucifixion?  Then what of the crowd?  Why so angry and who did they mean to crucify?  The soldier said it again, "Go!"  Without looking back, I ran through the streets, strength filling lungs and legs, the words echoing through my mind, "Free to go, free to go..."

Life is unfair, we often think when we run up against struggles.  Unfair?  Surely, if life were fair, death is what we would receive, separation from God forever.  Jesus faced injustice at every turn, but the freedom of Barabbas is perhaps the most severe injustice of all.    

The events of these last weeks have placed my life on trial in a way I have never experienced before.  And though it is nothing compared to what Jesus went through, yet, to know a tiny taste of His suffering has sharpened my senses to its reality.

Last night, I watched the movie, Ben Hur.  It is a tradition I hold to every Easter, and yet the scene which touches me most deeply is when Judah walks through the leper's cave, searching for his diseased and dying sister.  Finding her, he wraps his arms around her frail body and buries his head against her chest, exposing him, a man in his prime, to leprosy.   How could it be, that holiness would touch filth? 

Jesus entered this world in a smelly stable.  But in His death on the cross, He embraced my filth.  He did not stand at a distance.  No, love drew Him close, near enough to touch the untouchable, and in doing so, He was cut down in His prime.  Scarcely recognizable, His body brutally beaten, He was cut off from any descendants. 

How can it then be, that heaven is filled with His children?  Only because when a seed is planted in the ground and dies, it later produce much fruit. (John 12:24) Jesus, this tender shoot, the holy seed from the stump of Israel, died, was buried, and then rose in triumph.

 "Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  Death is swallowed up in victory."  (1 Cor. 15:55 with Isa. 25:8) 

One day, I will stand before a holy God and justice will be paramount to my eternal destiny.  But herein lies the most severe injustice, for Jesus will say, "You are free."  What?  Like Barabbas, I experience the injustice of grace, life unfair in my favor because Jesus, an innocent man, took the punishment I deserved.  And yet, like a gift, it does not become mine until I receive it, for "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."  (Rom. 10:9) 

This undeserved favor causes my heart to burst with gratefulness!  How deep the Father's love for me, that I should be called a child of God!  (1 John 3:1)   The following is the song of my heart, the song of a soul set free. 

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold, the man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers,
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life-
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from his reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart-
his wounds have paid my ransom.

by Stewart Townend

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