How you, me, and Barabbas pursue God’s mission without God’s methods

But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man [Jesus]! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:18-21)

For most of my life, I viewed Barabbas as a senseless murderer—the ancient equivalent of Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer. But that’s likely an inaccurate portrait of this man.

Many scholars believe that Barabbas (or “Jesus Barabbas” as he’s referred to in Matthew 27:17) was likely a religious zealot. As pastor Daniel Darling explains: 

“Many Jewish people in the first century were wary of Rome…But the cohort of zealots to which Barabbas belonged to took resistance to another level. They sought to overthrow the Roman government by any means possible…assassination plots, targeted murder, and terrorism.”

If Jesus Barabbas had a mission statement for his work, it likely would have sounded similar to Jesus Christ’s—to see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. But the methods of these two men could not have been more different.

While Jesus Barabbas plotted the downfall of the government, Jesus Christ preached respect for the emperor (see Mark 12:13-17). While Jesus Barabbas sought to slaughter Roman soldiers, Jesus Christ “let the soldiers hold and nail him down so that he could save them” (see Matthew 27:39-44).

In short, Barabbas pursued the mission of God while neglecting the methods of God. You and I are tempted to do the same thing today—to, as pastor Skye Jethani puts it, “divorce the work of Christ from the way of Christ…to separate the scope of God’s mission from the nature of God’s mission.”

What does it look like for you and me to pursue the mission of Jesus while neglecting the methods of Jesus?

It looks like building businesses so that we can give generously to missions, while failing to pay our employees and contractors fairly (see James 5:1-5). Or working “heartily as unto the Lord,”  without ever questioning whether the products our employer sells are “true…noble…and right” (see Philippians 4:8). Or spending so much time doing “the work of the Lord” that we neglect abiding with the Lord as we do that work (see John 15:4).

You’re unlikely to commit murder like Barabbas today. But you are likely to join Barabbas in pursuing God’s mission apart from God’s methods. Pray for the Lord’s help to pursue his mission with his methods today.


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