The tale of three men presents an interesting paradigm as each one relates to Jesus, the Christ of God. JUDAS spent three years in ministry with Jesus, yet never believed; BARABBAS was condemned to death by crucifixion, yet was released as Jesus took his place on the cross; yet THE THIEF, a life-long scoundrel suffering in agony while stapled to a torture chamber — the cross — came to see that the Man in the middle was the Jewish Messiah and believed.
JOHN 10:10 (NKJV): “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
JOHN 8:24b (BSB): “Unless you believe I am He, you will die in your sins.”
THREE RESPONSES TO JESUS
WHAT A SPECTACLE. Here is Jesus brought before the Jewish leaders, then before the Roman authorities. He is mocked, spit upon, beaten, then turned over for crucifixion.
We read of three men who were impacted deeply and eternally by His suffering.
- One man — Judas — had spent three years with Jesus, hearing Him teach, watching Him heal, and even being empowered himself to heal broken bodies and cast out demons, tratorously betrayed Him. In remorse, he returned the blood money the Jewish leaders had paid him, then hanged himself.
- Another man — Barabbas — was freed from the dungeon and the penalty of crucifixion he deserved, and left the scene, amazed at his good fortune, but no record of his gratitude or repentance. Perhaps he resumed his life of rebellion and was killed in a later skirmish.
- A third man — the thief — who presumably had led his short life stealing property from other people and was sentenced to die on the cross, an agonizing punishment of slow death from asphyxiation. Yet, while hanging from the tree in tremendous physical pain, he recognized Jesus as the Messiah, as the Son of God, and believed.
Of the three men impacted deeply that day by Jesus last moments, the thief alone was assured of eternal life through God’s grace. “Today,” Jesus said to him, “you will be with me in Paradise.
WHERE IS GOD WORKING?
WHAT DO WE SEE when we look around us? At this holiday time especially, many of us have our best opportunities to gather with family and close friends to share meals, desserts, conversation, and general “catching up.”
Yet, as Christians committed to obeying the Great Commission to tell others of our faith, what do we find as those familiar faces sit in our parlors and living rooms, gather around the great tables in our dining rooms, or mingle before the giant television set in our family rooms.
Do we see fellow believers? Some of us do, but many of us don’t.
Instead, do we see those who, like Judas, lead “good lives” according to worldly standards yet lack a personal knowledge of the Lord?
Do we see the scoundrels, like Barabbas, who seem to defy accountability and reckoning for their behavior?
Or do we see those, like the repentant thief, who realize living challenging lives according to their own needs and wants leads to an emptiness that begs for healing?
WHAT OUR FRIENDS NEED
WHAT CAN WE SAY to them, our friends and family members, those whom we love and have prayed for to encourage them to see Jesus as their friend and savior?
What did Jesus say to each of the three men we’re studying, Judas, Barabbas, and the thief?
As far as we know, His final testimony was lived out in His actions. He had preached to Judas and taught him for three years, and then warned him about what he was about to do.
We have no record of anything He said to Barabbas, but Barabbas must have turned around to look at Him as he was led out from prison. What did he see when he saw the Master?
WHAT SCRIPTURE TELLS US
WE KNOW FROM SCRIPTURE and from the life of Jesus that our testimony is comprised of our actions and our words, what we do and what we say, how we act and how we speak. They must be in synch, and they must reflect God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
As we enjoy the holiday season with loved ones, we should reflect on our prayers for them during the preceding year. Were we consistent? Were we sincere? Did we pray out of rote or out of conviction?
- One man threw away three years of friendship and tutoring for 35 pieces of silver and a self-administered noose.
- Another man escaped a torturous death he deserved and, for all we know, never looked back, never changed.
- But a third man, struggling with excruciating pain just to breathe, called Him “Messiah” and was granted God’s grace.
OUR PRAYERS for our loved ones should reflect the grace of the Risen Lord, believing that His love is wide enough and deep enough to encompass all of those who don’t know Him — the casual Christian with whom we share a meal, the family rebel who glorifies himself (or herself) by avoiding the earthly penalty for their lifestyle, and the penitent — the one lost sheep the Shepherd can save.
Father God, we are ashamed to see ourselves reflected in the unbelievers who demanded our Lord’s crucifixion, wondering if we, too, would have cried out to crucify him and release for us the murdering thug Barabbas. Would we have accepted payment of 30 pieces of silver to turn Him in to the authorities, or would we, like the thief crucified beside Him, recognize who He was, the Messiah, even as the Apostles ran from the authorities and Peter denied Him? We only have to answer for ourselves today. So, Father God, help us who trust the Lord for our salvation share that conviction with those You place in our way who do not know Him. In Jesus’ magnificent and beautiful name we pray. AMEN