The comings of Lord Jesus into this world was for our redemption from the slavery of sin and the forces of darkness and thus reestablish our relationship with God. The situation prevailing in the world today is almost identical to the one prevailing then, around two thousand years ago. The same atmosphere of unease and instability had prevailed and the cross of Calvary was used by God to remove the darkness from within us to heap it on His Son and give us new birth in Him. In today’s uncertain times the question most people are asking is, will He come through and save us now also?
Why do believers also fear? – We are afraid of what we cannot see and control. Lord Jesus taught that ‘God is a Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth’ (John 4:24). Our worship, therefore, is not of something visible and tangible but of God who is heard and not seen. Holy Spirit is given to all believers to ‘teach all things and remind’ the words of Lord Jesus (John 14:26).The Israelites asked Aaron to ‘make us gods that shall go before us’ and the golden calf was made and worshipped (Exodus 32:1). The command to ‘shema’ or listen, understand and obey is, that we are required to listen to God and His commands given by God through the prophets (Deuteronomy 6:3,4). On the other hand all other nations around the Israelites worshipped a man made image of god that was visible. God created a fire in the bush not to burn and destroy it but to attract Moses’ attention and he heard God’s commands and did not see Him. ‘God spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend’ but Moses prayed to God, ‘Please show me Your glory’ (Exodus 33:11&18). Thus God was face to face with Moses but he could not see God.
The Israelites were afraid of God’s presence on Mount Sinai and asked Moses to speak to them and that they would hear him, ‘but let not God speak with us’ (Exodus 20:18-19). The Jewish religion and the Christian faith are both based on listening to God and not on seeing Him whereas the maxim of the world is ‘seeing is believing’. The Israelites asked Prophet Samuel to ‘make us a king to judge us like all the nations’ and God commanded the unhappy prophet to do so, ‘for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I may not reign over them’ (1 Samuel 8:5-7). We want to believe some visible presence of God and then we want to please Him with our visible deeds and God gave them the Tabernacle, a High Priest and the process of sacrifices. The bringing of sacrifice implies that the individual recognizes that he/she belongs entirely to God and through the life of the sacrificial offering was a declaration that his own life also belongs to God.
Lord Jesus’ death on the cross to atone for the sins of humanity was acknowledgment of the fact that our life itself is a gift from God. His resurrection on the third day is God’s assurance to man that even after his physical death God would not let him suffer separation from Him. The message of Easter is about freedom to serve God and live a life that glorifies Him to do His will and to not follow Satan and his forces of evil who live in rebellion to God for their own glory. Satan gives us death and pain whereas God through His Son gives us peace, eternal life and power to fight and overcome the evil perpetrated by the devil.
Barabbas and the Messiah – Not many are mentioned by name in the four Gospel accounts where Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist and Pontius Pilate play active roles. But Barabbas is surprisingly mentioned in all four accounts whereas not even all twelve disciples are named. Since the details are included under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, obviously He desires us to take note of this. Barabbas is called a notorious criminal (Matthew 27:16); one who committed murder in a rebellion (Mark 15:7 & Luke 23:18-19) and a robber (John 18:40). The Greek word used by Apostle John is ‘lestes’ meaning one who exploits the vulnerable often with violence. Definitely not someone who could be loved by the Jewish people. Pontius Pilate first developed before the masses a case about Lord Jesus’ clear innocence by repeatedly declaring, ‘I find no guilt in Him’ (John 18:38 & 19:4;6). The choice given to the crowd was clear, to release Barabbas, a robber and definitely not a popular hero, or Lord Jesus, called the Christ, for Pilate hoped that such contrast would lead to Lord Jesus release. But the guilty man was pardoned and the innocent condemned to death by crucifixion and the greatest sin of history was committed by all involved.
Let us compare another person who suddenly came on the scene without any details and disappeared. Melchizedek, the king and priest of ancient Salem, suddenly comes into Abraham’s life, like a foreshadow of our great King and High Priest, our Savior Lord (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6; 6:20 to 7:17). Barabbas, on the other hand, is known by us as the guilty man who received a life giving pardon, a type of all of us. Barabbas is not a name but ‘bar abbas’ means ‘son of the father’ and his story is ours. We have all sinned and deserve eternal death and separation from God but Lord Jesus’ crucifixion not only gives us life but to be ‘children of God’ and be a part of His Divine family (Romans 3:23 & 6:23).
Going into Easter we must have a hard look at Barabbas, another son of the Father, who received pardon through God’s grace and mercy, much like us. Lord Jesus declared, ‘If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ (John 8:36). I am not less guilty than Barabbas but the Messiah died for me to set me free. Barabbas also, like us, has a Father in heaven who gives new life to us and whom we hardly know, though Lord Jesus’ coming was to reveal Him and lead us to Him. Our earthly father shapes our life up to a large extent as to how we think, feel, behave and love but do we depend on the Heavenly Father also as much?
We focus more on Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit but hardly as much on the Father, the One who made Good Friday, Easter, ascension, glorification of the Son and then Pentecost to make us share that glory. God blessed us with faith to love His Son but He has first loved us as a Father. Before my earthly father was my heavenly Father, more loving, more powerful, more wise, more generous who listens to me with patience, with great cost to Himself, for our good. A Father, who has given His Spirit to help and guide us in everything for ‘Our Father who art in heaven’ is more close to us than anyone else (Ephesians 3:14-15). His special characteristics as a Father must be understood fully by us.
One, He is a happy Father who declares, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased and then on the mountain He repeats the same words (Matthew 3:17 & 17:5). The Son reveals the Father’s love by praying for us, ‘Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that You have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world’ (John 17:24). Our Father in heaven loves us, ‘not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:10). Lord Jesus again told the believers, ‘The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God’ (John 16:27).
Two, He is a generous Father for He led His people from slavery in Egypt and provided them Manna from heaven, protecting and guiding them with the ‘Pillar of cloud’. Lord Jesus first assures us, ‘In My Father’s house are many rooms’ and I will have a room ready for you, when you come there (John 14:2).
Three, He is an exhorting Father – A good father disciplines his children for he loves them (Proverbs 13:24) and the indwelling Holy Spirit ‘teaches us everything and reminds us of all the words of Lord Jesus’ to guide and encourage us (John 14:26).
Four, He is a listening Father – Lord Jesus made sure that He spent time with the Father alone (Mark 1:35 & 6:46) and when He felt abandoned by all He cried out to the Father in Heaven, ‘If it is Your will, take this cup away from Me’ (Luke 22:42). Apostle Peter told us to put all our cares on God for He cares for us’ (1 Peter 5:7). Lord Jesus as our Intercessor is still praying to the Father, ‘especially for those who draw near to God through Him’ (Hebrews 7:25).
Five, He is a Sovereign Father with all power and authority – Lord Jesus specifies this point, ‘My Father, who has given (My sheep) to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hands’ (John 10:29-30). He loves His family members and His counsel shall always stand and He shall accomplish all that He desires (Isaiah 46:9-10).
Six, He is a sacrificial Father for He protects, provides for and loves, our Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Shalom and as His children our souls need never be troubled alone. Scripture promise is, ‘Be strong and of good courage, do not fear… for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6). This Father did not sacrifice you to serve Himself but sacrificed His Own Son so that we could have Him (1 Peter 3:18).
Seven, He is life giving and loving and who cannot stop loving, even His rebellious children. In the Son was life and His Father is the fountain of life (John 1:4). This Easter bring God home as a Father, for He has brought you home, through Lord Jesus, as His son (Galatians 3:26-28).
Will God save us again? – ‘Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8). Apostle James, the brother of our Lord, while telling us about God, ‘the Father of light’, providing all good gifts also assures us that with Him ‘there is no variation or shadow of turning’ (James 1:17). He is the same Redeemer since eternity past and will be so till eternity in future but for every one look at self I must pause to look ten times on Lord Jesus for He is the Messiah. Lord Jesus’ message to His Church is, ‘Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown’ (Revelation 3:11). And then again, hold fast to your faith to overcome fear for we must yearn earnestly to hear these words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21).
The devil whispers, Will He come through this time when thousands are dying? While facing tribulations we never fight against our faithlessness but like the father of the deaf and mute boy question God’s faithfulness and tell Him, ‘If You can do anything have compassion on us and help us’ (Mark 9:22-23). So what do we do? Lord Jesus answered the man, ‘everything is possible for the one who believes’. I must remain steadfast in faith and prayer and ‘Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourself’ (James 1:22). When we are hearers only of the word of God we become deceived easily and our house crumbles for it was without a foundation (Luke 6:46-49).
Scripture assurance is that God will not lie like a man for whatever He has promised in His word, He will surely do it (Numbers 23:19). Moses commanded the Israelites to, ‘Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He’ (Deuteronomy 32:3-4). What will be left in the world if we have an unfaithful God? Remember His faithfulness like Joshua who told his fellow Jews, ‘not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. all have come to pass for you, not one word of them has failed’ ((Joshua 23:14). Repeatedly sing aloud to yourself, ‘Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies’ (Psalm 36:5). God’s faithfulness does not depend on my actions but it is His grace and mercy towards me for ‘If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself’ (2 Timothy 2:13).
He will not fail us now also. King David sang to Himself, ‘Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You’ (Psalm 56:3) and like Job, I will also make a covenant with my eyes not to look at my circumstances and the storms all around ((Job 31:1). This Easter and every Easter I will look at the empty tomb and remember that my Savior has ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father in all power and glory. ‘Let us, then, hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful’ ((Hebrews 10:23). I will not look at what is visible but remain focused on that ‘still small voice’. Then even if we cannot get together in a building we shall sing His praises from wherever we are and open our hearts to Him for He is there knocking to enter and share a blessed meal with us.
It is said that the Sunflowers turn towards the sun but during rainy or cloudy days they turn towards each other to share their energy. We also must pray for one another, ‘that you may be healed’ (James 5:16). I have received a video of a few families standing in the balconies of their respective houses in obedience to the authorities and joined each other in singing hymns to praise God and then one of them prayed. I have God’s assurance, ‘For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes gives a good smell’ (Song of Solomon 2:11-13). My God has extended His hand of blessings to dispel the darkness from around us to give us a new hope and reason to rejoice.
And then I will rejoice and sing ‘my help comes from my God’, from Jehovah Ezer, my great help (Psalm 121:2). The Son of God emptied Himself of His Divine glory that was His from eternity and became man to die for me. How can I allow the devil’s lies that He will not come to my aid now, to affect me? I will walk by the Holy Spirit and listen to His seven sayings from the cross and seek His guidance to lead me on to the path of His righteousness.
Our strength, shield and our refuge is our Heavenly Father and the lies of the devil cannot shake me from my faith. It may be so dark all around us, that nothing is seen but the light of His Word will keep shining bright in me. Mary Magdalene and the others with her went crying but returned rejoicing to tell others though they did not believe her. I will keep reminding myself in these times that after the darkness of Good Friday there is that beautiful dawn of Easter. Then everyday is Easter for me for My Savior lives!