Friday, March 21, 2008

It Should Have been Me. But it Wasn't

Good Friday...

I could sit here and literally break into tears at the thought of everything Jesus did for me that day 2,000 years ago. I think about the suffering, the pain, the agony, the blood, the thorns, the whipping, the cursing, the nails...shudder. And then I think about the fact that Jesus KNEW all of this would happen and, although He wasn't crazy about the idea, He was WILLING to go through it all. I'm sure because He knew it was only temporary and He was well aware of what was on the other side of His torture.

Today, I want to post a piece I wrote a while back that took 3rd place in the FaithWriters Writing Challenge. I've since edited it a hair but it sums up what I'm feeling today. Because, really, it should have been me. But - PRAISE JESUS - He took my place.

It should have been him.

Barabbas sat behind a tree, watching the mass of people in the distance. He needed to witness it for himself, to somehow pay respects to the man who had taken his place on death row.

Jesus staggered along the pathway. He stumbled several times, only to be yanked back up and pushed down again. Another man walked beside him, bent over, carrying the tree. Slowly, agonizingly, the mob made its way to the top of the hill. Barabbas cringed in horror as long, thick, nails were hammered into the hands and feet of an innocent man.

A week ago he did not believe in Jesus’ innocence. And no way did he trust his claim to be the Son of God. But that was before. Before he had looked into the eyes of the one willing to die for him.

He would never forget the moment. The shouts of the people still reverberated in his head, “Maqqabah ushsharna! Maqqaba ushsharna!” Defiant fists had pumped the air and spit flew past him and onto Jesus bloody and battered skin. And from somewhere deep inside, arose the unfamiliar yet overpowering emotion of sympathy. Barabbas could not resist turning his head toward the poor, pathetic Jew barely able to stand on his own. The man beaten and swollen so badly he was unrecognizable, probably even to his own mother.

Barabbas had taken his share of eye daggers. He had received more than a few glares overflowing with hate. He had expected the same contempt from Jesus. But when he looked into Jesus’ eyes, he saw no anger. Only sadness... weariness... Barabbas felt the gaze pierce his soul. And right then he knew. Jesus was the Son of God. He knew Jesus could have saved himself, that Jesus of Nazareth had a choice between life and death.

And he had chosen death.

For him.

Barabbas had been unable to look away, his eyes held in place by some invisible force, broken only when he was physically wrenched away by a guard instructed to unlock his chains. And when the guard gave him a hard shove, Barabbas fled.

But the look haunted him, which was the reason he had come back. He didn’t want to be there. Was tempted to turn and flee again. But he could not look away. He watched as the cross was raised. And as he saw Jesus hanging there, in his place, Barabbas wept.

Barabbas was guilty of many things. But he had been given a second chance. He now had a choice to make: how would he would use the gift of freedom handed to him? Would he keep quiet? Would he be ashamed to admit that a simple Jewish carpenter had saved him from impending death? Would he reveal what he now knew to be true - that Jesus was, indeed, who he said he was? Would he dare speak of the moment he looked into Jesus’ eyes and his heart was changed? The moment he had looked into the eyes of God?

One thing Barabbas knew: that the life he was spared would never be the same. And one thing he would never – ever – forget:

It should have been him.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans
6:23 (NLT)

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