Historians and archaeologists overwhelmingly affirm it.
But the Crucifixion is not just a story of long ago; it is the story of my heart… and yours.
Luke 23 records the scene: Having just been accused of blasphemy before the religious leaders for claiming to be the promised Messiah, Jesus was then brought before government officials, Pontius Pilate and King Herod, but they could not find any crimes.
“(Pilate) said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving of death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.‘” (23:13-16)
“they all cried out together, ‘Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas’ – a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!’ A third time he said to them, ‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.’ But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.” (23:18-25)
Many of the very same people who had, just days before, welcomed Jesus as he entered Jerusalem shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9) were now the same ones shouting “Crucify him!” I have often wondered if I would have been among them, carried along by the crowd, one day praising and the next condemning. But, in truth, I am not simply one of the mocking crowd or even just of the grateful redeemed.
I am, in fact, Barabbas; the spotless Lamb of God took MY cross that day.
The guilty one was set free in exchange for the innocent Jesus. Many believe that the two men crucified on either side of Jesus were Barabbas’ partners in crime as it was common for criminals to suffer together. The brutal, torturous death that Jesus willingly endured was designed for another, a penalty fitting for another’s crime.
The responses to Christ’s crucifixion that day are the same we see today. First, there was indifference. There were many curious onlookers apparently oblivious that the most significant event in history was taking place before their eyes (23:35a) while others were only focused on getting some free clothes (23:35b).
The second response was ridicule, mocking, hatred. This attitude of rejection was blatantly and overwhelmingly demonstrated by the crowd, rulers, soldiers, and even one of the men being crucified. “‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’” (23:35-39).
There was a third response: saving faith. “BUT the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.‘ And He said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.‘” (23:40-43)
In that short passage is the fullness of the Gospel and one of the clearest portions of Scripture to show that salvation is by grace though faith alone:
- He had an attitude of reverence for God (23:40)
- He recognized his was a sinner deserving of punishment (23:41a)
- He recognized Christ was sinless (23:41b)
- He believed and proclaimed that Jesus was Lord and King (23:a)
- He acknowledged that Jesus alone had the power to save him from eternal death (23:42b)
On Good Friday, the criminal was set free and the Innocent took his place…my place The work is done. (John 19:30) The man on the cross who believed did nothing to earn grace and neither can we! All glory and praise to God!
Of course, the story doesn’t end there… Because of Easter, I know that my Redeemer lives! (Luke 24)
That is why that torturous cross is most beautiful to me, why I cherish that “Old, Rugged Cross”; it should have been mine. Because of His perfect righteousness, I no longer stand condemned.
Like Barabbas, I deserved the penalty and I will be eternally thankful that the Savior took my place.