Product sample lady at the store: “Try these kale chips! They’re the perfect substitute for potato chips!”
Me: “You’ve never eaten potato chips have you?”
I’m not always a big fan of substitutes – when I was a kid my mom was fully immersed in the fledgling hippie organic health food world. For a while I wasn’t allowed to eat commercial candies, but my mom gave me carob bars from the health food store which she described as a substitute for the poisonous candy I wanted. It tasted exactly nothing like chocolate.
Trying to substitute something good for something bad doesn’t always work – but there is one substitute for which I will be eternally grateful. In this case, the good was substituted for the bad on a cosmic scale, and because of it, we can breathe deeply the air of freedom.
We’re going to be considering The Substitute in our study of Luke this Sunday – reading chapter 23:13-25. The trial of Jesus continues as he is bounced back and forth between Pilate and Herod then back to Pilate for a verdict. Pilate wants to release Jesus after whipping him.
We know Pilate from history as a corrupt, ambitious and cruel leader who was in continual conflict with the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders. Factoring in his character and animosity for the Sanhedrin, why might he have wanted to set Jesus free?
Luke gives us no explanation for Barabbas’ appearance – we have to read Matthew 27:15-17 to get that information.
Barabbas appears in all four gospels at this point of the narrative. That means he’s important to the story – at least as a way of telling us about the story. What picture does Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ condemnation present to us? How does it reveal the nature of the gospel initiative?
Put yourself in the sandals of Barabbas. You’ve been brought from your cell into the sunlight and told someone named Jesus of Nazareth will be dying instead of you, and you will now go free. What do you feel? What goes through your mind; what questions would you ask?
The word “release” is repeated five times in this section of Luke. What does that emphasis imply to you? What does it speak about the nature of our lives after being reconciled to God through Jesus?
This is a dramatic section of the story – I’m really looking forward to digging into this text together! I hope you can join us!