We Are All Guilty

Rev. Nancy Carmichael-Stoner is a Methodist pastor, now retired. She and her husband, Craig, facilitate a Bible study which I have been attending on Zoom for the last couple of years.

We are currently going through Max Lucado’s book “Grace: More than we deserve. Greater than we imagine.” The third chapter mentions Barabbas, the man who went free the day they crucified Jesus. This is her take on the passage the group was examining recently.

My name is Nancy, and I am Barabbas!

Monday night’s conversation centered on Barabbas. This at first seems like an unlikely person who received Grace. Barabbas was a rebel(insurrectionist)and murderer. Indisputably guilty. Jesus was without sin. Not guilty and (Roman governor) Pontious Pilate makes four attempts to free him. The crowd instead wanted Barabbas to go free! It seems ludicrous. Who wants someone like Barabbas to go free, to receive grace?

Lucado challenges us on page 35, to consider how we too are like Barabbas. We have been thieves, murderers, and yes, insurrectionists. How have we robbed people or murdered people? You can rob them of their reputations, perhaps steal apples off their tree, or even by taking something of theirs. We can murder a person’s reputation by our words, our bullying, even with a weapon. However, how do we commit insurrection?

We deny God as our king

Lucado spells it out on page 34 middle paragraph, beginning with “To sin is to state, ‘God, I do not want you to be my King.” In other words, we often dismiss the Lordship of Christ to worship the false things in life, even making them idols. To name a few: football, video games, famous people, money, prestige, etc.

We want to run our own lives the way we want. God is shoved to the back, Christ is great, but don’t bother me, and the Holy Spirit is ignored. Our insurrection is complete. Yes, we are equal with Barabbas. We have failed to keep our King number one in our lives. We often put other things in our lives before we honor His Kingdom. Think of that. We even ignore the grace we have received.

I never thought I was as bad a Barabbas. In fact, I was pretty angry that he was set free, and my beloved Jesus was crucified. God granted Barabbas grace. Yup, Grace. A complete get out of jail free card!

Lucado goes on to say, that “we never hear what Barabbas did with his freeing grace. But we can determine what to do with ours. Personalize it.” I found that accepting that I was as bad a sinner as Barabbas was extremely hard to do at first. But now, I, Barabbas, am working on what I can do with the amazing grace that I have received.

We are all guilty

What is grace? This has been discussed in our class during every session. A good answer might be that grace is unmerited favor, that is, being given something we certainly don’t deserve.

But God’s grace goes so much farther. God’s grace frees us to have a close, personal relationship with Him. It is the power of the Holy Spirit within us when we accept God’s gift of salvation through Christ. As the title of the book says, “greater than we imagine.”

We talk about grace. We search for insight and understanding through the Bible. Craig, our teacher, who came to faith through the ministry of Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel (Costa Mesa, CA) back in the early 1970’s, invites us to explore. He take us down wonderful, illuminating “rabbit holes” digging ever deeper into the subject.

Grace is an endless topic, as endless and mysterious as God Himself. Our study of grace started with a thorough study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

We are all guilty… We are all Barabbas

Nancy’s confession that she is Barabbas, is just an open, honest self-examination. I too am Barabbas, guilty as charged. However, with no defense and no plea, and with no more than a little faith, I am saved by the grace of God. He let His own Son go to the cross rather than see me perish. Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus.