Brothers and sisters, learn once again what to expect and receive from God in Jesus. It is salvation. Freely, graciously given. To which faith says: “Thank you for the gift of salvation.”
Hear once again what Jesus does to win your salvation. He is on trial. Brought before the courts of King Herod and Governor Pilate. Charge after charge is brought against Him. From treason to false teaching. In His deeply humiliating and unjust suffering, you and the disciples witness the glory of Jesus who is the Light of the world.
However, Light of the world Jesus shines in darkness. Darkness is the Bible’s way of talking about the world’s sinful estrangement from God as well as the world’s spiritual ignorance, blindness and unbelief. The darkness fiercely struggles and battles to overcome Light of the world Jesus. This is the way it’s always been in Jesus’ ministry. From the beginning in fact. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it,” (Jn 1:5).
The nation and people for whom Jesus suffers and dies is in included in this struggle. Check it out. God gave Israel the law. This was a wonderful gift from God to her (see Rom 9:4). Now look what she does with it! She uses that very law to get rid of Light of the world Jesus.
Remember? The leaders of Israel religiously make their case before Governor Pilate: “We have a law and by that law Jesus ought to die because he made himself the Son of God.” Jesus was very aware of that. He knew Israel’s evil use of the law. In John 3:19 He exposed it. He said: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
Jesus is an Israelite. A descendant of Abraham and King David. This too is part of God’s wonderful giving to Israel (“from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever,” Rom 9:5).
What does Israel do with her flesh and blood brother? She chooses “Barabbas” the radicalized terrorist who was in prison “for insurrection and murder” instead of Jesus! She denies Jesus the anointed King that God gave her. Pilate asked, “‘What shall I do with him whom you call the King of the Jews?’ They all cried out, ‘Crucify him!’” Pilate declared: “‘Behold your king!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ The chief priest answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’”
The Gentile world too takes part in trying to snuff out Light of the world Jesus. Pontius Pilate has an office of authority as governor that comes from God. As governor, Pilate has the God-given vocation to be the Lord’s instrument to properly prosecute and punish all criminal and evildoers. What does he do? He violates his vocation. He refuses to protect Light of the world Jesus even though he declares Jesus innocent of any crime three times! The divinely appointed guardian of truth and justice nonchalantly blows off his duty with the skeptical “What is truth?” Then he hands over the Light of the world Jesus – the incarnate grace and truth of God “to be crucified.”
Standing before them all truly is: “the man!” Purple-robed, flogged, thorn-crowned Jesus is THE MAN who gives His life into death. He is THE MAN on whom the sin of all humankind is laid. Numbered with the transgressors He is. He is THE INNOCENT MAN that gets counted as sin and the greatest sinners as He bears the sin of the world in His body.
Behold the sweet swap of salvation that Jesus does. He, innocent and holy one is condemned. Barabbas, the guilty and unholy one is set free. This is what Jesus does with you too. He takes all your sin and all its punishment. He gives you His perfection, innocence and holiness. Because of Jesus you too are “set free.” His Passion and death atones for all your sin.
This is salvation. Light of the world Jesus did it for you. It is what you are to expect from Him. It is what you are given to receive from Him. And He has and does. You are baptized into His death and raised with Him to live a new life. Every Sunday He absolves you in the preached gospel and you continue to live in and from your baptism. Every Sunday He promises and gives you the Good Friday forgiveness that He won for you with the bread/Body and wine/Blood in the Lord’s Supper that you eat and drink with your mouth. In the gospel you know God perfectly. Really, you do. In the gospel Jesus is God FOR YOU. For your salvation. You can count on it. It’s His promise.
In the Name of Jesus.