I love it that I plan out all these blog posts, and one morning while reading the bible and having my new favourite black tea with lemon and honey trying to be comfortable, He speaks a new message into an old passage and tells me ‘Write this’. Something additionally tender and beautiful about a relationship like this. Constantly new and yet familiar.
I digress. I was reading Mark 15, on Christ’s journey to the cross from Pilate to the tomb. There were two exchanges that took place in that chapter.
First, the exchange of Jesus for Barabbas.
Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
I didn’t know what I thought about this, it seems so ridiculous that the crowd should choose a murderer over Jesus, a man who had been healing and delivering their very friends and family.
Oh! How often we trade Jesus up for other things. We give up his promises and his goodness for things that seem, in our worldly eyes, better. I can think of a couple of instances in my life where I had given Jesus up for my despair and depression. It was as if in front of Pilate I was given a choice, do I accept Jesus and his freedom & faith to live an abundant life, or do I choose my depression and sadness to continue moping about because I was too blind to see that this was not a state that I had to be in?
Have I not experienced the joy that is in Christ? Have I not seen the miracles of healing that he has brought? Have I not read and received his promises of forgiveness and life? Like the crowds, I have seen and received so much of Jesus. But when faced with the choice, I chose to give Jesus up instead.
The second exchange in Mark 15 occurs in the death of Jesus.
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Mark 15: 33-39
Wow. Imagine being in darkness for three hours, standing and watching this man breathe with difficulty, his life slowly draining from the wounds, his chest heaving, each time having to push himself up against the nails in his hands and feet, back scraping on the wood, tearing open further his wounds. And after an agonising three hours, suffocates to death because he no longer had the strength to breathe. What for?
For the curtain, that tall, heavy, immense, thick curtain that hid God’s presence from the people, to tear in half.
For us, those watching, those who have in the next two thousand years heard the gospel and received it, to be able to stand in God’s presence.
For us to be able to call him ‘Abba! Father!’ instead of running away in fear because of his incredible holiness.
For the divine exchange for our lives. That while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
While we trade him up for things of this world, He died so that we can come back to that moment where we choose Him instead.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
Isaiah 43: 1-4
In that divine exchange, He called me his own. I am His and He is mine. I am precious in God’s eyes and honoured, and He loves me. It’s one of those moments where words fail, and all I can say in response to this is ‘Thank you, Father.’
Abba, Father, thank you so much that you exchanged our life for ours. You call us precious and loved. You claim us as your own even though in this world we often feel like we are left alone and misunderstood. You say to us “You are mine”. Wow. Each time we are faced with that choice to choose between the things of the world, and Jesus, help us to choose You. Forgive us in areas where we have chosen to chase after our own desires our own plans, and have forgotten that You are standing there with your arms open waiting for us to realise that You are there. And all we have to do is to run to you and be met with such embrace. Forgiveness, healing, salvation, peace, love, mercy, steadfastness, assurance, joy — all we really need are found in you. I love you Jesus.
1. What are some areas in my life where I trade Jesus up for other things?
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
2. Have you received fully, that divine exchange? The love of Christ that we had completely no contribution to? Do you still hold on to that need to ‘perform’ in order for Jesus to love you? He says to you today ‘You are mine! I had given up my life for you because you are so precious and honoured.’