With one voice they cried out, "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!" (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) -- Luke 23: 18-19 (NIV)
Pilate tried to release Jesus back to the crowd but here we see their steadfast refusal. One of the customs of the feast was for a prisoner to be released. Clearly, the right choice here would be to release Jesus, who had actually done nothing wrong over a murderer who had started a riot. Nevertheless, sin has now blinded them to all that is right and wrong. They demand the release of the murderer so that Christ can be crucified. In our own lives we too will be blinded by sin. We will fail to see the cost, which is what sin does best. Sin deals only with the act but not the consequence. Ananias and Sapphira only saw the chance to look better than they were. Sin did not show them the consequence if caught. David only saw the naked woman he desired. Sin did not show him the end result. Sin did not show him the loss of his kingdom and the death of two of his children. Let's be honest with ourselves -- we know right from wrong. Invariably there are very few situations where we do not know the right course to take. Yet we still find ourselves falling into sin because the flesh is so weak and we compromise so easily. We compromise in our marriages by considering flirting with someone at work. We compromise in our job by cheating or cutting corners. We compromise in our churches by allowing things we know are not Scriptural for the sake of a false sense of unity. Sin will always make us compromise right and wrong. Fifth we see that sin will make us lose perspective and even reason:
Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" -- Luke 23: 20-21 (NIV)
Can you picture the scene? A rabid angry mob screaming to crucify someone who just one week earlier they greeted with palm branches. That is how quickly and completely sin will infect our reason. These are people who witnessed the miracles for three straight years. People who saw the thousands be fed with a handful of scraps. People who saw the blind and crippled healed. People who saw the dead raised from the tombs. Sin drives all of those thoughts out of their heads and instead fills them with rage -- crucify Him! That is what sin will do to us as well. You have to believe that somewhere in the mind of King David; he was fighting the sin urges. This was a man after God's own heart who wrote the majority of the Psalms. He saw God deliver Goliath into his hands. David knew right from wrong. He knew that the woman was married and thus that he would be committing adultery. We sometimes have that image of a little devil on our shoulder whispering into our ear but eventually sin stops whispering and it starts shouting and the shouting drowns out all reason. It drowns out all perspective. Crucify Him! Sleep with her! Cheat the Apostles! Sin wants what it wants and eventually will wear us down if we do not combat it swiftly and not listen to the unreasonable shouts. Lastly however, sin is insistent, demanding and an act of the will:
But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will. -- Luke 23: 23-25 (NIV)
The sin insistently demanded and the shouting prevailed. The crowd did not want to hear reason. They did not want to hear logic. They were insistent in their demands and eventually Pilate gave in to their demands. The sin had a wearing down effect. This is the same effect we can see play out in our lives too often as well. Sure, sometimes sin is merely reactive in nature as we see something and decide to sin. But more often than not there is a considering process that occurs. We have to consider the sin before we act. Maybe we are setting up reasons or excuses in our own mind. Once David heard that Bathsheba was married he could have walked away from the incident unharmed. He still had to take the additional step of sending messengers to get her after he was told she was married. But the sin was insistent and eventually David gave in to the demands.
The most telling part of the 25th verse here is that Pilate surrendered Jesus to their will. There is too much "The devil made me do it" theology out there. The devil cannot make us do anything. If he could, we would all be dead because that is his desire. The only thing the devil can do is present us with something to consider but in the end it is always an act of our will to believe him over God. It is always an act of the will to sin. Likewise, there is also too much devil blaming in general. Yes our enemy is real but so is our flesh. Sometime sin is just what it appears to be -- rebellion against God when we ought to know better. Sometimes we like to blame circumstances but we choose to put ourselves in situations that lead to sin. This is the first verse of the Bathsheba story:
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. -- 2Samuel 11: 1 (NIV)
David was King but he chose to stay in Jerusalem when he should have been off fighting in war. David put himself in a position where he did not belong and sin came along for him to consider. The sin became more insistent and demanding and David gave in to his will. Likewise we put ourselves in places and positions we do not need to be in as children of God and then when sin presents itself, we too can fall. I do not know how I ended up in adultery"what were you doing flirting with the person for months thinking it was innocent? I don't know how I ended up drinking again"what were you doing in the bar to begin with? While certainly we are victims of sin we are also assuredly committers or it. We have a will and we choose to exercise it. It is in fact within our nature.
Which brings us to the key verse for today. We are in fact infected and impure with sin. There is nothing we can do about the nature we are born into but there is a lot we can do to combat it. We can be more aware of the true nature of sin, how it operates, and how we can be more aware of it in our lives before it explodes. In closing it is important to recognize also that there is no allotment of righteous acts we can commit on this earth that will change our sin nature. The key verse explains that displaying our righteous deeds still leaves our righteousness as nothing but filthy rags before a holy God. There is a movement in the modern church that seems to think that they possess some form of righteousness because of the righteousness of Christ. We do not. For the purposes of salvation and judgment God will only see the righteousness of Jesus, which is why we will be pared eternal separation from God but that does not change our own personal righteousness. It remains as filthy rags before a holy God. I say this not in mean-spiritedness but in love and out of concern. Because sin feeds off of pride. It feeds off of the sense that we are somehow above the sin we are considering. David must have thought that since he was king and so close with God, that this little pleasure could be afforded. Ananias and Sapphira must have been well off and thought that maybe their position in society afforded them the opportunity to be a little deceitful with the Apostles. They all were wrong.
David had plenty of acts of righteousness to fall
back on before Bathsheba. This was a man who had patiently waited for years to
ascend to the throne God had promised him, twice passing on the chance to kill
Saul. He had the faith to approach Goliath when no other fighting man in Israel
did. He was a benevolent king who had led Israel to many victories and had a
heart after God. NONE of that mattered when he chose to act upon his will and
sin with Bathsheba. NONE of it mattered. God did not look down and see all of
the previous righteous deeds and excuse what David did with Bathsheba. They
were all still filthy rags before Him. Let us be wary of the nature of sin and
how insidiously it can infect our lives. So that we can better defend our lives
from it. So we can pursue God closer than we could possibly imagine.
Reverend Anthony Wade - June 25, 2012