This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)… Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death.So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!” Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” … So Pilate released Barabbas to them. (Matthew 27:16-18, 20-22, 26a)
All of the gospel writers include Barabbas. It’s not surprising because he was a bloodthirsty murderer. Ironically, his name means “son of the father.” In a dramatic historic coincidence, his name is reported by some to have actually been “Jesus Barabbas” or “Jesus, the son of the father.” If this is true then the crowd was confronted by Pilate with choosing between Jesus, the son of the father, who rules by violence and makes his living by his wits; and Jesus, the Son of the Father, who rules by love and is ready to sacrifice Himself.
Why did they choose Barabbas? Were they somehow disappointed with Jesus?” This was the same crowd who, just a few days before, had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. It’s certain that some of them knew people who had experienced a healing touch from Jesus for the city was filled with people Jesus had healed. The eyes of the blind had been opened, the deaf made to hear, and the lame to walk. Jesus had awakened within people the hope that He was indeed the Messiah, come to deliver them from the yoke of Rome. But all of their thoughts of messiahship centered around the thought that He would set them free from the hated bondage of Rome. Now, when they saw Him standing helpless before the Roman governor, all their loyalty to Him collapsed. In anger and disappointment, they chose Barabbas, the son of the father.
Have you ever been disappointed in the Lord? Have you ever expected Him to act in a certain way because of what you understood about Him-but then He didn’t act as you had anticipated? God’s ways are higher than ours. We cannot figure Him out. He will always be true, faithful, truthful, but He is more than we can handle. And like the angry crowd, when He doesn’t act in accordance with our expectations, there is always a Barabbas waiting in the wings.
Prayer: Lord, Your ways are higher than my ways. Help me to hold fast to You, even when I don’t understand what You are doing.
Here’s a Good Friday Service Script based around Matthew 27 that be used either live or online. This service is around 28-30 minutes long and has room for the addition of songs and a more traditional sermon. I hope you find it helpful.
Narrator: I recently spoke with a man who wanted to join our church. He said, “I like the sermons, the music, the people. The location is perfect for me and I just became a part of a friendly life group.” “Then, what’s holding you back,” I asked. “There is one problem,” he replied. “I just don’t know what to do with Jesus. I believe in God, but it seems to me that Jesus is an entirely different subject. What should I do?”
That statement, “I just don’t know what to do with Jesus” has plagued different people for thousands of years. Jesus changes things. Mention God or angels or spirituality and people will smile and nod politely. Mention the name of Jesus and people might cry tears of joy or shout curses in anger. People throughout history have often thought, “I just don’t know what to do with Jesus.”
The Roman governor Pilate was one of those people.
Jesus Before Pilate Section
(Readers stand in a line. They can either memorize their lines, read from scripts or have cameras focus on them as they read from teleprompters.)
Reader One: After His arrest, Jesus stood before Pilate, the Roman governor.
Reader Two: (speaks as if he is Pilate)Are you the king of the Jews?
Reader Three: (speaks as if he is Jesus) You have said it.
Reader Four: But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent.
Reader Two: Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?
Reader One: But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise. Now it was Pilate’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd-anyone they wanted.
Reader Four: This year there was a notorious prisoner named Barabbas. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked,
Reader Two: Which do you want me to release – Barabbas, or Jesus the Messiah?
Reader Four: (agitated) Just then, Pilate’s wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”
Reader One: Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. Pilate asked again,
Reader Two: Which of these two do you want me to release to you?
Readers One, Three and Four: (shouting) Barabbas!
Reader Two: Then what should I do with Jesus?
Readers One, Three and Four:(shouting) Crucify him!
Reader Two: Why? What crime has he committed?
Readers One, Three and Four: (Shouting) Crucify him!
Reader One: Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd.
(show b-roll of Pilate washing his hands in a bowl)
Reader Two: I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!
Readers One, Three and Four: We’ll take the responsibility for his death.
Reader One: So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
(show b-roll of Jesus being tied down for the flogging)
Narrator: (Washes his own hands in a basin of water) Pilate washed his hands in front of the people because he wanted to claim personal innocence regarding the death of Jesus. Whether he did this for his personal convictions or to appease his wife, he sentenced “the king of the Jews” to be crucified because he didn’t know what to do with this Jesus. The soldiers, on the other hand, seemed to have no question about what to do with Jesus. They tied Jesus to a whipping post, flogged him with a lead tipped whip, and then began to mock him.
The Soldiers Mock Jesus Section
Reader One: Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment.
Reader Two: They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter.
Reader Three: Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted,
All: (kneel in a mocking fashion and cry out in unison)“Hail! King of the Jews!”
Reader Four: And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it.
When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again.
All: Then they led him away to be crucified.
Narrator: (Holding a small cross in his hands) It was then that our bleeding, beaten Savior was forced to carry the cross upon which he would be crucified to the place of his own crucifixion. This was done to humiliate him and to wear him down even more. The cross could have been 3 to 4 meters high with a crossbeam another two meters wide. Depending on the thickness of the beams, it could have easily weighed between 170 and 300 lbs. The winding route Jesus carried his cross would have been from the former Antonia Fortress to what is now the Church of Holy Sepulchre. That’s a distance of about 600 meters or just over one third of a mile.
(Crucifixion b-roll throughout)
Reader Four: Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means the ‘place of the skull.)
Reader Three: After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there.
Reader One: A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read:
All: (Slightly Louder) This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
Reader Four: Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. The people passing by shouted abusing and vulgar statements, shaking their heads in mockery.
Readers One: Look at you now!
Reader Two: You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.
Reader Two:Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”
Reader Four: The leading priests, the teachers of the religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus.
Reader Two: “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself!
Reader Three: So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him!
Reader One: He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, “I am the Son of God.”
Reader Three: Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.
Narrator: (holding long nails in his hands)This time must have been a very confusing time. For Jesus, he had found his friends sleeping while anxiety blood tears stained the ground around him. Most had abandoned him upon his arrest. Peter had denied him. The crowds, some of whom he had taught and fed, cried out for his crucifixion. Then He was mercilessly crucified and even those being crucified with him, those dealing with the same pain as He, were mocking and ridiculing Him. They all seemed to know what to do with Jesus. And now, God the Father knew what to do as well. He was going to allow His only Son to die.
The Death of Jesus
(Cross b-roll throughout)
Reader One: (slowly, determined) At noon, darkness fell across the whole land. At three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice,
Reader Three: (shouting as if Jesus on the cross)Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Reader Two: Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah.
Reader One: One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink.
Reader Four: But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”
Reader Three: Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit.
Reader Four: At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
Reader One:The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened.
Reader Two: The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead.
Reader Three: They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.
Reader Four: The Roman officer and the soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said,
Reader One: (emphasis on man)Surely this man was the Son of God!
Readers One and Two: (emphasis on was) Surely this man was the Son of God!
All: (emphasis on Son of God) Surely this man was the Son of God!
Sermon and Decision Time(time will vary based off of comments and decision time from pastor)
Pastor: What will you do with this Jesus? That does seem to be the question, doesn’t it? Will you abandon him like many of his disciples? Will you deny him like Peter? Will you condemn him like the Pharisees? Will you wash your hands of him like Pilate? Will you mock him like the soldiers? Or Will you dare to trust Him….? (continue to present Gospel and promise of resurrection)