"No, not this Man! Give us Barabbas!" John 18:40
What kind of Savior are we looking for? Jesus's generation wanted a freedom-fighter, a deliverer, a man to rush in and overturn Roman tyranny and put Israel at the head of the nations, where she belonged...
Barabbas means "son of the father." Some ancient manuscripts even have his name as "Jesus Barabbas." He was an insurrectionist, a man devoted to freeing Israel through whatever bloody means necessary. This man was a true son of David in the eyes of his fellow countrymen. At the end of the day, Jesus’s generation chose this savior and crucified the true Lord.
Anti-Christ doesn't mean against-Christ as we often think of it, but in place of Christ – something that acts as a substitute for Him. Every Jewish man and woman in Christ's day was waiting and looking for their Messiah, yet how many truly saw Him? Perhaps seeing is dependent upon what you are looking for.
What kind of Savior are you looking for?
I woke up one day not so long ago and realized the entirety of my "flavor" of Christianity was built around a god created in my own image, molded and fashioned through each vain attempt of mine to validate the assumptions I'd made about life, others and God in the midst of my chaotic history. And honestly, as devastating as it was to come to this realization, it was truly the dawn of a beautiful, new day. Sometimes we cannot build anew until we level our sandcastles and own up to our idolatry and every way we have accepted something less in the place of God.
"You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free" John 8:32
As a survivor of Sadistic/Satanic Ritual Abuse, circumstantial desperation thrust me into an avid search for God. My "why's" were a cavernous pit eating away at my soul, and the silence that answered my cries was all but deafening. I looked, yearned, ACHED for a deliverer. Taunts and jeers, both audible and inaudible, rolled over me like waves - "Cry out to your God! Maybe He will save you!" "Cry louder, perhaps He has forgotten you!" Many lies were offered to me in place of the Truth I sought:
"He doesn't care about you."
"He hates you."
"He doesn't believe you...hear you..love you...see you."
"He doesn't exist."
Where are You, God?!
As the years passed, anger fortified itself within my heart and soul as despair overtook my initial desperation. The lies began to seep into my mind and I let them define my emotions, my reality, my view of God and my very self. Each time I accepted a lie, another followed to reinforce the first. If I believe God sees my pain, but doesn't care, then I believe He is cruel. If I believe God is cruel and He made me, then I believe I am cruel and my bad choices are God's fault... so (conveniently) I am not responsible for my actions, God is. Each lie carefully constructed an impenetrable fortress around my heart rendering me more passive to my circumstances and therefore more vulnerable.
I needed protection. Not just from the pain of trauma, but even deeper I wanted to shield myself from the agony of my own inadequacy and impotence to meet my own needs and satisfy my deepest longings to be known and loved.
I needed God, but He was not what I expected.
In my mind He failed me. I mean what kind of God lets little girls be raped, not just once or twice, but countless times, shedding countless tears, crying out for help over and over and over?
I made a choice. Deep in my heart, I believe I knew the Truth, but I decided I wanted a god who acted, who saved, a god who promised to meet me on my ground, and I refused to care about the cost. I began becoming a reflection of the god I worshiped. I defined my reality through a systematic diet of lies and my life mirrored satan and his rebellious "I will's" in Isaiah 14:13-14. In my heart I concluded, "if God will do nothing, then I will... "
Do we not all do this in different ways? But why?
Is it that Truth is hard too understand? Is it too abstract and aloof? Too separate from real life? Or could it be that we just don't want to accept Truth? Truth is unyielding and uncompromising. We have our own ideas and desires, our own thoughts that nudge their way in to fill in the space between our "why's." Truth demands submission and requires trust, leaving no room for any of our beloved sugar-coatings and warm fluffies. Truth threatens our self-hood and exposes the true occupier of throne of our souls - us.
Entitled, proud, greedy, lust-filled and unrepentant - man's natural soul is not compatible with Truth. It looks to self for a Savior. Unless we are abiding in Christ moment by moment, these natural inclinations are the true tyranny we suffer from, not our circumstances, no matter how difficult.
Life for me became twisted around my heart's wicked response to this interpretation of God's actions - or perceived lack of action. Each time my heart rose up in accusation towards God, there was a brief surge of exhilaration followed by an insatiable hollowness and subsequent intensification of pain and anger. My eyes searched for relief, but being blinded to true freedom, I lived from one adrenaline rush to the next, raging against all that was good and kind. Only the Lord's severe mercy brought me through.
Let's go back to the beginning. The beginning where I assumed God needed to come to me in my distress when, in fact, He never left me. God Almighty waited patiently with me in my stronghold of deception and arrogance until I was ready to accept Him as He is, not as I wanted Him to be. I spent over three decades looking for Barabbas, when the Lord of heaven and Earth was present. Every torture, every rape, every shame, every death and every time I laid on another's back the same lashes that scarred mine. He was with me, seeing all, feeling all, and fully experiencing it having already paid my debt.
Where was the Lord when my little body was racked with pain? Taking the beating for me.
Where was Jesus when I was shaking uncontrollably in the dense fog of shame after being violated again? Holding me together, bearing my shame for me, and ever whispering Truth to my heart that a day will come when I will stand into His triumph over shame on the Cross.
He was right there. He suffered double for all my grief - He bore it on the cross, He bore me up through it, and He bears me even now as I reconnect with the reality of it and my sinful responses to it. He is with me as my Burden Bearer.
"In all their affliction He was afflicted..." Isaiah 63:9
Another reading of this verse says, "In all their affliction He was not an adversary..." Our Lord is a rescuer. He is a Deliverer, a Strong Tower and mighty to save! He is also a Lamb, meek and gentle, kinder than any one we have ever known. If we look into the Gospels we can only touch the fringe of His vast humility expressed by His utter dependence on the Father. Did you know even in His exalted state, our Lord is still utterly dependent on His Father? Perfect trust depicted through perfectly patient obedience. The Rightful Ruler over all creation willingly submitted to being humbled into the frame of man, enduring the humiliation and shame of the cross and then in His exalted state, the limitation of being expressed through weak, broken vessels like you and me.
I don't pretend to have all the answers, but:
1. His Father desired it, for our Lord did nothing outside the will of His Father.
2. The mystery in Ephesians 3. It says that during this dispensation of grace (the Church age), He might make manifest to powers and principalities in heavenly places the manifold wisdom of God through the Church and the unsearchable riches of Christ to all men.
This is the mystery. That in and through our weakness, failure, and suffering, Christ might be seen as all and in all. That no matter what hell-inspired assault comes our way, He "works all thing together for good..." (Romans 8:28).
And here is the kicker: Ephesians 3:11 says that all this is "according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." He accomplished. Past tense. Done. Complete. Lacking nothing. If you're looking for a place to stand in your storm, you just found home. It is finished.
Truth is there, written clearly in His Word. But will we accept in? Will we accept Him?
Do I believe Christ is proclaiming His victory through my life every time I reflect His nature in the midst of suffering?
Do I believe every time I am crushed, but not in despair, every time I am pummeled, but don't raise my fist to accuse God another glimpse of His beauty is revealed?
Do I believe my little life is the amphitheater and every time I turn the other cheek, rejoice in persecution, remain patient under trial, trust in the Lord and lean not on my own understanding, a shout goes out to powers and principalities of this world, reminding them of the victory of God's eternal purpose accomplished through Christ?
Jesus will one day enforce His rule, justice will come forth and all His opponents will be slaughtered. He is still and will always be the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Until then, He has chosen to make known His beauty, His Love, His justice, His Righteousness and "Right-ness" to Rule through you and me.
And what is our Lord after? Glory, fame, worship? He certainly deserves it, but after 1,000 years, He will willingly submit all things back to the Father that He might be all and in all. So what is His reward from the Father? A Bride. Think of the tenderness of that statement. Jesus, our victorious King and Savior, is revealed as a patient Bridegroom. He has a deep desire in His heart to be known, experienced, cherished and to share all of eternity with a corporate expression of those who have chosen to love Him. We are His reward for all of His obedience and anguish. Us.
Satan has done everything in his power to usurp Christ's rightful place both corporately and individually in our own hearts. SRA/DID has been the enemy's chief tool to use members of Christ's own Body as a weapon against God and the rest of His Body, and yet after all satan could possibly do, I join as one of many with this history of idolatry who now believes and echoes the cry:
“Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”
I believe when we begin to live facing eternity, we will find the harm that came to us through circumstances allowed by the Lord in our life will be only glory. My dear friend looked at me in the midst of one of my dark nights in the journey and asked me a very simple question in reference to my history: "Were you hurt?"
I instantly shot her a look of abject disdain and spouted, "Why yes! I was hurt every day of my [expletive removed] life!"
She calmly looked back at me, wise from her own journey and offered, "There is a place in God where we remain untouched by the enemy. The Word says so in 1 John 5:18. Where in you is that untouched reality where you have emerged from this history in the eternal truth that what is born of God, He protects and the enemy cannot touch?"
At that point, I confessed I did not know. But that day has passed and with each new test and trial that comes there is an ever-growing awareness of the reality that only that which is eternal matters, and there are certain things in a person that cannot be broken, violated, stolen or crushed.
Yes, there will be scars, but even our Lord has scars. Paul counted all things as loss compared to knowing Christ. I ask myself what have I lost? A childhood, maybe. Innocence? Perhaps. But compared to what I have gained? I have never faced a depth or a grief that my Lord has not already bore, nor that He is not willing to traverse again. I wouldn't change a thing. I have lost something temporal and gained eternity. There is no comparison. I look for the abiding hurt, and I see God turning pain into glory. And He isn't done.
So when we are in a state of desperation, yearning for a way out, and our cry to the Lord is answered by the same silence that was offered to the Lord's Jewish brethren who cried out to Him on that cross, "Come down that we may believe!" then we can know something eternal is in view, and perhaps, if we hold on and continue to believe in God's goodness and sovereignty, resurrection life is just a couple days away. If He comes in now, He might be rescuing us from something of much deeper value: knowing Him and sharing in His eternal purpose.
May our lives reflect the privilege of being a showcase for His glory.