Somebody Died For You
March 4th, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
SOMEBODY DIED FOR YOU
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-4-87 7:30 p.m.
Thank you, young people, and welcome, you who share this hour on radio. The title of the message is Somebody Died for You. In the verse beyond our reading, in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, “He made His grave…Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; God made His soul an offering for our sin” [Isaiah 53:9-10]. Ever since I have been a small child, have I heard stories of someone who laid down his/her life for someone else.
A long time ago, you remember, they placed debtors in prison. And there would be beautiful stories of those who paid the debt in order that the prisoner might go free. In many, many different kinds of approaches and developments, have I heard the story of the little boy in school. And the rule is made that if you transgressed, you were beaten with thirteen stripes. And this little hungry, starved urchin stole a lunch. And according to the rules of the school, was condemned to be beaten with thirteen stripes. And the great, big, strong boy offers to take his punishment for him. And he bends over the lad, and he receives the stripes instead of the poor, little, emaciated, hungry lad.
Then there have been many stories of mothers who have died giving birth to a son or a daughter and the years of loving remembrance that followed after. Then of course, stories in such context as the Confederate War: when a man called to the uniform and leaving his family, a friend takes his place. And the friend who took his place is killed in the war. And the man who lived, whose family was blessed by the length of his life, erects a monument to the man who died and placed on the tomb, “He died for me.”
All of these stories have I heard in many, many different forms ever since I could remember as a child in attending the services of the church. All of them are reflections of the spirit of gratitude and loving thanksgiving to God that arise out of the death of our Lord for us. Somebody died for us.
But not in all literature or drama could that ever be so poignantly told as we could see it in the Bible, in the life of Barabbas. Five different times in Holy Scripture is Barabbas mentioned with regard to the death of our Lord. The story is told in Matthew chapter , verses 25-26 [Matthew 27:25-26]. In the sixteenth verse of that chapter in Matthew, he is referred to as a “notable prisoner” [Matthew 27:16]. He’s not just another incarcerated critter. He’s not just another bum from the street who is in prison because he stole something to eat. He is a “notable prisoner” in the words of Matthew.
Now in Mark 15:6-15, the story of Barabbas is told again, and he is there described as a stasiaston, a fellow insurrectionist, a fellow insurrectionist [Mark 15:7]. In Luke 23, verse 17-25 [Luke 23:17-25], in verses 19, he is placed in the context of a stasis and that same stasis is mentioned again in verse 19, verse 25 [Luke 23:19, 25]. Stasis is insurrection, sedition.
Now I want you to look at this man. He is a super patriot. He belonged to a party in the time of our Lord that is called the Zealots. It was as Jewish group of people who organized themselves to resist Roman rule. Josephus, the great Jewish historian, says that these Zealots resorted to violence and murder and assassination in order to further their cause of hatred against the Romans. Their fanatical violence finally precipitated the war of AD 66 to 70 that resulted in the destruction of the nation. And that nation stayed destroyed until the fifteenth of May in 1948.
Those Zealots were fanatical terrorists beyond anything that the world had ever seen. And one of their number, Simon Zelotes, was one of the twelve apostles. He’s named twice that in Luke 6:15 and in Acts 1:13.
Now this man Barabbas is mentioned again in John 18:40. And he’s mentioned still again in Acts 3:14. For just a minute, I want us to think about this man Barabbas. He’s in a dungeon in Jerusalem. It is dark. It was always dark in those prisons, in that long ago day, for they were underground; practically all of them were underground.
If you’ve ever been in the Mamertine dungeon in Rome, out of which Paul was taken to his execution, you were shown that the entrance into the Mamertine dungeon, the Mamertine prison, is from a hole in the top, and you’re let down into the ground. And if a ray of light penetrated beyond the surface of the ground, it only emphasized how dark the prison was. It’s in a prison like that, that Barabbas is incarcerated. And the night adds to the darkness of his tragic condition.
This night is the night of doom. It will be his last night on earth, for in the morning, he is to be crucified—Barabbas. Crouched back in the darkest corner of the dungeon, he is waiting for the morning when he will hear footsteps of the death warden, when he will hear the great clank of a key in the lock, when he will hear a bolt removed back and a heavy door swing open, when he will be dragged out to the fatal spot. And there he will be crucified. Crucifixion is the most agonizing of all of the deaths that have ever been devised.
And in keeping with that expectation, Barabbas hears in the morning, the footsteps of the death warden. He hears the great lock, and he sees the heavy door swing open. And he is there cowering before being forced into an open door that leads to the most awful death that man has ever been able to devise.
So when the door opens, he hears the voice of the warden. Only, only it is in a different world. “Barabbas, Barabbas. Have you heard the good news?” And he replies, “What good news? All I know is that today, I am to be nailed to a cross.”
“Ah, then you haven’t heard,” says the warden. “You haven’t heard. Barabbas, Somebody has died for you.” And the warden takes him out, and on a hill the warden points out to Barabbas three crosses, and says to the prisoner, “That center cross was for you, for you.” And he replies, “Can it be possible? Dying for me, in my stead and in my place?”
This is the gospel of the entire Bible. Whether it be the Old Testament or the New Testament, it is the same. In the Old Testament we are told the story of the passing of the angel of death over Egypt [Exodus 12]. And in every home and in every house and in every family, the first-born is to die unless they are under the blood, under the blood [Exodus 12:3-7, 12-13, 23]. Unless there is a life substituted for the first-born, the first-born shall surely die.
In Genesis 22 is told the story, dramatic, of Abraham and Mt. Moriah and Isaac his son and the father lifting up the knife to plunge it into the heart of his boy [Genesis 22:1-10]. And the angel stays his hand and shows to Abraham, caught in the thicket, a ram. And the animal is substituted for the boy [Genesis 22:11-13].
In Genesis 44 is without doubt one of the most moving of all the traumatic stories in human life. Joseph is on the throne. His brethren are there, having no idea that the ruler of Egypt is their brother, whom they sold into slavery [Genesis 37:26-28]. And in the long story that I cannot recount, Benjamin is their assurity [Genesis 44:1-33]. Judah pleads for the boy, saying, “How shall I go up to my father and the lad be not with me? Take me!” Judah says, “Take me in his place. Let my life be for his life” [Genesis 44:33-34]. And Joseph, when he listened to Judah offer himself for his younger brother Benjamin, then Joseph could not refrain himself and he cried, and he wept aloud. And the Egyptians in house of Pharaoh heard him. And Joseph said unto his brethren, “I am Joseph” [Genesis 45:1-3], all of that, when Judah offered to give his life in the stead of his brother Benjamin.
And the marvelous passage that we just read, in Isaiah 53: the prophecy of Him who would come, bear our transgressions in His own body, and die our death on the tree [Isaiah 53:1-12]—in the New Testament, in the New Testament, the whole message of the gospel is this: that Somebody died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3]. That’s the good news; we’re free! Somebody paid our penalty [1 John 2:2]; Somebody died in our stead [1 Corinthians 15:3]; Somebody bore our transgressions [1 Peter 2:24]; Somebody has washed us clean from all of our iniquities [1 John 1:17; Revelation 1:5]. That’s the gospel, and the whole New Testament is that.
First Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” In Hebrews 9:12, “By His own blood He hath entered in once into the Holy Place in heaven, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” In 1 Peter 2:24, “His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” [First Peter 3:18], “Christ also suffered for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God.” And in Revelation 1:5-6, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . unto Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
That’s the gospel. That’s the Bible. That’s the whole message of God to us. Somebody died for us. He took our place; He bore our iniquities. He paid the penalty for all of our transgressions in order that we might live.
O Lord, how could I ever, if I live a thousand lifetimes and each lifetime a thousand years, how could I ever repay the debt of love I owe. This is God’s grace and goodness to us.
We’re going to sing us a song. And while we sing the song, I’ll be standing right there. Somebody you, this night, to give your heart to the Lord Jesus, or a family you to come into the fellowship of our dear church, or a one somebody you, answering God’s call in your heart, in the moment when we stand and sing this song, on the first note of the first stanza, welcome. What a sweet privilege to stand up for Jesus, to give Him your heart and your life, to ask His blessing upon the work of your hands and in the circle of the family to which you belong. And what an equal, wonderful goodness and grace of God that He lets us belong to the family, His church, His people. A thousand times welcome. Come, while we stand and while we sing.
SOMEBODY DIED FOR YOU
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-4-87I. Stories heard since boyhood
A. Reflections of gratitude to God that arise out of Christ’s death for us
B. Story of Barabbas most poignantII. Barabbas
A. He is mentioned five different times in Scripture
B. He is not just an ordinary prisoner (Matthew 27:16, 25-26)
1. He is an insurrectionist (Mark 15:6-15, Luke 23:17-25, John 18:40, Acts 3:14)
C. He awaits crucifixion in a dark dungeon
D. “Somebody has died for you.”III. This is the gospel of the Bible
A. Passover lamb (Exodus 12:12-13)
B. Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:10-13)
C. Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 44, 45)
D. Prophecy of Jesus (Isaiah 53)