Did you know that Jesus was not the only Jesus? At the time of Christ, Jesus was a very common name. In fact archaeologists have unearthed 71 tombs with that name from around the time that Jesus walked the earth. While we usually only think of one Jesus in particular when we hear the name today there were others and I would like to talk about one of them.
This is the same Barabbas that found himself standing next to Jesus of Nazareth while the people chose who would be freed and who would be crucified. While we only know him as Barabbas today, his first name was actually Jesus. Think about that. Two thousand years ago the Roman ruler of Jerusalem stood two men before a crowd of people and asked them this question. Which Jesus?
The people that were there that day had a 50/50 chance of choosing the true messiah and yet the voice of the crowd cried out for Barabbas. I think that most Christians have a mental picture of this scene in their heads where Barabbas is ugly and maybe even deformed, while Jesus is handsome and hardly bloody even though he'd been beaten severely. I think that we see this as a no brainer question. As if it had to have been obvious which Jesus they should have chosen that day. Of course if the answer was so obvious then how could they have chosen the wrong Jesus?
At the time Rome was occupying Jerusalem and they were ruling the people with an iron fist. There were small uprisings from the Jewish people that were taking place as they longed to be set free from this harsh Roman rule. The Gospel of Luke records that Barabbas was in jail for leading one of these rebellions and for killing a roman citizen. He was more than just a crazy murderer. He was a rebel leader that was trying to set his people free during a time that the Jewish people were anxiously waiting for their Messiah to come and establish His kingdom here on earth.
Now let's look at that moment when they were presented to the crowd together once more. On one side you have a man that had already led a rebellion against the cruel Roman rulers that were oppressing the people. Had even killed a Roman citizen during the uprising. On the other you had a man that had supposedly performed some miracles and preached that we should love our enemies. He even said that if someone strikes you then you should turn the other cheek to that person! For a people desperate for freedom which Jesus looked like the obvious choice? Who would help set them free?
Now two thousand years later the same question is being asked of us. Which Jesus? The world has a lot of Messiah's to offer us. Plenty of options for ways to change your life and find ultimate fulfillment. The Bible is still offering us just one. Jesus of Nazareth. So, which Jesus do you choose?
"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God." - AW Tozer
The first time I ever read the book "Knowledge of the Holy" by AW Tozer, it struck me that my idea of God was far less than what He actually is. I had inadvertently placed limits on God and what He could do in my life just because of the way I thought about Him. There were areas of my life that I had accepted defeat and failure because I didn't believe that God could change them.
Of course this means that the God I was serving was not the God of the bible. The God of the bible is all powerful and can accomplish all things. There is no part of me that He cannot change. The bible tells me that He is the potter and I am the clay. So, I had created a God in my mind that was not the God of the bible and I was serving Him. I realized that I had become an "Idol Worshiper".
When we read about idol worship in the bible, most of us probably get an image in our heads of some native tribe in a third world country dancing around a stone statue with a bonfire burning in the background. We don't immediately check ourselves to see if we have become idol worshipers ourselves because we aren't out carving trees and stones into gods. Yet the way we think about our God could cause us to mentally carve out an idol for us to worship. Let's look at a couple of the "mental" idols that we carve.
1. The Genie/Santa God
When we focus on what God can do for us, we turn Him into our own personal magic genie. We only cry out to Him when we have needs in our life. Rarely if ever would we ask God what He wants us to do. It's all about us and our problems and our desires and we want God to take care of it all. This is a God that serves us instead of us serving Him.
2. The Chained God
When we don't believe that God can do all the things that the bible says He can do, we place limits/chains on Him. Then we make excuses and try to explain why God can't or won't do certain things. "God only helps those who help themselves" we say to ourselves and so we work harder and harder to earn our salvation. This is a God that is weak and un-involved in our day to day lives.
These are just two examples of how we often create idols in our minds that we worship. the only way to keep from mentally carving out these idols is to read the bible and believe what it says about God. When we allow the word of God to define who God is for us then we can rest assured that we are worshiping the real God of the bible.
Do you have any other examples of mental idols that we create? Feel free to comment or write me and let me know.
And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" So I answered, "O Lord GOD, You know." Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 'Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. "I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD."
- Ezekiel 37:3-6 NKJV
Nothing that has gone through all 5 stages of decay should ever be able to live again. All evidence of life has vanished and all that is left are the scattered bones of what once was. Ezekiel knew this when God asked him if these bones could live again. It is apparent in his answer, "O Lord GOD, You know."
It is easy to look out at the landscape of the American Church and be discouraged. For every positive step we take, it seems like we take three steps backwards. Numerous church leaders have fallen from their positions because of moral failure. Backbiting and gossip run rampant throughout the church world. Just let one church become successful in the territory where they are called and watch as the surrounding churches begin to eat at them and try to tear them down. Denominational walls seem almost insurmountable and do nothing but keep the body of Christ from functioning together as a whole.
The dry bones of the Body of Christ are lying in the dust and the dirt, content to be isolated from the rest of the body. However, there are sparks of life. In those places where a strong clear prophetic voice has begun to speak the bones are beginning to shake. Connections are being established bone to bone and the body is starting to function the way God has always intended...in unity.
Here is the hope that we have. Where there is death, God can speak and life begins to awaken. He breathes and the Spirit causes newly formed bodies to breath again. Where piles of isolated bones once laid in the dirt an army suddenly rises up and stands, shoulder to shoulder. This army will not look like any other army throughout history. This army fights with love and compassion. This army takes care of widows and orphans. This army does unto the least of these.
Can you feel it? The trembling of the ground as the bones rattle and shake under the prophetic word of God?
An army is coming.
Phillip Reed is the Associate Pastor of Faith Chapel Ministries. His passion is to reconcile the lost to their Heavenly Father.