Barabbas was in trouble -- tons of trouble. He was a member of the Zealots, a Jewish terrorist group dedicated to driving out the hated Romans. Barabbas has burned, looted and killed Roman soldiers. Eventually, the Romans caught him and he was put on "death row," awaiting crucifixion. So, when the guard came and unlocked his cell, Barabbas was expecting the worst. Instead, the guard said, "You are one lucky man; another man, Jesus, took your place on the cross; you're free to go!" Now, Barabbas had a choice -- to go back to being a terrorist or to become a follower of Jesus. We don't know which way he chose.
We are all prisoners! We've been snared by Satan; we've allowed Satan to lead us astray -- away from God, away from life, away from freedom. How does Satan trap so many into a life of destruction and death and cause us to lose our freedom? Simple! He appeals to our human desire to be "free." "Follow me and obey me, and I will give you unlimited freedom. All of life will revolve around you; you'll be your own boss; you'll be free to do whatever you want to do, when and where you want to do it; you will decide what's true and what's not; and you will live by your own rules!" That's how Satan tempts us; that's how he enslaves us; that's why we wind up chained in his prison.
Some people, however, wake up to the fact that they are Satan's slaves; they can only do what Satan allows them to do. They are only "free" to sin. The alcoholic says, "I can quit any time I want to." The drug addict believes he can kick the habit if he tries hard enough. Those who become addicted to smoking or vaping think that because everybody else is doing it, it must be harmless. Criminals blame their behavior on getting in with the wrong crowd. Those who are jailed because of their violence or abuse, believe they can control their anger and rage. WRONG on all of the above. As long as one is self-centered and leaves God out of his life, he will remain Satan's prisoner. Under Satan's rule, our only freedom is the freedom to sin -- we have no other choice.
The good news is that Jesus proclaimed, "The reason I came among you is to set the prisoners free -- truly free." Whatever sin one is hooked on can never be corrected by human means; only GOD can break the shackles of sin, by forgiving our sins; once we are forgiven, only then are we free to choose to obey God or to obey self (Satan).
Rehab programs that leave God out are not effective. Thirty-seven percent of addicts are helped by human programs; God-centered programs like Teen Challenge have an 87 percent success rate. I've known people who have been seeing a psychiatrist for years -- sin is never mentioned -- they don't get better. Only God-centered programs, because they deal with the real problem (sin), are successful in helping people get well.
Barabbas was in prison; he was not free. He faced both death and hell. Because of Jesus' death on the cross, and His resurrection, Barabbas was truly free. Free to choose between God and self, between life and death; between slavery and freedom.
I hope and pray that Jesus' words will ring true in your life, "If I set you free, you will be truly free." Only the power and grace of God can break the power of Satan and can set us free to live as we were designed to live. Praise be to God!
Don Kuehle is a retired United Methodist minister who lives in Jackson. Opinions expressed are those of the author.Religion on 04/11/2019
Print Headline: Setting The Prisoners Free