King of Kings

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

When I was in second grade Sissy, our brother, Butter, and I went to a Saturday matinee. Unlike most movies I attended with Sissy during my elementary school years, this movie was not an Elvis Presley movie. Yea!

This movie depicted the life of Jesus. The title was King of Kings. Jeffrey Hunter portrayed Christ. Harry Guardino portrayed Barabbas. The scene in the movie where the people cried for the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus is seared into my memory. It didn’t matter how fine an actor Guardino was in the years after, I never particularly cared for him. He did that good a job presenting Barabbas.

During Christ’s interrogation before Pilate, Pilate had a choice.

Release an innocent man in exchange for a convicted criminal, or cave into the demands of the religious leaders, have Christ crucified and set Barabbas free.

Pilate had the power and authority to make the decision to release Jesus, but he decided to grant the demands of the shouting crowds.

An innocent man died in the place of a criminal.

We might look at the scripture that recounts these details and think, “That isn’t fair. Barabbas broke the law. Everyone knew it. He deserved to die. Jesus was innocent. Sinless. He did nothing worthy of the punishment he received.”

That’s the way my brain reasoned when I listened to the crowds in the movie chant for Barabbas to be released. I remember crying because Pilate didn’t make the right choice. He should have released Jesus. He shouldn’t have released Barabbas.

I wanted Jesus to live. I wanted Barabbas to be punished.

But you know what? It could just as easily have been my name that was called out to be released. Or your name.

Because, really, isn’t that what happened?

You and I have broken God’s law. We know it. Jesus knows it. We deserve to die. We deserve to be punished.

Instead, Jesus died in our place. He took our sins upon his perfect, sinless self and paid the penalty for the debt we owed, but could never pay.

We are the prisoners, the law-breakers who should have died. Instead, we were shown God’s great mercy.

Don’t you want to thank him for that great gift?

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Then Pilate summoned the chief priests, the officials and the people and addressed them in these words. “You have brought this man to me as a mischief-maker among the people, and I want you to realise that, after examining him in your presence, I have found nothing criminal about him, in spite of all your accusations. And neither has Herod, for he has sent him back to us. Obviously, then, he has done nothing to deserve the death penalty. I propose, therefore, to teach him a sharp lesson and let him go.”

But they all yelled as one man, “Take this man away! We want Barabbas set free!” (Barabbas was a man who had been put in prison for causing a riot in the city and for murder.) But Pilate wanted to set Jesus free and he called out to them again, but they shouted back at him, “Crucify, crucify him!”

Then he spoke to them, for a third time, “What is his crime, then? I have found nothing in him that deserves execution; I am going to teach him a lesson and let him go.”

But they shouted him down, yelling their demand that he should be crucified.

Their shouting won the day, and Pilate pronounced the official decision that their request should be granted. He released the man for whom they asked, the man who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and surrendered Jesus to their demands. Luke 23:13-25 (Phillips)

I wish you well.


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