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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, April 3, 2004
at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" (Matthew 27:17).

In his negative biography of President Reagan, Edmund Morris tells us that the President's

…whole religious instinct was to tiptoe as quickly and sentimentally as possible past Calvary, with its ugly associations of blood, thorns, and vinegar, to the auroral [bright morning] Sunday of Resurrection (Edmund Morris, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, Random House, 1999, p. 521).

Although Reagan was a better man than he is portrayed in this book, I think that description of the President's view of Easter was true to life.

But we must not blame the President. He only reflected the mood of most other Protestants in America since the days, in the nineteenth century, when Charles G. Finney downgraded the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross. Increasingly across the decades, this became the norm. The nation's "whole religious instinct was to tiptoe as quickly…as possible past Calvary" - not dwelling on the Blood and gore - but moving rapidly to the resurrection. But we have paid a price for this. It is now accepted orthodoxy in some circles to omit the Blood altogether.

Not only is the Blood neglected, but so also is the death. There has been so little preaching on the suffering and death of Christ that many people stand agog, wonderstruck, when confronted squarely with this subject.

Now, tonight we come to another aspect of Christ's suffering. Look at Matthew 27:17 again. Let us stand and read it aloud.

"Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" (Matthew 27:17).

Drop down to verse twenty-one. Please read aloud verses twenty-one and twenty-two.

"The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain [two] will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified" (Matthew 27:21-22).

You may be seated. Pilate said,

"Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" (Matthew 27:17).

That question comes down to us tonight. Every person here must answer it as well.

I. First, it is a clear choice.

No choice could be plainer. It is a choice between good and evil, between Jesus and a criminal. The Bible tells us plainly that Barabbas was a bad man.

"Which lay bound with them that had made insurrection [revolution] with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection" (Mark 15:7).

They chose a murderer instead of Christ. Peter made this clear when he said,

"But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you" (Acts 3:14).

Every year at the Passover the Roman governor released a prisoner. This was done to please the people. They could choose any prisoner they wanted to be freed. Pilate found no guilt in Jesus, and wanted to release Him. He thought that they would be pleased if he set Jesus free. Only a few days before, many of the people had shouted "Hosanna" when Jesus entered Jerusalem (cf. Mark 11:9-10). Now Pilate was surprised to find that the crowd did not want Jesus spared. They "denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto" them (Acts 3:14).

I am asking you the same question Pilate asked that day. Who do you want, "Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" (Matthew 27:17). You have a clear choice. Which one will it be? Do you want Christ, or Satan? Do you want salvation, or sin? It is a simple, plain, clear choice. Do you want Heaven or Hell? Which of the two will you choose?

II. Second, it is a pressing choice.

Not only did the people have a clear choice, it was also an urgent choice, a pressing choice. They couldn't put it off. They had to choose then and there who they wanted. They couldn't say, "I'm not ready to decide yet." No, no! The moment had come. The governor had asked them. They must decide, then and there, who they wanted.

Every unconverted person here tonight is faced with the same urgent, pressing question. Do you want Jesus, or do you want to be lost? As I recall, it was the French philosopher Sartre who said, "Not to decide is to decide." He was right when he said that. A decision to delay trusting Christ, is a decision. It is a decision to remain lost. The Bible says,

"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already…" (John 3:18).

You are already condemned. If you decide not to decide, you simply decide to remain condemned.

What is your Barabbas? What is it you want more than Christ? Why do you delay trusting Christ? What is it that you love more than Him? Cast away your "Barabbas" and come to Jesus tonight!

III. Third, it is a crucial choice.

Make no mistake about this. The choice those people made when they stood before Pilate was crucial, critical, highly important. And so is your choice.

If you choose to reject Jesus, it means that you will go on under condemnation.

"…for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Jesus is the Son of God. He is the only one who can forgive your sin and bring you peace with God. He died on the Cross to pay for your sin. He shed His Blood to cleanse your sin. He arose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of God in Heaven.

Now, you have a critical, soul-saving or soul-damning choice. What will you do with Jesus who is called the Christ?

What will you do with Jesus?
   Neutral you cannot be;
Some day your heart will be asking,
   "What will He do with me?"
("What Will You Do With Jesus?" by an unknown author).


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 15:1-15.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"What Will You Do With Jesus?" (author unknown).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" (Matthew 27:17).

(Matthew 27:21-22)

I.   It is a clear choice, Mark 15:7; Acts 3:14; Mark 11:9-10.

II.  It is a pressing choice, John 3:18.

III. It is a crucial choice, Acts 4:12.

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