prisoner convicted and taken away November 7 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Mark 15:6-21; Matthew 27:15-32; Luke 23:13-32; John 18:39–19:17a

Unjustly Convicted and Sentenced!

A parent punishes the wrong child or a teacher punishes the wrong student for misbehaviors. An adult is erroneously disciplined at work or fired for something that is not his/her fault. A person is implicated in a crime, convicted, and suffers many long years in prison. These are examples of injustice. What do we do when we suffer unjustly?

In today's Bible reading, Jesus suffers unjustly. He is innocent but accused and convicted of crimes he did not commit. Instead, Barabbas, a notorious rebel and murderer, is released. Jesus dies in his place and ours, the righteous for the unrighteous (1Peter 3:18).

Pilate is unjust. He is faced with a decision—should he behave with integrity or care only about retaining his position as governor of Palestine? Pilate knows Jesus is innocent—he wants to do the right thing and release him. He pleads for compromise, but the crowd will not listen.

For the third time he spoke to them [the crowd of Israelites and religious leaders who shouted for Jesus to be crucified].“Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.

So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will (Luke 23:22-25, NIV).

Pilate is a cowardly politician. He wants to do the right thing, but he does not want a report brought to Caesar that he let a proclaimed king go free (John 19:12-15). If Caesar got wind of it, Pilate might lose his coveted position. Do we do this? Do we act without integrity because bad things might happen? Do we seek to please men or God? If we seek to please men, we cannot be servants of Christ (Galatians 1:10).

Barabbas is released. Many are like Barabbas. They may not be rebels and start an uprising, but by their refusal to accept God’s Son as their Savior and King, or by refusing to obey him, they are being rebellious in their spirits. They want to be king. Does this describe any of us?

“But we are not murderers like Barabbas,” we may say. We may not have committed the physical act of murder; but if we have a continual pattern of hatred for people, Jesus said we commit murder in our hearts. If this is true, the love of God is not in us, we are not true Christians, and we are as guilty as Barabbas (1John 3:15; 4:20). In such a case, whether we do or merely think acts of hatred, all wrongdoing of whatever sort makes us guilty and totally without hope in this world.

Is there any good news? Yes, there is good news! Although we all do bad things, Christ came to take our place—“The righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God” (1Peter 3:18a, NIV, more...).

Christians, what can we do when we suffer unjustly? As was said in a previous lesson, if it is a civil matter, we can go to the police and our governing authorities for justice (Romans 13:1-5). If it is a religious matter and there are no civil laws to protect us, we are not to take revenge. The Apostle Paul instructs us,

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21, NIV)

Lessons to Live By

  • If any of us are guilty of sin or rebellion like Barabbas, there is good news—Jesus died, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God (more...)
  • We may suffer unjustly as a Christian and so did Jesus. We need to endure it and remember God cares for us and will bless us (1Peter 4:19; 2Timothy 2:3; 3:12; John 15:20; Matthew 5:10).
  • When suffering injustice and going to civil authorities is not an option, we are not to take revenge ourselves—we need to let God do it. The Apostle Paul said, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, NIV).
  • Let's follow the example of Jesus. When he suffered unjustly, it led to his death on the cross, but it gave us the opportunity for eternal life. Our godly response to unjust treatment is a testimony of God’s grace in our life. Perhaps that testimony will also lead others to seek the Lord for eternal life.

Focus Verse

Romans 12:21 (NIV) “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Watch a dramatized version of the events leading to Jesus' crucifixion

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A Look Ahead: In our Next Lesson we observe the Eight Responses to the Cross (crucifixion) of Jesus. Which is ours?

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