About two millennia ago Jesus died on the cross not just for the Jews but for every sinner in the world. At the cross, when enduring such excruciating pain, Jesus prayed for forgiveness for the ones who put him there. We mistakenly believe that it was the Jews, living in Jerusalem, in AD 33 that put him on the cross. But it was our sins that put him there. Sins of everyone born before, during and after Jesus’ time. Jesus died for three sects of people, the Peters, the Judases and the Barabbases of this world.
Peter – The followers of Christ
As part of the inner circle of disciples along with James and John, Peter had the privilege of first hand witnessing Christ in action. Originally named Simon, Christ gave him the name Petra which meant ‘Rock’. He hailed from Bethsaida and into a family of fishermen. He came to know Christ through his brother Andrew and became the spokesman for the twelve disciples. His transformation from a mere fisherman to the pillar of the early church was truly remarkable and justified the name that Christ gave him.
Peter belongs to a set of people who follow and love Christ. They have had their lives transformed and are now working towards the extension of the kingdom of Christ. But no one is flawless except Christ. Peter performed miracles identical to that of Jesus’ but he went through phases where he was not in line with the will of God. Everyone goes through tough times and one may fail. Even Peter, after knowing Christ personally, denied Him repeatedly in front of everyone. We may not be perfect, but when we truly repent, we are forgiven and this realization creates in us a need for doing something for Him who has accepted us even after our failures. Indeed Christ died for his followers so that they can repent and come under his wings and rightfully call themselves the children of God.
But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. – John 1:12
Judas – The haters of Christ
Judas Iscariot, whose name is used synonymously with betrayal was like Peter, a disciple of Christ. His betrayal instigated the chain of events that led to crucifixion of Jesus Christ. John describes him as a thief and says that, having charge of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it (John 12:6). We often wonder that someone who was so close to Jesus for three years, who ate bread with him could lift his heel against him (Psalm 41: 9). The Pharisees were well versed with the laws and scriptures, yet failed to recognize the messiah for whom they were waiting so long. Even after committing such a heinous betrayal, if Judas had come back to Christ for forgiveness, he too would have been used mightily like Peter and been instrumental to the early church.
Paul who was the greatest persecutor of the early church became the most influential crusader for Christ after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Jesus intervened in his life and transformed him while he was on his way to the synagogues of Damascus to imprison the followers of Christ.
Today there are many like Judas who know Christ but have failed to recognize Jesus as their personal Savior. This might be due to some personal hurt that they have received from one of the so called followers of Christ. If we call ourselves the followers of Christ but do not reflect his image in us, we will be causing more hurt to the kingdom of God.
Going to church and knowing Christ personally are two different things. We must ensure that our hearts are not hardened lest we forget the message of love and think of ourselves as members of an exclusive club that we have earned the right to enter.
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. – 3 John 1:11
Barabbas – The people who do not know Christ
Jesus Barabbas was a notorious criminal imprisoned by the Roman Government awaiting crucifixion for murder. As it was customary to release a Jewish prisoner on the Passover festival, Barabbas was released instead of Jesus Christ that year. It can be said that Jesus literally died in place of Barabbas’ sin. Barabbas may not have even heard of Jesus Christ but Christ took his sins and died on the cross to give him a new beginning both literally and spiritually. We share this world with more than seven million people, many of whom still have not got the opportunity to know Christ.
.. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and He will be in you. – John 14:17
Jesus died for everyone and not for a particular group of people. Today, the church is divided on so many denominational differences that it has forgotten the very purpose with which Peter, Paul and others established these institutions. It is the task of the followers, led by the Holy Spirit to reach out to the unreached with the Gospel of Christ. You do not have to be a missionary in a faraway land to spread the Gospel, but if you look around you will see plenty who are unaware of the greatest sacrifice made for them.