My Song Is Love Unknown: A Murderer They Save, the Prince of Life They Slay
Text: Luke 23:13-25
We can picture the emotionally charged scenes. The images are burned into our minds from media coverage or from movies we have watched. The defendant is on trial. The judge is seated on his chair listening to the accusations the people are bringing forward. Those accusing are adamantly and vehemently pursuing a guilty verdict and the death penalty. The families of the victim are sitting nearby, wiping tears from their eyes. Outside the courthouse are two groups of protestors. One group is shouting for a guilty verdict and condemnation, the other shouting for an innocent verdict and justification. It’s an emotional, passionate, sometimes ugly scene at a murder trial.
Think of the images you see and the emotions you have when you simply hear names like: Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City bomber), Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer. Now what images do you see and what emotions do you have when you hear these names: O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony. Those are two that might have committed murder but were acquitted and set free.
Could you imagine if those murderers who were convicted as definitely being guilty were set free? What would you think if Ted Bundy was let loose and walking the streets? I can tell you for a fact that there would have been an upheaval in Milwaukee and a mass exodus from town if Jeffrey Dahmer had been released in the early ‘90s.
So how filled with hatred could those Jews have been to demand that Barabbas be released and Jesus be executed? Barabbas was a known criminal. He was in prison for leading a rebellion in the city and for murder. He was already convicted as guilty and imprisoned! Then there was Jesus. He had committed no crimes. There were no victims left behind. There was no evidence that he had done anything wrong. But they preferred to have a convicted murderer walking the streets and to have the innocent Jesus executed. A Murderer They Save, the Prince of Life They Slay.
The injustice of the evening was only continuing. Jesus was betrayed by his friend. He was wrongfully arrested. He was illegally tried before Caiphas and the Sanhedrin. He was wrongfully accused of blasphemy. He was unjustly sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin and then undeservedly mocked and beaten. Then he was taken to Pontius Pilate where he was wrongfully accused of three other crimes. He was hauled off to Herod where he was mercilessly questioned then mocked. Now he was here before Pilate and the Jewish chief priests, the rulers and the people.
No one had yet brought any real evidence forward. No one had yet given any agreeing testimony against Jesus. No one had yet brought any true accusations against Jesus. The Sanhedrin called him guilty, but they didn’t have the power to do anything. Pilate didn’t find anything worthy of charging him with. King Herod, who was supposedly threatened by King Jesus, found no basis for charges against him. And now that he was back with Pilate, three times Pilate tried to set Jesus free and persuade them to drop the charges. “For the third time he spoke to them: ‘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.’” Even though Pilate thought he was innocent, maybe if he had him severely punished by scourging and degraded him with a crown of thorns and purple robe—maybe then they would go away and drop the charges.
Luke reports simply in verse 23: “But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.” John adds in his gospel that the Jews also said, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
Pilate couldn’t take the pressure any more. He didn’t want a Jewish rebellion on his hands. He didn’t want any rumors of this rebel-king Jesus floating around. He certainly didn’t want to be known as an enemy of Caesar (because then he would be the one getting executed). He took the easy way out. Verse 24: “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.” A Murderer They Save, the Prince of Life They Slay.
It sends chills down our spines. How could they save a murderer? How could they want to set free a Timothy McVeigh, a Ted Bundy, a Barabbas but condemn Jesus? Barabbas should have been the one sentenced to die! The Jews should have been the ones sentenced to die! Pilate should have been the one sentenced to die! We should have been the ones sentenced to die!
An interesting question I often ask is: Who was responsible for Jesus’ death? Some say the Jews since they hatched the plot. Some say Pilate since he sentenced him to die. But the answer is: All of us. We all are responsible for Jesus’ death because all of us are sinners.
With our worldly, American sense of “fairness” we often point our fingers to the real “bad guys” of this world. We scoff at murderers like Jeffrey Dahmer, Osama bin Laden, or even the innocent yet presumed guilty like Casey Anthony and O.J. Simpson. We turn our heads in disgust from big business and political crooks like Martha Stewart or Rod Blagojevich. We shame famous adulterers like Tiger Woods, Dan Marino who was found to have a baby on the side, or NFL player Antonio Cromartie who has had 10 children with eight different mothers. “Yes, these are the real sinners of the world,” we think.
But Jesus tells us that anyone who hates is a murderer like Barabbas. Anyone who is greedy is a thief like Rod Blagojevich. Anyone who lusts is an adulterer like Tiger Woods. Anyone who lies is speaking the native language of the devil, whom Jesus calls the father of lies.
God says, “The wages of sin is death.” Not just lots of sins. Not just big sins. Any sin. Every sin is a bad sin. Every sin earns death. Every sinner deserves death. Barabbas wasn’t the only sinner who deserved to die instead of Jesus. We do too.
So My Song is Love Unknown as A Murderer They Save and the Prince of Life They Slay. While we stand by as witnesses to this unfair death sentence, we are horrified by the injustice. They saved a murderer and executed Jesus! Yet in the grand scheme of this world and God’s plans, that is exactly what God had in mind. God planned that his Son would die so that Barabbas could be saved, so that you could be saved, so that I could be saved.
God says that the wages of sin is death. We were up on trial with the guilty verdict ready to take that death sentence. But Jesus allowed the most unfair and unjust trial of all time to take place so that he could take our verdict on himself.
Would you have been willing to barge in on the Ted Bundy trial, run up to the judge and say, “No! Don’t imprison him forever! Don’t sentence him to die! Even though he slaughtered more than 30 women and did disgusting things with the dead bodies, punish me instead! Put me in the electric chair!” Would you have done that for Ted Bundy? Jeffrey Dahmer? Saddham Hussain? Barabbas?
Jesus did that for you. This is again why we call it unknown love. How could God love me that much? Why would God want to die for me? Why would God want me to be in his heaven?
I don’t know. That’s why My Song is Love Unknown. A murderer, a liar, a cheat, a fowl-mouth, an idolater, a thief—me—God saved and the Prince of Life God slayed. That’s not just. That’s not fair. That’s not right. But it is God’s unknown love.
My song is love unknown, My Savior’s love to me,
Love to the loveless shown That they might lovely be.
Oh, who am I That for my sake
My Lord should take Frail flesh and die?
They rise and needs will have My dear Lord made away.
A murderer they save; The Prince of life they slay.
Yet cheerful he To suffering goes
That he his foes From death might free.
In life no house, no home My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb But what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heaven was his home
But mine the tomb wherein he lay.
Here might I stay and sing; No story so divine,
Never was love, dear King, Never was grief like thine.
This is my friend, In whose sweet praise
I all my days Could gladly spend!
My Song is Love Unknown.
Posted on March 22, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged Acquit, Acquittal, Barabbas, Casey Anthony, Charles Manson, Church, Condemnation, Herod, Jeffrey Dahmer, Jesus, Justification, Lent, Luke, Luke 23, Murder, My Song is Love Unknown, O.J. Simpson, Pontius Pilate, Prison, Sermons, Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, Verdict. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.