Good Friday 2018

On Good Friday this year, it is impossible not to think of the sacrifice made last week by Colonel Arnaud Beltrame of the French Gendarmerie Nationale. As I am sure you remember, Colonel Beltrame volunteered to swap places with a hostage who had been seized by a terrorist, and was then shot and fatally wounded. What he did was almost exactly what Jesus Christ did: when he died on the cross, he swapped places with those who were captives of sin and facing death, so that we might go free. From the French news reports, it seems that Colonel Beltrame was a devout Christian and that he died like his master.

I said that Colonel Beltrane’s sacrifice was almost exactly like that of Christ, because in at least one crucial way it was very different. The hostage whom Colonel Beltrane swapped places with was an innocent person, who had done nothing wrong. The terrorist who killed him was guilty, and when the police stormed the building and shot him, he received justice, and will now have to face the judgment of God.

But when Jesus Christ died, he did not swap places with the innocent. In Mark 15, we read that the Romans had in prison a man called Barabbas, a rebel who had committed murder during an uprising. He was what we would call a terrorist, although doubtless he thought of himself as a freedom fighter. Pontius Pilate gave the mob a choice between Jesus and Barabbas- and they chose Barabbas. So Barabbas, the guilty one, was released, and Jesus, the innocent one, was killed. Jesus swapped places with a guilty terrorist. It was as if, when the Gendarmes stormed the building, and the bullets of justice started flying, Colonel Beltrame had stepped in front of the terrorist and taken a bullet for him.

So Jesus Christ’s sacrifice was even greater than Colonel Beltrame’s: the innocent swapped places with the guilty. We are Barabbas. We are the terrorists, the guilty, the rebels who have tried to overthrow God’s rule. Jesus is the one who swapped places with us and faced justice and death for us so that we could go free.

**************************************************************************

Easter Service at Christ Church Düsseldorf: 11am, Sunday 1st April, Rotterdamer Strasse 135