“But ye have a custom that I release [some] one to you at the passover; will ye therefore that I release unto you the king of the Jews? They cried therefore again all, saying, Not this [man], but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John 18:39-40)
“Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, according as ye are unleavened. For also our passover, Christ, has been sacrificed; so that let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with unleavened [bread] of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
The Jews and Pilate had an interesting Passover custom: to release a person who usually was a criminal… And of course this criminal did not have to pay the penalty for his crime before being released, as the mercy of the Roman governor was not just or righteous, for it is not even able to be so: he either would be merciful and would just forgive the criminal without punishing him, or he would be just and would punish the criminal; there is no way for him to reconcile mercy with justice. This is the way of all humans, the custom of the world: humans naturally refuse to receive the divine truth revealed in God’s feasts, and they want forgiveness without having to pay the penalty for their sins and without having to leave their sins; they want to be saved from the penalty of sin, but not from its pleasures; they want to get free from the results of sin in order to sin more, and more freely; they don’t want to pay the cost, but they just want to enjoy the pleasures which they seek… This indeed was also what Cain did: although God had showed to his parents, and through them to him, that the wages of sin is death (as God sacrificed an animal for the sin of Adam and Eve and made garments of skin for them, and clothed them), and yet Cain chose to present to God an unacceptable offering that did not follow this principle of death (or blood) as the penalty for sin… And when mercy is without justice, the result is licentiousness, as we see in all those who do not have Christ…
So humans naturally refuse the meaning contained in the feasts that God instituted. It is at the occasion of the Passover, i.e. the very feast that revealed the truth of divine Substitution for the payment of the wages of sin, that the Jews and Pilate had a custom that contradicted that divine principle… Indeed, the Passover was about the substitution of a lamb for all the firstborn males of the children of Israel when God was to smite the firstborn males of the Egyptians. The wrath of God was about to fall on the Egyptians just as the wrath of God will fall on all sinners who refuse to be washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ. The children of Israel were not sinless, but they were criminals just like all humans. They would not be released without paying the penalty for their sins. Unlike Pilate’s mercy, God’s mercy for them would not contradict His justice, but a substitute would pay the penalty, and the sinner would be released with justice and mercy together, and thus the sinner would be redeemed from his sins to live a life sanctified to God. When God was redeeming the children of Israel from the slavery of Egypt, He taught them that what they really needed was redemption from their sins in order to worship Him in purity and holiness. That lamb of the Passover was called “the LORD’s Passover”, and it was slain at the Passover, and its blood on the doors of the children of Israel was the sign that they were the redeemed of God, and thus they would not be destroyed when God would destroy the Egyptians. Although the children of Israel could not pay the penalty of their sins, however that substitute lamb could symbolically meet the demand of God’s justice until the perfect Substitute to whom that lamb pointed would come and would fulfill all righteousness. All the Old Testament believers who truly accepted this truth of the substitution revealed through that Passover lamb were justified and were called “righteous” in the Old Testament, as they truly believed in the coming Messiah through that Passover lamb; and the Messiah would be the true Substitute, the true Lamb of God who takes on Him the sin of the world once for all (cf. John 1:29). Those righteous people of the Old Testament lived a righteous life, as the just mercy of God by which they were saved redeemed them from the slavery of sin and made them obedient to God, as they were born again by that true faith in God. Those Jews who did not really believe in the truth revealed through that lamb were not saved, but they all fell in the wilderness.
This is God’s way, His Righteous Mercy which He revealed through the crucifixion of His Messiah: “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25-26) God could at the same time be just and have mercy on the repentant sinner who has put his faith in Jesus, because Jesus Christ has paid the penalty of sin by His death (by His blood). Thus the justice of God was satisfied by the death of a Substitute, and the sinner who relies on that Substitute for his Salvation can receive mercy from God without contradicting His justice or His Righteousness. The criminal is not released by mere mercy, without having to pay the penalty for his sins; he is released by mercy while justice is satisfied by the death of the Substitute in the place of the sinner. And when mercy meets truth or justice, the result is a life of righteousness, a life in holiness, as the sinner who is thus justified by faith in the true Lamb of God (cf. John 1:29) is also truly dead to sin with Him (cf. Romans 6:3-9) and is born of God and bears the fruit of Christ’s Righteousness in his life: “being complete as regards the fruit of righteousness, which [is] by Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.” (Philippians 1:11) Jesus Christ is the true Passover (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7), the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29). By His blood, His death for our sins, we are washed and have become unleavened (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7), unmixed with the impurity of sin and of the world, as Christ made us His own possession by His precious blood to be His witnesses by nature, by deeds and thoughts and words: “who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all lawlessness, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14) We can’t continue to live in sin after we are redeemed from our sins: we don’t celebrate the Passover with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth during the whole of our lives on earth. The Passover has ceased to be an Old Testament feast which we keep once a year, as the Perfect, Jesus Christ, has come and has fulfilled all feasts. Now we celebrate that feast in its essence during the whole of our lives as we walk in Christ’s Righteousness. We may fall in some temptations and sins, although we will fight in order not to fall, but we will not continue in sin, and the pattern of our lives will not be a pattern of sinfulness, but of growth in sanctification. By the Righteous Mercy of God, i.e. by His Grace, by the blood of the Substitute Jesus Christ, we are saved from the way of the world, and we seek mercy and justice and righteousness instead of seeking the pleasures of sin and refusing its penalty, as we are redeemed from the old corrupted way to walk in the way of light: “knowing that ye have been redeemed, not by corruptible [things, as] silver or gold, from your vain conversation handed down from [your] fathers, but by precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, [the blood] of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The wrath of God is coming soon upon all sinners, but those who are in Christ are redeemed by His blood and are saved from the wrath to come, as Christ has overcome death by His death on the cross and by His resurrection from the dead: “and to await his Son from the heavens, whom he raised from among the dead, Jesus, our deliverer from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
Indeed, humans refused this true meaning of the Passover, therefore they released a criminal at the Passover without satisfying justice, but the Lord Jesus gave us a very beautiful picture of the principle of Substitution as He took the place of Barabbas who was a criminal. If there were anyone who would ever deserve to be released on that day without contradicting justice, that was Jesus: He is the Holy One who has never sinned! He has never done anything wrong, but all what He did was perfect! And yet, God, by a determinate counsel, delivered this Holy One to be crucified (cf. Acts 2:23). The criminal, Barabbas, was released, and the innocent was punished instead of the criminal. That was a very powerful message about the true principle of divine Substitution in which the Righteous Jesus Christ took our place under the righteous wrath of God, the place of criminals who hate God, so that we may be justified before God…
This truth of the Passover is not just for a season in the year. It was not for last week or for last year and it will not come back next year… The Passover has ceased to be an Old Testament feast which we keep once a year, as the Perfect, Jesus Christ, has come and has fulfilled all feasts. The true Passover already came almost 2000 years ago, and our Passover, Jesus Christ, has been sacrificed once for all on that day (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7). There is no need to repeat that sacrifice again and again as if what Jesus did on that day were not sufficient; Jesus took the place of the unjust once for all: “for Christ indeed has once suffered for sins, [the] just for [the] unjust, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in flesh, but made alive in [the] Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18); “by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering, and offering often the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But he, having offered one sacrifice for sins, sat down in perpetuity at [the] right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:10-12). So, dear reader, don’t wait for another unjust mercy at another Passover… TODAY, NOW is the right time for Salvation: “for he says, I have listened to thee in an accepted time, and I have helped thee in a day of salvation: behold, now [is the] well-accepted time; behold, now [the] day of salvation“ (2 Corinthians 6:2). Don’t postpone it: repent TODAY, leave sin and the way of the world, stop relying on any unjust mercy, and put your faith on the Lord Jesus Christ alone, as He alone is the One who died for our sins and got the approval of God who gave “the proof [of it] to all [in] having raised him from among [the] dead.” (Acts 17:31)
Thus mercy or lovingkindness has met truth or justice. When you are washed by the blood of Jesus Christ, you can truly sing the song of God’s Righteous Mercy with the Psalmist:
“Loving-kindness and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10)
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ