By Colleen Donahue

Every execution was "an event" and as such drew a curious crowd to wag their heads and watch. Christ's execution was the same. The cast of characters present represented every kind of man or woman and their attitudes.

We have already recognized Simon of Cyrene, Jesus' mother and the two thieves that were present. Now in this study we will look at more of the cast of characters that were......

Drawn to The Cross - Part IV
(Barabbas, Soldiers and the Jewish Leaders)


Barabbas was a free man because Christ had been chosen to die in his place. Almost certainly he would have been amongst the crowd breathing sighs of relief at his good fortune.

Day 1- While we know little about Barabbas we do know four things about him from the gospel accounts. Make a list of what we know about this man.
Matthew 27:16 / Mark 15:7 / Luke 23:18-19 / John 18:40

Barabbas was a kind of "freedom fighter" determined to rid Palestine of the Romans. He was a man burning with a cause and willing to kill for it. History is full of men like Barabbas -- men that have chosen to take matters into their own hands but NOT the way of Jesus Christ.

Day 2- In the end this is all that is remembered of this man.
Acts 3:14


Day 3- While the cross was being prepared, the soldiers amused themselves with Jesus in "horse play". What did they do to Jesus?
Matthew 27:27-31 / Mark 15:16-20 / John 19:1-3

They did not know the impact of what they did and were probably the least to blame of all present. They were on duty and Jesus was just another criminal they were called upon to deal with. Their coarse jesting was more in sport than in malice.

Day 4- When the soldiers came to putting Jesus onto the cross they took his clothes off. In doing so what did they discover about Christ's garment?
John 19:23

A seamless tunic is something that a High Priest wore. Jesus in this moment was our perfect High Priest opening the way for all men to be able to come into a presence of God. Because this was no ordinary tunic what did the soldiers decide to do?
John 19:24a

This gambling act at the cross fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy.
Psalm 22:18 / John 19:24b

Day 5- This scene is symbolic of the world's indifference to Christ. While he is dying the soldiers are gambling for his clothes! Here we have the Son of God pouring out his love to men and they don't care. Jesus knew this would happen and spoke a parable concerning it.
Matthew 22: 1-5

Notice especially in verse 5, "They paid no attention to him and went off..." The real tragedy is not the world's hostility to Jesus but their indifference to Him.

Day 6- There was one soldier -- a centurion (the leader of 100 soldiers) who stood guard over these death proceedings. He had watched the Lord's last 3 hours with increasing wonder. He had witnessed the conversion of the penitent thief and saw all the cosmic events taking place. He came to a conclusion.
Luke 23:47

Day 7- Once he saw that Jesus was innocent he made a very definite confession recorded by Matthew and Mark.
Matthew 27:54 / Mark 15:39

He may have been thinking in terms of a Greco-Roman demigod but nevertheless he recognized deity.

Day 8- The Centurion became some kind of believer that was certainly included in Christ's prayer.
Luke 23:34

No doubt this Centurion wa also among "those other sheep" that Christ included in his flock.
John 10:16


Day 9- The Jewish leaders were most definitely in the crowd. They were determined to see Jesus murdered and make sure that it got done. They mocked Jesus "in the same way" as the mob passing by him but with one difference. Depending on the Bible version you are reading it says that they "mocked him among themselves."
Mark 15: 31a

The fact that they mocked Jesus amongst themselves allowed them to stay above the crowd and the behavior of the common man. After all they were God's leaders. In reality they were living up to a name that Jesus addressed them by over and over. In these verses notice how Jesus refers to the Jewish leadership.
Matthew 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27

Day 10- These leaders gave one more challenge to Jesus. What did they want?
Mark 15:32

In challenging Christ's divinity their words sounded eerily similar to an earlier challenge Jesus faced. Who challenged him then?
Matthew 4:3,6

Day 11- This wasn't the first time that they had demanded a "sign" in the way of a miracle as a condition of their seeing and believing. Here are a few of many.
Matthew 12:38 / Mark 8:11 / John 2:18

What had been the Lord's response to them at these times?
Matthew 12:39

Day 12- The fact was that Jesus had performed three years of miracles among every part of the Jewish nation -- leaders and ordinary people alike. Even with all those, they would not believe. What did Jesus say would be the proof that He was truly the Messiah? (vs.25)
John 10: 22-25

Weren't the Lord's miracles spectacular enough for them to believe when He did them? That is doubtful because you can't get better than raising the dead. Jesus gives us the reason plainly.
John 10:26

Day 13- If they wouldn't believe because they "were not Christ's sheep" it begs us to ask the question, "who were his sheep? Jesus' next sentence answered that question. What three things do all of the Lord's "sheep" have in common?
John 10:27

Day 14- You might recall a discussion that Pilate was having with Jesus. Jesus was explaining to him that He had a kingdom that was not of this present world. Pilate then with amazement and for clarification said, "You are a king then?!" Jesus affirms his statement and tells us what makes a person want to listen for his words. Look especially to the last phrase of this verse.
John 18:37

Those who truly belong to God have receptivity to the truth. When they hear truth, their heart rises to it. Even if they don't understand it all they are receptive to it and willing to keep studying and learning. What did the people of Berea do to know whether Paul was teaching them the truth?
Acts 17:11

In their study of the scriptures what do they come to accept it as?
1 Thessalonians 2:13

Day 15- For these sheep -- those receptive and open to the truth of God's word -- what is true?
John 10:14

And if those open to God's truth come to confess Him as Lord, then what must follow?
2 Timothy 2:19b

Day 16 - So are we saying that these Jewish leaders standing at the cross were wicked men? Perhaps, but not at first. Scripture makes it clear that a man or woman can start down a straight path and then wander off. (See 2 Peter 2:15). We start to wander when we take our eyes off a fixed goal (in this case God) and get distracted with lesser causes or more commonly, focus our attention on ourselves. Just so we are very clear about what Jesus had against these religious leaders read again these verses and make a list of their offenses.
Matthew 23: 4-7, 13-19, 23-33

Day 17- In their wandering these leaders had grown preoccupied with the honor and praise of men (Matthew 6:5,16) with predictable results.
Matthew 15:8 / Matthew 23:28

Day 18- And so as they stood there mocking the Lord "amongst themselves" this proverb had come true.
Proverbs 21:16

"A man who strays from the path of understanding comes to rest in the company of the dead."

Day 19- Are the leaders that you follow drawn to the cross to mock it or to confess it? Our leaders today are of the same sort as those standing at the cross. Twice in these verses we are told how we will recognize the good from the bad.
Matthew 7: 15-20

What will be confusing to us as followers is if they look good on the outside and sound good with their words. But if you examine their "fruit" will it look like this?
Galatians 5:22-23 / 2 Peter 1:5-7

Or this?
Galatians 5:19-21

Day 20- Those who call themselves "church leaders" with no fruit or bad fruit will not be recognized by Christ when it comes to the Judgment Day. What will he say to them?
Matthew 7:21-23

Next Study: MPGC#21

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