Base Scripture: John 18
A bounty hunter walks in the bar and announces he’s looking for Big-Bad-Billy. A gravelly voice responds from the depths of the bar, “I’M BIG-BAD-BILLY … GO GET HIM, BOYS !!!” One by one and two by two the people in the bar attack the hero bounty hunter. The bounty hunter takes on each fighter. He knocks them out, knocks them down, knocks them into each other, knocks them out of windows. Once done with them, he turns his attention to Big Bad Billy. We cheer for him as he thrashes Billy, hog ties him, and mounts Billy to the hood of his truck to haul him to the Sherriff and collect his bounty. The bounty hunter is the alpha male hero of the story; a person the audience loves to watch. He is a symbol of justice. He frees the oppressed and rescues those distressed. He disarms the bomb with one second to spare. He saves the world. He’s the hero asking nothing in return for his service.
Throughout biblical history, God would send a savior, a hero when His people were in trouble. Moses was that kind of “bounty-hunter hero” for Israel. Moses stood against pharaoh and his armies with a shepherd’s staff. In the name of God, plagues infected the land. Beast and man were slain. Sea waters were divided to the expose dry land. Israel was captive and God sent them a savior equipped for battle. Moses was that savior. Moses killed a man for beating his brethren. Moses vanquished Israel’s oppressors. Moses led Israel to fight against many nations and won every battle. Moses was the undisputed champion of God’s people. The people feared Moses, respected and followed him for over 40 years in the desert.
God didn’t stop with Moses. The need for an on-site hero continued. So Joshua came after. Joshua was a great warrior; he famously brought down the walls of Jericho. After Joshua came the Judges. Samson’s greatness is legendary beyond the Bible. God used many heroes to deliver His people from physical bondage. More deliverance was needed. A world in desperate need of a hero. One to save mankind. Who would God call next to be creation’s hero? Would He send another Moses, armed with plagues? Would the hero be like Elijah and call down fire from heaven? Would he slay giants like David? Who would this hero be?
People were excited for their next hero. They had expectations the savior would be like the heroes whom came before. Instead they got a dude from Nazareth. A small, traditional (dull) village. And the hero wasn’t a man at all, but a baby. Born in a stable. God sent Jesus to save His people in the most unexpected way. This hero was modest, gentle even. This deliverance of the world would not be outward saving but inward. The Jewish people rejected Jesus as the promised Savior because He did not meet their expectations. Jesus was humble. He performed one-on-one miracles. He hung out with men of least stature in society. His inner circle smelled like fish- literally. Hardly the picture of a mighty warrior. God sent a redeemer. God sent the hero who would help us conquer the enemy within.
Jesus was so different from their ideal hero, the people He came to save put him on trial. After Jesus’ arrest, Pilot thought giving the people a vote for who to crucify for their “crimes” would result in an easy choice: they’d free the hero. Surely the Jewish people would choose the good guy, the miracle man. But they did not. Instead they chose the bad guy. They shouted back, “No, not Jesus! Give us Barabbas!” They freed the bad guy. The Bad-Guy-Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion. He was a brawler, a troublemaker with no respect for the current power structure. Barabbas was arrested for taking part in an uprising against Roman rule. He incited a riot. He was rowdy, a renegade.
Two men. Two arrests. One execution. One choice. Jesus healed a blind man; Barabbas was a thief. Jesus taught to give Caesar his taxes; Barabbas rebelled against authority. Jesus taught the true meaning of the law; Barabbas had no respect for the law. The contrast was extreme, good vs evil. The decision seemed easy. Judge the men by their actions. Vote for the guilty party. Crucify the immoral one. Save the hero.
Yet when offered the choice: they chose the bad guy.
What are the consequences for choosing the bad guy? Mankind has been living with these results for generations. It started when people chose the bad guy in the Garden of Eden. God created man. He was man’s friend. He gave man a human helpmate too, a wife. He asked man to name all the animals in creation. He gave man every tree in the garden except one. And in this beautiful garden of fellowship and creation appears the original bad guy. In a short time, he convinces man to listen to him. He tells the man God is untrustworthy. Choose me, the snake says. Trust me, he hisses. And the vote is cast. The man chooses the bad guy. And with one decision, sin came into the world. Man’s innocence was lost because he chose the bad guy. And history repeats, century after century, minute after minute. Despite the consequences, we choose the bad guy.
Knowing all this, why do people choose the bad guy still today? It’s a cliché that “bad boys or bad girls” are idolized as a forbidden pleasure. And it begs to question: why do we choose things that are bad for us? Products come with warning labels, yet we still use them. Politicians have shady pasts, yet we still elect them. Entertainment television is full of true crimes like delinquency, murder, sex-offense, and torture, yet we watch obsessively, fueling our minds with anxiety and fear.
Remember Moses. The Israelites reached the promised land thanks to his heroic leadership. So, the next time there is a choice, choose the good guy.