Death Row

March 27, 2018
by JJ Ollerenshaw

Hebrews 10:5-7 – Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, 'Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, O God.'" (NIV)

In many states in the USA, capital punishment is legal but uncommon. The means is usually by lethal injection, and it is conducted quietly and privately. In contrast, capital punishment during Roman times was often public, and could be pure torture on a cross. The government wanted to impress upon the people that there were dire consequences for not obeying authority.

How, exactly, did Jesus run so afoul of the law that it was deemed that He deserved this type of punishment? He did a lot of good. Why did He have to die?

When we look back in the Old Testament to the first Passover — the night before God freed the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians — we find that the only way to be safe from the angel of death was to paint the blood of a lamb over the door. Then, the angel would pass over the house and not kill the firstborn son. Later, lambs were sacrificed to atone for the people's sins. This was God's law, but it was only a temporary arrangement. God had a more permanent solution in mind. He planned to send His only Son Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice, to take away the sins of the whole world.

Jesus did nothing wrong, except to claim that He was the Son of God, which was true, but thought to be blasphemy. Pilate could find nothing against Him. He gave the crowd the choice of a prisoner to be released, either Jesus or someone else. They chose a man named Barabbas, a thief and a murderer, who fully expected to die that day — not to be set free. But Jesus took his place on the cross. God's plan was carried through.

Hebrews 10:14 – By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (NIV)

In the 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ, the hand holding the nail to be driven into Jesus' hand belonged to Mel Gibson, the producer. This is the only role that he played. He explained, "I'm first in line to crucify Jesus. I did it."

He understood that Jesus' death was atonement, a debt paid once and for all. Jesus was the substitute for all of us, and He paid the price for all our sins. Each one of us pinned Jesus to the cross. And each one of us who acknowledges that Jesus was our substitute is Barabbas — released from death row. Praise be to God!

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we are so grateful that by Your grace and mercy, our sins are completely forgiven. You require justice, and Jesus paid the price in full. Worthy is the Lamb! Amen.

About the author:

JJ Ollerenshaw <sandjollie@yahoo.com>
Belleville, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Good word, JJ.


    Amen! Thanks be to God. Hapoy Easter to you and your family.


    Always an inspiration, thank you so much.
    I didn’t know that story about Mel Gibson, fascinating.


    Yes! “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, Jesus cleansed me with His blood, and washed me white as snow!” Don’t remember who penned those words, nor who added the notes, but that hymn sprang to mind as I read your touching devotional. Praise be to God for His great love! Thanks for sharing this devotional with us. Jesus’ sacrifice means a whole lot to me. Blessings.


    Dear JJ,
    A precious devotional. Real Easter.
    One bitty change only, I would make:
    I would say: “And each one of us who acknowledges that Jesus was our substitute is as Barabbas – released from death row. Praise be to God!
    Keep writing.


    Good devotional, and I completely get your point. Maybe I’m misreading you, however. The sense I get is that you think capital punishment as carried out today, where allowed, is somehow “better” than in Roman times, and somehow “OK “.
    If this isn’t your intent, then forget the following!
    However, anything I have read about the few countries which still carry out the barbaric practice of capital punishment suggests that it continues to be terribly excruciating, deaths can be long and painful, and can be just as horrific as in Roman days, and many times, innocent people are still being executed. And most modern executions still attract a lot of public attention.
    In many ways, much of our world hasn’t evolved much since Roman times. Canada isn’t perfect, but we haven’t allowed state killings for many years.
    Just my take, as a Christian lawyer who has spent many years working in criminal justice, and prison ministry. Capital punishment was barbaric in Jesus’ time, and it is now.

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