A Hymn Devotion for 17 August 2021 Anno Domini
The Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. 7And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. 8And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. 9But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? 10For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. 11But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. 12And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? 13And they cried out again, Crucify him. 14Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him. 15And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.” (Mark 15:6-15; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
This is hymn was produced during very hard times in America – the Great Depression. The author of both the lyrics and the tune was Alfred Henry Ackley (1887-1960) The hymn could be considered a reveille call to our present generation that suffers from a far greater depression than that of Ackley’s time – a spiritual depression brought on by a great famine – not a famine of bread and water, but of hearing the Word of the Lord. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” (Amos 8:11) There greater number of our people are barren of faith and spirit. Drugs, alcohol, and perversion has taken the former habitation of the clean-washed spirits of our former strength and trust in the Lord God Almighty. As we draw nearer to the abyss of darkness, let us remember! Let us remember the great stones of remembrance of our faith – the crossing of the Red Sea and Jordan Waters, the full-brim destruction of our enemies, the defeat of the giants of days gone by, and the unconquerable spirit of our people in days gone by.
HE TOOK MY PLACE
1 There was no one to take my place,
Upon the cruel cross,
No Savior but the Son of God,
Could e’er restore my loss.
He took my place on Calvary,
And there He bore my sins for me;
O wondrous token of God’s grace,
When Jesus came and took my place.
2 He saw the diadem of thorns,
He heard the rabble’s plea,
Yet knowing all he chose to die,
And give Himself for me. [Refrain]
3 He took my place upon the tree,
And shall my soul despise,
The life that Jesus offers me,
In mercy’s sacrifice? [Refrain]
4 This guiltless Lamb, once and for all,
Was crucified and rose
Triumphant over sin and death,
To save me from these foes. [Refrain]
1 There was no one to take my place, Upon the cruel cross, No Savior but the Son of God, Could e’er restore my loss. Lying on the stone floor of a Roman prison, there was no man with any less hope than Barabbas. He was to be crucified on the coming morning. His fate was sealed insofar as human fate could be. Though there were other prisoners, he felt alone and without hope. He had fallen into the iron chains of the power he hated most – Rome! He was in a fortified prison where none of his friends could force his release. There was no greater earthly power than that which held him. A complete failure of human will had brought Barabbas to this impasse. Perhaps his parents were neglectful in his raising, or he had gotten off the respectable path of life through gambling or alcohol – or maybe it was simply in his nature to be wicked. He should not feel alone in that disposition for all men are wicked without the ameliorating love and Spirit of their Maker.
On the very morning of his planned crucifixion, another was brought to the prison. He was a man of fair appearance but seemed to have provoked the ire of the Jewish rulers. He was accused of crimes that were not crimes at all, but accusations hurled in great anger and repeated by multitudes become a false truth to the political mind of the Roman leader, Pontius Pilate – but not before Pilate had proclaimed this man innocent of any wrong-doing. And what was that to Barabbas? He had his own worries. This man called Jesus was no better off than himself.
Refrain: He took my place on Calvary, And there He bore my sins for me; O wondrous token of God’s grace, When Jesus came and took my place.
The Roman Pro-Consul observed the practice of releasing whichever hardened criminal the multitudes demanded on this annual day before the Passover. There was not even a remote hope that those people would demand the release of a murderer – but they did! Barabbas experienced a bewildering joy at his release from such a horrendous death. Instead of a man guilty of the most egregious crime and sin, the multitudes demanded the crucifixion of that one who was wholly innocent. Such mystery was beyond the tortured mind of Barabbas. This man, Jesus, would take the place of Barabbas on the cross that very morning, and the place of all who were drawn to the Throne of Mercy and Grace that He afforded! Barabbas, thereby, was set free just as you and I were set free from the penalty and wages of sin by our Lord Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death at Calvary!
2 He saw the diadem of thorns, He heard the rabble’s plea, Yet knowing all he chose to die, And give Himself for me. [Refrain] Knowing with a sure prescience of all that was about to transpire, our Lord did not flinch nor hesitate to undergo the pain, suffering, and death that was about to take Him to the Garden Tomb. His mind was rather fixed upon the Pearls of Great Price of souls about Him, then and now. He wept over Jerusalem ere He came to this destiny. Now the women of Jerusalem wept for Him – yet, He counseled them to weep not for Him, but for their children.
3 He took my place upon the tree, And shall my soul despise, The life that Jesus offers me, In mercy’s sacrifice? [Refrain]. We know not the future fate of Barabbas. Perhaps his reprieve was simply from an earthly death and not an eternal damnation. But it is also very plausible that Barabbas was so stunned by the occasion of this strange One who was taking his place on the cross that he followed in the shadows to see what would happen. Regardless of that fact, Barabbas was present at the cross – he was there, and so were you and I there. Our Lord took our place on the cross just as surely as He had taken the place of the murder, Barabbas. On the other hand, it may be altogether true that the conscience of Barabbas was so seared, as with a hot iron, that he could feel no guilt or compassion. (1 Timothy 4:1-3) Perhaps some of us were likewise of the same bearing ere our hearts were drawn, as with an iron hook, by the Holy Ghost to the Mercy Seat of our Lord.
4 This guiltless Lamb, once and for all, Was crucified and rose Triumphant over sin and death, To save me from these foes. [Refrain] Barabbas was set free with the same shadow of ignorance that the Children of Israel felt in the sacrifice of that first Passover Lamb in Goshen. Without knowing the profound prophetic event of the lamb’s sacrifice, they obeyed God and performed as commanded. I pray that Barabbas finally saw the relationship of that Lamb of God to the Passover Lamb (which He was from the very beginning). But we do not know the answer to that question since God has chosen not to inform us. We have enough doubts and mysteries to harbor in our own days to worry about the fate of Barabbas. But we are just like Barabbas in so many other ways. Let us make our election in Christ sure by renewed vigor in learning of Him through more dedicated Bible Study and works of righteousness in glory to His Holy Name.
Perhaps the beauty of this hymn escapes the appreciation of the modern worshipper. It reminds them too much of the price that was paid for their own salvation. Perish the thought!