Easter Sunday, March 31, 2024, the Year of Our Lord

Pastor Carolyn Sissom


These are two sermons, “Barabbas,” and “We Were Eyewitnesses of His Majesty.” The dates I preached them are 2011 and 2013.  I chose both sermons to preach today because both lift me high above the gross darkness covering the earth into the glorious light of the glory of Jesus Christ.




March 29, 2013


Mt. 15:7:  There was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him who had committed murder in the insurrection.


John 18:40: They all cried again, saying, “Not this man (Jesus), but Barabbas.” Barabbas was a robber.


Mar. 15:15: Pilate willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.


Barabbas sits guilty in a jail cell in Jerusalem staring at the four walls and Golgotha hill. He knows he will be crucified by noon, dead by sundown.  Because of his crimes, it will be death nailed to a cross. 


Outside his cell in the Antonia Fortress, is a small gathering of men: Pilate, Jesus, and the Jewish religious leaders.  Pilate speaks,


Luke 23: 14-19:  You brought me this man(Jesus)  as one who was inciting the people to rebellion.  I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him.  Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death.  Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”  With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man!  Release Barabbas to us!” (NIV) 


The Grace of the Cross just released Barabbas. He is unworthy, defiant, violent, a thief, and murderer.  Pilate didn’t have the desire to show this grace to Barabbas.  This grace came to this undeserving sinner unwittingly as His Savior took his place.


We as Christians are not very sympathetic toward Barabbas.  After all, Jesus was innocent and knew no sin. Barabbas was guilty.   Pilate confirms it.


However, we have no more righteousness in our defense than Barabbas. We are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1`).  We are “lost(Luke 19:10), doomed toperish(John 3:16), under “the wrath of God(John 3:36), “blinded(2 Cor. 4: 3-4) and “strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”.  Our best is only filthy rags before a Holy God.  There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom 3: 10-12) NIV.


Just call us Barabbas. 


“You’re free to go.  They took Jesus instead of you.”


The guard opens the door and we see the light of the morning sun, our chains are gone.  We have been set free, sins forgiven, crimes pardoned….


Christ took away my sins and remembers them no more.  God declares me not guilty.


We are not told what Barabbas did when he learned an innocent man died in his place.  I want to believe he stood at the foot of the Cross humbled, thankful, and weeping that unmerited Grace set him free. 

I pray the story of Barabbas will touch every heart whether you have received God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life or whether you don’t know that Christ died in your place,  I pray that all the Barabbas’ of the world will receive Christ and say thank you this Resurrection Sunday

Barabbas, March 29,2013, Pastor Carolyn Sissom




(II Peter 1:16)

April 24, 2011



“The Bible begins with a garden and ends with a city.  It starts with a morning followed by a night.  It broke the silence with ‘In the beginning’ and it hushes the universe to sleep with ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.’” (John Snider)


Text paraphrased and taken from:  God Came Near and Six Hours One Friday by:  Max Lucado


“In the first garden was a tree, a struggle, a snake, a lie, enticement, heart torn and lured.  A soul drawn to pleasure, to independence, to importance.  Inner agony—whose will?  The choice, death of innocence.  Entrance of death.  The fall—tearstains mingling with fruit stains…


Then comes Abraham.  God said, ‘You will father a nation’, and Abraham tell the people I love them.


Moses you will deliver my people!  And Moses tell the people I love them.


Joshua, you will lead the chosen ones! And Joshua, tell the people I love them.


David you will reign over the people!  And David tell the people I love them.


Jeremiah you will bear tidings of bondage.  But Jeremiah remind my children, remind my children that I love them.


Then the Bible tells us of altars, sacrifices, rebelling, returning, reacting, repenting, romance, tablets, judges, pillars, bloodshed, wars, kings, giants, law, Hezekiah, Nehemiah, Hosea…


God watching, never turning, ever loving, ever yearning for the Garden again.


Then empty throne, Spirit descending, hushed angels---a girl---a womb---an egg…


The same Divine Artist who created the universe again forms a baby.  This time his own.  Fleshly divinity---skin layered on Spirit---omnipotence with hair, toenails, knuckles,  molars, kneecaps.  Once again He walks with man.


Have you seen Him?  Do you know Him?  Think about it.  Just because one has witnessed a thousand rainbows doesn’t mean he’s seen the grandeur of one.  One can live near a garden and fail to focus on the splendor of a flower.  A man can spend a lifetime with a woman and never pause to look into her soul.


And a person can be all that goodness calls him to be and still never see the Author of Life.


Have you seen Him?  Have you caught a glimpse of His majesty?  A word is placed in a receptive crevice of your heart that causes you ever so briefly to see His face.  You hear a verse read in a tone you’d never heard or explained in a way, you’d never thought and one more piece of the puzzle falls together.  Someone teaches your painful spirit as only one sent from Him could do---and there He is.


Jesus- The Man:  The bronzed Galilean who spoke with such childlike authority and loved with such childlike humility.


Jesus – The God:  The One who claimed to be older than time and greater than death.


Jesus – The Branch:  The one Joseph was perched on---thick, reliable, perfect for sitting.  So strong he didn’t tremble when the storms came.  Then he was told to go out on a limb.  Joseph had never seen a limb so thin.  That’s no place for a man to go.  I don’t have to be bothered with this.  There’s no protection out there.  Common sense says not to go out on a limb.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit? Come on!  Self defense told him not to do it.  Pride told him not to do it.


Regardless of the nature of the call, the consequences are the same: civil war.  Though your heart may say yes, your feet say no.  But eventually your left staring at a bare tree and a hard choice:  His will or yours.  It wasn’t easy for Joseph.  God never promised that it would be.  Joseph shut his eyes and held on.  Limb climbing has never been easy.  Ask Joseph, or better yet, ask Jesus.  He knows better than anyone the cost of hanging on a tree.


Gone is pride, common sense, self-defense, convenience, religion, and there He stands.


Jesus---Have you seen Him”


Those who first did were never the same.  My Lord and my God’ cried Thomas.  I have seen the Lord’, exclaimed Mary Magdalene.  We have see his Glory’  declared John.  Were not our hearts burning within us when He talked?’ rejoiced the Emmaus bound disciples.  But Peter said it best, ‘We were eyewitnesses of His majesty’.


His Majesty---The emperor of Judah.  The Soaring Eagle of eternity.  The Noble Admiral of the Kingdom.  All the splendor of heaven revealed in a human body.  For a period ever so brief, the doors to the throne room were open and God came near.  His majesty was seen.  Heaven touched the earth and as a result, earth can know heaven.


This is no run-of-the-mill Messiah.  He called Himself divine.  The religious leaders persecuted, ridiculed, cursed and spat at Jesus.  They called Him imposter, liar, devil, fraud and fool.  He allowed a minimum-wage Roman soldier to drive a nail into His wrist.  He demanded purity, yet stood for the rights of a repentant whore.  He called men to battle and to march, yet refused to allow them to call him king.  He sent men into all the world, yet equipped them with only bended knees and memories of a resurrected carpenter.


Who is He?


He laid his security down with his hammer.  He hung tranquility on the peg with His nail apron!  It wasn’t easy.  Leaving the carpenter shop never has been.


There was a woman at the well, another woman who was hemorrhaging, still another whose only son died.  Three women: one bereaved, one rejected, one dying all alone.


So he did it!  He went into action, ‘Don’t cry’ He told the mother, ‘Arise’ he told the boy.  Be healed’, your sins are forgiven.  The dead man spoke, the devil ran, and the people were reminded of this truth; for those who know the Author of Life, death is nothing more than satan’s dead-man’s bluff!


Jesus unmasked death and exposed him for who he really is---a 98-pound weakling dressed up in a Charles Atlas suit.  Jesus had no patience for the imposter.  He couldn’t sit still while death pulled the veil over life.


In fact, if you ever want to know how to conduct yourself at a funeral don’t look to Jesus as an example.  He interrupted each one he ever attended.  God has been known to call names in a cemetery and plan a celebration.


Nicodemus came in the middle of the night.  The centurion came in the middle of the day.  The leper and the sinful woman appeared in the middle of crowds.  Zacchaeus appeared in the middle of a tree.  Matthew had a party for Him.


 The educated, the powerful, the rejected, the sick the lonely, the wealthy --- Who would have ever assembled such a crew?  All they had in common were their empty hope chest, long left vacant by charlatans and profiteers.  Though they had nothing to offer, they asked for everything; a new birth, a second chance, a fresh start, a clean conscience, and without exception their requests were honored.


The Son went to visit His Father in another garden.  A garden of gnarled trees and stony soil.  Do I have to drink from the cup”  Not my will, but thine be done’. Soldiers you think you led Him.  Ropes you think you bound Him.  He heeds not your commands.  It is my voice He obeys.  It is my condemnation He dreads, and it is your soul He saves.


And now one more beggar comes with a request.  Only minutes from the death of them both.  He stands before the King.  He will ask for crumbs and he like the others, will receive a whole loaf.


Skull’s hill-windswept and strong---

The thief---gaunt and pale.

He had reached bottom---a crossbeam and three spikes.


He sees Jesus!


They mock him as a king.   Soldiers are throwing dice for His robe.


The thief’s cracked lips open to speak, “Don’t you fear God?”


Only minutes before he had cursed Jesus.  Every head on the hill lifts to look at this one who spoke on behalf of the Christ.


Every angel weeps and ever demon gasps.  Who could imagine this bully, this selfish man thinking of anyone but himself.  However, he performs man’s noblest act.  He speaks on God’s behalf:



Peter abandoned Him.

Pilate washed his hands of Him.

His countrymen demands his death.

His disciples scattered.


A crook placed himself between Jesus and his accusers and speaks on His behalf.


We deserve to die for our evil deeds.  This man has done nothing wrong.


Did Jesus smile?  A sheep is straggling in.  He is stumbling to safety just as the gate is closing.  Remember me when you come into your Kingdom’.


At this point, Jesus performs the greatest miracle of the cross.  Greater than the earthquake; greater than the tearing of the temple curtain; greater than the darkness; greater than the resurrected saints appearing on the streets---He performs the miracle of forgiveness.  A sin soaked sinner is received by a blood stained Savior.


The thief asked the King for a few crumbs---Suddenly he’s hold the whole pantry.


The centurion stood up.  He walked closer to the cross.  He saw the eye of God.


Had the centurion not said it, the soldiers would have.  Had the centurion not said it, the rocks would have, as would have the angels, the stars, even the demons---But he did say it!  A nameless foreigner said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”


Hour of death, moment of sacrifice--- The King turns away from the Prince.  The undiluted wrath of a sin-hating Father falls upon His sin-less son.  The fire envelopes Him.  The shadow hides Him.  The Son looks for His Father, but His Father cannot be seen.  From the hill comes a yell---the roar of the Lion of the tribe of Judah:  My God, My God, Why?’  The words ricochet from star to star crashing into the chambers of the King.  Bruised, broken they plea for help, for relief, couriers from a bloody battlefield, they stumble into the King’s presence.


Run your fingers over his feet.

Place your hand in his pierced side.


Those same eyes that melted the gates of Hell and sent the demons scurrying and Satan running. 


There is only one stone to which you should tie.  It blocked the door of a grave.  It wasn’t big enough, though.  The tomb it sealed was the tomb of a transient.  He only went in to prove He could come out again!


The disciples in the upper room---futility.  Their most courageous act was to get up and lock the door.  The stone of the tomb was not enough to keep Him in.  the walls of the room were not enough to keep Him out.


Did He give them any ‘Where were you when I needed you speeches?’  He said one simple phrase, ‘Peace be with you.’


They became followers of the Death Conqueror.


Their sins collided with their Savior and their Savior won!  What lit the boiler of the apostles was a red-hot conviction that the very one who should have sent them to the hill went to hell for them and came back to tell about it.


Flaming torches and living promises---


For the life blackened with failure, He gives forgiveness.


For the heart scarred with futility, He gives us purpose.


For the soul looking into this side of the tunnel of death, He gives us deliverance.


Preached by:  Pastor Carolyn Sissom

Eastgate Ministries Church, April 24, 2011

I wrote this out as a sermon in 1990 and is taken from books written by: Max Lucado.  God Came Near, published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc. 1980; Six Hours One Friday, 1989 by Max Lucado Published by Multnomah Press, Portland, Oregon 97266.

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