Contemplating Barabbas


I’m contemplating Barabbas today.

As you likely remember, Pilate did not want to hand Jesus over to be crucified. He had a wife telling him to have nothing to do with Jesus, a Roman Government expecting him to keep peace, and some loud angry Jews who were about to start a riot. So, he turned to a tradition that might have been an out for him – the annual release of a prisoner. But when offered the choice of releasing Barabbas or Christ, the crowd cried out for Barabbas to be released.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”  ~Matthew 27:22

So Pilate released Barabbas, had Christ beaten, and then turned him over to the Jews to have him crucified. Barabbas – a known murderer and frequent criminal – walks away free. In fact, the focus of the moment is so upon Jesus and the Jews’ insatiable desire to kill him that Barabbas walks off into the mist of time. We have only speculation to imagine where he went from there.

I know it’s not a happy story, but from Barabbas’ viewpoint … was it surprise? Amazement? Wonder? Did he want to know more about Jesus or did he get out of town as quick as he could? The placement of this event in the final hours of Christ’s life does not give us time to be happy for Barabbas. But I’m sure he was kicking up his heels in new found freedom.

The story of Barabbas is bathed in the blood of Christ. That criminal did not deserve to be set free while Christ was on his death march. But as he walks away Jesus is beaten severely, perhaps almost to death.

I don’t deserve to be set free, either. I am Barabbas. Known to sin, sentenced to death, captive to all the wrong things. No matter what anyone else thinks (if they even think about it at all), my only freedom has come at the expense of someone else. Walking away from death row, I have many choices before me.

I choose to trust the One who died on my cross.

Those were my nails
That was my crown
That pierced Your hands and Your brow
Those were my thorns
Those were my scorns
Those were my tears that fell down
And just as You said it would be
You did it all for me
And after You counted the cost
You took my shame, my blame
On my cross

~FFH, On My Cross

What about you? What would you do with a second chance? I doubt I’m very far removed from Barabbas even today. My dependence on Jesus … being set free from my own brokenness … continues even today. The story of Barabbas doesn’t call us to perfection. It calls us to embrace the sacrifice made for us … the blood that bathed the cross washed away my sin. Unbound, I can’t wait to see Him again… to say thank you.

Thanks for reading,