“I was sentenced to die for insurrection and murder. I was a vengeful rebel who refused to obey. While confined to a cell, waiting for a gruesome death by the hands of the Romans, suddenly I was removed from my cell and set free! When I asked in confusion, ‘Why have I been liberated?’ The reply was, ‘Someone else has taken your place. Now my name will be remembered forever.”
Most of us are pretty familiar with this story. If I asked you who this person is, you’d answer, “Barabbas” and you’d be correct. I have read the story of the day leading up to the Crucifixion of Jesus too many times to number, in several different versions, but for some reason this week when I read it again in Luke’s account something new hit me like a ton of bricks.
Take a walk through this account with me.
Jesus has been betrayed by one of His friends, one of the twelve, and has been on a whirlwind tour of Jerusalem. First to the Sanhedrin, then to the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate, next to Harod, Tetrarch of Galilee, mocked and beaten at each stop, now we pick our story back up at the Praetorium with Pilate. This juggling act was due to the fact that neither leader could find any blame in Jesus. No reason to put Him to death. Neither one wanted to anger the people and cause a riot. In fact the bible tells us that they became friends that day. So in the end, despite his wife’s warning, Pilate does as the religious leaders demanded and he released Barabbas and crucified Jesus.
In the past whenever I read this passage I have had a plethora of emotions. Sometimes I am just saddened by the horrible treatment of Jesus, other times I am so angry at the religious Jews for their self righteous vindictiveness, or I am greatly irritated with Pilate for not listening to his wife and for caving in to the demands of the crowd. Usually when I get to the point of Barabbas I think to myself, “Wow that wasn’t fair,” or “What ever happened to him?” But this week when I read it again, I got to the part where Barabbas is released and it dawned on me… I am Barabbas!
Luke 23:18-25 (NIV), “But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.”
History doesn’t tell us what happened to Barabbas, I checked. I can’t help wondering what did he do with his life once he got this second chance, this unexpected pardon? Did he change his life or did he go back to the same old- same old?
You dear friend are also Barabbas. What will you do now that you have been set free?