We don’t think about Barabbas a lot, though he comes up more often at this time of year as churches turn their attention to the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.
Here’s are the two things we know about him:
· His name: It means “son of the father”. Some textual variants of Matthew 27:15-18 give his name as “Jesus Barabbas”.
· His crime: He had been found guilty of starting a riot and murder. It seems likely that he was the most notorious prisoner on hand, because Pilate was trying to give the crowd an unpalatable choice.
But in Barabbas we have an amazing picture of the gospel. Put yourself in his shoes on that fateful day (Luke 23:18-25).
· You are sitting in a Roman jail awaiting your death. You are surely going to be crucified for your crimes against Rome. Day after day you sit in this jail, anticipating the nails, the mockery, the excruciating pain, the blood filling your lungs, the breaking of your legs. That’s the future you have in store for you. You don’t know when it’s coming, but it’s coming.
· But then perhaps on this fateful day you hear a mob outside. Obviously, something is going on. Has word gotten out that today is your day, the day for your execution? Surely the bloodthirsty crowd is there for you.
· And what is this that they are shouting? “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:23) You see there in verse 23 that this went on for a while, as the crowd demanded a crucifixion with loud voices.
· Then the Roman guard comes and gets you. He drags you up in front of the mob and… sets you free. You see Jesus stumbling off under the weight of the cross, perhaps the cross that had been constructed for your execution. This innocent man is being crucified on the trumped up charge of starting an insurrection (Luke 23:5). You, the guilty man, are being set free as if you were innocent.
What a picture of the gospel. Jesus bears our guilt and shame and curse and disgrace and death. We receive the position that Jesus deserved; we are free and innocent of all our crimes. He gets what we deserve; we get what he deserved.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (II Corinthians 5:21)