The story of the murderous Barabbas being released and Jesus, an innocent Man, being executed instead is one that is usually skipped over during Eastertime. But it is probably the story that has the most direct impact on us all.
With this story it helps to know something of Jewish tradition and history. With names, as in Europe, many folks were named after their fathers, for example: Joe, son of John, which became "Joe Johnson." In Jewish tradition, "Bar-" in a name means "son of," then the name of the father was typically after. As we know from a study of the Aramaic language, "-Abbas" means "Daddy." Touchingly, this is how Jesus addresses His Father in heaven, by praying "Abba, Father."
Looking at the name of the insurrectionist, we then see his name is Barabbas, or "son of father." In Biblical study, a "type" is a person, place or event that resembles Jesus; accordingly, a "type" can also represent someone else. Barabbas represents the first man, "son of father Adam", who sinned. Jesus is the Son (capital S) of God.
Through Adam, humanity inherited sin. As Romans 5:12 states, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned," Barabbas, a sinful wretch of a human being, a murderer and an insurrectionist, deserved the death penalty. Like Adam his spiritual father, Barabbas was doomed to die for his sins.
Yet, when given the choice, the very crowds who had thrown their coats and palm leaves before Christ just hours before, screamed and yelled for Barabbas to be released from prison. Sometimes in the study of Scripture is helps to look at each word in context and imagine yourself there....
"...The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified," Matthew 27:20-26, emphasis added.
Barabbas was most likely in a prison area nearby; Jerusalem is, after all, not a large city, and the crowd was huge. One man's voice pitted against an angry, screaming mob meant that all Barabbas heard was his name and the words "Crucify him!" being screamed in succession. When he was led out, he most likely thought this was it: he was about to be nailed to the infamous Roman execution device, the cross.
But he was let go. The Isaiah 53:5 states that Jesus "was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities..." The crowd chose a murderer over the Man they had just worshiped, who they had just witnessed raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus took the punishment meant for Barabbas, the son of Adam, guilty of sin.
Friends, I am Barabbas. You are Barabbas. We are all Barabbas. Because of Adam, we're steeped in sin from birth, but because of Jesus, we are cleaned, white as snow. Romans 5: 18-19 says it this way: "Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous."
We deserve death for our sins, just like Barabbas. Yet, God in His grace, mercy and love sent His Son Jesus to be a substitute, a sacrifice, to take our sins upon Himself and die so that we may live.
We are all Barabbas. I wonder what he thought, stepping out with the Roman soldiers, thinking he was toast. Then, suddenly, having his bonds cut: a free man.
That is what Jesus did: He took our punishment of sin upon Himself so that we may have our bonds cut: a free people, unburdened with the weight of sin. Our records wiped clean. But this can only happen if we examine ourselves for the sinful lot we are, and turn to Jesus, accepting Him as the Lord of our lives and our Savior. Jesus can break every chain, but you must ask Him to do so. Jesus is a gentleman: He will knock on the door of your heart and soul but He will not barge in.
If you have not accepted Christ as your Savior, and would like to, you can simply pray this simple prayer and know for certain God has heard you. And if you do, please drop me a line and let me know so I can pray for you and give you some new Christian help.
Dear Jesus, I recognize You as the Son of the Living God, the Savior of the world. I also admit that I am a sinner and worthy of death, but You took my death upon Yourself at the cross. Lord Jesus, I ask you to forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Change me, through Your Holy Spirit, and help me live a life for You. In Your Name I pray, Amen.
(c) 2016 Terrie McKee
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