Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Mark 15:6-15
It is easy to make Barabbas into some kind of monster. At least in my mind, he has become some kind of Disney villain with horns and a patch over his eye. Someone that I can not relate to because after all… I am not that bad.
As we approach Easter you will most certainly hear the story of how Pilate gave the people a convicted rebel and murderer in exchange for Jesus, and most of us will be appalled at the ridiculousness of this trade.
However…. if we are honest with ourselves… we can see that we have more similarities with Barabbas than we want to admit.
Let’s start with treason and insurrection. I doubt you have betrayed your country or tried to start a war, but the truth is we all have outbursts of rebellion from the time we are young. For example, last week my six year old daughter (Hailey) got into trouble for coloring on furniture, so she was in time out for a while. A few minutes into her punishment my youngest daughter came to me and informed me that Hailey told her “Everything daddy says is wrong and he doesn’t know anything.” As you could imagine I was not very happy….
You and I have a natural tendency to think we can do things better than other people and thus we try to get people on (or take) our side. We try to get people disgruntled. We gossip about church leaders, governments, employers, family members and list goes on and on. Some of those frustrations might be valid, but rather than addressing the issue personally, we would rather rebel.
Tragically we do this to God all the time. As the Scriptures show us “we like sheep have gone astray” and we “do what is right in our own eyes.”
So while the Christian message teaches us that we are made in the image of God… due to the rebellion of Adam and Eve our hearts have a predisposition towards the King of kings and Lord of lords.
You may say but Barabbas was a thief and a murderer and I have never killed any one or stole anything. Jesus’ response to that is:
Matthew 5:21-22,27-28 You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!
27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
We have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. The wages of our sin and rebellion is death. We were in the chains of our sin and stood sentenced to death. You and I are Barabbas.
So the question is… what did Barabbas do to get his trade? What did he do to receive his freedom? NOTHING!
That should sound familiar.
One day while you and I were in the chains of our sin, Jesus showed up. To our shock and surprise, He took our place of execution. He took our place on the cross! All we had to do was stand there and say “okay” and then we walked away free. The shock of this passage should not be that Jesus took the place of Barabbas… but that you and I are Barabbas.