There is no way to “white wash it” or “sugar coat it”; Barabbas was a bad man. Mt. 27:16 indicates “And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.” Mark 15:7 adds that he was a rebel against the Roman occupation and had committed murder in the insurrection the zealots carried out against Roman authority. John adds that he was a common thief (Jn. 18:40). Yep, we could pretty much conclude that Barabbas was the scum of the earth; the dregs of society.
At the shameless and sham “trial” of Jesus, Pilate had examined Jesus and found no fault in him. Furthermore, his wife had urged him not to harm Jesus for she had had a dream about him and his innocence (Mt. 27:19). Thus, Pilate was of a mind to release Jesus and thought he had found a way out. At the Passover the Governor had a custom to hand over to them whatever prisoner they desired to have freed. And so Pilate gave them the choice of Barabbas… the murderer, the rebel, the thief… or… Jesus. Surely Pilate thought they would choose to release Jesus who had done nothing but good during his life. But in an example of the utter sinfulness of man, they had been so whipped up by the religious
leaders that they called for the blood of Jesus, a righteous man, to be shed and instead, have Barabbas released.
We have a tendency to bash Barabbas. How could such a wicked man be freed while Jesus would die? We don’t easily identify ourselves with Barabbas. We are not robbers, murderers, and rebels. While we certainly are sinners… we are not like him!
Yet the whole “Barabbas for Jesus” scenario is meant to clearly display the gospel of grace and how the innocent one, Jesus, died instead of the guilty ones… us! We are Barabbas! We don’t see ourselves that way but we are. For Jesus to die in Barabbas’ place and for Barabbas to go free, is no different than Jesus dying in our place and we going free. We don’t need to be as “bad as Barabbas” in order to need deliverance. We only need to be sinners… which each of us is. No matter if we are “Mother Theresa” or
Barabbas, Jesus… the perfect and sinless Lamb of God, died in our place whereby we were able to live and that eternally.
Let’s not forget how infinitely far away from God we were and how undeserving of mercy we were when Christ gave himself for us. I annually remember my spiritual birthday; February 11 th , 1975. Sometimes, we’ll take Gary and Mary Gearhart out to dinner on that date to celebrate. It was Gary that led me to Christ. It was by God’s grace that day that I saw how desperately lost I was because of my sin. I was Barabbas. It was my sin that sent Jesus to the cross. And instead of the punishment I deserved, God gave me forgiveness and salvation through his grace by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. My life has never been the same since then… nowhere near perfect… but nowhere near the same.
Our greatest joy in life is to know that each of our children have expressed faith in Christ and have been rescued from the wrath of God. It is our most earnest prayer that our grandchildren will too… as well as any other grandchildren God may grant. The thought of any of them being lost is too heavy to bear. How about you? Have you realized that you, like Barabbas, are a “bad, bad, man”? Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can overcome that deficiency. But it does so completely when our faith is in Christ.