Who was Barabbas?

April 10th, 2012 · by Tom Stuart · Church History, Overcoming

So Pilate, wanting to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them, but
he had Jesus whipped and handed over to be crucified.  
Mark 15:16

Who was Barabbas?  All we know about him, with any historical accuracy, is the corroboration of all four Gospels in documenting his eleventh hour release from death row on the day Jesus was crucified.  In piecing together the accounts we learn that Barabbas was a well known “notorious prisoner” who had been jailed for leading an insurrection against the Roman state and committing murder.  That fateful day, while three crosses were being prepared as instruments of execution, he was sweating it out on death row with two other prisoners who happened to be condemned to death for thievery.

During the night, while Barabbas and the two thieves were tossing and turning, another prisoner had been arrested and in a rush to judgment was on trial in the early morning hours.  No doubt, the commotion of a boisterous, gathering crowd, outside the prison, had already roused them from their fitful attempts at sleep and had become the focus of conjecture and rumor ridden conversation.

Who can imagine what went through Barabbas’s mind when he was shocked to hear the crowd begin shouting his name, “give us Barabbas.” (John 18:40)  And then moments later a ground swell of “crucify him, crucify him” was being chanted by the angry mob for the mystery prisoner.  And just that quickly, Barabbas’ sentence was commuted by Governor Pilate, Jesus Christ was sentenced to death, and the cross prepared for Barabbas, became the cross of Christ. 

In order to fully understand, Jesus’ crucifixion for the sins of the world, we must come to grips with the fact that the cross upon which he died was really meant for another.  It was a cross prepared for a person who had been lawfully tried and found guilty of deeds deserving death. 

Barabbas happened to be that man.  But in reality, every human being is no different than Barabbas and figuratively the cross prepared for him was also prepared for us.  Barabbas’ cross was also our cross, but in God’s mercy He commuted our sentence and His son Jesus, the innocent lamb of God, took our place upon it.

Barabbas name means “son of the father.”  His name seems to indicate that his birth was greatly anticipated and celebrated by a proud papa.  No doubt, as most favored children, he was viewed as a child of promise with a stellar future.  He was not unlike each of us, hopefully loved and nurtured by earthly parents but most certainly destined for such by the heavenly Father.

Sadly, he like all of us, forsook his Father’s love and plans for his life and went astray, turning to his own way. (Isaiah 53:6)  He fell into sin and with the wrong crowd.  He, like us, gave into his rebellious ways and ended up making bad choices that eventually caught up with him.  Burdened with regret of a senseless waste of life and the guilt of the degradation of sin, Barabbas, like each of us faced a hopeless future.  But thanks be to God “when we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” (Romans 5:6 NLT)

Ancient legend has it that on the day Barabbas was released he followed Christ to Golgotha and watched Him die on the cross.  We do not know the impact all those events had upon him.  But we can seal the impact all that is meant to have upon us.

Who is Barabbas?  You and I are Barabbas!  And like Barabbas, Christ’s death on our cross, in our place, has opened our prison doors.  Accepting by faith His death on the cross prepared for us, frees us from the regret of the past and the power of sin in our lives.  Our death row sentence has been commuted and we can walk out into the sunshine of His love and into a brand new life.

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