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.” 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.