“Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:26, NKJV)
One of the things I enjoy in studying the Bible is doing character studies. Some, like Abraham and David, have chapters dedicated to their stories. Others are lesser known and may only have a sentence or two—Jabez, Shamgar, Jethro, Dorcas, Anna. I always want to know more about who they were, what they did, and why they did it. But there’s usually little information to satisfy my curiosity.
A man is mentioned in each of the Gospels whose name is familiar to almost everyone, yet we know so little about him: Barabbas, the man who escaped the cross.
From what is written, we learn only a few details.
- He was a “notable [notorious] prisoner” (Matthew 27:16).
- He “had made insurrection” and “had committed murder in the insurrection” (Mark 15:7).
- He was in prison for sedition and murder (Luke 23:19).
- He was a robber (John 18:40).
In other words, he was a dangerous, unsavory person and the very opposite of Jesus.
As an act of goodwill, it was customary for the governor to release one prisoner just before the feast of Passover (Matthew 27:15). Pilate would have released Jesus, in whom he found no fault, but the people demanded Barabbas instead.
Barabbas walked free and Jesus went to the cross.
At this point in the story, my curiosity is high. What happened to Barabbas? Did he leave the city? Return to his evil habits? Realize he had been handed a golden opportunity to become a changed man? Might he even have become a follower of the guiltless One who took his place at Calvary? Some traditions say Barabbas stood at the foot of the cross as the Lord died, but we will never know what really happened.
Barabbas deserved to die for his sins, but so do we. Although his crimes were great, we cannot justify that our “little sins” are any less deserving of punishment. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We have missed the mark.
When Barabbas turned and walked away that day, he had a choice to make. What would he do with the rest of his life? He stood at a crossroads. Someone took his place, but what would he do with the mercy that was being offered?
All of us will come to this same crossroad in life and must make the same decision. Do we continue on with our life of sin . . . or do we move into a new life led by the Spirit? The choice is ours. Choose wisely.
“That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts . . . and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22, 24, NKJV)
Lord, thank You for bearing the penalty for my sins and giving me the opportunity to walk in a new life of righteousness and holiness. How can I ever thank You enough for the mercy and forgiveness I received because of Your death on Calvary? I love You and choose to follow You!