38″What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
40They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion. – Jn 18
Barabbas. A rebel. Maybe a killer. Perhaps a derelict of society. An outcast. He would possibly die for his crimes. I wonder what he thought in prison. “Well, this is it. I screwed it up so bad that this might be the end. If they don’t kill me, I might as well kill myself because I will be a prisoner for a long time.” Maybe he thought of escape. Maybe he played with the idea of killing the guard and running away. Maybe he had given up hope. “I messed this up, now I am responsible to pay for my actions.” Maybe he tried to think of a loophole. There was none. Or was there?
It was tradition for one prisoner to be released during the Passover. What is the chance that Rome would actually honor that Jewish tradition? Slim. What are the chances that from all the prisoners, he would be released? None. He was no crowd favorite. Releasing him wouldn’t make the world a better place. I bet even some of his family were hoping he would be locked away for good. The odd were so far against Barabbas, that he must have not even allowed himself to hope for such a release.
Enter the God of miracles and 2nd chances. Still in chains, Barabbas hears a crowd. What are they chanting? His name? Why? Is there a mob coming for him? The guard called Barabbas, unlocked his chains and let him go. He was a free man. His place was taken by another. From the corner of his eye, he catches a glimpse of another prisoner. A shell of a man. A man who would not be released. He doesn’t care much who he is, he is just glad that this guy didn’t get released. Barabbas walks away. Free.
Surely later he hears of the prisoner that was crucified. Surely Barabbas thought, “that should have been me.” And it should have been. Barabbas belonged on the cross that day, but someone took his place. A man, but not just any man, freed him from his physical and spiritual chains. It should have been Barabbas, but it was not. Someone took the hit for him, and now he was free.
We hear nothing more from Barabbas. He walks away a free man and may have cared little for the one who took his place. Could he really be so cold? Before we point the finger, let’s remember . . .
we are Barabbas.