2021 blog series: exploring the stories of men and women in the New Testament
As I ponder this scene, I have so many questions. Who was this man? What did he stand for?
As a revolutionary, was he passionate about freeing his people from Roman rule, selflessly willing to endure any personal loss or persecution? Or was he a defiant hothead, looking for a reason to be rebellious?
Was he sentenced to die or just held in prison? Was he aware that the governor might release a prisoner of the people’s choice at the time of the Passover feast? Did he have friends on the outside working to propose him as the prisoner of choice?
While sitting in prison, did he have any regrets about his actions? What were his thoughts, fears, hopes?
Scripture doesn’t reveal any of those insights. But it appears that no one refuted his guilt. Barabbas was a criminal, being held by the Roman government, awaiting trial, expecting harsh judgement and likely death.
I wonder, too, what his thoughts might have been when he was called from his cell that day. Did he assume this was the end of his road? What might it have been like for him to hear the crowd chanting his name? Did he see JESUS? Did their eyes meet? Did he know anything about JESUS or the events that led to that moment?
When he was set free, did he run for the hills and not look back, or did he stay to watch the rest of that scene unfold?
Again, we don’t know.
What we do know is that Barabbas lived the gospel in real time that day. JESUS took his place. JESUS was put to death instead of him. Because JESUS stepped willingly forward, Barabbas was able to walk away a free man, no longer held accountable for his crimes. As sinners saved by grace, we can say the same!
Whether we fully understand our guilt, it is real. Unlike Pilate, we stand before a just Judge, Almighty GOD. He has every right to condemn us to death for our rebellion against Him, our sin that offends Him and breaks His laws.
But JESUS stepped in to pay the penalty for our sin in our place. He is our substitute. Because of His sacrifice, we walk in freedom.
May we not run for the hills, selfishly grabbing the chance to escape our sentence. May we linger near the cross long enough to fully understand the love and redeeming power of our Savior.
May His gaze capture ours and draw us into a deeper relationship with Him. May His selfless act win our allegiance, a pure response that prompts us to offer our freedom back to Him in humble, grateful service.
Wounded for me, wounded for me,
There on the cross He was wounded for me;
Gone my transgressions, and now I am free,
All because JESUS was wounded for me.
Dying for me, dying for me,
There on the cross He was dying for me;
Now in His death my redemption I see,
All because JESUS was dying for me.
Risen for me, risen for me,
Up from the grave He has risen for me;
Now evermore from death’s sting I am free,
All because JESUS has risen for me.
Living for me, living for me,
Up in the skies He is living for me;
Daily He’s pleading and praying for me,
All because JESUS is living for me.
Coming for me, coming for me,
Soon in the air He is coming for me;
Then with what joy His dear face I shall see,
Oh, how I praise Him He’s coming for me.
W. G. J. Ovens (1870-1945)
(v 2-5 by Gladys W. Roberts, 1888-1983)