Look at Barabbas and Look at Us!

Chuck Bartlett

There are many powerful lessons surrounding the death of Jesus Christ, but one great lesson we must not overlook is that of Barabbas. To appease the Jews during the annual feast, Pilate would release a single prisoner that the Jews requested (Mark 15:6). The Roman ruler was hoping to release Jesus due to His innocence, but the chief priests stirred up the crowd to request the release of Barabbas (Mark 15:11). As a result, Jesus was crucified and Barabbas was set free (Mark 15:15).

What do we know about this prisoner who skirted his deserved punishment? According to the scriptures, this man was part of a rebellion that resulted in murder (Mark 15:7). We are told that this man was a notorious prisoner (Matt. 15:16). It is also clear that many knew this man and his reputation as Pilate thought the crowd would want this evil person remain in prison and have Jesus released. Unfortunately, the guilty person was freed and the innocent Christ was crucified (Matt. 27:21-26).

As much as this whole incident should bother us, it should also hit home. In a sense, each of us is Barabbas. By that I mean, Barabbas was a sinner yet Jesus went to the cross for him. My wording was intentional. You might think I should have said, Jesus went to the cross instead of him. That is also true, but Jesus died for everyone (John 3:16).

How should Barabbas have looked at Jesus? This is interesting. After all, he would not have been set free that day if not for Christ. He did not respect the law or the lives of others. Same as the evil people of our day, most guilty people during Biblical times would do everything they could to avoid punishment if they were caught breaking the law. We see no evidence that Barabbas was concerned about the false accusations made against Jesus – he only seemed interested in his own freedom at any cost. Regardless of whether Barabbas changed his ways after being freed and learning about Jesus, we need to recognize this lesson for ourselves.

All people are lost in sin (Rom. 3:23). We might not literally be behind bars for committing our sins, but we are still in a state of spiritual bondage (Gal. 4:3). Therefore, those who have not obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ are free to roam on earth, but they are on the run from God. However, there will be a day of reckoning (II Cor. 5:10).

Did Barabbas turn his life around after receiving a second chance? The Bible does not tell us. Statistics show that most people who are a prisoner today will return to prison in the future. If a person who is punished for his crimes is unlikely to learn his lesson, then it seems logical that a man like Barabbas who did not receive his full punishment will also be likely to continue to break the law.

What about us though? What makes us so different from Barabbas? He rebelled and murdered – are we guilty of the same? Yes! When we sinned, it was like we crucified Christ (Heb. 6:6). Any transgression can be called a rebellion against the will of God. How many of us look at Jesus and consider His sacrifice personally? For all intents and purposes, we are all Barabbas. We deserve to die in our sins without any hope. Then, here come a Savior who pays our debt without being asked! It was not something we earned or deserved (Rom. 5:6-11).

As we look to the cross, we need to understand that Jesus did what we could not do for ourselves. We use the expression “paying one’s debt to society.” Sin does not work this way – the only pay for the debt of our sins was through an innocent person – Christ (II Cor. 5:21). In other words, He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Let’s look at Barabbas, then look at ourselves and learn.

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