Summary: Barabbas was the first person to benefit from Jesus' death on the cross, what can we learn from his experience?
A tale of two Jesus’
So this is where it would end, in front of a hostile crowd, nailed to a cross. He had of hoped for better and I’m sure his family had hoped for better. I don’t know what his mother had envisioned for the little boy who played at her feet but I’m betting it wasn’t this. Everyone had thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps and everyone was wrong. It wasn’t that he didn’t respect his father for what he had done but he was marching to the sound of a different drummer, for better. . . or for worse.
There had been times that he was talking to people and casting the vision of what they could and should be that he was sure they had gotten it. And he was sure that they’d be willing to pay the price and make the sacrifices for a new world a better world, but apparently he was wrong.
And so it had all come down to this after all of the sacrifices that he had made for the people of Israel and now it would finish here in front of a Roman Court. A Roman Court, in Israel, it hardly seemed fair that his fate would be decided by a foreigner, an interloper. Didn’t the people see this is why the kingdom that he preached about and that he taught about was the better way?
But he was no fool, he knew that eventually it would end this way, he knew this was the price he would have to pay for the message he taught and how he had lived. He had hoped that the people of Israel would recognize the truth of what his teachings that they would understand that they could live better lives but deep down he knew that they would never change, at least not yet.
Suddenly the Roman guards pushed another man alongside of him, another victim of “Roman Justice” and then the man in charge, the man named Pilate told the crowd “Today one of these men will go free and one will die on a cross and it is you choice, you will decide. One man will walk and one man will hang and it is up to you.” And then the question was asked “Who do you choose today, Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Barabbas? The one who encouraged you to love your enemy or the one who encouraged you to hate your enemy?”
And then he heard the roar of the crowd, “Barabbas, we want Barabbas free Barabbas, crucify Jesus free Barabbas.” He couldn’t believe his ears, they wanted Barabbas. Barabbas the criminal? Barabbas the Murderer? He was Barabbas. It was like winning a lottery, no it was better than a lottery it was his life. One minute he was destined to be nailed to a cross and the next minute he was being set free.
And it seemed that finally his people recognized him for who he truly was a freedom fighter, a hero, not a terrorist and a murderer. They chose him, they wanted him
Tradition tells us they shared a name, history tells us they shared a passion, a passion for the people of Israel, the Bible tells us that at this juncture in their lives they shared a common fate, crucifixion on a Roman cross, the fate of the lowest criminals. But it was at that point their stories diverged.
The story is told in all four of the gospel accounts; Pastor Wilson read Mark’s account earlier. Mark 15:6-8 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner—anyone the people requested. One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual.
If you’ve read the gospel accounts it doesn’t take long to discover that Pilate was a little hesitant to crucify Jesus. He hedges, he waffles, he offers Christ the opportunity to recant, he sends him off to Herod in hopes that Herod will release him. But Jesus keeps ending up back in front of Pilate with the Jewish leaders demanding his death.
Perhaps this would be the pivotal point. Pilate knew that the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead, but he had heard how popular Jesus was with the people, so he would let the people decide. And so he offered up to the crowd two options, would they choose the man who preached peace or the man who preached war, the man who spoke of love or the one who spoke only of hate?
Have you ever been in a situation where you were sure you knew who would win, or who would get picked and then it went in exactly the opposite direction? I am pretty sure that Pilate was betting the crowd would pick their favourite, Jesus, the one who healed the sick and fed the hungry. Instead they chose Barabbas. In the various Gospel accounts Barabbas is described as a notorious prisoner, a revolutionary, and as an insurrectionist. But all accounts agree that he was a murderer. And that is who the crowd picked.