Summary: Talk about Barabbas' sin, service, Savior, and silence (Material adapted from John Phillips' book, Exploring People of the New Testament, Chapter 35 Barabbas and His Cross, pgs. 317-324)


Picture and commentary at: and

Pass out the pictures and Start with the character on the left and move to the right......

The Pharisee- Some of those present hated Jesus. Some still do! Nicodemus- Nicodemus might have been thinking about the night he met Jesus. (John ch 3) "I must be born again!" We later see both Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea willingly becoming defiled (according to Jewish law) as they claim the body of Jesus from the cross. Barabbas- As Barabbas leaves the Crucifixion scene, he turns to take one last look at the one who died in his place. Perhaps he was thinking, "He died for me". Centurion- After watching the events at the Cross, he declared "Surely this is the Son of God!". John- John was only one of the 12 present at the scene. He was there with Jesus’ mother Mary Mary- Mary watched as her Son died for the wrong doings of which we are all guilty. The Sadducee- Didn't believe in the resurrection and so thought that this was the end of Jesus.

This morning I want to focus on the one in the middle, Barabbas


Barabbas was close to the trial with Pontius Pilate on that Friday morning. Barabbas was in prison about 2000 feet away from where Jesus was being tried. 2000 feet is over 3 city blocks away. Barabbas heard the noises of a crowd but not much more. The only information he received was from the official who came to release him from prison.

Thesis: Talk about Barabbas’ sin, service, savior, and silence

For instances:

Barabbas’ sin

Luke 23:19: Insurrection

This comes from a Greek word that means “to make a stand,” “one who stirs up sedition,” “a rebel.” Mark 15:7 says that “Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists.” Barabbas was a member of a gang, and a good chance that he was the leader of that gang. Participating in armed rebellion made Barabbas a criminal under Roman law. We have no information on when or where Barabbas led this uprising against Rome. Many zealot gangs through Palestine that would rise up against the Romans. Barabbas was a “freedom fighter,” an insurrectionists, the leader of a group of Jewish patriots seeking to drive out the detested Romans. Barabbas was the kind of messiah the Jews wanted.

Luke 23:19: Murder

The word is in the singular, which suggests that Barabbas was guilty, not of slaughter in the heat of battle with Roman soldiers, but of cold blooded, calculated murder. Zealots loved to find Roman Gentiles off by themselves and murder them.

Luke 23:32, 39-40: Criminal(s)

Speculation but good chance the two criminals crucified on Jesus right and left were of the same gang as Barabbas. What criminal activity did this gang commit besides insurrection? Unsure but some accuse them of robbery and thievery. They had to finance themselves in some way. This is not Robin Hood who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, they kept it for themselves.

Matthew 27:16- Notorious

Barabbas was a marked man. No doubt Rome had put a price on his head. And, no doubt, Barabbas justified his behavior. He would say that the things he did, he did for the good of his country. The same kind of arguments that terrorists use today when they hijack planes, murder civilians, and hide their bombs in stores and hotels. They have their admirers, people who support them, finance them, and justify their deeds.

Barabbas’ service

Barabbas was caught and convicted. He was condemned to death and found himself under lock and key. It was only a matter of time, and the guards would take him to Golgotha. He was to receive, as his companion put it, what his deeds deserved (Luke 23:41). He was going to die and what a terrible death, by crucifixion! The anticipation was as bad as the actual torment itself.

Barabbas’ Savior

While Barabbas awaits his fate, something is happening on that Friday morning.

Pilate is desperately looking for a way out of his dilemma. Pilate remembers a custom. “Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested.” Mark 15:6, NIV. Pilate takes a gamble and suggests that Jesus be set free and Barabbas be executed. Right after this, Pilate’s wife sends Pilate a message. “While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”” Matthew 27:19, NIV.

While Pilate is distracted by his wife, “The chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.” Mark 15:11, NIV. This is interesting. These same leaders were concerned that people would follow Jesus and the Romans would come and take away their positions. If people followed Barabbas the same thing would happen. Yet they conspired to have this man rather than Jesus released! This shows us how far their resentment against and their fear of Jesus had come! Willing to have a murderer released instead of Jesus!

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