Summary: Barabbas is a prisoner destined for death by crucifixion. However Jesus is substituted into the place of Barabbas and provides Barabbas with freedom. The “silent witness” of Barabbas calls us to think about our freedom in Christ.

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Silent Witnesses

Mark 15:6-15 Barabbas Who Is Substituted

We are only five sleeps away from Good Friday.

That came quick … didn’t it.

With Easter so close it is really appropriate to look at Scripture passages which are closely connected to that event.

The theme I have chosen for these passages is “Silent Witnesses”.

These are the people in Scripture who witnessed an aspect of the passion of Jesus, but who are not recorded as saying anything as they witness.

The witnesses I am specifically thinking of are:- Barabbas, Simon of Cyrene, The Women at the Cross

We find all of these people in Mark’s Gospel.

Silent Witnesses. Let’s read about the first witness – Barabbas.

Mark 15:6-15

6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

9 ‘Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to get Pilate to release Barabbas instead.

12 ‘What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them. 13 ‘Crucify him!’ they shouted.

14 ‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Who is Barabbas?

He is a rebel and murderer.

A man with anger in his heart and blood on his hands.

Defiant. Violent. A troublemaker. A life taker.

Who is Jesus?

God with us.

Divinity in the flesh.

Always honest and never hypocritical.

Constantly kind in a world that was evil and cruel.

He never allowed the distractions of life to prevent him from having a God-driven purpose.

He is the sinless gift of God.

Who are we?

We are not faultless … we are full of faults.

Even when we try to do right, sooner or later we end up messing it up again.

We keep staging a rebellion against God.

The promise to live more faithfully is quickly forgotten.

Our determination to be Christ-like is fragile.

Sunday worship is quickly replaced with Monday mayhem.

We might not say it with our mouths, but our actions speak volumes.

We silently shout, “God, I don’t want you to be my king! I want to be king. I know better.”

It has been like that since the serpent said, “You can be like God.”

… …

Scripture clearly describes the result.

Isaiah 53:6

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to our own way;

Romans 3:10-12

There is no one righteous, not even one;

there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.

All have turned away,

they have together become worthless;

there is no one who does good, not even one.’

Or, to put it a different way, we are so unlike Jesus.

Which leaves us in the same prison as Barabbas.

Not a literal prison. But the prison which will lead to an eternity of separation from God unless we are shown an eternity of grace.

Unless … there is grace.

Which is exactly what we see in this section of Scripture.

Pilate knows Jesus is innocent. We see this really clearly when we look at the parallel passage in Luke 23.

Luke 23:4

Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no basis for a charge against this man.’

Luke 23:14-15

Pilate … said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death.

Luke 23:20-22

Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ For the third time he spoke to them: ‘Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.’

Three times Pilate declares Jesus innocent.

But Pilate has been backed into a corner.

He needs to try and save face with the Jews.

He also wants Jesus to be set free.

But he can’t allow the city to fall into chaos.

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