Summary: Barabbus. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email:

Reading: Matthew chapter 27 verse 11-26.

The Antonia Fortress was a military barracks built by Herod the Great in Jerusalem:

• He named after Herod's patron Mark Antony.

• And he built it on the site of an earlier Hasmonean (Has-mo-nean) stronghold,

• The fortress was built at the eastern end of the great wall of the city (the second wall),

• On the north-eastern side of the city, near the temple and Pool of Bethesda.

• It is thought that the area where the Antonia Fortress was located;

• Possibly later became the site of the praetorium.

• The praetorium, or Pretorium,

• Is thought to be the place where Jesus was taken to stand before Pilate.

• Now the prison was about 2000 feet away from where Jesus was being tried.

• In one of the cool dark cells of the dungeon of the fortress of Antonia;

• Was a condemned criminal.

• He appears briefly in history and he is our character study this morning.

(1). His name,

His name was Barabbus:

• ‘Bar’ in Aramaic means ‘Son’

• ‘Abbas’ means ‘Father’ (we sometimes sing ‘Abba Father’)

• So his name means “Son of the father”

• It can be interpreted as “Son of the teacher or master”.

• It was a common name in that time,

• And although we don’t know who his father was,

• Perhaps he really was the son of a Rabbi, a teacher;

• And this background gave him his patriotic love for his nation.

• If he was the son of a rabbinic family in Jerusalem.

• He was probably well-educated and well-connected, especially politically.

• His full name was probably Jesus Barabbas,

• Which appears in the Syrian and Armenian versions of Matthew chapter 27.

• A number of scholars, (including William Barclay, D. A. Carson, Robert Gundry, and Klaas Schilder),

• Seem to accept this reading.

(2). His reputation.

• Barabbus was not a person with whom you would want to associate;

• We are told f our things about him in the gospel:

(1). He was a “Notorious prisoner” (Matthew chapter 27 verse 16).

• ‘Notorious’ can means ‘disreputable, dishonourable, tarnished’.

• His reputation alone told you not to mess with this man.

• He had a reputation and as the saying goes,

• "His reputation preceded him."

• The word Notorious’ can also mean ‘famous, popular, and notable’.

• Barabbas was well-known in Jerusalem, and it seems he had a large following.

• Therefore, when Barabbas was given the chance of freedom;

• His fans (& the religious leaders) in the crowd made plenty of noise demanding his release.

(2). He was a “A robber” (John chapter 18 verse 40).

• He was a thief,

• One who not only stole......... but violently stole from others.

• This maybe how he and his gang funded their terrorist operation;

• Although we are not told who he robbed, it may have been both Jew & Roman.

• But Barabbas was willing to take away that which others have worked for,

• With no intention of giving it back.

(3). “Insurrectionist” (Mark chapter 15 verse 7).

• According to Josephus the word used for robber, lestes,

• Refers to members of the nationalist movement called Zealots,

• Who supported themselves by robbery.

• Barabbas may have been a member of that movement.

• The two thieves who were crucified with Jesus Christ;

• Might also have been members of that movement.

• Why do we think that?

• At that time robbery was not a capital offense,

• And yet these two thieves were sentenced to be crucified.

• So we may well conclude that the thieves were also insurrectionists,

• Members of the movement led by Jesus Barabbas,

• Members of the same gang.

(4). He was an. “Murderer” (Mark chapter 15 verse 7).

• In his acts of robbery and insurrection Barabbus was quite prepared to take life;

• He was a murder!

• And while he may appear to be anything good to us;

• To his contempories he may have been a bit of a hero (freedom fighter).


• Someone might come to the defence of Barabbas and say,

• “He was a patriot!

• The Romans were the occupying oppressors,

• Barabbas and his friends were like the French underground resistance of World War II!

• If he killed a soldier during an act of rebellion against this evil enemy,

• Then he was not a criminal, but a zealot!”

• Remember he was ‘Notorious’ can also mean ‘famous, popular, and notable’.

• Barabbas was well-known in Jerusalem, and it seems he had a large following.

• Political hero or nasty villain you can take your pick!

• One thing we do know he was guilty, he knew it, the crowds, Romans & we knew it!

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