Summary: The story of Barabbas is the story of me (and you) and everyone who needs Jesus.
I Am Barabbas
• The decision had been made to have Jesus killed. The religious leaders have had enough, seen enough, and heard enough to know that Jesus had to die. The one problem that they faced and that was that they, as the religious leaders, didn’t have the authority to put someone to death. Because the Romans were really the Jewish people were forbidden by law from condemning anyone to death. Now it makes sense while the disciples had difficulty believing Jesus when he said that he would be handed over to the Jewish leaders and be killed, there was a law against it.
• However, the religious leaders may not have had the authority to condemn Jesus but where there is a will there is a way and they knew the man who did have the authority, his name was Pilate. But they had another problem because they knew that Pilate would not invoke the death penalty on Jesus for religious reason. This meant they had to come up with some charges that would lead Pilate to condemn Jesus to death. They had to show Jesus as a literal “clear and present danger” to Rome as well as an opponent to Caesar. Certainly, charging Jesus was proclaiming himself as the “King of the Jews” would do the trick. While Mark tells us that “the chief priest accused Him of many other things,” Luke adds that they laid a threefold indictment on Him, “Misleading the nation, forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that He is the Christ, a King.”
• So now that they had presented sufficient charges against Jesus Pilate was faced with the dilemma. We must understand that Pilate was placed in this position to keep the peace for Rome in Jerusalem and he was already under the gun for a past failure with a group of insurrectionist & a man named “Barabbas.” And for Pilate, Barabbas might be the answer to this problem.
• From the scripture we know that Pilate knew the right thing to do because three times he pronounced, “I find no fault in this man.” In other words, the judge found Jesus innocent which should have closed the matter. However, he knew His problem was far deeper than right and wrong. He knew that to cut Jesus loose was to cause great problems in his city with such a swollen population. So he was looking for a way to preserve the peace & save face. Barabbas could be his answer. Frequently, when faced with a ‘right or wrong’ choice and public opinion or majority opinion is against you, it is easy to choose the popular over the right.
• However, Pilate had this thing figured out. In times past, he had allowed the crowd to choose some ‘criminal’ to go free. Certainly, this was his way out because there was NO WAY in his mind that this crowd would choose to allow Barabbas to go free & kill this young Rabbi. However, as much as we hate it, in the Bible when the majority makes a decision, they choose wrong. In the days of Noah, Moses, and now Jesus, we see a pattern.
• Consider this truth: The crowd called for the release of Barabbas which meant they were calling for the death of Jesus. We are told that he was a rebel, took part in the insurrection, & committed murder – and the crowd was comfortable with this, so they called for his release.
• Have you ever thought about how this impacted Barabbas? He was locked away in jail, awaiting the execution of sentence, when all of a sudden – the door flung open & they said, “Your Free!”
• Do you know what? I am Barabbas! If you have been saved, YOU ARE BARABBAS! If you have never given your life to Christ – YOU ARE BARABBAS and still remain in a prison of your sin. Take a look at the similarities between Barabbas.
1. He had an Undeniable Heritage – As far as I know, there are no books which offer a biography of Barabbas. However, his name offers us a hint or two about him. Please remember that in the Jewish culture, they gave their kids names which carried a meaning. (Peter, Jesus, etc)
• Interestingly, some historical sources record that Barabbas’ first name was “Jesus.” (a fairly common name about then) So the crowd would have been offered two Jesus’ that day (sounds a little like our choice today) – Jesus Barabbas and Jesus Christ. Hold that thought.
• Barabbas comes from two Aramaic words (which was the language which Jesus Christ spoke). “Bar” which means ‘dear father’ or ‘daddy.’ The second part of his name ‘rabbas’, according to Dr. John Phillip hints that his dad was a “Rabbi.” When put together he was the “Son of a Father who was a Rabbi.” This would give us reason to believe that he was raised (as we might say) ‘right’, he knew right from wrong, and was probably the apple of his dad’s eye as he grew up.