Summary: The day Jesus was crucified, we read of a man who was apprehended, convicted of serious crimes, and sentenced to death. His guilt was beyond question, and yet he was released, set free and pardoned of all charges. In his place, and innocent man died.
The Day the Criminal was Set Free
Mark 15: 6-15
This had been a week of extreme emotion for all involved. Jesus, our precious Lord, was in His last hours prior to the crucifixion. These events have taken place very early on Friday morning. Just five days before Jesus had made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, honored and exalted as the King. Monday found Him cleansing the Temple as He cast out the money changers. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent as final days of teaching at the Temple. Thursday had brought the final meeting in the Upper Room, where Jesus and the disciples observed the Passover and He washed their feet. From there, as night had fallen, they made their way to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed in agony. It was there that Judas brought the mob to arrest Jesus and He was led away to stand trial before the Sanhedrin in the very early morning hours of Friday. At around 5 am, Jesus was taken to stand before Pilate. After His first encounter with Pilate, He is sent to stand before Herod and once again sent back to Pilate. All of this has taken place in less than a week. Our minds cannot begin to imagine the circumstances surrounding the events that we have just read.
Typically, this passage is preached in light of the injustice that was brought against our Lord. Truly He was innocent of all charges and wrongfully accused. An innocent, holy, and sinless man stood condemned before His accusers. Today I would like to approach this passage from a different angle. I want to look at these verses from the perspective of Barabbas. We will, in no way, detract from the deity or holiness of our blessed Lord. In fact, we will magnify Him as we look at the circumstances that surround these moments in Barabbas’ life. I want to look at the unending truths surrounding: The Day the Criminal was Set Free.
I. The Reality of Barabbas – Usually as we move through verses in a passage I like to make application as to how they apply to us. We will make application later, but right now I just want to focus on the life of Barabbas.
A. He was Detained in Prison (7) – And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. Barabbas was found guilty of specific crimes and he lay bound in prison. He had been apprehended, found guilty, bound in prison and was awaiting punishment for his crimes.
We are well aware that crucifixion was the preferred method of punishment in those days for those found guilty and deserving of death. The Scriptures do not specifically say, but I am convinced that the cross our Lord died upon had been reserved by Pilate for Barabbas.
This man had been found guilty of crimes he had committed, and he was facing execution for his crimes. There was no way of escape. He was bound and held by the Roman
authorities for his heinous acts. History tells us that Roman guards were responsible with their own lives for the safekeeping of prisoners. Escape was out of the question for Barabbas.
B. He was Deserving of His Punishment (7) – This verse reveals one of the crimes Barabbas had committed was murder. This was a crime punishable by death and in most cases, execution was carried out.
Also, we find Barabbas was involved in an insurrection. This reveals his involvement in an “uprising, dissension, or controversy” presumably against the Roman government and its authority in Jerusalem. Barabbas was an insurgent against the ruling authority of his day. He had determined in his heart that he would not submit to those who held authority over him. Simply put, Barabbas was a rebel who resisted the rule of law.
John’s gospel also reveals that Barabbas was a robber. He was one who took from others for his own gain and prosperity. He was unconcerned about the welfare of those around him. He was only concerned with satisfying his own desires no matter the cost.
C. He was Desired by the People (9-11) – But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?  For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.  But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. We can imagine the desire of Pilate to pass judgment upon Barabbas. He was an enemy of the state. He had committed crimes that compromised the peace and authority Rome sought to defend. As Pilate gave the people a choice, they chose Barabbas over Jesus. The world identified with him and chose him over the Lord. Pilate consented to the demands of the people rather than doing what he knew was right.