Summary: The face of Barabbas is truly the face of good fortune. Never has a better thing happened to a man on the day of his expected crucifixion. Jesus of Nazareth probably died on the cross that was prepared for Jesus Barabbas.
The Face of Fortune: Barabbas
Text: Now the governor's custom was to release one Jewish prisoner each year during the Passover celebration--anyone they wanted…Then Pilate released Barabbas to them. And after he had whipped Jesus, he gave him to the Roman soldiers to be taken away and crucified. (Matthew 27:15, 26)
Scripture Reading: Now the governor's custom was to release one Jewish prisoner each year during the Passover celebration--anyone they wanted. This year there was a particularly notorious criminal in jail named Barabbas, and as the crowds gathered before Pilate's house that morning he asked them, "Which shall I release to you--Barabbas, or Jesus your Messiah?" For he knew very well that the Jewish leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy because of his popularity with the people. Just then, as he was presiding over the court, Pilate's wife sent him this message: "Leave that good man alone; for I had a terrible nightmare concerning him last night." Meanwhile the chief priests and Jewish officials persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas's release, and for Jesus' death. So when the governor asked again, "Which of these two shall I release to you?" the crowd shouted back their reply: "Barabbas!" "Then what shall I do with Jesus, your Messiah?" Pilate asked. And they shouted, "Crucify him!" "Why?" Pilate demanded. "What has he done wrong?" But they kept shouting, "Crucify! Crucify!" When Pilate saw that he wasn't getting anywhere and that a riot was developing, he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this good man. The responsibility is yours!" And the mob yelled back, "His blood be on us and on our children!" Then Pilate released Barabbas to them. And after he had whipped Jesus, he gave him to the Roman soldiers to be taken away and crucified.
Matt 27:15-26 (Living)
Pilate presented Barabbas to the crowd as an alternative, which would allow him to escape his responsibility in this ordeal. His training in Roman government made it difficult for him to condemn an innocent man.
Pilate’s offer takes on special significance if both of these men had the same name. Many Bible scholars believe that the full name of Barabbas was Jesus Barabbas. Some manuscript evidence supports this theory. And if this was the case, the crowd had to choose between Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Barabbas.
The face of Barabbas is truly the face of good fortune. Never has a better thing happened to a man on the day of his expected crucifixion. Jesus of Nazareth probably died on the cross that was prepared for Jesus Barabbas.
When the Sabbath came, Jesus was lying in a tomb, and Barabbas was sleeping in his own bed. This graphically sets forth the central truth of the gospel, “CHRIST DIED FOR US.”
There are only three points, which I want to make in regard to this incident:
1. There was AN UNDESERVED FORTUNE.
2. There was AN UNSOUGHT FORTUNE.
3. There was an UNRESTRICTED FORTUNE.
And when we are finished today, I hope that it is clear to everyone that Christ died for us, and when he died for us, we were not His friends, and we were His enemies. Our story is very much like Barabbas’ story, and that will become evident as we unravel the details of this story.
Our first point is that there was AN UNDESERVED FORTUNE.
Barabbas deserved to die. Justice had finally caught up with him. He was guilty of the crimes he was charged with, and a Roman court had sentenced him to death by crucifixion. When he awoke that morning, he believed that it was his last day of life; his situation was hopeless. But are we not all worthy of death, when we are measured by God’s perfect standard of righteousness? Didn’t Paul write, “Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious ideal” (Romans 3:23, Living). And he also wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, Living).
We know that Barabbas wasn’t crucified, on that Friday morning, two thousand years ago, because Jesus took his place. The crowd asked for him to be released, instead of Jesus. He didn’t deserve his good fortune for at least two reasons.
First, Because of wasted opportunities.
“Barabbas” means “son of a father.” This probably indicates that he was the son of a rabbi. His full name then would have been Jesus, the Son of the Rabbi. Growing up in the home of a rabbi would have given him the opportunity to know the things of God. It would have brought many special opportunities for spiritual development. But apparently, Barabbas had failed to take advantage of those opportunities. Instead of following in his father’s footsteps, he became a thief and a murderer.