Summary: The story of Barabbas illustrates a profound truth about salvation - the substitution of Christ for each and every one of us.
YOU CAN CALL ME BARABBAS
Text: Mark 15:1 – 15
Most of you call me “Shawn”. Some of you call me “preacher” or “pastor.” A couple of you call me “Daddy.” But you can all call me “Barabbas.”
In chapter 14 of Mark, we read how that Jesus celebrated His last supper with His disciples. Judas leaves the supper to go to betray our Lord and Savior. Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray Him and that the rest of them will scatter. Peter forcefully declares that he will never forsake the Lord, but Jesus tells him that he will even deny knowing Him three times before the night is over. Solemnly, Jesus takes His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane where He spends His last hour of freedom praying to His Father.
Mark also records how that Judas comes on the scene and betrays Jesus with a kiss of friendship and respect. Jesus is arrested, and the disciples scatter just like He had said. Jesus is taken to the high priests home, where the Jewish High Council is meeting to hold a sham of a trial. Jesus is accused by many false witnesses that cannot get their stories straight, but finally is pronounced guilty of blasphemy after He is asked if He is the Messiah and He responds, “I am.” Blasphemy was punishable by death, but the Romans had taken away the power to execute criminals from the Jews. That’s where our scripture picks up.
Very early in the morning, the Jewish leaders tie Jesus up and take him to the Roman governor of Judea that just happens to be in Jerusalem with additional soldiers to keep the peace during the Passover. The Jews hated Pilate, and Pilate hated the Jews, but the Jewish leaders knew that if they wanted to execute Jesus, they would have to accuse Him of a political transgression in order for Pilate to agree to capital punishment. Pilate did not care about whether or not Jesus was guilty of blasphemy – that was a Jewish problem. So Luke records that the Jewish leaders accuse Jesus of three things: encouraging people not to pay their taxes to the Roman government, claiming He was a King in opposition to Caesar, and causing riots all over the countryside and disturbing the peace. While none of these accusations were true, they were certainly enough to get Pilate’s attention.
Pilate was charged with controlling the Roman soldiers that were stationed in Judea, collecting taxes for the Roman government, and with keeping the peace in his territory. If Jesus was truly guilty of what the Jews were accusing Him of, He represented a threat to the Roman government and to the peace that had been imposed by the Roman army. Pilate takes Jesus into the palace and questions Him.
After having several conversations with Jesus, Pilate finds Him not guilty of the charges that the Jews have brought against Him, and decides to let Him go free. But the Jewish leaders have gathered a mob outside of Pilate’s palace and have convinced them to call for Jesus’ execution. Pilate announces that he finds no fault in Jesus and will set Him free, but the crowd cries out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
Pilate had made a tradition of setting free a prisoner during the Passover, and decides to give the people a choice. He finds one of the most notorious criminals that he has in custody, Barabbas, and brings him to stand beside of Jesus. He asks the crowd, “Which one should I set free?” He is surprised that the people choose Barabbas. Thinking that He might be especially generous and free both of them, he asks the crowd, “What do you want me to do with the one that you call the King of the Jews?” And the people cry out once again, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” So, bowing to the pressure of the mob that stood outside his palace, Pilate releases Barabbas, and sends Jesus to be flogged and crucified.
This scripture teaches us a very profound truth about God and the salvation that He has provided for us. Barabbas was guilty of rebelling against the Roman government, inciting a riot, and being a party in the commission of a murder during that riot. In short, he was guilty of treason and of inciting the people to rebel against the Roman government. This was punishable by death, so as we are introduced to Barabbas in this scripture, we find him sitting on death row, waiting to be crucified. He is sitting in his cell, when suddenly some Roman soldiers come and take him to the platform where Pilate is sitting. The next thing that Barabbas knows is that the people are given a choice to choose between him and a man that Pilate says is innocent of the charges brought against him. He is surprised when the crowd chooses to have him released, and even more surprised when they call out to crucify the man that is innocent. But Barabbas accepts his freedom and walks away.