Who was Barabbas? Utter the name and instantly the reaction you’ll get from most people is one of cold anger. “He was the reprobate whose spot Jesus took on the cross that night! I hope he realizes what Christ did for him!” And in truth, we should hope he realizes it. Barabbas was dead to rights that night. He was a murderous, rebellious thief who had committed sins so heinous, every government throughout time would have executed him for it. And yet, that night, there was another person in the jail that was hated even more, and the pressure put on by the crowds that flocked to Pilate’s courtyard demanded his execution so much, that even the most despised of people was let go.

Honestly, anyone put up against Jesus that night would’ve been set free. If you had taken Osama bin Laden and put him next to Jesus, with that crowd, that night, they would’ve chosen Osama ten times out of ten, and that just shows the hatred they had for this Man. Barabbas was lucky, but we should count ourselves as just as lucky, because if it wasn’t for the willing and loving heart of Jesus, that sacrifice would have never happened (Matt. 26:53). We would have been left accountable for all our sins, and would have been paying the price for a litany of spiritual crimes that we would have had no option to get out from underneath.

In reality, Barabbas is no different than us. In the paraphrased and adapted words of Paul in 2 Cor. 11:22: “Was Barabbas a murderer? So am I. Was he rebellious? So was I. Was he a thief? So am I.” We look at Barabbas with eyes of contempt and hatred, when really all we have to do is look in the mirror and we’ll see someone exactly like him. We all have committed acts of murder those times we’ve hated our brother, despising God’s creation that we can see, and claiming to love  God whom we haven’t (1 John 3:15). And like it or not, as much as we’d like to think that 2,000 years separates us from the responsibility of Jesus’ death on the cross, the reality is it was our sins that put him there (Heb. 9:28). Peter reminded the people on the day of Pentecost of as much in Acts 2:36, when he condemned the crowds of murdering the only begotten Son of God, many of whom may not have even been present at the time of the crucifixion. Are we blameless just because we weren’t standing on the steps of the Temple that day? Most definitely not.

Along with that, which one of us hasn’t been rebellious towards the law of God? We may not be taking up arms against God anytime soon (at least, I would hope not), but which one of us hasn’t “lived outside the law” in regards to our walk with God? Paul condemns all of such in Romans 3:23, in his immortal, sobering words: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We have all been in rebellion towards God at one point in time, and we would all be, just like Barabbas, sitting on our own spiritual death row as a result of it. 

And before you get on your spiritual high horse, thinking, “Touche Brady, but I have not been a spiritual thief!” Oh yes, kind sir/madam, you have. The very essence of sin is taking what is not yours, whether that be in the form of pride, by granting yourself honor not due you, or lust, by desiring what is another person’s, or any number of other sins that you can think of. Barabbas was not that much different than we are – albeit his sins came of a physical nature – but the result is very much the same. While Barabbas was granted a physical reprieve from his sins for the time being, so we too have been granted a spiritual reprieve from ours, if we maintain that cleansing by which God has given us. Honor that sacrifice, and live in a way that honors Him.

Last modified: January 22, 2019