Let me backtrack a bit. This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, being welcomed by the people. Later in the week, Thursday, He stood trial. Why? Because He was betrayed by one of His disciples.
He first was beaten, spat upon, mocked - even before He stood trial. Then He went before the Sanhedrin, then Pilate, Herod Antipas, and then before Pilate again. They didn't know what to make of Him. He at last stands before Pilate, on trial for the last time, and Pilate asks the people what Jesus had done. Pilate saw that Jesus was blameless, not guilty of any crime. According to the festival he had to release one person on death row free. Pilate asked the people who they wanted released to them, Jesus or Barabbas.
The crowds, who had openly welcomed Jesus just days before, shouted for Barabbas to be released. They yelled out for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate, seeing no wrong in Jesus, shouted above the noise, "Why? What has this man done wrong? I have found in Him no grounds for the death penalty." (Luke 23:22). But the people kept shouting for Barabbas, a murderer, to be released and for Jesus, the Son of God, to be crucified.
Who is this Barabbas? Who is this man, who appears briefly in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? Who is this prisoner who deserves death for his crimes? Yet whom the people want to be set free? According to Luke 23:19 he had been thrown in prison for the crime of murder, and because he had led a rebellion in the city.
We look at that man and then at Jesus and wonder how anyone would want him released over Jesus? Jesus died the next day while Barabbas continued to live. Jesus was put in chains while Barabbas's chains fell down. Jesus was condemned while Barabbas was free. Where is the justice in that? Yet how much of ourselves can we see in Barabbas? We who were dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1-4) and yet Jesus paid the price for our sin.
He died so we could live,
He suffered so we could be healed,
He was put in chains so that ours could fall to the ground,
He was mocked so that we could live unashamed,
He was condemned so that we could be set free.
He went through all of that... for us.
What crazy, amazing love is that? What incomprehensible love is that? What grace and mercy did He show?
We hear about Jesus' crucifixion pretty often. Most of us have John 3:16 memorized. But may we never lose the awe and wonder of the love He gave, that amazing grace He showed!
So what about Barabbas? What happened to him? Scripture doesn't say. It doesn't mention if he thanked Jesus or went on to follow Him, it doesn't say anything more about Barabbas... But he didn't disappear. Barabbas lived his life, maybe in the sinful ways he did before... but I can't help but wonder if he spent time thinking about Jesus. The man who was perfect and yet took his place. We don't have any idea what happened to Barabbas, but I think that what happened that day was something that he always remembered.
Later, in Luke 23:32-43, two other criminals are mentioned. But instead of walking towards freedom like Barabbas they faced the painful, horrible death of crucifixion.Scripture doesn't say what crimes they committed - but the terrible death on a cross was saved for the worst of criminals. Jesus was hung on a cross, with a criminal on each side of Him. Some of the people there yelled and taunted Him, one of the criminals joined in.
But the other criminal said in Luke 23:40-42, ""Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”"
He knew he had messed up. He knew he deserved the death he was suffering. And he recognized that Jesus didn't.
I love what Jesus says next in verse 43, "And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”"
Wow. Jesus offers grace to the criminal beside Him. The other criminal mocked Him while the other saw who Jesus really is - the Son of God.
Last week I posted about freedom in Christ. It's because of what Jesus went through we can have that freedom. In those two stories we see two men who are the same in one way, being sinful and criminals, and yet we see their different responses to Jesus. With Barabbas we don't know what happened to him, with one of the criminals he mocked and rejected Jesus. But the other man saw who Jesus really is.
What's our response? How do we respond to the love and freedom Jesus offers?
Below is a video that I really encourage you to watch, it's a great 'sermon' (almost nine minutes long) and really worth your time if you chose to watch it.
Jesus went through all of that for us. He loves us. He extends grace and freedom to us if we just chose to accept it. What's your response?