The year was A.D. 33. The Roman tradition was to execute by crucifixion. This was the most horrible death that one could suffer. They said that he was the son of a Rabbi. Numerous witnesses had testified that he had plundered and robbed and murdered. His very name would strike fear in the heart of many Jews. Now captured and put in the inner prison – secured and waiting; his final appeal had been denied. His early religious training was but faint memories; long forgotten. He cowered in the corner of a dark damp cell with both hands and feet held fast in metal stocks.
The capital city, Jerusalem, was one of a million souls. Mysterious happenings were in the wind. All centered around a man, born in Bethlehem, named Jesus. Many said, “He is the Christ, the anointed one of God.” The chief priests and scribes and Pharisees had brought him before the judgment seat of Pilate, the Roman Governor. They charged him with insurrection against Rome, and the claim that he was equal with God. They called for his death and some shouted, “Let his blood be upon us and upon our children” (Matthew 27:25).
“Every year, at Passover time the governor would free one person from prison . . . at that time there was a man in prison that was known to be very bad. His name was Barabbas” (Matthew 27:13-16; NET).
Pilate said that he found no fault with this man called Jesus. He knew that for envy they had delivered Him. “Which of the two do you want me to release unto you,. Barabbas, or this one called Jesus?” The chief priest and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus? Then he released Barabbas unto them; and when they had scourged Jesus, he was delivered to be crucified” (Matthew 27: 18-26).
Now, as Paul Harvey would say, “Let me tell you the rest of the story.
Barabbas knew the time for his execution was near. He trembled at the thought. He was losing control in the anticipation of such an ordeal. He thought of his saintly mother and his Rabbi father. The many times they had warned him and admonished him – but he would not listen. He reviewed his childhood; how free and innocent he was then and the simple games he and his friends played. But this was no game. The soldiers were coming for him.
Suddenly the quadroon of soldiers pressed open the huge iron door. The heavy boots marched in strict cadence to his cell. If only he had another chance, a bit of mercy, a little more time. That ugly key was put into the lock. The barred door squeals as it was pushed opened. He drew himself into a fetal knot and cried like a little baby, “I’m not ready, oh God! I’m not ready”. “We have good news”, they said, we have come to set you free!” He knew this was a lie and he wasn’t ready to receive any cruel jokes they offered. He was released from the stocks that had held him. He went limp as he whimpered, “I said, I’m not ready!”
They carried him down the long corridor. The light was blinding as they opened the outside door. They pitched him in the street as they said, “You are free now; another has been chosen to take your place”. He lay still for a moment. It must be a dream. He was afraid to open his eyes. Miracles like this just don’t happen. When he drew himself up and looked, a multitude was approaching. One young man in the middle was carrying a cross. The people mocked him, cursed him and spat upon him. Barabbas stood up and brushed the dust away. He shouted, “Who is the one carrying the cross?” “Haven’t you heard? Barabbas has been set free, and this man called Jesus is taking his place?”
As they stood three crosses up on a high hill, Barabbas sat with the multitude who watched. The saying kept pulsing through his mind, “He took my place, and he died in my stead”. A strange feeling came over him when he heard Jesus say, “Lord, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”.
Pentecost came (the second great feast of the Jews) and Barabbas was attracted by another crowd. A man named Peter was standing and was giving the first gospel sermon ever heard. He put his voice with the thousands of others as they cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” As believers, he and three thousand others were baptized.
The last half of this story is not found in the scriptures. Just my imagination. What would you do if someone took your place on the cross?
“But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . . For when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:8-10).
I am Barabbas!