Oh, Barabbas

Pastor DaronCrossLife Blog

Pontius Pilate tried all the angles he could think of to get Jesus released, but none of them worked. What should he have done? Well, have you ever had plans or prayed about a decision and it just wasn’t working the way you wanted? What did you do?

Pilate, you see, wore a gold ring with the image of Caesar on it that marked him as a member of the inner circle of friends of Caesar. He was part of an elite fraternity of high-ranking officials of Rome who enjoyed the favor of the emperor. If the Jews went over Pilate’s head to Caesar, they might convince him that Pilate was not a friend. They would tell him that Pilate let a man who claimed to be king go free. Pilate’s position was on the line.*

In his mind it came down to a choice between Jesus or him. He made his choice. We find ourselves doing something wrong, and we make excuses for it. “I know it’s wrong, but …” That’s all that Pilate said at Jesus’ trial. We can be like him.

But we are also like Barabbas. He was “a well known prisoner … thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder” (Matthew 27:16, Luke 23:19). He knew murder was wrong, but … 

Then he met Jesus. As far as we know they didn’t talk. Maybe they saw each other and exchanged glances. In one of his ploys to release Jesus, Pontius Pilate offered the Jews a choice: he’d release Barabbas or Jesus. They shouted, “Give us Barabbas!” (John 18:40).

Barabbas the murderer and prisoner. Released. Freed. And Jesus bound and crucified. In his place. Legend has it that the cross on which Jesus was crucified had been prepared for Barabbas. Now, the ultimate substitution. By Jesus’ death Barabbas lived. 

Today, see yourself not just in Pilate, but in Barabbas, the prisoner set free. See your substitute Jesus, and rejoice that by his death you live! Then, live for him and never be a Pilate again. For today, enjoy this poem written long ago:

“Barabbas,” so the soldier spake,

“I bring the news of grace,

 for Christ the man of Nazareth

today shall take the place.


 Outside the gate shall Jesus bear

the cross prepared for thee;

go thou to the atoning feast!” 


The man of crime went free.


Barabbas saw the darkened earth

when came the hour of noon,

and slept in peace when Jesus wept

beneath the Paschal moon.


Oh, man of sin, in thee I see

myself redeemed by grace.

The bloodstained cross that rose for thee

took every sinner’s place.**

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am your Barabbas, and you died in my place to set me free. I love you, and believe in you as my Savior. Replace my sins with your holiness, that I live for you. Amen.

FURTHER MEDITATION: Read Romans 5:6-10. How does this apply to all of us who are Barabbas? Choose one word from that section and pray about just that word and stay in prayer for a couple minutes. 

* Baumler, Gary. “People of the Passion.” Northwestern Publishing House: Milwaukee, WI. 2011.

** “Unto the Desired Haven, and Other Religious Poems,” p. 91