“Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd – anyone they wanted. This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you – Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”… So the governor asked again. “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”…. So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned Him over to the Romans soldiers to be crucified.”
Matthew 27:15-17, 21, 26
Barabbas was a man that deserved death. He was a rebel against Rome, he was a murderer and a rightful receiver of the justice handed down to him by the Roman rule. As he stood beside Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God, the healer and deliverer of so many, awaiting the decision as to who would be set free, Jesus or Himself, one can only wonder what he must have been thinking. Scripture makes no mention of what Barabbas did during or after his release. Was he grateful that Jesus took his place? Did his life change? Or did he simply continue rebelling against Rome and get caught again? However, what we do know, is that this picture we read in today’s key verse, is exactly what Jesus did for us!
We are much like Barabbas. We have sinned against God and rightfully deserve the punishment that would be handed down to us. Yet the incredible truth of grace, is that Jesus took our place instead of us receiving what is due to us. A truth made alive through the clear picture in today’s verse; A guilty man being set free at the expense of an innocent Man’s sacrifice. Maybe Barabbas never truly realised what happened when he was released instead of Jesus, but we can know for sure, that we have been released and set free from the punishment that we deserve, because Jesus took our place. How incredible is that! A true picture of grace! A clear insight into the great exchange!1