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You And Barabbas

He was a vile killer–a ringleader in an effort to overthrow the government. Held in a Roman dungeon in Jerusalem, it was only a matter of time before he was convicted of his crimes and executed for them. If he had committed lesser offenses, this man known as Barabbas might have been fortunate enough to be beheaded. At least death was mercifully swift in that case. But it was for men like him that the Romans reserved the slow and torturous death of crucifixion.

Swift and sure justice was what this man deserved, but a remarkable turn of events, as told in the Bible, relates how this man, guilty as the day was long, walked away from his chains, away from his prison, and away from a death sentence, free and clear.

The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, had a problem. An angry mob had gathered outside the palace, demanding that the governor give his approval for them to crucify Jesus of Nazareth. Among other things, they falsely said that Jesus wanted to overthrow the government.

Pilate quickly found out that Jesus was an innocent man. But the crowd, now ready to riot, threatened to get Pilate in trouble with his boss if he refused to give in to their wishes.

Then a brilliant plan came to the governor’s mind. He offered the crowd a choice: Should he release Jesus–whom everyone knew to be good and kind–or Barabbas–whom everyone knew to be dangerous? Why, of course, they would want Jesus to be released, and it would be as though it were their own idea!

Or so Pilate thought. He asked the crowd: “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They said: “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them: “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said to him: “Let Him be crucified!” . . . Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified (Matt. 27).

Some might say that Barabbas was just a lucky man — someone who happened to be in the right place at the right time. But those who know the whole story know better. When you come right down to it, there is nothing that happens by accident. This guilty man went free, and Jesus, God’s innocent Son, went forth to die, because that’s the way the Lord planned it.

And His gracious plans include you too, for across the centuries comes the message of a Savior who took the punishment that WE deserved.

It was not only the Roman whip, the crown of thorns, and the nails that held Him to the cross that Jesus had to endure for others. It was the wrath and anger of God over the sin and rebellion of all people. The freedom from sin and guilt that we now enjoy through faith in Christ came at an awful price–the death of God the Son.

You and Barabbas–it’s not a pretty comparison, but it IS an accurate one. Both guilty, but both acquitted on account of Another who went, as our Substitute, to His death.

–Pastor Bruce Naumann

(First written for the clergy column of a local newspaper)