Imagine being on death row and then finding out that someone else was going to die in your place. That was exactly the situation Barabbas found himself in.
A Political Dilemma
According to Mark’s gospel, Barabbas had been imprisoned with a group of insurrectionists who had committed murder during an uprising in Jerusalem (Mk. 15:7). Political prisoners were typically crucified by the Roman officials as a deterrent to others who might follow in their steps. Not only was crucifixion a long and agonising way to die, but it was also a humiliating public spectacle.
There was only one small glimmer of hope for Barabbas. It was customary for the Roman officials to release one prisoner during the Jewish Passover feast. However, there was a more famous prisoner than Barabbas on the scene. Jesus of Nazareth had been falsely accused and bought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Palestine at the time.
Pilate could find no reason to execute Jesus, but the chief priests had stirred up a Jewish mob and they were calling for blood. When Pilate gave them the choice of having Jesus or Barabbas released, they chose Barabbas.
Jesus was subsequently crucified, but that was not the end of the story. He took our sins on himself and died in our place, even though he was innocent. Three days later, he rose from the dead and is even now interceding for us (Rom. 8:34).
This Easter, we face the same choice given almost 2000 years ago. Will we go along with the crowd or will we choose Christ and follow him?
We don’t know what happened to Barabbas after his release, but I wrote a poem in which I tried to imagine what may have been going through his mind on that fateful day. As you read it, I pray that you will see with new eyes the choice each of us still has to make today.
I hear their distant taunts—
My stomach convulses
as the chorus erupts.
Is this the day
I reap what I’ve sown?
Soldiers unlock my chains,
lead me through hollow chambers
that amplify the roar outside
with each step.
A rioting mob for my insurrection,
my heartbeat exchanged
for one I killed.
I blink as daylight
assaults my shadows;
plunge hands into a bowl
and raise them dripping,
raise them clean.
I’m pushed into the crowd
Is this how it’s done?
Turn me loose so they can
pull my shoulders from their sockets
before the nails find their mark?
But I’m untouched.
They’re focused on someone else.
The tunic rips from his back.
The lash carves its first blow
How many is that?
I run from the melee,
relief and confusion
replacing the certainty
have they traded
I wrote this post as part of a synchroblog tour, where a bunch of Christian authors each wrote something about Easter from a different angle. Here are the links to the other blog posts if you’d like to have a look. Some really thoughtful articles here. May the love of Christ envelop you this Easter.
Easter Through a Female Lens by Susan Barnes
Easter: So Much More Than Tradition by Virginie Wright
My Most Memorable Easter by Tamika Spaulding