Barabbas or Jesus?

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).

A Choice

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—
Crucify him.
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;
see Pilate
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.
Crucify him.
The tunic rips from his back.
The lash carves its first blow
and again
and again.
How many is that?

I run from the melee,
relief and confusion
replacing the certainty
of death

but who
have they traded
for me?

Synchroblog Links

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.

A Deliciously Definitive Demolition (An Easter Contemplation) by Mazzy Adams

Easter Through a Female Lens by Susan Barnes

Easter: So Much More Than Tradition by Virginie Wright

My Most Memorable Easter by Tamika Spaulding


Nola’s poem, Barabbas,  was originally published in Time of Singing, 2012, Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 38-39. It was inspired by the Biblical account in Mark 15:6-15.

Featured photo by Andrea Don on Pixabay.


12 Responses

  1. I’d love to know what happened to Barabbas! Surely the events of Easter and the following weeks, when people reported seeing Jesus alive, must have impacted him deeply. Certainly makes you think of our own choices. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Susan. Yes, it’s interesting to speculate. You’d think it would impact him, but it still comes down to each person’s choice. I even wonder how the events affected Pilate. I was reading the account in John’s gospel again this morning, and Pilate tried many times to get to the point of freeing Jesus, but then gave in to the mob even though he knew Jesus hadn’t done anything deserving of death. I wonder if that played on his mind. I’m sure there’ll be more than a few surprises when we get to heaven and see who’s there. Barabbas and Pilate? Thanks for commenting.

    1. Thanks Steph. You have a good memory! I think I may have used it in a CWD post a while back, but I did a different slant this time. I like to revisit old works now and again and sometimes get new insights. Always so much to mine in the Biblical accounts. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. An interesting perspective. I love your poem; how beautifully it brings home the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice and that it was offered unconditionally when this first ‘escapee from justice’ was set free.

    Interesting timing too, that you shared this. A few days ago I stumbled across a short YouTube video where the speaker was talking about Pilate’s choice to free Barabbas who was known as a murderous insurrectionist with a significant following and a clear and present threat to the authority of Pilate and of Rome. Jesus, on the other hand, had acquired a significant following by going about healing and forgiving people (even his enemies), doing good, and encouraging his followers to follow his example. However, just a few days before, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the people had treated him not just as a potential Messiah who would save them from their oppressors, but in their words and actions they had hailed him as their king. In Jesus, Pilate was facing a potential King of the Jews whose pedigree went all the way back to David. While the sign he ordered be nailed to the cross as an indication of Jesus’ ‘crime’ was both true and prophetic in every sense of the word, I found this perspective on Pilate’s choice to set Barabbas free also quite enlightening.

    1. Thanks for sharing that extra information on Pilate, Mazzy. I wasn’t aware of some of those things. It’s always great to look at different perspectives, as it brings a deeper richness. And thank you for your support. I really treasure it.

  3. I have wondered the thoughts and choices Barabbas may have had after all that took place. So much of the events that happened seem unimaginable, and yet, without everyone making the decisions they did, like Pilate and Judas, Jesus couldn’t have died that terrible death I so humbly think on, so He could set us free in Him.

    I love the way you ended your poem too! Thought provoking!

    1. Thanks for that, Tamika. There are so many ‘loose threads’ with these secondary characters that aren’t recorded. I enjoy speculating on what might have happened next. And yes indeed, we can look at the terrible choices that people like Judas and Pilate made, but Jesus’ sacrifice was always part of God’s plan for salvation. Amazing to think about it. Thanks for your encourgement.

  4. Loved it! Many people would have stood there, wondering at the significance of the event they were witnessing on the day of the death of Jesus on the Cross, baffled even more when He rose from the dead. They would have been shaken, knowing something amazing had happened. Many went on to believe. One day we will find out if Barabbas was one of them after all.

    1. Thanks for that, Virginie. Yes, it’s fun to speculate on what happened to all of the spectators. Which ones were changed by those experiences and which ones weren’t? I’m sure there will be a few surprises when we get to Heaven and see who’s there. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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