As I looked again at the Easter story recently a question came to me that I hadn’t really thought of before. Why did the crowd want Barabbas released? For what possible reason would they choose to have a murderer released? Surely he might kill again. He might even murder one of their own family. It didn’t make any sense. But then it came to me. It wasn’t the crowd that chose Barabbas to be the one released, and it wasn’t the Pharisees who picked him out. It was the choice of God.
What occurred to me, in a more profound way than ever before, was that Barabbas is archetypal – he is you or me. We are murderers and rebellious people in thought, if not in deed. We too have been tried and found guilty in the courts and the punishment is death, just like Barabbas. But God’s amazing grace is demonstrated so clearly for Barabbas. God made His choice. He had His way. He orchestrated the shouts of the crowd, because He wanted to show grace to Barabbas, and give him back his life and a chance of freedom.
It’s the same for us. Another person will take our place in death row and receive the fatal sentence. Another will carry the pain and pay the price for our murder and rebellion. The sinful one is released by the sinless one. This is God’s choice, because this is His heart for Barabbas, and for you and me. The crowd were not just responding out of their own bad decisions, but they were inspired by God. That’s why they were shouting for Barabbas.
As we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus this Easter, I will also be thinking of Barabbas in a new way. I will be wondering how he felt about his release. Did he realise that it was the undeserved grace of an ever-loving God that chose to release him? Or did he think he was just a very lucky man who had beaten the legal system, escaped the death sentence and could now go on living life in the same way. I wonder whether Barabbas was irrevocably changed by God’s life-giving grace on that day … and are we?
Prayer: Help us, Father God, as we consider the sacrifice of Jesus again this Good Friday, to remember that we are just like Barabbas. We are people of rebellion and murderous thoughts and attitudes and deserve to die. Help us to recognise afresh that, without Your amazing grace, we have no hope. As with Barabbas, the judgment has been made, and we’re doomed to die. Thank You that You chose to make a way for each one of us, when Jesus took our place, to give us freedom and a new life. We ask that You challenge us to be truly grateful for this new life. We pray this in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.
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