Barabbas: “Murderer”, “Thief”, “Insurgent”, “Guilty as charged”. Barabbas was a Zealot and perhaps would have been known today as a modern-day terrorist. Awaiting execution, he knew he deserved what was coming to him. His acts had finally caught up with him. It was just a matter of time. Barabbas was a violent man and worthy of death.
Jesus: Life-giver. Restorer. Peacemaker. All of the above, yet so much more. He had come peaceably, preaching openly the good news of salvation, offering its cup to whoever was thirsty. Like Barabbas, Jesus’ works preceded him. But his works brought healing and wholeness to all who sought him and still do.
These two men couldn’t have been more polar opposites, yet their lives intertwined at this pivotal moment in history. Both were on trial. One was guilty, one was innocent. Ironically, the guilty would go free while the innocent would be condemned to die.
Barabbas’ name is interesting. “Bar” is an Aramaic surname meaning “son.” Peter was known as “Bar” Simon, meaning “Son of Simon.” Other biblical examples are “Bar”temaeus and “Bar”tholomew. Abbas means “of the Father.” Barabbas, therefore, means “Son of the father.” Could his parents have held high hopes for him by naming him thusly? Was he loved and cherished in his past? Perhaps his father was a moral and upright man who wanted his son to turn out just like him. Or, perhaps his name was a self-fulfilling prophecy and he did, indeed, become the image of his father. We do not know, but this “son of the father” became a well-known figure to all Bible readers as the perpetrator who got away.
Jesus’ name actually means “Salvation.” He was the Son of His Heavenly Father — the only begotten Son. Jesus was secure in his Father’s love and obedient to his Father’s plan, even unto death. It was this love that drove him to face Pilate and the angry mob. He was led away to be executed as a criminal while the real criminal escaped unscathed.
What about us? What about you? Are we really that different from Barabbas? Did we not have blood on our hands, desperately needing a Saviour to wash them clean? Didn’t Jesus take our place on the cross? The nails should have pierced OUR bodies. Yet, He became OUR substitute. Yes, we are very much like Barabbas. When we look at Barabbas, we see a reflection of ourselves: guilty as charged. We, like Jesus, were created to be “sons” of our true Heavenly Father, yet are guilty because we have all sinned.
History is silent concerning what became of Barabbas. After having been set free, we don’t know if he continued along the same path of destruction or if there was a life change. We, however, having received the free gift of pardon, like Barabbas, got a second chance. But that’s where our similarities with the “son of the father” end. If we are in Christ, we celebrate this Good Friday having the assurance of eternal salvation. Barabbas may have come before the judgment seat again to be tried for his evil deeds. Yet, we have one who has once and for all served justice on our sin by becoming sin itself. We have been fully pardoned, not just for one crime, but for every crime we’ve ever committed.