Most of you have reflected on the final hours of Jesus again and again, and there’s probably little I could say that you haven’t heard before.
I suppose that’s a danger here for all of us, isn’t it?
The story can become too familiar, too common.
But it’s a story we need to hear. We need to reflect on it, absorb it, be touched by it.
As you read the beginning of Jesus’ Roman trial, slow down. Read it as if you’ve never heard it before.
Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas (Mark 15:6-15a).
There’s a lot of irony there.
Barabbas means “son of a father,” and he had committed insurrection.
Jesus was the “Son of God” and was accused of insurrection.
Barabbas, who was guilty, was released.
Jesus, who was innocent, was convicted.
I’ve often wondered why the story of Barabbas is included in the New Testament. It seems, at best, tangential to the Lord’s trial, which is the focal point.
Perhaps it was included just to show us how much some of the leaders hated Jesus.
But there’s probably a more theological reason than that.
One who was guilty was pardoned, while one who was innocent died.
Mark wanted to remind us again that this is the gospel.
The story of Barabbas took place in my life several years ago. I was guilty and deserved to be condemned, but God chose to release me.
In my place on the cross went an innocent man. He stepped in and took the mocking, beating, and execution that I deserved.
I’m Barabbas, and so are you.
I wonder if the first Barabbas hung around Jerusalem long enough to stop by Calvary and see the cross where he almost hung.
I doubt it. I’d guess he got out of Jerusalem as quickly as he could.
But you and I can’t do that. We’ve been acquitted of crimes we committed, and we need to go to Calvary and see the cross that has our name on it.
The story doesn’t ever need to get old.