15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”
Barabbas was an evil man. He was an insurrectionist, one who had committed treason against Caesar and Rome. He did not want a Gentile king ruling over him so he stirred up trouble. The other gospel writers also make it clear that he was a murder. This really is not the kind of guy you want wandering in your neighborhood at night. He’s not the kind of guy you want to meet in a dark ally. And yet, he’s the guy the Jews were willing to be released among them all so they could pressure Pilate to crucify Jesus. At which they succeeded. Barabbas was released and in all reality Jesus literally took his place on his cross. Jesus was the substitute for Barabbas. The broader truth here is that you and I are Barabbas. Every crime that he committed that led to his conviction and pending execution are crimes that you and I have committed before the ruler of the universe. We hated his rule, we hated his authority, we rebelled against him, stirring up trouble through our sins, and we have murdered in our hearts against his own people. We are Barabbas and Barabbas is us, we are all one in the same. But just as Christ literally took the place of Barabbas that day on the cross, he also took our place. He died in our place for the penalty of our sins so that we might have life in him. He was crushed by the righteous wrath of God, bearing the full weight of our punishment, suffering, not just physical pain, but the pain of being forsaken by God. This is what Christ did for those who have placed their faith, trust and hope in him. Christ was our substitute, not because he was forced to do so, but because he desired to do so, he did it willingly and lovingly. So receive his grace and mercy and let that fuel your hope for today and all your tomorrows until he comes again to save those who eagerly await his return.