From where he sat in a prison cell, Barabbas could not hear Pilate speak, but only the shout of the raucous crowd in the courtyard. “Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’” (Matthew 27:17). It was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by this crowd, and the crowd cried, “Barabbas” (Matthew 27:21). Barabbas, in chains, in prison, a rebel, a murderer, and a thief, heard his name shouted from the crowd. “‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” (Matthew 27:22).
Alas, all Barabbas could hear, over and over, was, “Barabbas! Barabbas! Crucify him! Crucify him!!” Imagine, then, his astonishment when he was set free. “Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26); and an innocent man was crucified on the cross of another, one who was guilty and deserved the punishment Jesus would endure.
The horror of this is I find my place in the crowd and the criminal, and it should and would have been on the cross, but, there, Jesus took my place.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. ~Isaiah 53:4-5
Replace the name of Barabbas with my own and I begin to grasp the wonder of the salvation.
My Father in heaven, I am not forsaken. I deserve to be, but You loved me by death, death on a cross. Your Son took what I deserved. He took my place and my penalty and set me free.
I show someone the smallest amount of grace and I pat myself on the back–as if I’d done something grand. You demonstrate Your love in this, that even while I sin, and keep sinning, and delight in sin, you died for me.
Now, how can I keep sinning? I must not. I must embrace righteousness because I have received grace and mercy. I am newly born, a saint. Thank You, Jesus.