M.I. Scarrott, Christian Author
Barabbas or Christ!

On Sunday, Christians all over the world will celebrate Easter, which commemorates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who purchased our redemption.

Our reconciliation to God through the blood of Jesus Christ was effected more than two thousand years ago on an old rugged cross. Christ's sacrificial work is finished; He declared it so from the cross. And His resurrection from death to new life is proof that we, too, can live again if we put our faith in Him.

John 19:30
30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.  KJV

His great act of love procured eternal life for all those who would, in faith, believe in His substitutionary act. And today, as we contemplate these historical events, my thoughts are focused on one man in particular. The man who experienced immediate deliverance from death because of Christ: Barabbas.

Barabbas was a man we don't often consider, and his name isn't often mentioned until Easter when we recall the Passion of Christ. It is then that we are reminded that Barabbas was a murderer sentenced to death. His life was only spared because the people of Jerusalem chose him, rather than Jesus, to be set free on the feast of Passover.

Mark 15:15
15 And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified. KJV

When reading through the gospel accounts of the Lord's trial and subsequent death, the writers use a variety of terms to describe Barabbas.

 Mark 15:7
7 And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. KJV


Matthew 27:16
16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. KJV


Luke 23:18-19
18 And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: 19 (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) KJV


John 18:40
40 Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. KJV

Barabbas was identified as an insurrectionist, a murderer, a notable prisoner; he was also seditious, and a robber. The litany of adjectives used to describe him portrays him as a very grievous sinner.

And since this writer does not believe in coincidence, I am forced to contemplate the reason(s) why the God of the universe chose to substitute the life of this particular man, justly condemned to death, with the life of His own sinless Son, Jesus Christ.

Barabbas was an indicted criminal; he had been prosecuted under Roman law and was awaiting execution. The fact that Christ became his substitution is immense. But to truly understand the importance of the events that occurred that day, we must understand the Jewish sacrificial system. When we do, we will better understand why John called Jesus,

John 1:29
29"...Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." KJV

The Jewish Passover is a feast of celebration. Jewish families recall their deliverance from captivity in Egypt by God. Those who obeyed His instructions to Moses, to kill a lamb and place its blood on their doorposts, were delivered from death when the angel of death passed through the land and killed all of Egypt's firstborn. Those homes where the blood of a lamb had been applied were "passed over"; but the first born of Egypt was destroyed.

Exodus 12:5-7; 12-13
5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:

6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.

12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord .

13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. KJV

The Jewish sacrificial system ordained by God was meant to teach the idea of substitution. The sacrificial death of animals had no intrinsic value in purging sin; they were meant to act as a shadow. They pointed to the time when the perfect sacrifice of the sinless Son of God would take place, and effect a permanent cleansing from the stain of sin. And those who "apply the blood" of the sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, to the doorposts of their hearts will be "passed over" from eternal death to eternal life.

So why did God choose Barabbas? Isn't it interesting that his name (Bar-abba) literally means "son of the father." Jesus Christ is, was and always will be "The Son of the Father."

In comparing these two men, we find:

Barabbas was guilty of the offenses he was imprisoned for. Jesus Christ was innocent; even Pilate declared Him innocent.

Luke 23:4
4 Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. KJV

Barabbas's offenses deserved the death penalty; those guilty of death cannot not purchase their freedom. Jesus Christ was/is perfect; He was/is sinless. He alone could atone for/purchase the life of Barabbas.

God is holy and just; therefore, He could not simply free Barabbas. Justice demands payment for sin; it demands the death of the sinner. Therefore, Jesus had to die in place of Barabbas for him to be legally freed from his sentence of death.

Jesus Christ voluntarily laid down His life as a substitute, not only for Barabbas, but for all men and women. The substitution of Christ for Barabbas meant that Barabbas would receive the rights and privileges of Christ; while Christ would receive the sentence of death imposed on Barabbas. Jesus Christ went to the cross; and Barabbas went free!

God chose a terrible sinner like Barabbas to show us all that no matter how bad the criminal, no matter how grievous one's sin, anyone can be redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. And the opposite is true as well; no matter how good a man believes he is, he is still imperfect and guilty of sin, and therefore stands condemned before a holy and just God.

Another point to contemplate is that while Barabbas experienced the goodness of God in his release from prison and certain death physically, we do not know if he experienced the grace of God in having his sins washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, who died to set him free eternally.

Each man must choose for himself to either "apply the blood" of Christ to his sinful heart and receive redemption; or simply walk away and face the justice of a holy God.


John 3:16
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. KJV

John 11:25-26
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? KJV