The Bible doesn’t say much about Barabbas. All we know is that he was a prisoner of the Romans, most likely arrested for taking place in an “insurrection” against the government, possibly committing murder in the process. On the surface, it appears Barabbas was at the right place at the right time. The Judean governor, Pontius Pilate, exercised a Passover custom of commuting one prisoner’s death sentence at the request of the Jewish people. It would appear that Pilate was actually trying to manipulate the people into allowing him to release Jesus, since the governor was not convinced of the Lord’s culpability. “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed” (Matthew 27:20).
Some scholars believe that Barabbas was part of a very active revolt, and he must have had followers in the crowd to speak up on his behalf. Curiously, Barabbas means “son of the father,” and in older versions of the Bible, Barabbas’ first name is recorded as “Jesus,” a common Jewish name in that time. But the fact that both men were called, in essence, “Jesus, son of the father,” does not close the gap between their vastly different personalities.
I have always wondered if Barabbas had any idea Who had just taken the fall for him. After his release, did Barabbas skip town and lay low, reveling in his good fortune to be the one commuted prisoner for that year’s Passover? Or did he, as some academics believe, follow Jesus the true Son of God to Calvary and watch Him hang from the cross? I’d like to believe that Barabbas was transformed following his timely pardon and release, that he—like us—had a total change of heart and accepted Jesus as the Divine Man He was. In my ending of the story, Barabbas would have been given yet another chance: to fall at the feet of the Master, confess his sin, and be washed in the cleansing blood of the Man on that cross.
Redeeming Lord, You are the Lamb sacrificed for all of our sins, once for all. And one day, ever knee will bow and every tongue confess that You alone are Lord. Amen