Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
— John 18:37-40
Who was Barabbas? His full name, Yeshua Bar Abbas, translates literally as Jesus Son of the Father. The Gospels identified Barabbas as a notorious criminal: an outlaw-hero, convicted of leading a failed rebellion against the Romans. Had the uprising succeeded, it could have been a second Maccabean Revolt. Barabbas might have become king.
Centuries earlier, the Book of Leviticus established the Day of Atonement ritual. It involves two kid goats. One was slaughtered, the other was driven into the desert, symbolically taking with it the peoples’ sins.
Jesus and Barabbas: both were named Son of the Father; both were prototypes of the long-awaited Jewish king. Barabbas was available as a substitute for crucifixion, just as the ram in the thicket did Isaac when God stopped Abraham from slaying his only son, Isaac. But God did not intercede this time. God allowed the crucifixion that made Jesus our atoning sacrifice — and Barabbas was the first beneficiary.
You and I are Barabbas, convicted and condemned in our sinfulness, yet redeemed and purged of sin through the sacrifice of the genuine Yeshua, Jesus Christ.
Lord Jesus, you are our living sacrifice; your death redeemed us of every sin, and your resurrection destroyed death as sin’s consequence. We live because you live. In your name, dear Jesus, we ask the father to never let us take for granted the miracle of your sacrifice as the source and sustenance of our redemption. Amen