Who is Barabbas?

Most of us are familiar with the story of Barabbas. We know that Pontius Pilate offered the angry mob a choice: the release of a well-known criminal or the release of a humble teacher. We also know that the crowd overwhelmingly chose the release of Barabbas and demanded the brutal execution of Jesus. However, we might miss the point of the whole story if we see Barabbas as a random criminal.

Barabbas is mentioned in all four Gospels of the New Testament, which means that he is extremely crucial to the story and meaning of Christ’s sacrifice. Barabbas was charged with insurrection in Jerusalem, robbery, and murder. He was “a notorious prisoner” (Matthew 27:16). It was also customary for a Jewish prisoner to be released before the Feast of Passover every year, which is why Pilate chose to use it as a strategy to keep himself blameless.

The meaning of Barabbas’ name is key to understanding how and what the authors of the Gospels were trying to convey to their readers. According to Hebrew Streams, Barabbas means “the son of [his] father.” They had to choose between the twisted version of man (Barabbas) and the perfect image of what man ought to be (Jesus), which made the choice spiritually-charged almost immediately because of this fact.

When we read about this story, we might be quick to point out the depravity of the world and the sinfulness of the mob. However, we fail to realize that we are talking about ourselves here. Dead in our trespasses and guilty of breaking God’s laws, we are deserving of His wrath, but a blameless sacrifice to take our place was provided by Him instead—drawing one of the most beautiful biblical parallels with the story of Abraham and his son Isaac found in Genesis 22:1-18. In this story, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac and when He saw his obedience, he provided a lamb to be sacrificed instead. Christ’s work on the cross carries the same message and the same story.

Dead in our trespasses and guilty of breaking God’s laws, we are deserving of His wrath, but a blameless sacrifice to take our place was provided by Him instead—drawing one of the most beautiful biblical parallels with the story of Abraham and his son Isaac found in Genesis 22:1-18.

Though we ought to rejoice in Christ’s resurrection, Jesus wished his followers to remember this time of sorrow. At the Last Supper, Jesus speaks of His body and blood as a sacrifice for our sins and commands us to partake in the same communion as we remember Him (Luke 22:19). The Apostle Paul eloquently elaborates on this as well by saying, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

While many indulge in colorful eggs and delicious sweets, Scripture admonishes us to proclaim His death continually, for by it we are made alive. Our hearts ought to break at the cost of our sin, yet mend with thankfulness for the power of His resurrection. The story of Barabbas illustrates this truth wonderfully. The historicity of Barabbas and the meaning of his name are important to the interpretation and understanding of the text; however, he finds his true identity in all of us. We have all sinned and broken God’s laws. We are Barabbas.

Written by Kenean (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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