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“The governor answered and said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ They said, ‘Barabbas!’
Pilate said to them, ‘What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said to him, ‘Let Him be crucified!’”
Events continued to lead on inexorably to the crucifixion. Pilate tried to avoid passing the death sentence. He probably thought that the scourging would be sufficient to pacify the Jewish leaders. It was a terrible punishment in itself. Matthew also records that Pilate’s wife came to warn him not to have anything to do with Jesus. It must have been an alarmingly vivid dream to drive her to interrupt such pressing matters being dealt with by her husband.
Then he thought of what must have seemed to him a perfectly legitimate way out of his dilemma. It was the Feast of the Passover and he always released one prisoner at this time of the year. Quickly running through in his mind the condemned men at that time, he thought of one of the worst, Barabbas. He would offer the people the choice of the terrorist or the country Preacher.
Of course, the leaders had already been working the people up to demand the death of the Lord and, to Pilate’s horror, they demanded the release of Barabbas and the death of Immanuel. Pilate was boxed in and washed his hands publicly as a futile, ineffective gesture of his innocence in sentencing Jesus to death.
And so Barabbas went free! Did he mingle with the crowd that day? Was he standing somewhere among them, looking at the scene? If so, he could rightly say to himself, “That cross in the centre there was prepared for me. I should be suffering pain and death because of my sins. That man, Jesus, is suffering and dying in my place. There is no punishment for me because Jesus has borne it as my Substitute.”
And what was true of Barabbas that day is also true for every believer. We have gone our own way rather than God’s. We have broken His law and, therefore, deserve His eternal condemnation in hell. Bu Jesus died in our place. He took our punishment. Our sins were laid on Him and He suffered, the Just for the unjust so that we could be reconciled to God. Praise God for the words of Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
One of the old hymns could almost have been written for Barabbas:
“Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
IN MY PLACE CONDEMNED HE STOOD,
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah, what a Saviour!”