I think that our natural tendency is to distance ourselves from Barabbas. He was a murderer and a revolutionary, somebody that we probably wouldn’t associate with. Sometimes we use some choice phrases when someone cuts us off in traffic, but that’s hardly murder, right? Our actions couldn’t be as serious as someone like Barabbas, could they? If we take a closer look at the words of Jesus and the position that Barabbas was in, we might get a surprising answer. Matthew 5:21-22 paints a sobering picture, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” Here we are shown that the Lord cares deeply about the positions of our heart and that even a position of anger is like murder to our Lord. If we look also at the situation that Barabbas was in, we can see that he was in the same position that we all are before we come to faith. We, like Barabbas, are all sinners in need of Jesus to be killed instead of us. This story paints a picture of what it means to be saved by Christ.
As you think about this truth, ask yourself some questions that help to put you in the shoes of Barabbas. What would be going through your mind if Jesus literally took your place on death row? What happens in your heart if you imagine yourself hearing the echoing screams of the crowd bouncing down the stone corridor and into your prison cell? What is a ‘right’ response to the realization that another person took your place for the punishment you deserve?