To hear it makes our blood boil: A guilty man goes free, and an innocent man is condemned instead. For most of us, this will be the only association we ever have with the name Barabbas.
Barabbas was a prisoner with Jesus. Barabbas was a notorious prisoner who had been imprisoned for insurrection and murder some time before Jesus’ arrest (Matthew 27:16; Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19; John 18:40). We don’t know anything about the insurrection, nor do we know what happened to Barabbas after his release.
The only other thing we know about Barabbas is that this guilty man, for no reason other than the will of God carried out by Pontius Pilate, was released and set free, and Jesus, an innocent man, was condemned and executed instead. It all happened as part of Pilate’s usual custom of releasing a prisoner chosen by the crowd during Passover (Matthew 27:15; Mark 15:6; John 18:39), and this time the religious leaders succeeded in stirring up the crowd to choose Barabbas instead of Jesus.
It is completely right to be angry when we hear of such injustice being committed against Jesus, an innocent man. Yet if we reflect on our own salvation, every believer has stood precisely in Barabbas’s place. We, being undeniably guilty in our sins, have been released from our death sentence for no reason of our own—it is simply by the gracious will of God—and Jesus has been condemned and executed in our place.
From now on, when you hear the name Barabbas, praise God for the immeasurable grace He has shown every believer, and thank Him that you—though underserving— have been set free to serve Him.