Last week, I wrote a blog called Who Are You? Really? I discussed the fact that it depends on who you listen to that sometimes identifies who you are. If you’d like to read it you can do so here. Who we believe we are will determine how we live our lives. Either we will live confidently or we will walk in fear. We will live securely, knowing who we are, or will will live insecurely, listening to others dictate who we are. Listen, I know, our self identity is a daily battle because there are so many voices screaming at us daily influencing how we think of ourselves. Family, friends, co workers, circumstances, etc… all play a part in determining what we think of ourselves. But as Christians, we must listen to the voice that constantly tells us we are the loved children of God and we are highly valued in His eyes. It’s a discipline that we must practice as often as possible.
So for the next few weeks, I will be looking at several biblical characters to help us see who we are. Those characters represent us well and if we put our names in place of their names, it becomes much more personal which I believe is God’s intention anyway. You probably have someone that you can think of that you feel you relate to. Mention the name of Peter and many people will identify with him because of his tempestuous personality. So today, we will look at a character that I have always felt a close kinship with and I will explain why.
Barabbas- Just by knowing the meaning of his name, one has to feel sympathy towards Barabbas. In the Greek translation, the word Bar means son of. Abba means father. Barabbas was the son of a father. Any other time that the word Bar is used, there would be a name attached to it. For example, Simon Barjonah would be Simon, the son of Jonah. But for Barabbas, he was the son of a nameless father. Perhaps he didn’t know who his father was. Regardless, it is evident that his father was not in the picture. Typically boys who don’t have a father figure in their life will have a future that is bleak. Maybe this was why Barabbas was where he was in this story.
All four gospels give a present day account of this man’s life. We don’t know anything about Barabbas’ past but we do know where he is in the story. He’s in jail. Mark and Luke both state that he was a murderer. Matthew only calls him a notorious prisoner which means he was not anyone that you would want your children hanging around with. Barabbas was known to be a revolutionary type of character. The description of his life probably had a lot to do with where he is in the story, behind bars awaiting execution.
I’m so thankful I had a father who loved me and took time to spend with me. He was hard working and enjoyed time with our family. Had he not been in my life, God only knows where I may be today. Even with good parents, I still had my share of trouble as a child. Nothing notorious mind you. Just typical teenage, drive my parents crazy kind of stuff. Even got taken to jail once but got to go home. I was raised well but still did stupid things. I was a sinner just like Barabbas. I just never got caught nor ended up my life as a prisoner.
But I am Barabbas. Before discovering the love God has for me through His Son, Jesus, I was no different from Barabbas. I was in a prison of my own making, maybe not behind bars, but still, just as lost as Barabbas. And just like him, I really had nothing to look forward to but death. Hell is a place of our own choosing. God doesn’t send anyone there by His choice. If you don’t want a relationship with God while you’re alive on earth, why would you want one after you die? The bible describes Hell as a horrific place where there is no more hope for tomorrow. You’re stuck; this is it, no more chances.
That’s what Barabbas was thinking on that particular day. He knew what was coming and there was nothing he could do about it. Hell on earth and Hell for eternity. That’s what he thought anyway. But on that day, mercy stepped in and called his name.
While Barabbas sat in prison, Jerusalem was celebrating the holiday of Passover. One of the customs of Passover was for the governor, Pilate, to release someone from prison. Jesus had been on trial before Pilate and Pilate had found no cause to execute him. He had never done anything wrong according to the law but the people felt that Jesus was disrupting the status quo and they wanted Him gone. They began to shout, “Crucify him, crucify him”, even though there was no reason to do so. We think our world is crazy today but it was just as crazy then it seems. Here is this innocent man but the people wanted to execute him. Pilate was thoroughly confused. If he doesn’t go along with the wishes of the crowd, he will have a riot on his hands. So he pulls the custom card. “Whom do you want me to release for you, Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?” (Mt 27:17) Of course they answered Barabbas.
I am Barabbas. I didn’t know it, but I too, would experience mercy in my life. Barabbas heard the guard walking toward his cell. “This is it”, he must have thought. He was about to be led to his execution. Instead he hears the words, “You have been released. You are free to go.” And just like that, it was as if the slate had been wiped clean in his life. I can’t imagine the feeling Barabbas must have had that day. He thought he would die but instead was told that he would live. We don’t know what he did with the rest of his life but I can only hope that he remembered what Jesus did for him that day. I am Barabbas.
Mercy called my name as well. Mercy is not getting what you deserve to get. I deserved death because I was a sinner. But I heard the voice too, “You have been released. You are free to go.” I didn’t do anything to deserve my freedom but that’s the point! Just as Jesus took the place of Barabbas, He took my place too. I had nothing to look forward to but death but instead I’ve been given life! I am Barabbas and I will never forget what Jesus did for me.
You are Barabbas as well. You’re either sitting in prison awaiting death or you’ve accepted your freedom and been released. Either way, we are all Barabbas. If you are in prison, the price has been paid. Freedom is offered but you must walk out the door. If you are free, give thanks to God and live your life in freedom. May we never forget the mercy that was shown to us and may we show that same mercy to others.
These are my thoughts. If you have other biblical characters that you would like me to write about, please let me know.