Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
…But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”…Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
We sat together in the hospital waiting room so grateful to see one another, even under these circumstances. Mom was in the center of our little circle smiling as we, her grown children, bantered and teased one another. In between the light-hearted exchanges were knowing glances as we held our dad up in quiet prayer. He was missing from our circle. Dad used to promise us that he would live to be a hundred, so I never really worried about losing him as a child, but now at 86 years of age, the notion of it seemed to hover around us. Our prayers that day reached far beyond a good surgical outcome to a time when this beloved man will say “yes” to the gift of love given on Calvary…the one where God’s Son traded places with Barabbas!
Have you ever put yourself in Barabbas’ shoes? He was on death row for murder among other things. What was he thinking that day, I wonder, when all of a sudden he was yanked from his cell and placed before Pilate and a rabid crowd? Had he heard of the “other” Jesus, the one they called the Messiah? Imagine for a minute that you are Barabbas standing next to Mary’s son awaiting your fate. Go ahead. Look at Him. Feel His presence, see His eyes seeing you, the guilty one, and hear the governor ask which of you should walk free. You know who should walk free but instead you hear your name being lifted up by the people…and you, who deserve death, are set free!
Now let’s take a walk to Golgotha. Notice as we approach the three crosses silhouetted against the darkening sky and the crown of thorns that seems to distinguish the man in the middle. The scene is utterly still until the silence is pierced by a Voice that whispers, “Father, forgive them…” Stop! Oh, look up at Love as He dies for you. Lift your eyes to His and see a devotion so deep that it gives all it has…to have you.
THIS love is mighty to save and, make no mistake, trading places with you was His idea!
Yes, we are Barabbas! Most of us cannot be accused of murder and we may even feel that our lives have been “good enough” but the holy truth is that each one of us sits on death row…but for Christ! He took our place. He paid our debt and He implores each one of us to go ahead…make the trade!
“Thank You, O God, for trading places with me! Help me, Jesus, to hold this gift thoughtfully every day and offer my life back in gratitude and love. I pray You will open my dad’s eyes to this beautiful invitation…and others who need Your love. Amen.”
What about you?
Can you identify with Barabbas?
Have you ever felt the relief of being set free, declared innocent, or taken “off the hook”?
Do you feel your need for a Savior?
How does it feel to imagine looking at Christ on the cross, knowing he chose to stay there for you?
Have you received His gift of love?
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