7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas…15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. – Mark 15:6-15
There are so many facets to the crucifixion story. Betrayal with a kiss, six trials, mocking, beating, whipping, a crown of thorns, sour wine, a passerby conscripted to carry Christ’s cross, crucified with thieves, a sign identifying him as “King of the Jews,” and that’s just some of the details. Another strange detail in the story is the whole Barabbas account. It’s just odd, right?
On the surface, the people would rather a murderer, thief, and rabble-rouser go free than this man Jesus, who makes claims that only God can make and who does the miracles to back them up. However, there is something much more beautiful going on.
It begins with the name Barabbas. What does it mean? Well, when you see names in the Scriptures with “Bar” attached or in front of it, the “Bar” means “son of.” So, we’re left with “abbas,” which might sound familiar, as in “Abba, Father” (Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6). Yes, Barabbas’ name means “Son of the Father.” How on earth could this thieving, murderous insurrectionist be named “Son of the Father?” I wonder if his father disowned him.
But picture the scene. Barabbas commits the crime Jesus is accused of. He actually commits insurrection, which is trying to overthrow the government. Jesus is convicted of insurrection, as a rival king is a threat against Caesar (John 19:12). Jesus, though innocent, pays the price for Barabbas’ crime, and Barabbas (Son of the Father) goes free, with no record and no condemnation.
I hope you can see the picture. We are all Barabbas! Jesus, though innocent, pays the price and is convicted by God for all of our sins, every one of them the crime insurrection against God Himself. We, though guilty go FREE, with no record and no CONDEMNATION and we are Called SONS and Daughters of the FATHER (Romans 8:1-17).
I’m an adopted Insurrectionist! And so are you if you are in Christ!
For more on what is going on with Barabbas, keep reading below the video.
Barabbas, An Old Testament Picture
Rather than a completely random set of events, the release of Barabbas relates very much to something in Judaism. In Leviticus Chapter 16 we are told of the Day of Atonement. This sacred day in the Jewish Calendar is the only time of the year when the High Priest can go in past the curtain/veil into the Holy of Holies and make atonement for the unintentional sins of Israel.
The process is involved, but relevant to our story today is that the High Priest is to take two goats and a bull on the Day of Atonement. He sacrifices the bull to make atonement for his own sins before making atonement for the sins of the people. Lots are then cast for the goats. One goat will be a sacrifice and his blood will be spread over the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant, to make atonement for the sins of Israel.
But what about the other goat, what’s he for? That is where imputation comes in. The High Priest lays his hands on this other goat and symbolically places all the sins of the people on this goat’s head. This goat is then led out of the city, to take the sins far away from Israel. This is where we get the concept of a scapegoat who takes the blame for someone else. Interestingly, a Jewish man told me they would follow the goat out of the city and drop a stone on it, so it doesn’t bring the sins of the people back to them. Poor goat, thought he got away free and clear!
So, back to our story of Barabbas. Jesus and Barabbas stand there before the people and leaders. One man goes free, the other is sacrificed for sins. But you notice the difference with the ritual, right? Who gets the sins of the people imputed to him? Jesus fulfills the roles of both goats as our pure and righteous atonement. All of our sins are imputed to Christ (1 Peter 2:24). He then is the sacrifice for our sins, making atonement for us (1 John 4:10). And Barabbas goes free with no record and no condemnation (see above analysis of this).
Did you also notice there is nothing representing the sacrifice of the bull for the High Priest’s sins? The Book of Hebrews tells us that Christ is a better High Priest than those in the Old Testament because he doesn’t have to make sacrifices for himself, since he is sinless, and he enters into the Holy of Holies by his own blood and sacrifice to make atonement for us once for all (Hebrews 7:27, 9:7,12).
Since our sins are imputed to Christ, we go away free and with no condemnation! And we have access to God as our Father through His Son, Jesus Christ!
What do we do with this marvelous news?
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -Hebrews 10:19-25