During the feast the governor was accustomed to release one prisoner to the crowd, whomever they wanted. 16 At that time they had in custody a notorious prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. 17 So after they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ?” 18 (For he knew that they had handed him over because of envy.) 19 As he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent a message to him: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man; I have suffered greatly as a result of a dream about him today.”20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed.21 The governor asked them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas!” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?” They all said, “Crucify him!” 23 He asked, “Why? What wrong has he done?” But they shouted more insistently, “Crucify him!”
Every year I read this story, but this is the first time that I recognized Barabbas was named Jesus Barabbas. Upon researching his name, “Barabbas”, it literally means, “Son of the father”. Two men with identical names but completely different natures. One Jesus was the Holy son of God while the other Jesus was a criminal – a thief and a murderer.
The people were given a choice – which Jesus would they choose? They chose the counterfeit Jesus. The one who was a sinner just like them. The one who did not make them uncomfortable in their sins. They did not choose the unpopular Jesus – the only Jesus that could truly set THEM free. By setting the sinner free, they were enslaving themselves, and blind to the consequences of their choice.
I wonder if the irony was seen by any of them at the time. When they said, “let His blood be upon us and our children”, indeed it is only Jesus’ blood which could cover them. They thought they could handle the judgment and responsibility for crucifying God. They did not know that they were the very tool used by God to shed His innocent blood, which would indeed set all people free Who could see Who this Jesus really was.
Pilate was given a choice. He claimed innocence, but did he choose Jesus? Knowledge of Him is not enough. People in the time of Christ were given a choice, too. So are we. False Christs abound today. They might not be clothed in garb that is easily recognizable, but comforts and idols abound, which are often chosen over the One true Savior, Jesus Christ.
Christ suffered as a criminal for us all. What will be our choice? To be identified with Him, to know of Him, or to deny Him? We do not have to have lived at that time of Jesus to make that choice. He is alive and drawing us near to Himself. He fulfilled the righteous demands of God’s law and suffered cruelly in our place. He died for you and I, friend. That is the Savior I choose. Happy Easter!
Lord, open our eyes to see that You are the only Savior of all mankind. May we choose You over and over again in the daily mundanity of life and never cease to wonder at how magnificent Your salvation is!