Betrayed by one of His own followers, forsaken by those closest to Him, they who had been His bosom pals for three years, Jesus stood before a mob agitated by the Temple Gang accused by false witnesses of a capital crime by Jewish Law—blasphemy.


Though warned by his wife because of a dream she had, Pilot succumbed to the demands of the mob after the mockery of a trial.  He had symbolically washed his hands of the Man, but the blood wouldn’t wash off!  He offered to release Jesus as was his custom at this time of year: one man could go free.  They could have the innocent Jesus or Barabbas, the criminal, who was guilty—of insurrection and murder!

Sitting in his prison cell waiting for his execution, we wonder what was going through Barabbas’ mind.  The clock was ticking his life away, moment by moment; crucifixion just hours ahead.  It was a terrible way to die!  I am sure the last thing he expected was a pardon, but that’s what happened.


No!  They didn’t want Jesus to go free; instead they chose Barabbas.


Barabbas, the murderer, the insurrectionist was free!  The terrible crucifixion that he was waiting for didn’t happen.  Did he know what a price was paid for his freedom?  We wonder.  Jesus went to the Place of the Skull and was nailed to a cross in Barabbas’ stead.  Did he ever acknowledge that Jesus took his place?  Would it have mattered to him?  Again, we wonder.  Should he not show gratitude for and honor the rest of his life the One who was responsible for his pardon?


“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

As far as we know, Barabbas did not become a follow of “The Way” even though the Author of it saved his life.  We feel appalled by his callousness.  Why wasn’t he grateful?


That brings us to ourselves.  You see, Barabbas was not the only person Jesus stood in for on that cross.  Each one of us—everyone!—had a “stand-in” that day.  Barabbas represented us.  It was we who should have been crucified because it was for our sins that Jesus died, not for His own; He had none.  If we feel condemnation for Barabbas who was pardoned because Jesus took his place, then we should realize that we are no better than the murderer who was set free.


It was our sins that drove the nails that impaled Jesus to the cross.  The “handwriting of ordinances” (the list of God’s broken law against us) was ripped from our prison door and nailed to His cross, but it was His Love that held Him there.  He could have called on the armies of Heaven to rescue Him and spill vengeance out on the executioners, on Pilot, the  accusing Jews and the mocking crowd.  But Love just didn’t even consider it.  He was in it for the completion of our redemption. 


“For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly…But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6, 8).


We didn’t receive a pardon like the murderer, Barabbas, did from Pilot because of the Love from the cross.  He was still guilty though he was set free.  That’s what a pardon does:  It frees the guilty one.  It doesn’t bring innocence; it just removes the penalty.  No, not a pardon, what Jesus did for us is far greater than a pardon.  He took those damning records of our sins and claimed them as His own.  When the nails that held Him to the cross pierced our records, Jesus pled guilty; it was He—who knew no sin—who was guilty, not us.


God accepted that sinless Sacrifice and declared us innocent!  Not guilty and pardoned, but He saw us with no guilt, with only the innocence of Jesus who took our sins and paid the penalty.  Since we have no guilt, in God’s eyes we don’t deserve the penalty.  Incomprehensible!  Overwhelming Love!  Amazing Grace!


It is unlikely that we will ever be called upon to die in the place of another, but we may be given a Barabbas to love.  They may be guilty and ungrateful, and we may have the opportunity to love them like Jesus does.  We can point them to the love that Jesus gave us, and then they have to accept it or reject it.

“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love” (Goethe).

We are being shaped and fashioned like Jesus to the degree that we love Him; by our proximity to Him.  The closer we are, the more we love Him; the more we love Him, the more like Him we become.


The Cross is the greatest display of Love the world has ever seen, and the empty tomb is the witness of the greatest power the world will ever know.  It’s the power of life over death, and the key is in our hand.  It’s called “Faith.”  Faith unlocks the door to the Place of Grace.

“For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).


And guess what!  It isn’t like the executive washroom key where only a select few of the elite have one; everyone can have the key.

“…God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

The problem is that some have neglected to use their key and will not know the power of the resurrection to life.  Paul had some insight into that truth and wanted to delve deeper into it.


“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).

May we be like Paul—not be satisfied with just having the key in our pocket but use it to unlock the riches of heaven made possible by the Power of the Resurrection, to know Him!

“I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE [emphasis mine],” said Jesus (John 14:6).

May we know Him--Who stood in our place!







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This article was also shared on "Pat's Web Design" at Easter, 2006

@  There's Good News April 2014

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