It was another time, another place, but much like our world today. Rome had invaded Judaea and Jerusalem had become nearly unrecognizable. Some of the change was good. There were new roads, grand buildings, protection from a mighty army. Being the temple city of Jerusalem, it also became a huge center for trade, export and prosperity that had never been seen before. On the other hand, it meant domination once more for the Jews.
They could continue to worship the way they had, but had to be obedient to the Roman Empire. Political tensions were rising. Some of the people were satisfied with their new found wealth and success while others were sick of being held captive by this ever growing empire. It meant paying heavy taxes, the influx of new religions, following rules that were new to them. Many of the citizens lived in poverty while others basked in wealth.
Usually when there’s political unrest, it isn’t uncommon for one faction of the population to rebel. Barabbas was one of those involved in the insurrection during the time of Jesus. He was more than just a political activist however. His crimes included murder and he was imprisoned because of it. There’s no way of knowing what his reaction to this event was, but we can speculate that he was relieved to have his life spared.
It was the custom to release a prisoner during Passover and Barabbas was the one the people cried out for. A convicted murderer would be released and replaced by the sinless Son of God and Savior of the world. Barabbas deserved his punishment. His life was filled with darkness. His behavior warranted death. Still the crowd cried out for his realease.
I wonder what went through this man’s mind as he was pardoned that day. Did he have any concern for the one who die in his place? Did he come to realize what had been done for him? How do we react to the smitten Savior who took our place on the cross?
Jesus’ blood would be demanded by the people. They may not have known it, but they were in fact offering the final sacrifice to God – the Lamb without blemish that would make full atonement for the sins of all people – including Barabbas.