“And he (Pilate) released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he (Pilate) delivered Jesus to their will” (Luke 23:25). Verse 18 gives us the released man’s name, Barabbas. This one action of Pilate made Barabbas famous for as long as time lasts.
This man was charged with sedition (causing insurrection or resistance against the Roman government) and murder, and was cast into prison. It was a tradition that the Roman government would release a prisoner of the Jews each year at the time of the feast of unleavened bread, called the Passover (Luke 22:1; 23:17). The people wanted Barabbas released and Jesus crucified in his place. Pilate granted them their wish and released Barabbas, a seditionist and a murderer; and had Jesus crucified, the innocent Son of God.
As I was reading my morning devotion, this portion of Scripture spoke to me as never before – about every one of us being a Barabbas; in that we all were born dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), in prison (or in bondage) to the law of sin and death (Romans 3:23; 6:23a); and deserved to be eternally separated from God for our sin and rebellion to God’s law in Adam (Romans 5:12; Genesis 2:16-17).
Yet, we were released from the slave market of sin and death by the vicarious (substitutionary) and expiatory (satisfaction) death of Christ on the Cross for our sin debt (Ephesians 1:7). That is, Jesus took our place; He bore the payment for our sin and satisfied God on our behalf. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he (the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ) was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” And then in verses 10-11, Isaiah wrote:
“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin… (11) He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”
(2 Corinthians 5:21) “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
The same thing that happened for Barabbas happened for us in Christ Jesus on the Cross, in that he was delivered from prison; and so we have been delivered from the prison of sin, because of a Substitute. Paul states the Doctrine of Justification (being declared righteous in Christ) is not by the keeping of the law, but through the Atonement of Christ on the Cross as He took our place in being made an offering for sin, thereby justifying the “many” (Isaiah 53:11).
Barabbas did not deserve in his own merits to be set free, and neither did we; but it was by purpose. God purposed Salvation, Justification, Reconciliation, and Redemption in Christ as our Substitute, our Sacrifice, our Savior, our High Priest, and our King of kings. Therefore, it was by grace. (See Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Peter 1:18-20; John 1:29; 8:32, 36; Romans 3:24-25; 5:1-2; 6:18; 8:2; Galatians 3:13-14; 5:1.)
May God reveal to you today as Jonah the prophet said (Jonah 2:9), “… Salvation is of the LORD.” And as Paul said (Romans 5:8-10):
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (10) For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
May God bring you to rest your hope in the finished Work of Christ on the Cross, and bring you to see that this Redemption included you; that because He took your sin and punishment, you are now free and forgiven in Him. You have been released on the basis of your Substitute’s death, burial, and resurrection; He satisfied God on your behalf. You are free from the law of sin and death in Christ. You have been released. Confess Him and praise Him and live for Him.
Barabbas’ freedom has forever been set in history as the man that was released by the Substitution of Jesus Christ. So, the “many” (Isaiah 53:11; Romans 5:15-21) for whom Christ died on the cross, for whom He obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12); have been released (set free) forever. Their freedom is sealed in His Blood forever.
Nothing is said of Barabbas’ attitude after being set free from his bondage. But with the released children of God, their attitude is revealed in their Praise (their joy and worship), their Practice (their work of faith and their labor of love), their Persistence (their walk in His love and light, and circumspectly), their Power (to perform His commandments and to overcome sin daily), and their Perseverance (their endurance unto the end).
Their cry is, “Yes, we are free in Christ, free indeed!”