Give Us Barabbas!
Read Matthew 27:11-26
Who was this ‘Barabbas,” whose name so ironically translates to “son of the father”? Since some of the better known rabbis took the title of “father,” perhaps Barabbas was the son of a celebrated religious teacher. The other gospel accounts make it clear that he was no common criminal, but an insurrectionist who had committed murder in the course of his revolutionary activities (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19). Matthew says he was “a notorious prisoner,” so he was well-known in his own right.
Obviously, Pilate was trying to free Jesus (while also trying to free himself of the responsibility for any decision), but in offering the crowd the choice between freeing Barabbas or Jesus, he blundered badly. He had hoped they would prefer the innocent Messiah over the guilty murderer. But the Jewish religious leaders, as usual one step ahead of him, had baited the crowd into calling for the release of Barabbas, admittedly a murderer, but also a patriot rebel against the Roman occupiers.
So in Barabbas they chose violence over love as the proper response to enemies; they chose self-will over patient waiting on the will of God; they chose a local hero over a lowly Galilean; and they chose guilt over freedom from it.
In a story full of ironies, here is another: the kingdom Jewish zealots like Barabbas and his supporters longed for, plotted for, and even murdered for will only be restored by the one they condemned, “when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). He whom they condemn to death, will drink its dregs and destroy it, so that all who bow their knee to him in faith will be forever free of its tyranny (Revelation 21:4).