In Matthew 26:16-26, the character Barabbas is a living allegory of our spiritual condition, and of what Jesus did for us in His substitutionary death:
— Barabbas was “a notorious prisoner” (:16) He deserved to die for his crimes.
— Jesus on the other hand, was absolutely innocent (:23) “Why, what evil has he done?” Pilate cried, after much examination.
— Yet Jesus was taken in Barabbas’ place: the innocent suffered in the place of the guilty (:26) “Then he released Barabbas, but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.”
How poignant that even as He approached His impending death, Jesus lived out a picture of what He was doing for us. We, like Barabbas, are absolutely guilty and deserving of God’s wrath because of our sin and rebellion against Him. Jesus, on th other hand, was totally innocent, the perfect Son of the Father, “without sin” (Heb. 4). And yet in God’s redemption plan, HE was taken in our place. In a very real sense, we are the “Barabbas” in this story!
One might wonder: did Barabbas really appreciate what had happened? Did he ponder that he, a “notorious” sinner, went free, while Jesus took the punishment that should have been his? Or did he just “thank his lucky stars” and go his own way unchanged — living the same rebellious life, perhaps to be arrested and punished again? How insensitive and ungrateful that would have been! But more pertinent for us is: do WE appreciate what Jesus did for us? Do we realize how we deserved condemnation, and that we have been spared by Jesus’ substitution for us? And have we altered our lives in gratitude for the great mercy we have received? Do we realize that this story is our story; that we are Barabbas?