You might know the name.
The religious leaders of Jerusalem wanted to have Jesus killed for what they considered blasphemy: that he, a man, would say that he was God. The problem was, the Romans had taken away from them the right to execute capital punishment. Only the Roman authorities were allowed to carry out executions now.
So the religious leaders took Jesus to the occupying Roman authorities and they accused Jesus of being a usurper who had set himself up as King of the Jews – who intended to lead the people in a rebellion against Caesar.
Pontius Pilate knew that this was a ruse, but because he was afriad of the people rioting, which would be bad for him politically, he came up with a plan that he was sure would work: he chose the worst criminal he could find, and he reminded the people of the custom of that day, which was to pardon and release one prison of the people's choosing because of the feast of Passover.
The man Pilate chose was Barabbas – a rebel and a murderer.
Pilate was sure that the people would make the obvious choice, and release the innocent man – but he was wrong.
And as the people shouted “Crucify Him” about Jesus, Pilate washed his hands before the people, emphasizing that this was not what he wanted – and then…
the chains fell from Barabbas' arms and legs. And an innocent man was led to his death, and an unquestionably guilty man walked free.
Barabbas deserved to die. But he didn't. Jesus, the innocent one, died instead. And as a result, Barabbas was forgiven – the record of his wrongs was not held against him, nor would it ever be. Barabbas was given a clean slate.
Do you know who Barabbas is? Barabbas is YOU! Barabbas is ME!
You, me – we are the rebel – the one who deserved to die, but instead, the innocent one, Jesus died in our place, and as a result, we can walk free. The chains have fallen away. He died and now we live.
With Barabbas, what is striking is the injustice of the story – that a sinful man walked free, but a man who had done no wrong was executed. That is the very nature of grace – it isn't fair. It isn't fair that Jesus would suffer and be crushed for things he didn't do.
It's not fair, it's LOVE.