“You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” (Luke 23:14-16)
It is then that you realize that this other prisoner is Jesus of Nazareth. You have heard enough about the man to know who He is. You can't help but notice the irony in the situation. Jesus has been falsely accused of the very thing you are guilty of, involvement in rebellion against Rome. Just then the whole crowd, having been churned up by the religious leaders cries out as with one voice.
“Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Luke 23:18)A sudden swell of hope rises up inside of you. Never did you think the religious leaders would be lobbying on behalf of a man like you! Could it be possible that you would be released today in keeping with the governor's tradition during the feast? The governor continues making appeals on Jesus' behalf, but the mob begins to shout.
“Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21)The governor quiets the crowd and appeals for a third time.
“Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” (Luke 23:22)But the crowd responds with even more insistent shouting. It could actually happen, you think. I could be set free! The governor knows that he cannot allow a riot so he gives in to their demand. He orders your release. A guard comes over and removes your shackles pushing you toward the stairs that will lead you down into the crowd. He then shuffles over to Jesus and leads Him away to be crucified.
We don't know how the historical Barabbas responded to the great gift he had received. Did he grow to love and appreciate the man who had died in his place? Did this encounter change him in any way? We don't know. But maybe the question I should be asking is how will you respond?
The truth is that you are Barabbas, and so am I. We are guilty; Jesus is innocent. He died the death that our sin deserved while we go free. The crowd likes us better because our guilt makes them feel comfortable, better about themselves even. The world applauds and cheers for us as long we continue in our sin; but it hates Jesus. His innocence and the truth He speaks shine a light on their own guilt. The guilt they are so desperately trying to cover up. They cannot tolerate his blinding righteousness any longer. He must die to assuage their consciences.
So how will you respond to Jesus' death on your behalf? Will you continue living for yourself? Will you live for the cheers of the crowd? Do you realize how great a pardon you have received? Will you call Jesus Lord? Will you live for Him?
Never forget that you are guilty. Never forget that you are forgiven. These two truths must be ever before the minds of Christians.