“Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner…” v. 6
“So I get to be the carrot on the stick, eh?” Barabbas knew what this game was all about. He had seen it every year. “He stands there on his perch above those groveling puppies and tosses them a bone from the dungeon to keep them quiet.” The prisoner stabbed the guards a thousand times with his eyes while they walked him out of that rat hole. He had to shield his eyes from the first sun he’d seen in days. The muffle of the gathering crowds blasted away a month of silence from his consciousness. “Look at them, like a bunch of hungry chickens at feeding time. Pathetic fools.”
Three men stood together waiting for a decision to be made. “Why don’t they just dispense with the formalities and get this over with?” He snarled. Hate filled him to overflowing and poured out in all directions. It washed over the crowd of puppets below, who would say or do anything to keep the breadcrumbs coming off the table. “If they put up with this Pilate, they deserve him!” Then it washed over the soldiers. “Prancing around with swords and spears spouting off about strength and honor. Cowards in armor, they are.” Then it splashed onto the religious leaders, buzzing in and out of the crowds like bees. “The only god they have is jingling in their purses.” But the tidal wave of his hostility crashed on the head of Pilate. “Our benevolent Governor, Pilate, one of Rome’s finest! Ha!” Barabbas greatest ambition was to “be the one who plunged the first dagger into that man’s pompous flesh, and rip open that sack of dung he calls a heart!” Then he glared across the pavement, just to the left of the Governor. “Who is that poor sap? Looks like the good governor can’t decide which carrot to throw”
Barabbas took a break from the circus around him to “study the competition.” Just to the left of the governor stood Yeshua of Nazareth. “What have we here?” he thought to himself. Yeshua stood quietly, hands and feet bound in the same fashion as Barabbas. His face was slightly swollen, blackish red fist prints decorated his cheek bones. Blood crept out the corner of one eyebrow, mingling with sweat and grime and traced the outside of his temple. “Looks like his troubles have just begun.” Barabbas thought to himself. Looking a little closer he began to recognize the man behind the blood and bruises. He heard someone say, “The Rabbi from Nazareth.” Barabbas had seen this man before. “I’m a dead man for sure.” He told himself. “There’s no way they’ll pick me over this one.”
Barabbas never was much for religion, or religious people. To him it was no less a game than politics. “It’s all to keep people in line!” He often said. He saw through the fake prayers of money hungry Pharisees. It was no different than Pilate’s pompous crowd pleasing prisoner releases and pompous speeches. The right words, the right motions can make people do whatever you want. But still he admired this Yeshua. Barabbas had heard him teach before being arrested. This rabbi seemed to at least believe his own words, unlike the others who used God to get people to follow them. “If there is a God, this guy knows him!” Yeshua seemed of a different stripe than the rest. Standing there, He looked more like a King, even a god, than a criminal. There was a serene sadness about him. What struck Barabbas the most was that this Yeshua seemed to be the only person in this whole circus who wasn’t thinking about himself.
“This is it.” He thought. “No way they’ll pick me.” He looked down at the religious leaders, as they milled about the crowds. He could tell they were doing what they did best. They were working the crowds to sway them. “I’m sunk now.” He thought. Surely they were out to save the good man on the left. “Even religious people know the difference between good and evil, don’t they? They’ll surely pick one of their own to save.”
Silence fell beneath the Governor’s outstretched hand. “Who shall I release to you? The King of the Jews? or this murderer.” Barabbas could feel his whole life crashing down on his shoulders. He knew this was it. Once the leaders got the crowds on their side, they would save their King, and Barabbas would be killed. “This is one decision they’ll get right for a change.” Barabbas thought. He knew he was guilty, and this Yeshua had been clearly set up by someone who wanted him dead. No sense in hoping for mercy, he knew his fate was sealed.
In the next few seconds the crowds would be calling for Yeshua, then they would crucify Barabbas. “God, if you’re out there, I’m not asking you to get me out of this. Just….Oh what’s the use!” He hung his head and waited for the verdict. “How could I expect God to let this innocent man die in my place? Such a thing would be unthinkable.” What kind of God would let a completely innocent man shed his blood in the place of a clearly evil man? What kind of God would allow such a ridiculous turnaround of justice?
Then the chanting started…
Hours later, Barabbas sat on a lonely boulder staring at three crosses in the distance. All he could do was let it all wash over him. Was he a lucky fool in a display of religious stupidity, or had God just done the unthinkable? Was it dumb luck or something more? Had he merely escaped death or had something more profound just taken place?
Was Yeshua a poor idealist, or did he look like a king for a reason? “If he was a king, I’d sure like to live in his country. He would be a king worth following.” Barabbas snickered at himself for such silly thoughts, got up from the rock and started walking, not sure where road would take him. He simply knew his life would be a bit different now, though he wasn’t sure how.