During Holy Week this year, I pondered the familiar story of the most eventful week in history, those days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Hollywood could not have written a better script or assembled a more fascinating cast.
I mused about the diverse list of characters who witnessed the Easter drama that climaxed the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ:
Judas Iscariot for silver he lied,
Caiaphas, a deceptive scheme he tried,
Pontius Pilate firmly refused to decide,
And St. Peter, three times he did deny.
Simon of Cyrene, compelled to carry a cross,
Mary, shedding tears for her loss,
Joseph of Arimethea, a grave he gave,
And an unnamed Centurion who began to rave.
One criminal taunted Jesus to save,
Jesus Himself, who rose from the grave,
The other criminal asked “to remember me,”
And Mary Magdalene, an empty tomb found she.
So what does this mean for Barabbas and me?
Two simple men, sinners are we.
That God’s blessings and grace He freely gives
And because of one special Sunday morning, He lives.
Each of these Passion Week players had a story of their own and each was transformed by the events of that miraculous week in Jerusalem. But, none more so than a man named Barabbas. Barabbas woke up that Good Friday morning not realizing how good a day it was going to be. Expecting to be tortured and crucified, he was dragged out of his cell, placed in front of the Roman Governor, beside a popular rabbi named Jesus. Then Barabbas heard the crowd demanding he be released instead of the holy man on trial beside him.
Can any of us imagine the sense of deliverance he must have felt?
No one knows what Barabbas did once he was freed. Was he humbled by his good fortune and fell on his knees before God in gratitude for his life? We all respond differently to the grace poured out upon us. One wonders how Barabbas responded.
I learned this week that his full name, as mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, is Jesus Barabbas. And I also discovered I have been pronouncing his name wrong all my life. Movies have taught us to call him Ba-rab-us. His name, however, is a compound name of Bar and Abbas, Bar meaning “Son of” and Abbas meaning “Father.” Properly pronounced, it sounds more like Bar-Abbas. Did you catch the irony herein? The irony being Jesus Barabbas was a criminal whose name literally means “Jesus, son of the Father” who is set free, while Jesus, THE Son of THE Father, dies in his place.
It occurred to me that I am just like Barabbas, a sinner deserving of death. Yet, Jesus the Christ died for him. Jesus Christ died for me. Barabbas went free because of Jesus Christ. “And who the Son sets free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Barabbas and me — we have more in common than I ever realized.
“Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6). (NAB)
Happy Easter, Everyone.
Note: Artwork in picture created by Steven Larson