“And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired ; but he delivered Jesus to their will.” — Luke 23:25

… [B]efore Barabbas, as his only prospect, indeed, was the awful death of crucifixion. He knew what that meant. Long hours of unspeakable agony; the hands and feet torn by great spikes; the wrist and shoulder joints dislocated by the dragging down of the body; each quivering nerve a separate torture through tension; a burning, unquenchable thirst; and, all around, a jeering, taunting mob. All the horizon of his life narrowed down to that. The only question was — when? Even that began to be answered. The jailors prepared three crosses. Ah! He well knew the three sockets cut in the hard rock out there at the place called Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. With the same thirst for blood that has made us seek to witness executions, he had often watched, out there, the agonies of crucified men. Was one of the three crosses for him? The very thought gave him a sense of suffocation, and of something clutching at his throat. Then he was told. Yes, he was to suffer in the morning. Two malefactors were to die with him, but he, as the greater criminal, was to have the place of eminence, was to have the middle cross. He experienced a moment of virile pride. That was true to nature. You never heard robbers boast of their greater exploits, you say; you do not associate with that kind of people. Are you sure? Have you never heard men boast of the greater acumen which enabled them to win in the game called ” business ” while others lost to them? Have you never heard a “gentleman” boast of the number of drinks which he could take unmoved? Have you never heard the same kind of “gentleman” boast of favors which meant blight and nameless infamy, the ruin of purity, the shame of homes? Sin is not a nice thing, whether in Barabbas or in us. It is low, mean, cowardly and vile, — but sinners are apt to take a strange pride in it.

The night fell — Barabbas’ last night on earth. But it was a disturbed night. Even in the prison it was perceived that something unusual was occurring. Confused noises, outcries, the tramping of feet, penetrated the thick walls. Barabbas dumbly wondered what it all meant. Perhaps it was another insurrection such as he, poor fool, raised against the majesty of inflexible law. But the night wore on, and at last it was daylight — the light of Barabbas’ last day. And now he heard footsteps, the key ground in the lock, his prison door swung open; but, just as he summoned all his brute fortitude for the awful ordeal before him, he heard the joyful words: “Go free, Barabbas! Another takes your place. Another is to die between the two malefactors!”

As Barabbas emerged into the free, glorious sunshine the crowd was already surging out toward the Place of the Skull. And then, if not before, the desire must have arisen to know who had been condemned to die in his place. One can easily imagine how Barabbas followed the throng, striving eagerly to see the man who was to die for him. Perhaps it was not until the sound of the hammer, driving the spikes into the hands and feet of Jesus, had ceased, and the cross — Barabbas’ cross — had been upreared, bearing its awful burden, that Barabbas saw the man who was dying in his place. We may well believe that, moved by that strange, irresistible drawing of which Jesus spoke when he said :

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” — John 12:32

Barabbas pressed his way through the howling mob until he stood, looking up into the face of Jesus. Barabbas knew Him, of course. His substitute in agony there was the new Teacher out of Galilee. It must have seemed a strange thing to Barabbas that Jesus, of all men, should be there on a cross. Again and again, no doubt, Barabbas had been of the throng which pressed about Jesus, and hung upon His words. Even the dead heart of the robber had been stirred by those words. Jesus did not exhort people to go to feasts, and perform religious ceremonies, but to believe in Him and to be merciful and gentle and loving.

C. I. Scofield, D. D. “BARABBAS OR CHRIST”, The New Life in Christ Jesus


We were blessed with a reading from Scofield just yesterday from the same book, but here’s his bio again. Barabbas was a terrorist, condemned to death for murder and insurrection. Scofield here plumbs the mind with some speculation of what must have been going through Barabbas’ mind the night before his execution. Barabbas contemplates the various tortures associated with this one form of capital punishment, including the slow dislocation of bones. Perhaps the convict actually feels some pride at having the greater notoriety of the central cross. Such a sad accomplishment. Then he is able to see the cost of his crimes, he is able to see the complete Substitute. Nothing he can do now to add to or subtract from the work being done before him. His only response can be to believe in Him and to be merciful and gentle and loving.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, cease the howling mobs in us which are seeking vengeance, or even an unnecessarily brutal justice. Let us pray for the bodies of those who are in prison, that you may make their minds and bodies whole. Let us feel the release of knowing we have a complete substitute, and let the work that this does in our hearts not cease until we believe in Him and attempt to be merciful and gentle and loving. AMEN.

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