“Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them.” Mark 15:6-8 ESV
“And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas.” Mark 15:7 ESV Click To TweetIf we could hear Jerusalem then, our ears would ring with voices. Greetings in the streets, shoppers vying for wares, children’s playful song, and angry political debates mixed together. We would hear a cacophony of chaos as part of Passover celebration.
If we could see it, our eyes would be filled with color, red, blue, purples, oranges and yellows, a kaleidoscope of movement against drab clay. People robed for the festivities, intent on Passover preparation.
If we could feel that day, anticipation and apprehension would mingle with underlying tension, like a timetable cresting. Almost tangible, it would surround us and we would wonder at the touch of unseen forces.
April 5, at sunset, marks the beginning of 2023’s Passover. Hundreds of years later, it is still one of the busiest times in Israel, an intregal part of Jewish faith and celebration. Passover marks the Biblical account of God’s historical victory over His people’s enslavement under Egyptian rule.
It harkens back to a night, when the Angel of death spared every household who marked their doorposts with the blood of an unblemished lamb. Death visited every firstborn not painted with the sacrificial blood. Not an unmarked house remained which escaped death.
If we could have heard that night, our ears would have filled with anguished cries, wails of despair and loss. If our eyes could have seen through the thick night blackness, scenes of pain would have engulfed us. If we could have felt it, surely fear and awe would have branded themselves forever onto our hearts and memories.
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:12-13 ESV
Did the breath of Death as it passed outside their doors move them to humble gratitude? Could they not see the significance of their salvation and of God’s mercy? Did it transform hearts from form to faith?
The Hebrew name, “Pesach,” means to pass over. This was the Lord’s Passover. It pointed ahead to another Lamb who would be sacrificed. Unblemished. Pure.
Many years later, Jesus stood before Pilate. Behind the scenes political machines and hypocritical religious factions maneuvered to convict an innocent Man. Legally powerless under Roman authority, the Jewish leaders sought to charge Jesus with challenging Caesar’s rule.
“Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked.
“You have said so,” Jesus said. But to the chief priests accusations, Jesus made no response.
Bruised and bleeding, spat upon and scourged, Christ stood before Pilate. Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate knew the Jewish Sanhedrin and high priest brought Jesus to trial out of envy. Justice had little to do with it.
Barabbas, another prisoner who had risen to some popularity, was well known among the people. He committed insurrection, robbery and murder. Passover custom allowed release of a prisoner during the festival, a sort of pass-over from conviction and chains to freedom.
“Which of the two do you want me to release?” the governor asked.
Meanwhile, an undertow stirred by the chief priests and elders, incited the mob to ask freedom for Barabbas and death for Jesus. Just days before, multitudes shouted “Hosanna to the King,” now they chanted, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him.”
And Pilate wanted to please the people.
God works behind the scenes. Things are never as they seem because King Jesus rules.
What happened to Barabbas? Nothing more is mentioned in the Bible. We are left to wonder how that exchange affected his life. One justly-deserved sentence was passed over to be placed unjustly onto another. Jesus willingly and faultlessly bore it.
Like both the Israelites behind blood stained doors and the thief Barabbas, we also deserve judgement. Jesus, sinless perfect Lamb, paid sin’s debt with His blood.
- “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Romans 5:8-9 NKJV
- “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians. 1:7 ESV
We have a lot to celebrate during this season.
“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” 1 Corinthians 5:7b ESV“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” 1 Corinthians 5:7b ESV Click To Tweet