Picture this. You have committed some horrible crime. You are captured and sentenced to cruel and painful death. You sit in your cell in chains, awaiting your time to die. Then a guard comes up to you and releases your chains. Someone you don't know volunteered to take your place. He isn't guilty of anything; He just doesn't want to see you suffer.
COOL DUDE, am I right?
This story sounds a bit familiar....
Flashback to the Trial Before Pilate (John 18-19; Mark 15). Jesus is standing before a mocking crowd, awaiting His sentence. Beside Him is this murderer, a leader of a rebellion named Barabbas. He faces crucifixion just like Jesus. But unlike Jesus, he is a rightful prisoner.
Now because it's Passover, a Jewish Holy Day, Pilate is expected to release a prisoner. So he calls out to the crowd, "Who do you want?" He asks them, "Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?"
"Not this one but Barabbas!" they scream in response.
"And what shall we do with this one?" Pilate asks.
Barabbas, the murderer, walks free. Jesus, the Savior, is tortured and crucified.
It doesn't seem fair, right? I don't know about you, but my initial reaction is anger. How dare Barabbas walk free. That's not right. If anyone had to die, it should have been him. HE was the murderer. He was the criminal. He sinned. What did Jesus ever do wrong?
But dear readers, let me share with you something that blew my mind. (All credit to Mark Hart on this one).
The name Barabbas...Let's break it apart. "Bar" means "son of." And "Abbas" refers to God. So Barabbas literally means son of God. Barabbas isn't just some random thug. He is a son of God.....Just like us.
That's right. Barabbas represents the human race, the children of God.
I AM BARABBAS.
I am a sinner. I am the thug. If anyone deserved to die on a cross, it would be me NOT Jesus.
Thankfully, God isn't as quick to judge as we are. He doesn't look at Barabbas (us) and say "Hmm my Son is perfect and you are a nasty criminal, so here's a death sentence."
The thing is, we deserve the punishment, but God's not going to let that happen. He loves us too much to let us take that punishment, so He takes His very own Son, perfect and holy, and offers Him up.
Jesus takes our place on that cross. The man who least deserves to endure such suffering volunteers to step up for us. He says nothing as Barabbas' name is shouted from the crowds. He does nothing as He is crucified.
"The real miracle in the Passion is that there was no miracle." Jesus could have jumped off that cross and wiped out everyone within sight. He could have healed Himself and gone on living a great life. But instead, He accepted the Father's cup and drank the grave so that we would never have to, so that we could have a Savior who understood every form of suffering we could endure.
I am Barabbas. We all are. We don't deserve this life. We don't deserve a Savior like Jesus, a Savior who is willing to step in front of the bullet for us. But because we are the "sons of God," because of Jesus' passionate love for us, He takes that bullet. He accepts the pain, the suffering, and rejection we toss in His face.
God knows we are sinners, but He knows that, as His children, we possess inherent worth. He WANTS us to go free. Even if we keep on sinning, even if we never even thank Him for the sacrifice, He wants us free. THIS is the beauty of grace: we are flawed human beings. We mess up time and time again. We spit on God. We mock Him. We break all of His commandments. We ignore His love....AND STILL, He loves us. STILL He wants our happiness so much that He is willing to endure a horrible death so we don't have to.
This reminds me of a verse from an amazing song, "Dead Come Alive" (featuring the best rap I have ever heard):
This enemy is too much for me
And this flesh and world is triple teaming me
It seems to be the very end
I scream "PLEASE OH PLEASE PASS THIS CUP FROM ME."
But the thing is, it DID pass.
And it passes EVERY DAY.
He took my cup from me and gracefully drank the grave.
Take a moment and realize the significance of God's sacrifice. You are Barabbas, and you walk up to that cross and see Jesus hanging there in agony. It's the cross you were supposed to be nailed to. And there, instead, is an innocent man.
Each time you gaze upon a Crucifix, I pray that you remember this. Remember that we were the ones intended for that cross. The King of this entire universe, "I am" Himself, suffered that so we could walk away unscathed.
If that's not love I don't know what is.