9 Minute Read


Judges 7:1–8:17
Luke 23:13-43
Psalms 97:1–98:9
Proverbs 14:7-8


Luke 23:23-25 (CSB): “But they kept up the pressure, demanding with loud voices that he be crucified, and their voices won out. So Pilate decided to grant their demand and released the one they were asking for, who had been thrown into prison for rebellion and murder. But he handed Jesus over to their will.”


God loves pictures. I’ve written about that previously (you can access those articles here and here). He loves embodying a spiritual truth in a story … and the Old Testament is filled with them!

So, we aren’t surprised when Jesus, God the Son, demonstrated a love for stories and pictures, too. Much of what Jesus said, as recorded in the four Gospels, are truths couched in a story. We call them parables. They were stories that painted a picture in people’s minds that illustrated a powerful, relevant truth (while concealing truth from those would reject it [Matthew 13:10-13]).

As you read through today’s Bible readings, you would have come across the story that included a man name Barabbas (Luke 23:13-25).

So, what’s up with the story of Barabbas? Is it just an unnecessary part of the crucifixion story? Is it simply incidental?

Or is it a powerful picture?

Friend, nothing, absolutely nothing that appears on the pages of Scripture is incidental. All Scripture is inspired (lit. ‘God-breathed’) and is profitable…” (2 Timothy 3:16). It’s all there on purpose and it is profitable for us as we pursue holiness.

So, what’s the story of Barabbas for?

I believe it’s a very powerful picture of salvation. Let me explain by adding some commentary to the biblical narrative.

Luke 23:13-16 (CSB): “Pilate called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, ‘You have brought me this man as one who misleads the people. But in fact, after examining him in your presence, I have found no grounds to charge this man with those things you accuse him of. Neither has Herod, because he sent him back to us. Clearly, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will have him whipped and then release him.'”

As Jesus began His ministry, John the Baptist rightly said: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus was going to be the Lamb, talked about in Isaiah 53, that would take on the sins of everyone who would place their trust in Him.

When we realize that Jesus was crucified at the time of the Passover (John 18:39-40), we cannot help but think back to the first Passover when the Death Angel passed over Egypt and killed all of the firstborn.

The Israelites, to protect themselves from death, were to sacrifice a lamb, but not just any lamb. Exodus 12:5 says: “You must have an unblemished animal, a year-old male…” This meant that the lamb, killed so that the lives of those in the house might remain alive, had to be spotless. There were not be any defects. And, it needed to be in the prime of it’s life.

God used Pilate, the vicious (Luke 13:1), pagan, Roman prefect to examine Jesus. The Son of God was found to be without a single flaw. Pilate declared Him innocent.

So, the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world during the time of the Passover, was declared, even by a pagan, to be completely innocent of all wrongdoing.

Luke 23:18-20 (CSB): “Then they all cried out together, ‘Take this man away! Release Barabbas to us!’ (He had been thrown into prison for a rebellion that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate addressed them again, but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify! Crucify him!'”

Given the choice, the mob, led by the demonically influenced Pharisees, called for Jesus’ death and the release of the convicted criminal.

Pilate, even though he was a vicious tyrant who would do whatever he needed to do to please Rome, was hesitating. The fact that this was such an injustice was bothering even him. He knew that the Pharisees had only turned Jesus over to him to crucify because they were blind with envy (Matthew 27:18).

Clearly, Jesus was completely innocent of all crimes. Pilate, acting as the judge in this matter, acknowledged His innocence and saw the call for crucifixion as a complete injustice.

So, he tried to speak reason into this mob a third and final time…

Luke 23:22 (CSB): “A third time he said to them, ‘Why? What has this man done wrong? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore, I will have him whipped and then release him.'”

While Pilate didn’t realize it, he was being used by God to examine “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”

And that’s why I believe the first three words of Luke 23:22 are significant. “A third time.” In the Bible, the number “3” is almost always associated with Deity. So God, through Pilate, was testifying that His Son was the perfect Lamb that would be offered up at the Passover.

Luke 23:23-25 (CSB): “But they kept up the pressure, demanding with loud voices that he be crucified, and their voices won out. So Pilate decided to grant their demand and released the one they were asking for, who had been thrown into prison for rebellion and murder. But he handed Jesus over to their will.”

The greatest injustice the world has ever known was when Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, was crucified while a clearly guilty man was set free.

One final thing before I drive this home: While it may seem that Jesus was the helpless victim of an angry mob and a fearful Roman prefect, Jesus was exactly where He had planned to be. He was going to the cross precisely the way that God had determined (Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28). God was using natural human means to accomplish His Divine purposes.


Friend, that’s the picture. That is the story. But, there’s a very powerful biblical principle that the story of Barabbas illustrates.

Here it is…

You and I are Barabbas!

We have lied, and gotten angry, and lusted, and had thoughts of jealousy and envy, and so much more. If we were transported to the prison where Barabbas had resided, we might feel pretty good about ourselves when compared to those criminals. But, if we joined Barabbas and stood side-by-side with Jesus, and if God was the Judge, our guilt would have been clearly visible in all of its vileness.

And yet, we can go free, like Barabbas, because Jesus went to the cross in our place.

But, when we trust in Jesus, we aren’t simply set free to continue life as a lawbreaker like Barabbas. Instead, when we fall at the foot of the cross, cry out for mercy, and transfer our trust from self to Jesus, He takes our sin and credits us with His righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (CSB): “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

1 Peter 2:22-25 (CSB): “He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth; when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Friend, the Pharisees and the mob could have been defeated by Pilate. They could have been shut down so that Jesus went free and Barabbas was sent to the cross.

But, even though the way it happened was the worst injustice the world has ever known, it pictures what Jesus did for us. He went to the cross and experienced God’s wrath so that you wouldn’t have to.

Why don’t you find some time to thank Jesus today.