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April 22

15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah’
Matthew 27:15-17

Today is Good Friday, a contraction of the old English, “God’s Friday.” Make no mistake, this is God’s day. It is God who rules this day. And God has so ordered the events of this day, that there are few people who tell the story of the cross as eloquently and powerfully as this “notorious criminal” Barabbas. He is the living illustration of the truth that Christ died in our place.

It has been the custom for the Roman governor to release a prisoner at Passover,and so today Pontius Pilate is giving to the mob the choice between “Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah.” Strangely, both men who are condemned to die have the same “Jesus,” or “Yeshua.” This was a common first century name reminiscent of the name “Joshua,” the greater deliver of Israel.

But “Barabbas” is not a name, but rather an Aramaic combination of words:”son of — a father,” (bar-abbas). So here is the choice the crowd is facing: willit be Barabbas, the son of a father, or Jesus, the Son of God? Who will go free,and who will die? The crowd chooses Barabbas to go free. They choose Jesus,the son of an earthly father, but condemn Jesus, the Son of God.

It is significant that all four Gospel writers tell us the story of Barabbas, because they know that Barabbas helps us see the full meaning of this day. In a sense, we are all a Barabbas. We are all born of an earthly father, and it is the Son of God who took our place.

I wonder: did Barabbas hear the hammering of the nails and realize that could have been him feeling the burning metal in his hands? Did he stand at the foot of Jesus’ cross and think that could have been him there? I wonder?

While Barabbas is the only person who could say that Jesus took his place on the cross physically, we can all say that Jesus took our place on the cross spiritually. He died in our place. He faced our judgment. And it all happened just as the prophets so long ago had said it would happen: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

On this God’s Friday Jesus invites us to believe the Good News, and to go and live free.


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