Barabbas, the man chosen for release by the crowds during the trial of Jesus. Was Barabbas just a character in the story or did his presence have deeper meaning? This event happened two thousand years ago and eye witnesses are hard to come by these days. One day we will be able to ask Jesus himself but for now we can only speculate based on what the scriptures tell us…..or no longer tell us.
Some of the oldest copies of the Gospel of Matthew list Barabbas’ full name – Yeshua bar-Abbas or Jesus Barabbas. Early Church Father Origen was deeply troubled by this. He thought it was impossible that a criminal like Barabbas would share such a holy name with our Lord and concluded that it must have been added by a heretic. In those days they did not have printing presses. Each copy of Holy Scripture was hand copied, one from another. From that day forward the name Yeshua bar-Abbas was simply written as Barabbas.
I am not one to disagree with a Church Father but there are some things about our Lord that I do not think people fully comprehend. I do not think people fully grasp how much God became like us in all things. This is exactly why the Jewish people do not believe that the Messiah has come yet. This is precisely the reason why Judas betrayed our Lord. They both expected a great king to come, a military leader who would kick the Romans out of the lands of Israel and restore the Jewish people to their rightful place as the chosen people of God. Judas expected Jesus to do this very thing and expected to be put in a place of power after Jesus reestablished the throne. When Jesus didn’t show any interest in doing this Judas thought his betrayal would force Jesus’ hand and get him going on conquest.
We all know that Jesus is the greatest king who will ever rule and his rule will be forever. Before his name every knee shall bend and every head shall bow. This is not how Jesus entered into the world. Jesus was born an innocent, fragile, helpless baby. He was not born into a rich and prestigious family. He was born in a barn and slept in a hay bunk. His parents were poor. His foster father was a tektōn, a day laborer, a carpenter. Saint Joseph’s only claim to fame was that he and his wife, Mary, were distant relatives to the once great King David.
Yeshua a holy name? Maybe after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven to become the greatest king ever. When he walked the earth the names Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were among the most common names in use. Jesus not only became like us in all things but he became like the most common and lowly of us in all things. Before he started his public ministry it would have been difficult to pick these three out of a crowd of three. Jesus did not live an earthly kingship. Instead he ascended from the lowest of human kind. He came up from the very bottom so that no one was below him in anything. A rising tide lifts all boats. This is what Jesus did for humanity.
Yeshua - one of the most common names in use. As ordinary as they come. Translations of this name include Joshua and Jesus.
Barabbas - this one gets interesting. The early texts list this name as bar-Abbas. Bar means “son of” and abba is commonly translated as “father”. Abba actually has a deeper and more intimate meaning than father. A more precise translation of abba is “daddy”.
So the Jewish people were presented with the following choice; whom do you want, Jesus, son of the father or Jesus, the Christ? We know who the people chose. But why is this even in scripture? What purpose does it serve? The true reason is not known to us but much speculation exists. This is mine.
Jesus, son of Mary, is the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. I believe Jesus Barabbas was the incarnation Satan, the visible image of the invisible devil. The people were given the choice between keeping good or evil. We chose evil and Satan rejoiced. We chose to put God to death and the devil danced in glee for he was victorious.
But Jesus was more than just innocent. He was divine. He was tortured and his divine blood was shed. This not only satisfied the price of death but the price of death for all humanity. Death could no longer hold Christ and it could no longer hold anyone in Sheol, the land of the dead, who accepted Jesus as king and followed him out of the netherworld.
In the midst of his victory the devil was defeated and lost hold of all under his authority. Now the devil only has authority over those that choose themselves over God. Satan only has authority over those who choose Barabbas instead of Christ.
Barabbas is not only the choice given to the Jewish people by Pilot but is the choice each and every person must make on their own. It is the question we all must answer. Do you stand and scream "Barabbas!" or do you live for Christ?
My heart is full because the tomb is empty.