Open Your Bible
Matthew 27:15-31, Acts 3:1-16
BY Erin Davis
The crowds were right: somebody needs to pay. We all want justice, and the craving for it is a righteous one. Sin cannot go unpunished, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
In Matthew 27 we read the account of Jesus and Barabbas, two men paraded before an angry crowd under the watchful eye of Pontius Pilate. A strange custom was unfolding; mob mentality was both judge and jury. Given the choice between two prisoners, the crowds got to decide who walked away a free man.
Barabbas was guilty, and no one was denying it. His crimes were “notorious,” widely known (Matthew 27:16). Jesus, on the other hand, was innocent. Still the crowds looked at Him and screamed, “Crucify him!” (v.22). They were not blind to Barabbas’s guilt—they simply failed to recognize their own. Spiritual blindness kept them from seeing how much they needed the Savior standing right in front of them.
“You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked to have a murderer released to you.
You killed the source of Life,
whom God raised from the dead;
we are witnesses of this” (Acts 3:14–15).
The crowds allowed the guilty man to walk in freedom. Is this ringing any bells? We are all Barabbas. All of us “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When it comes to sin, we’re guilty, notorious sinners who cannot stand against the holy scrutiny of God.
Though I’d love to read this passage and villainize Barabbas, I can’t, not really. He is the poster child for the good news, a symbol of the atonement Jesus made for us all. True, Barabbas was guilty, but there’s no use in pointing fingers. In one way or another, we are all guilty.
For soon after Jesus took Barabbas’s place before the crowds, He took our place at Calvary. This is the gospel! Jesus chose the cross. He walked toward it willingly so that the guilty—like Barabbas, like you, like me—could be spared the punishment we deserve and walk away in freedom.