Who can say what demonic voices spoke in the mind of Barabbas?
His name meant, “son of the father,” a notable irony considering the small but intriguing role he played in the Passion of Jesus. An insurrectionist in a band of rebels against Roman rule who committed murder in their failed attempt to overthrow the pagans, some also called him a thief. At any rate or by any name, this one deserved to be in jail, unlike the true “Son of the Father,” Jesus.

Such a life makes very little sense. Perhaps demons screamed in his heart or some real or imagined injury lingered in his diseased brain that stole his reason. Something unseen and deadly possessed him driving him to the folly of rebelling against the entrenched powers of Rome. Perhaps some personal magnetism caused others with wayward minds and desperate hearts to follow him in his madness.

Back before Pilate
When Jesus was hauled back to Pilate’s court, Barabbas was confined nearby, perhaps in a dungeon beneath the floor of the hall, close enough to hear the trial itself. Through the haze of his madness, he heard his name mentioned. There was a Roman custom that a prisoner would be released at Passover. Barabbas had no reason to think that he would be involved in such a release. He had no following among the people. They had no use for a man like him nor did he have any for them. There was nothing to be gained for Pilate in his release. He shook his filthy head trying to silence the voices inside so he could clearly hear the voices overhead.

The governor was most annoyed when Herod sent Jesus and his accusers back to his court. He called all the Lord’s accusers together before him and tried to settle the matter. He explained that neither he nor Herod had found any infraction in the testimony against Jesus that would justify Roman execution. This did nothing but inflame the leaders even more. At this point the crowd turned against Jesus, forgetting His unforgettable deeds and thrilling words. Perhaps they could see His fate and decided to follow their leaders since they were more surely to be around when all of this was over.

Custom over Justice
Someone in the crowd remembered the Roman custom and incited the crowd to demand Barabbas.

“Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas”

In his cell beneath the stone floor, Barabbas heard his name again. Then to his demented amazement, his name became a chant: “Barabbas! Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!” The prisoner thought it must be a cruel dream. He had done nothing to deserve the blessing of the people or the reprieve of Rome.

Pilate protested. What should he do with this Jesus who is called the Christ? The Barabbas chant modulated into a different text.

“Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

Again, Pilate pleaded,

“Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.”

Madness seized the crowd.
The two chants merged into a deadly, ironic counterpoint calling for the release of the guilty one and the death of the innocent One.

All the Roman governor could do was agree. When soldiers came to release Barabbas, he remained in his cell, unsure of the reality of this moment. Finally in a rare moment of clarity, he broke and ran from the cell, through the dungeon passages and into the streets. No one stopped him. Deep in his fractured mind, he could hear demons laughing.

Luke:23:13-25 NKJV
Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, said to them, “You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” (for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast). And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas” — who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder. Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will.

Lord Jesus, No one has ever been more innocent than You nor more guilty than Barabbas. He was set free and they led You to Calvary. Why? Because You love us! Because only You could pay the price of our sin. As John said, standing in the Jordan, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” This was Your mission—to rescue people from the power of sin. We are all Barabbas! Set free when You took our place. Thank You, Jesus!

I Should Have Been Crucified

Words and Music: Gordon Jensen

1. I was guilty with nothing to say
And they were coming to take me away.
When a voice from Heaven was heard that said
“Let him go and take Me instead.”

Oh I should have been crucified
And I should have suffered and died
I should have hung on the cross in disgrace
But Jesus, God’s Son, took my place.

2.That crowns of thorns, the spear in His side
And the pain, it should have been mine.
Those rusty nails were meant for me
Yet Christ took them and let me go free.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

2 thoughts on “August 23 “Barabbas”

  1. Wow.
    An amazing picture of the scape goat released. I often picture such a one … even one so evil … finding a way back to God in Christ. We won’t know what happened to him until we see clearly…


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