“How could they choose Barabbas over Jesus!?”
That is what we wonder when we read about the trial that led to Jesus’s execution. But actually, we choose Barabbas every day, even now.
In John 18:28-40, we read the story of Pontius Pilate appearing before the Jews at the trial of Jesus. They brought Jesus to Pilate to be judged because they did not have the authority to issue the death penalty on their own. They needed Pilate to carry out the execution. Jesus is questioned by Pilate and he found no fault in him, especially one worthy of death.
In those days, there was a custom that the Romans would pardon and release one prisoner before the feast of the Passover. Seeing no evidence of crime in Jesus, he goes back out to approach the crowd of Jews that had brought Jesus to him. He tells them his verdict, that there was no fault in Jesus, and offers to release Him. He says to them “Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” The angry mob shouted back at Pilate “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” (v40)
Barabbas was a convicted criminal who was deemed bad for society. Judging by his criminal charges, having him released could very well cause them, and their community, personal harm! Matthew 27:16 suggests that Barabbas may have very well been a perpetual offender, notorious for crime. Luke 23:19 says he was thrown in jail for participating in an insurrection, and for murder. We read this story and we think to ourselves, “How could they choose to have Barabbas released over Jesus? One would think that the well known criminal history of Barabbas would be enough for the citizens to want to make sure he was not released from prison. However, because of their selfishness, they still chose Barabbas, regardless of his track record.
We are shocked when we read this passage of scripture. But should we be? If we had been there, would we have spoken up? Would we have chosen differently? It is easy for us to see that choosing Barabbas over Jesus was a decision that impacted history in an unimaginable way. However, hindsight is 20/20, and it is easy to see flaws in others and not in ourselves.
Have you ever chosen Barabbas? Actually, we choose Barabbas daily. Every day we make decisions that deny Jesus. You probably don’t always do it purposely, but you do it just the same. Every time you put something else above Jesus and put your focus elsewhere instead, you have chosen Barabbas. When you continue the affair, knowing that it is destructive to your marriage and detrimental to your spiritual life, you are choosing Barabbas. When you keep putting in more and more hours at work because you long for the joy the paycheck money might bring, you are choosing Barabbas. When you decide you don’t need to read your Bible because you “get the gist of it anyway” or “you don’t really have the time”, you are choosing Barabbas.
You know these choices will ultimately cause harm, turmoil, or even destruction, but you choose them anyway. Your selfish ambitions take precedence over a merciful Savior. These temporary satisfactions will quickly fade and leave a path of destruction in its wake that tears down your friends, family, people close to you, or even your community, but you choose them anyway. Self-serving decisions will also sever your relationship with your Creator, but you still make them. Perhaps you do not realize the effects certain choices will have on your life, or maybe you just don’t care. The choices we make now, in order to gain temporal gratification or power, will quite likely have unforeseen, long-lasting effects. Don’t let your prideful obsession with getting your own way become a barrier that keeps you from seeing God’s plan being carried out your life.
Everyone has selfish ambitions or yearnings that, at times, take precedence over their pursuit of a relationship with Christ. For some, they are stumbling blocks that sneak up in moments of weakness. For others, they are all-consuming patterns that completely block God out and leave them in spiritual darkness.
So, what about you? What things are you choosing to give preference to in place of God? In what ways are you choosing Barabbas over Jesus Christ?
“How could they choose Barabbas over Jesus?” Well… how could we?