I Am Barabbas; Guest Piece

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It is early morning. From the damp darkness of the prison cell, my home, I hear the sound of many voices outside in the courtyard. The commotion is greater than any trial I have ever witnessed, other than perhaps my own trial, years ago, when I was condemned to a lifetime in this dark hole. Even in seclusion, the atmosphere feels heavy and tense. Something is happening; something is wrong.
As the voices grow urgently louder and angrier, I hear them begin to call a name. Only a few at first, then many more quickly join in. It is difficult to hear clearly, but to my disbelief, it begins to sound like my name. I strain my ears to be sure, and hear them unmistakably shouting, “Give us Barabbas!” 

What could they possibly want with me?

I continue to listen intently. After a short pause, I hear words from the crowd that send a cold shiver down my spine. A sheen of nervous sweat forms all over my body, as the crowd chants, louder than before, “Crucify him!”

My head spins, and the urgency of their cries intensify. My ears are filled with voices shouting my name, and those demanding crucifixion, the most grueling death imaginable. I stagger to the nearest wall and sink to the floor. This is the day. Today I will be officially put to death for my offence of murder in the insurrection. I hardly remember the events of that day, but I do remember the blood on my hands.

My cell door swings open and two Roman officers enter. I gasp, terrified, as they pick me up off the floor and drag me towards the courtyard. I beg for my life, digging my heels into the ground until they bleed, but finally I arrive before the crowd. I see Pontius Pilate to my right, the man whose ruling had indefinitely imprisoned me all those years ago. As I frantically scan the crowd, the religious leaders momentarily catch my eye. I see faces of anger, outrage, and some of grief. Hundreds of people have gathered in the courtyard, all of them shouting, but neither at me nor at Pilate. I follow their gaze to discover a man, badly beaten, bruised and bleeding, wearing shackles like mine. He looks at the ground, his eyes nearly swollen shut. His clothes are torn, and he is silent.

I do not wonder for long who he is, as Pilate addresses the crowd.

Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

Suddenly I realize it is not me, but Jesus whom they want to crucify. Pilate is bargaining for his life. I look at him. His face is conflicted and almost pained. When he looks at me, I can see that for whatever reason, he wants Jesus to walk free. What great offense could Jesus have committed, that they would be willing to have me, a murderer, released among them?

Yet here they are, demanding my release, that this man should be crucified. The religious leaders tell Pilate to release me.

Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

Let him be crucified!” The shouts are deafening. Pilate argues Jesus’ innocence with the crowd to no avail. He eventually gives in under pressure. Washing his hands, he waves me off, glances at Jesus, and walks away. The crowd goes into wild uproar as the officers remove my shackles. I wince at the pain. For years, my wrists have known nothing but these shackles, and they feel weak when released from the weight. Once my feet are free, the officers step away and seize Jesus, shoving him though the crowd out of the courtyard.

So quickly I have become a free man. I do not know what to do.

Jesus glances at me momentarily before disappearing around the courtyard wall, and there is a strange look about him. He looks at me as though he has known me for my whole life… as though he has loved me for my whole life. Instantly, I decide that my first act as a free man would be to follow this, “Jesus who is called Christ,” and see what would become of him.

As I run through the crowd to catch up to him, nobody notices me. They are all speaking of Jesus. My release seems to pale in importance next to the crucifixion of Jesus. I hear words like, “rebel,” and, “blasphemer,” being said of him. For a moment, I am unsure of whom they are speaking, as those very words also condemned me to life in prison.

When I finally find Jesus, a crown of thorns circles his head, and he appears to have been beaten again. Blood is pouring from his brow; he can barely stand when the officers place the cross upon his shoulder. They spit on him and mock him as he struggles beneath the heavy wood. People are gathered, some mocking and others weeping as he begins to make his way along the road. Our eyes meet once more, and I stare incredulously. Why does he look at me with such longing, as though I were his own son? I must know more about him.

A weeping woman stands nearby, so I ask her,

Woman, who is this Jesus? What has he done to deserve death on the cross?”

She looks at me with a deep sadness in her eyes and responds with,

Oh, Barabbas. This man is the Son of God. The Great Messiah who has come not only to release you from prison, but to free all of mankind from the power of Sin forever. He is innocent.”

I suddenly remember stories from my childhood of a King of the Jews who would come to bring salvation to the people. A Messiah, coming to conquer death and give eternal life…

Surely Jesus could not be this King. What kind of King stands in silence before a crowd of his own people condemning him to crucifixion? What sort of King allows himself to be beaten and mocked by his subjects? This man could not be the Messiah…could he?

When Jesus is too weak to carry the cross himself, another man helps him for the final steps up to Golgotha. There, Jesus collapses, and the Roman officers begin preparing his cross. Staring at Jesus lying there on the ground, I feel a pang of guilt in my chest. It grows and sharpens as I watch Jesus being nailed to the cross. He cries out in pain, and I can hardly bear to watch.
I do not understand why I feel so deeply for this man. Having never met him, I have no reason to grieve. I should be glad for my freedom. It is unlike me, “a calloused murderer,” as they say, to feel this way. Despite this, I know in my heart that it should be me on that cross instead of Jesus.
His cross is erected, and the sky is dark. Hours go by, but not once do I take my eyes off him. He looks at me - beyond the blood, sweat, and tears I see such love in his eyes. It is as if he were speaking to me, saying, “Barabbas, this is for you, for your forgiveness. It is for your freedom that I may be with you forever someday. I love you.”
He looks to the sky and says, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit. It is finished.” His body becomes limp and he releases his last breath. Jesus Christ, the Son of God is dead. The ground begins to shake and a great storm rolls over the land.

Some flee, but I remain, eyes fixed on Jesus. My insides shatter, and I begin to weep and wail as I throw myself down at the foot of his cross and cry out.

My Lord! My God! My Savior! Forgive me, O God!

I am unsure what spurred this wholehearted belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and by His death, the price for the forgiveness of all my failures and sins has been paid. Maybe it was the way He looked at me, or possibly the way He died: completely focused and resolved upon the salvation and freedom of His people. I suddenly know that my new freedom spans much deeper than release from my prison cell. Just as the woman told me, I am now free from the power of sin and death forever. All because of this man who loved mea rebel and a murdererenough to willingly go to the cross that I deserved.

My tears of sorrow change to tears of joy and deep gratitude. There, at the foot of the cross, I decide that with this new freedom I will live a new life. A life completely devoted to making much of the matchless name of Jesus Christ.

{Photo: @elissagram}

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About the Author:

Meet Jade Lassalle. Jade is a 20 years old writer from Toronto, Ontario.She is also a mission intern for UrbanPromise Toronto (www.urbanpromise.com), working with children and youth in Community Housing. Jade loves babies, burritos, reading, writing, and singing!


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