At Global Outreach Home office, we meet every morning at 8:30 for a few minutes of Bible study and prayer together. We share whatever we’re studying in our private devotionals. Yesterday, we read through the events of the day when Jesus was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. John Darnell shared a bit of information I completely missed in all the times I’ve heard and read this passage. It’s so profound I thought you might enjoy learning it, too.

The meaning of “bar”

John asked us the simplest question ever about Barabbas. What is the meaning of “bar” in a name? Suddenly, understanding dawned in all of us. In Hebrew, the word translated as “bar” means “son of.” For example, “Simon bar Jonah” means Simon son of John. “Abba” is translated as “father.” In the name “Barabbas” or “Bar Abbas,” the words indicate he is “son of a father.”

Barabbas, the guilty criminal

Barabbas (Son of a father), a murderer and insurrectionist, was in the custody of Pilate. Because of his guilt, he deserved the death penalty. (Luke 23:17-19)

Jesus, the innocent prisoner

Jesus, the Son of God (The Heavenly Father), taught, preached, healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and made the lame to walk. He raised the dead on more than one occasion. His radical words condemned rote ritual and taught the value of relationship and heart change.

Jesus summed all the Jewish law into two simple commands. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. He came to earth as a baby and was both fully man and fully God at once. Completely innocent of any crime, Jesus never sinned.  

The religious leaders hated Jesus

Jesus loved everyone regardless of the sin they’d committed. He taught the importance of repentance and long-lasting change through the power of God. His followers included the rich and powerful as well as the poor and most notorious sinners. The Pharisees saw a clear distinction between themselves (who kept every bit of the law) and the “sinners” (who might not keep the law perfectly but found forgiveness, turned from their sin, and learned to love as Jesus said).

Jesus saw through the financial schemes of money changers and sellers and knew that great profit was made by taking advantage of the poor in the name of God. He exposed the greed of the priests and elders and they hated Him for it.

Jesus and Barabbas’ lives intersect.

The Sanhedrin (Jewish court system) lacked the legal authority to put a man to death, so they tried Jesus, pronounced Him guilty of blasphemy, and sentenced him to death. They transferred him to Pilate to carry out the sentence. Pilate knew of Jesus and His immense popularity. He also quickly recognized He was innocent of any crime deserving death.

At the Passover each year, Pilate, the governor appointed by Rome, released a prisoner to the multitude of their choosing. I believe Pilate expected the people to ask for Jesus to be released. Instead, at the instigation of the chief priests and elders, they asked for Barabbas to be released.

Choosing Barabbas condemned Jesus

The people chose Barabbas as the prisoner to be set free and ended the possibility of Jesus’ release. Pilate hoped to avoid putting an innocent man to death but the chief priests and elders again stirred the crowd up. “Crucify him,” they shouted over and over again. (Matthew 26: 16-26) Finally, Pilate washed his hands of the situation and released Jesus to be crucified.

Son of a father redeemed by the Son of The Father

Yesterday, I realized the son of a father (Barabbas) gained his freedom from the Son of The Father (Jesus) and wondered at the profundity of it. In a very real way, we are sons and daughters of an earthly father, with all the sins and failings of flesh.

We are Barabbas and, like him, we deserve the penalty of death for our sin.

We are all trapped in sin, for which payment must be made. None of us is able to redeem ourselves from the penalty our sin imposed. Only Jesus’, spotless Lamb of God, is qualified. Our freedom isn’t free. Redemption is freely given, but it was bought at a terrible price on the cross.

cross because of barabbas

Our response is required

Every gift demands a response — accept it or reject it. If we reject it, we might set it aside, refuse to open it, refuse it as a gift, or take a peek inside and reject it. If we accept the gift, we open the package, take the item out, and use it as the giver intended.

So, too, with the gift of redemption and salvation. Jesus’ payment on the cross for our sin redeemed us from the cost of our sin and purchased salvation from the penalty of sin, which is death and eternal damnation.

The gift was given, and we all must choose. What will be our response? Will we accept the gift of life and freedom or reject it and choose death and damnation instead?

No halfway measures

Jesus’ sacrifice was an all-in, 100% invested sacrifice. Our response must be no less. On this Good Friday, let us examine our own response to Jesus’ payment for our sin. Do we fully accept, fully surrender, faithfully follow in the steps of the One who paid it all for us or not?

Today, embrace Jesus with all the love He showed for us. He gave all. We can do no less.

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 nasb

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If you aren’t subscribed to my newsletter yet, now would be a good time. I will resend the most recent email later today (Friday, March 30). It contains a link for an exclusive 3-day Resurrection weekend devotional, only available to email subscribers. Scroll down to the bottom of the webpage to sign up.

You might also enjoy reading:

Worship at the Judas Rock: When We Identify With the Betrayer

Transformed: Up Close and Personal

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