R4E130927 – Barabbas (New Testament Character Study) by Douglas Jacoby
The mystery of Barabbas’ name
- Original pronunciation: Barabbás (accent on last syllable)
- Bar is Aramaic for son, and is found in names like Bartholomew, Bar-Jonah, Bartimaeus, Barsabbas, Barnabas
- Meaning of Barabbas
- Traditional view: this was the son of Abbas
- Another possibility: Bar-rabban (son of the rabbi)
- Either way, he must have had a first name; he was more than merely “son of Abbas” or “son of the rabbi.”
- Another Jesus?
- Some late manuscripts (see Matthew 27:16-17) supply a first name: Jesus. Pilate then would have been asking which Jesus he should release.
- Jesuses in the Bible: Joshua, son of Nun; Jesus son of Sirach (Apocrypha); one of Jesus’ ancestors (Luke 3:29); Jesus called Justus (Colossians 4:11); Jesus of Nazareth… the early church may have known as many as 12 men named Jesus.
- Note: Jesus was a common name in the first century AD.
The political situation
- High tension. The Roman occupation had begun in 63 BC. Discontent will boil over in the revolution of 66-73 AD. By 70 AD, however, both Jerusalem and her stunning temple would lie in ruins.
- Zealots dissatisfied with the Roman occupation longed for autonomy, and were willing to result to violence to achieve their ends.
- Might persons like Barabbas have been heroic figures for some of the Jews?
- Yet would the Romans really release such a (presumably dangerous) man? This is exactly what another Roman governor did in 85 AD, so the Barabbas account appears historical.
Barabbas: crime & punishment
- Matthew 27 – notorious prisoner
- Mark 15 – murderer
- Luke 23 – murderer
- John 18 – robber
- Acts 3:14 – murderer
- The Romans would have crucified Barabbas. This was a common punishment for rebels and political criminals.
- Matthew 27:16-17
- Mark 15:6-15
- We relate. We know guilt.
- We know the shame of saying “Never again,” only to backslide. We know the destructive power of anger, what it is to be impulsive, how far we sometimes go to get our own way.
- Barabbas was robber, rioter, murderer.
- Yet haven’t we too robbed the Lord of his time, his money, his honor? We have treated as our own what truly belongs to him.
- We have rioted in our hearts, our innards a seething sea of attitudinal, chaotic, self-focused feeling.
- As for murder, collectively we share the guilt for the crucifixion of our Lord.
- A substitution has taken place!
- “He paid a debt he did not owe / I owed a debt I could not pay / I needed someone to take my sins away…”
- Human substitutions are rejected (Moses, Exodus 32:32; Paul, Romans 9:3). But a divine substitution? See Psalm 49! (And be sure to follow up this lesson with the Ransom podcast.)
Conclusion: Who goes free?
- “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:17)
- Shall the guilty be released and the innocent suffer? Yes. The innocent is willed by God to suffer, and the guilty walk free. “Go in peace,” they said in former times.
- We are all Barabbas!
- With all of this in mind, let’s live a life worthy of our Lord: grateful, making the most of our new lease on life!