9th April 2012

The Great Exchange Personified

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Scattered throughout the four gospels are individuals whose lives were transformed in some way by a brief encounter with Jesus .These encounters are recorded in only a few verses, but they illustrate, often in a physical way, aspects of grace that are now available to all humanity through Jesus. Barabbas is one such individual.

It was the time of the Jewish Passover. Barabbas was already in custody awaiting execution. Jesus had been arrested and was on trial before Pontius Pilate. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent of the charges brought against him and attempted a ploy to have him released. The NIV continues the account as follows:  “Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’…’Barabbas,’ they answered. ‘What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?’ Pilate asked. They all answered, ‘Crucify him!’” (Matthew 27:15-17, 21-22).

So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will. (Verses 24-26)

So Barabbas was saved from death and Jesus was crucified between two thieves in his place.  Many bible commentaries and dictionaries define the name Barabbas to mean “son of the father” or “son of a father.” Hence, the Son of The Father, God Incarnate, Jesus, was substituted for Barabbas, the son of a (human) father and a representative of the whole of human kind. These few verses illustrate, in a physical manner, the great exchange.

This brief encounter ends with the release of Barabbas, but it leaves behind some intriguing unanswered questions. After being saved from death, how did he live the rest of his life? Did he ever reflect on the events of that Passover period? Did it cause him to change his lifestyle? The answer to these questions remains a mystery.

The Passover/Easter period is a time when the central events of the Christian faith, the death and resurrection of Jesus (events that Paul describes to be “of first importance,” 1 Corinthians 15:3), are commemorated. It is also a time for reflection. In the light of the grace revealed in these events how should we live the rest of our lives? Unlike Barabbas, the answer to this question is not a mystery. Many verses in the New Testament give practical principles of Christian living, but the answer is probably best summed up by Paul in his letter to Titus:  “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)


Father in heaven, we thank you for the redemption we have through the sacrifice of Jesus who, in love, willingly gave himself for us and suffered death that we might have life.

Study by Eddie Marsh

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Print This Article


Got something to say?