Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
What must it have felt like for Barabbas? Here he was in prison, guilty of his crime with no hope for pardon, no chance to be released. He was condemned to die, and so perhaps he had resigned himself to that fate, and it’s hard to imagine that. But maybe we do know somewhat what it’s like, because we were all Barabbas—locked in a prison, guilty as charged, deserving of death. And so to know for sure that death was coming and then to suddenly be released from that brings such a sense of relief, freedom, a great burden lifted, hope restored. Because that’s what Jesus does for all of us.
We don’t have to resign ourselves to a life of darkness and hopelessness. If we were brutally honest, we might look at ourselves and feel our own wretchedness so strongly, but with Jesus, we don’t have to be that person anymore. With Jesus, we are released, set free, given new life, a new chance, and what a difference He makes when He enters our lives. What a difference His entrance into our dire circumstances can make.
But this exchange was so much more than our freedom gained, because Jesus went to death in our place. It wasn’t just that we were released, but that He was arrested and bound. It wasn’t just the lifting of our burden, but it was that weight placed upon Him. It wasn’t just our healing, but it was His suffering. It wasn’t just us being restored, but it was Him being broken. It wasn’t just us walking out of there alive, but it was Jesus being tortured, being humiliated, being mocked and spit on and laughed at.
And as the cross was raised up and the blood ran down and the darkness fell, the world held its breath as the Father turned away and the Son cried out, and it was all over. But that was just the beginning. Because then it’s us in the crowd feeling the earthquake, hearing that cry of, “It is finished,” seeing the veil torn apart. And we look upon Jesus, the Lamb slain, the sacrifice given, the offering accepted—and us still breathing, our hearts still beating. That is our salvation—bad exchanged for good, death exchanged for life, Barabbas and all the rest of us exchanged for Jesus.