I’m sure that you’ve heard that story out of the Bible where Jesus was on trial before the crowd and they were given a choice between two people to set free (Matthew 27:15–26; Mark 15:6–15; Luke 23:18–24; and John 18:40); either Barabbas or Jesus.
Jesus was standing before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who had already declared Jesus innocent of anything worthy of death (Luke 23:15). Pilate knew that Jesus was being railroaded and it was “out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him” (Mark 15:10), so he looked for a way to release Jesus and still keep the peace. Pilate offered the mob a choice: the release of Jesus or the release of Barabbas, a well-known criminal who had been imprisoned “for an insurrection in the city, and for murder” (Luke 23:19).
The release of a Jewish prisoner was customary before the feast of Passover (Mark 15:6). The Roman governor granted clemency to one criminal as an act of goodwill toward the Jews whom he governed. The choice Pilate set before them could not have been more clear-cut: a high-profile killer and rabble-rouser who was unquestionably guilty, or a teacher and miracle-worker who was demonstrably innocent. The crowd chose Barabbas to be released.
Anytime I’ve heard that story, my first thought was truly how unjust and wretched this was. This crowd wanted Jesus dead so badly that they were willing to free this obviously guilty criminal. But recently I heard a preacher change my mind when it comes to the meaning of that story. As unfair as this trial was and despite the pain and suffering that Jesus would have to endure, if Jesus was given the choice, Jesus would have chosen Barabbas as well.
The Scriptures continually remind us that He had His face set towards Jerusalem and that His purpose in coming was to give Himself for you. That’s the mercy that He has for us. None of us are better than Barabbas. No one. None of us are getting into Heaven based on our own good track record. It’s ALL Jesus’ mercy and the grace of our Father in Heaven.