One has to wonder why the Romans started the practice of releasing one prisoner during Passover. Who decided this was something that should happen and when it should happen. God, of course. Men thought they were brilliant thinkers and of great influence. Little did they know that it was God’s plan all along to illustrate His perfect plan of mercy and forgiveness and justice.

The story of Barabbas was put in the Bible to explain in a physical way the Spiritual truth of forgiveness.

Barabbas was a robber, a murderer, a liar, a cheat, and profaner of God Himself. He broke every commandment and was sentenced to pay for his crimes. His heart was a hard as a rock. His life was as full of violence as war.

The death sentence was justice from both the Hebrew perspective of the Ten Commands and from the Roman perspective of law and order. But it wasn’t men who assessed the verdict of Guilty. It was God Himself who set the perimeters and consequences of sin.

The first five commands are the basic relationship rules God established between Himself and mankind. The last five commands are the rules God established for man dealing with man. The sentence of death was justice served for breaking them as we all know. Here's a look at the commands and the consequences for breaking it.

  1. Polytheism - Exodus 20:3 - Death Exodus 22:20 & Deuteronomy 6:13-15 & Acts 14:15
  2. Graven images - Exodus 20:4 - Death Deuteronomy 27:15 & 1 John 5:21
  3. Swearing (God's name in vain) - Exodus 20:7 - Death Leviticus 24:15-16 & James 5:12
  4. Not keeping Sabbath - Exodus 20:8 - Death Numbers 15:32-36 & Colossians 2:16-20 nullifies death penalty for not keeping the Sabbath
  5. Honoring parents - Exodus 20:12 - Death Exodus 21:15-17 & Ephesians 6:1 -- If you will not honor your parents, then you will not honor your Father in Heaven.
  6. Murder - Exodus 20:13 - Death Exodus 21:12 & 1 John 3:15
  7. Adultery - Exodus 20:14 - Death Leviticus 20:10 & 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
  8. Theft - Exodus 20:15 - Death Exodus 21:16 & Ephesians 4:28
  9. False Witness - Exodus 20:16 - Death Deuteronomy 18:16-21 & Colossians 3:9-10
  10. Coveting Exodus 20:17 - Ephesians 5:3 (acting upon the covetous thoughts leads to committing all the other sins)

God did not take lightly the breaking of His commands, although He gave mercy in the lack of knowledge of them as Paul indicates in Romans 7:7. Jesus gave mercy by forgiving sins (such as the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, etc.). Therefore the illustration of opening the jail cell door, rescinding the crucifixion order of a murderer and robber was the epitome of mercy because there was no way to even pretend Barabbas deserved that mercy.

Barabbas rejected the law wallowing in his own pleasure and pursuit of pleasure. He gave no thought to remorse nor to his horrendous actions. He was completely egocentric and self-serving. He was justly sentenced to death in the sight of God and in the sight of mankind. But the crowd knew full well what he had done and screamed for his release while begging for the execution of a sinless man.

Let’s pause for just a second before we think ourselves too holier than Barabbas.

Have you ever been afraid? How about passing by the opportunity to witness? Unjustly angry with your parents, sister, brother, sibling in Christ? Arguing about the Bible? Use the Bible as an offensive sword to maim and kill rather than a gentle tool for correction? Read a horoscope? Listened to a self-claimed psychic? Watched occultist things on TV or in movies? Indulged in bitterness? Withheld forgiveness for even a second? Despised a sibling in Christ? Ignored the alarm and missed church or even caused your children to miss church? Ignoring need when God brings it to your attention? Indulged in thoughts of lust, rebellion, revenge, desiring what your neighbor has? Cheated on your income taxes? Took communion while harboring unconfessed sin? Indulged in superstitions? Ignored godly counsel? Persisted in prideful thinking and actions? Justified to yourself or anyone else any of these actions?

We don’t have to submerge in sin to be guilty. Just one makes us guilty of all. But who is guilty of just one?

The crowd was incited to scream for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus. This is a testimony of what man meant for evil, God turns to great good. Releasing of Barabbas was the physical illustration of the Spiritual Truth that only Jesus could make the atonement required by the Law. The sacrifice of purity and unblemished perfectness in place of stony, black, uncircumcised hearts. The Passover lamb had to be perfect in every way to satisfy God for the Passover sacrifice. Only Jesus satisfied God's requirement through the Law. Isaiah 53:11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.

There was no waiting for repentance. No waiting for recognition of sin or agreeance to the justness of punishment. Jesus did it while we were immersed in sin.

Therefore we know Barabbas' death would not have served the greater purpose. It would have been according to the Law—justifiable consequence of sin--yet, God's greater purpose was to show beyond any reasonable doubt that our own physical death is not enough to atone for our own sin, much less any other person's sin. It is why Hell and the Lake of Fire are eternal consequences of sin. The reason is that we are not perfect as the Passover Lamb. Because we are filthy with our own sin we fall horribly short of the glory of God, and therefore we cannot atone for it with a victory over death and sin. Only Jesus could do that.

Then He arose.

Paul is so eloquent saying that death has no more sting. Because, and only because Jesus rose from the dead are we able will be raised from the dead to live with Him forever.