“So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified” (Mark 15:15).
It was more than just a mistake that this prisoner was accidentally re- leased early. Over a period of thirteen years, as many as 3,200 convicted offenders were let out of prison before their time was up, all because of a software glitch that incorrectly calculated good behaviour credits. Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State called it “deeply disappointing, totally unacceptable and, frankly, maddening.”
The average early-release time came to about two months and affected 3 percent of inmates. Sadly, two felons committed new offenses during that early-release period—vehicular homicide and first-degree murder. Until the software problem was cleared up, no prisoner was released until a hand calculation of a release date was done.
Barabbas got off easy—and not because of a computer problem. When Pilate tried to reason with the blood-thirsty crowd to release Jesus because he could find no fault in Him, the unruly mob wanted Christ crucified. Then the Roman prefect of Judea came up with a brilliant idea—or so he thought. At Passover it was the custom for the procurator to release a prisoner selected by the people. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, so he offered the crowd a choice between Christ and a notorious criminal named Barabbas.
Barabbas was a robber and murderer who had raised an insurrection. The rebellious prisoner was unworthy of being set free, but that is exactly what the crowd requested. The innocent Son of God was crucified and the convict sentenced to death was released.
In this story of injustice, we may look in the mirror, for in a sense, we are all Barabbas. We have all committed sins against God and are worthy of death. Yet Christ freely submitted Himself to stand in our place. And so, the cruel words of the crowd meant to condemn Jesus turned out to be a script to save us: “All the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children’ ” (Matthew 27:25).
Dear Jesus, I cannot find words to express the joy I feel when I think of the redemption You freely offer me. Thank You!
For Further Study: Matthew 27:15–26; John 18:28–19:16; Isaiah 53:5