One notable Passover tells the story of an infamous criminal named Barabbas. His name was known through out all of Judea for being a criminal of the highest notoriety and one might say of the lowest repute. An unconscionable derelict, an indiscriminate thief. The scripture describes this unsavory fellow as being the fortunate recipient of a Jewish custom facilitated that year by Pontius Pilate. This custom took place annually at the Passover, and that particular year on what Christians have long since called Good Friday. The Roman Prefect accommodated the crowd by releasing the criminal of their choice and the proverbial lot cast on this occasion, fell to Barabbas.
This was quite an unusual custom for the Romans to embrace, and one would have to wonder how the Jews persuaded Roman officials to acquiesce to such a request. What were the chances an individual imprisoned by the Romans for egregious behavior would go free? But as I have long since come to believe, even evil exists to fulfill God’s purpose. (Habukuk 1: 5-11) So here Pontius Pilate, a man known for insufferable brutality (Luke 13: 1) who carried complete legal authority regarding this matter, sent Jesus to be crucified and released Barabbas to freedom. This done despite his strong personal preference and repeated statements that Christ was innocent.
Leviticus chapter 16 describes a priestly ritual in which Aaron was commanded to prepare a bull as a sin offering for himself and his household. This was necessary to spare his life as a High Priest when he entered into the Holy Place, apart from which he would surely die. Then he was to take two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Casting lots over the two goats, one goat would be sacrificed and one set apart for AZAZEL. Azazel was a Hebrew term used to describe the goat of departure, or the SCAPEGOAT. This Goat would be set free in the wilderness, while the other goat would be sacrificed to the Lord. Barabbas seemingly the former.
It seems doubtful Barabbas sensed God’s merciful plan of salvation during those defining moments and legend tells us he arrogantly gloated over the decision made that day. Could he foolishly have believed he outsmarted the system and yet again had gotten away with his corrupt deeds? Some stories tell of a later repentance in his life in which he became a follower of the risen Savior. We just don’t know for sure. One thing I do know; for the Barabbas that lives in my heart and the heart of all men, I pray to live the rest of my days in humble gratitude. For I was the guilty one released, forever free to go, as Jesus, the Holy Lamb was slain for the debt I owed.