The Easter Story as told by Barabbas

Posted: 03/29/2013 in Current Events, Faith
Tags: , , , ,

Ask any prisoner why they were sent to prison and they’ll tell you they were innocent; they didn’t do anything. They don’t deserve to be in jail. Yeah, right! Not me. I’m fully aware that I’m guilty as charged. For what, you ask? For having the courage, yes the guts, to fight and even die if necessary for what I believed in.

My name is Barabbas. I killed a man with my two hands. That’s why theImage Romans threw me in a stinky prison. They condemned me to die—well, at least that’s part of their reason. The way I see it, they didn’t appreciate my efforts to overthrow their evil, Roman Empire. Insurrection—yeah, that’s the fancy word they used.

They said I was a menace to society and I must be silenced. So much for freedom of speech. I was just acting upon my convictions. I put into action what most people around me only dream of doing—which is why the Romans came and arrested me. I had a trial; I was found guilty. According to Roman law, I had to be crucified. They tossed me into prison to await the day I would be nailed to a cross.

Now I understand you guys have jails with something called a “TV.” Everybody has books. They have magazines to read. They sleep on a comfortable mattress with a pillow [and] even eat “three squares” a days. I heard some take watercolor painting while they’re doing time!

That, my friend, is not jail; that’s a country club. Let me tell you how it goes down in a Roman prison.

We had chains around our legs. Our wrists were shackled. We had a chain around our neck and that chain was linked to a wall so we could not move. Some of us were placed in wooden stocks. Our legs and our arms would be stretched out as far as possible to prohibit movement. Plus our neck would then be put in a bent, forward position—and we would be locked into place.

That is how you’d remain for days . . . weeks . . . months at a time until every fiber in your body cries out in pain.

For us, it was the roaches and the rats that were our TV. You know, sometimes if you could catch one, they were better than the stuff—the slop—that the guards would feed us. Unless you were extremely lucky, you had no windows; you had no privacy. Men and women—together.

You had no free time shooting hoops out there in the yard. We had no hoops . . . we had no hope. That, my friends, is jail.

That wasn’t the worst of it. You see, Pilate was like any Roman governor: a brutal, despicable man. And, I might add, not exactly a picture of justice. Ask any Jew. Pilate was a violent and abusive ruler. Did you know he slaughtered a group of Galileans who were just going to offer sacrifices to God on their way to Jerusalem? He acted like it’s no biggie; mix their blood with the sacrifice. Nice guy, you know. He just sweeps everything under the rug; washes his hands of stuff that he doesn’t want to deal with. Some leader!

I believe that Pilate will go down in history as a spineless puppet with no courage and no will of his own. O sure, sure he possessed “supreme judicial authority” within the province. He could do whatever he wanted—but make no mistake he was also a people-pleaser.

So imagine how Pilate felt about me—Barabbas. I’m here, stirring up the masses with the truth about Rome. Yeah, I’m kind of like a popular folk hero, you know? You see, we Jews hated paying tribute to a pagan emperor. Actually “hated” is too soft of a word. We despised paying taxes to Rome. Why? For us, such payments constituted treason—treason to God.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: I was a member of a zealot party. It was founded by Judas the Galilean. Not Judas Iscariot — Judas the Galilean. It was a continuation of the spirit of the Maccabees from years and years ago. We believe that Jews are God’s people to be ruled only by God and God alone.

We also watched with anger as some of our own, some of our own high priests became nothing more than a pro-Roman collaborator. They were mere puppets of the state. So at the grassroots, my fellow Jews wanted a leader: a real leader . . . somebody who would free them from oppression of Rome—even if that involved a little guerilla warfare. That has been my vision.

So I was introduced to the party of men who were devoted to overthrowing Roman rule. Meanwhile, Pilate, Mr. Big, sitting in his cushy palace, wanted to make a statement by having me silenced and executed “Roman style.”

I’d better explain what I mean by being executed “Roman style.” The Roman soldiers were experts in death. Not just any kind of death. I’m talking the slow, grueling kind of torture—the torture of a human being that could last for days. Pain was their specialty and they loved inflicting it on criminals. That’s why crucifixion was their method of choice.

First, they beat you on the back with a whip. We called it “the cat of nine tails.” Why? This whip had 3, sometimes 6, and a lot of times 9 pieces of leather. Embedded in the leather there were bits of bone, bits of metal, fragments of glass. A soldier would tie your arms around a whipping post, strip you naked, and then hit you with that whip.

I’ve been whipped before. They thought that would shut me up but, of course, it didn’t. Because I’m Barabbas, the Zealot. Well, they would hit you again. And they would hit you again. Each time they yanked that whip back it would rip pieces of flesh off of your back. Do you know that forty of those lashes would kill a man? That’s why, like I said, they’re experts at torture. They would only hit you thirty-nine times—until you were begging for death.

Then they would nail you to a cross. But see, it wasn’t the nail that they pounded through your wrists and through your legs that killed you. No, no. You die because you suffocate. As your body hangs on that cross the weight of your body starts to sag. If you want to breathe, because your lungs are being pressed down by your chest, you have to push up on those nails to grab for a breath. Then you slowly sink again.

After a while you no longer have the energy to push up and get that breath. Meanwhile, your back, which remember has been beat to a pulp, is getting raked across that rough wooden cross. While the Roman guards are standing around laughing and teasing and mocking you, you take your last pitiful gasp and then you die.

Maybe you are beginning to see why I wanted to bring an end to the Roman rule. They are a bunch of barbaric pigs if you ask me. Pilate figured he’d wait until a special occasion to really draw attention to me. So, there I was in jail—in what you’d call today Death Row—waiting for what was coming to me.

That’s when an amazing thing happened. It was about 6 o’clock in the morning. I remember it well. I was chained to my usual spot in the damp cell with several other prisoners. At first I couldn’t tell if I was dreaming.

Somewhere outside the jail people were screaming my name! BARABAS! BARABAS! I couldn’t tell why. The echo of their angry voices bounced off the cold prison walls.

A few moments later I heard the mob shouting “CRUCIFY HIM!! CRUCIFY HIM!”

I’m a strong, self-made man. I’ve faced enemies and hard times but I’m telling you at that moment I never felt so afraid in my life. It’s funny how just days before I was a hero to that crowd. I was going to lead a revolt. I would free them from Roman, pagan oppression. And I remember how good it was as they sang praises to me, Barabbas.

In fact, my full name is Jesus Barabbas.

Jesus was a common name at that time. My name was Jesus Barabbas. They would sing my praises. Now, with a shout, they were betraying me. I felt wounded and broken. Some of the other prisoners wished me well but . . . we all knew what was coming to me.

A short time later I heard the footsteps of the jailer approaching, his keys clanging at his side. With him were several heavily-armed Roman soldiers. Escape was out of the question. I knew that; everybody knew that. There was no way out. I remember feeling utterly alone and full of despair. I knew my number was up. I scanned the hollow eyes of the other prisoners then turned to face those who came to take me away.

The jailer unlocked our cell area, unhooked me from the wall, and barked, “Come with me!” I’m telling you, my legs almost failed me. I tried to put on a good face on what was happening—you know, be strong; don’t let them see you down. But my chest almost couldn’t contain the pounding of my heart.

We walked in silence through the chamber leading to the courtyard. Within moments we reached the doorway. I had to shield my eyes as we stepped out of the darkness of my cell into the light of a new day.

The crowd was still shouting “CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!”

I didn’t have the will to press on.

The guards nudged me forward. I stumbled as we moved maybe 20 feet away from the prison gate. Moments later I notice my guards were no longer looking in my direction. Something else had caught their attention. I squinted to see who they were looking at in the distance. As best I could tell, the man had a crown of thorns pressing down on his blood-soaked brow. I noticed how his back had been beaten with that Cat of 9 Tails.

As I watched, the soldiers nearest to him spat on his face. One of them reached up and grabbed a part of his beard and yanked it off causing the blood to flow directly from his cheek. Another took a reed and whacked him on the head with that crown—pushing those needles deeper into his skull.

I was so caught up with the drama unfolding before me that it took a minute to realize my jailer was using his key—finding the right one—to unlock my chains. I stepped back into the moment when he said to me, “Barabbas, you are free to go.”

I didn’t want to anger the guard, but what he said made no sense. “What? I’m free to go?”

“You heard me,” he barked. “You are a free man.”

I couldn’t comprehend it. My mind raced for some explanation. Was this a trap? A new form of mind torture? If I were to take two steps toward freedom, I knew for sure they would beat me for attempting to escape. But the soldiers had left me standing alone. In a few moments, they joined with the others who were mocking the other man.

That’s when I realized something: It was His life for mine. Who was this man? What had He done to deserve such treatment? I needed answers—but I needed to get out of there too.

After I slipped away I found some of my fellow zealots and I got the whole story. The name of the other prisoner was Jesus, the Christ. My friends said I was being released instead of him.

Jesus. Yeah. His name came back to me. He loved God too.

In fact, He claimed to be the Son of God. He once said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” He was supposedly the promised Messiah.

I recalled how the chief priests hated him. My friends told me that this Jesus was given a bogus trial. That didn’t surprise me. Like I said, our leaders were nothing more than a puppet of the Roman state. But until my friends explained what happened, I didn’t realize how many laws were broken to get Jesus.

Check this out: the Sanhedrin, number one, was never supposed to meet at night—which they did. Secondly, the high priest was not supposed to ever tear his clothing—which he did. A man was never to be convicted by his own testimony—but that’s how they convicted Christ. And a case with conflicting testimony was supposed to be thrown out of court according to Jewish law. The witnesses against Jesus contradicted themselves time and time again and the Sanhedrin ignored it.

Only a full meeting of the Sanhedrin was supposed to make decisions on capital crimes but I learned that there was every indication that several men who were followers of Christ were not at that meeting. It was nothing more than a kangaroo court.

By the time Jesus got through six different bogus trials He ended up in front of Pilate. Pilate made a proclamation from the pro-council seat—which cannot be revoked. Then he changed his mind. That is a big no-no. Pilate said, and I quote, “I find no fault in this man Jesus.” He said the man was innocent. So why then did he have Him punished and whipped? Seems like he was trying to score points with the Jewish leadership.

Let me put it this way: the trial of Jesus would be the equivalent of you here in America being arrested by a mall security guard, jailed with no charges pressed, no rights were read to you, you’ve got no legal council, and then you’re hauled into court on the basis on faked evidence. Then you are convicted on false testimony. The judge overrides the jury’s attempt to acquit. You are sentenced to death and you are being allowed no appeals. Then you are deported to Saudi Arabia and you are beheaded.

That, in a way, was the justice Jesus was given. Here was an innocent man sentenced to die. I was a guilty man but I was set free.

All I know is this man died and I lived His life for mine.

Now I’ve never had much use for the Scriptures. Never had time for it, really. Frankly, I was busy rallying support to overthrow Rome. But now everything has changed. Funny how a crisis will do that. I do remember as a boy reading something from one of the prophets. Those last few days got me to recall those words from Isaiah.

Listen to what the prophet spoke:

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for my iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth. He was like a lamb led to slaughter, as a sheep before her shearers is silent so he did not open His mouth.” [Isaiah 53:4-7]

Isaiah went on to say:

 “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and offer Him to suffer. After the suffering of His soul He will see the light of life and be satisfied. Because he poured out his life unto death and was numbered among the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many and made intercession for transgressors.” [Isaiah 53:10, 12]

Jesus, like me, was a revolutionary. I’ve come to see, however, His revolution was different. It was a revolution over death and the sin that prevents us from eternal life with God. The Romans crucified Him and they figured that was the end of it. But you want to know the most amazing part of this story?

Three days later I heard Jesus came back to life. He rocked the world with a power so great, so unheard of, no wonder people wanted Him dead. Me? One thing is sure: I owe Jesus my life.

©2013 Bob DeMoss, All Rights Reserved

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