With this he [Pilate] went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?’ They shouted back, ‘No, not him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising. John 18:38-40 (NIV)
We know little about Barabbas, but from what we do know he doesn’t seem to have been a very nice person. Gleaning information from the four Gospels, we see that Barbabbas’ name was actually Jesus Barabbas (Jesus being a common Jewish name at the time) and he had taken part in an uprising where people had been murdered.
We know from the gospel narratives that Barabbas was released by Pilate in preference to Jesus, despite Pilate knowing there was no basis for charging Jesus. It is apparent that Pilate chose to give in to the crowd, rather than doing what he knew was right.
I am always fascinated by the meaning of names and was surprised to read that the name Barabbas or Jesus Barabbas is a Hellenization of the Aramaic bar abba בר אבא, literally ‘son of the father’ or ‘Jesus, son of the father’. What this means is that Pilate released ‘Jesus, son of the father’, but crucified ‘Jesus, Son of the Father’!
We don’t know what happened to Barabbas after his release. We don’t know if he went back to causing insurrection and murder, or if he realised that the real Jesus, Son of the Father had died in his place. We do know that whatever happened later, he always carried a permanent reminder with him, in his name.
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