". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


The Account of Barabbas Shows How the World Is Blind to True Justice

February 19, 2024

When Jesus took His disciples across the brook of Kidron and into the garden, they were quickly met with a band of soldiers with lanterns, torches, and weapons — all led there by Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus. “Knowing all that would happen to Him,” John writes, Jesus stepped forward and asked the soldiers, “Whom do you seek?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

And with mysterious power that caused the men to draw back and fall to the ground, Jesus said, “I am He.”

What follows are the trials that led to the most tragic, brutal, and unmerited death in history, an outcome that came after trials that found no guilt in Jesus. Prior to being whipped, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, and given vinegar to drink, Jesus was questioned by the high priest and the Roman official, Pontius Pilate.

One record of the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate can be found in John 18:33-38 where Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king. In short, Jesus replied that His kingdom was not of this world. But once Pilate left the presence of Jesus, he told the Jews, “I find no guilt in Him” — a statement made three times during this event. In accordance with justice, one would expect Jesus to then be set free because of His innocence. But as we will see in this passage, those who sent Jesus to the cross were blind to true justice.

Pilate said, “But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” To which the people cried back, “Not this man, but Barabbas!”

Barabbas? Who’s that? He must have been somewhat of an innocent man, as well, if the people were to choose his freedom over the freedom of a man Pilate found no guilt in, right?


In the gospels, Barabbas is described as a robber, an insurrectionist, and a murderer. Unlike Jesus, he was a true threat to Roman civil society. This man, in accordance with justice, should never have been set free. And you would think Rome wouldn’t have let it happen. But in the eyes of the Jews, Jesus was guilty of blasphemy because they were blind to Him being the Messiah. And for the Roman officials, they were more concerned with staying on Caesar’s good side, making them indifferent to whether the “right” man was released.

But the Jews believed hanging Jesus on the cross was true justice, and Matthew 27:20 says, “The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.” And how easily the crowd obliged. And in doing so, Peter said in Acts 3:14-15 that they “denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to” them, killing “the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.” But their fleshly understanding blinded them to this truth.

The spiritual blindness of unbelievers is so prominent in this passage, and it remains prominent today. It’s the same spiritual blindness rooted in transgenderism and all gender ideology. Spiritual blindness can explain why babies are murdered in the womb of a mother and excused as a “woman’s right.” Look at history, and the world as it is now, and you’ll see that blindness to the truths of Scripture nearly always lead to injustices, deception, and, ultimately, death. For Christians, this is why regular time in prayer and the Word is necessary so we are not easily dismayed by the lies the world proclaims.

But in addition to this, there is something else believers must be cautious not to overlook. And that is how Barabbas is not just an example of how the world has skewed justice through their spiritual blindness, but he is an example of who we actually are as a fallen race.

As the online ministry GotQuestions articulated, “The story of Barabbas and his release from condemnation is a remarkable parallel to the story of every believer. We stood guilty before God and deserving of death (Romans 3:23; 6:23a). But then, due to no influence of our own, Jesus was chosen to die in our stead. He, the Innocent One, bore the punishment we rightly deserved. We, like Barabbas, were allowed to go free with no condemnation (Romans 8:1). And Jesus ‘suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18).”

When we read a passage like this, believers should be humbled by the fact that we are no longer spiritually blind like those Jews and other people in the crowd were. We can praise the Lord for giving us eyes to see and ears to hear.

But we can also be reminded of the sweet truth that when Jesus bore the cross in the place of Barabbas, He really bore the cross in place of us. We are the ones who deserve to face the wrath of God. And yet, that price has been paid in full by the Holy and Righteous One, the Author of life. And even though Jesus was handed over, His death was ultimately under the sovereignty of God.

Beloved, before the foundation of the world (as Scripture states), God made a plan to send His one and only Son to the cross, holy and blameless, to bear the weight of God’s wrath and the sins of the entire world. And why did He determine such a dreadful fate for His Son? So that you and I could have eternal life, free from condemnation and the punishment we deserve. And in this, God is both merciful and just.

And above all, we see how He is abundantly gracious.

My prayer is that this account of Jesus on trial can bring two reminders: First, that the world is spiritually blind to the truth, and as believers, we need to remember this so that we can better equip ourselves to have love, compassion, and patience as we share the truth to a world that denies it. And second, this account reminds us of just how great our God is.

I am Barabbas. You are Barabbas. Guilty and deserving of death. And yet, Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” And the promise He made to us all is this: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.