This week many children will dress up as heroes – some Batman, some Wonder Woman, and some Superman. But not all heroes come with a costume we readily recognize.
In the story of Jesus’ crucifixion we meet a man who may look more like us than we want to believe. His name, Barabbas, literally means ‘son of the father’. Through Mark’s account of history, we learn that Barabbas is an insurrectionist – a Jewish freedom fighter, if you will. In a revolt against Roman authority he had committed murder, and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. Pilate chose to observe the custom of releasing a prisoner of the people’s choosing during their Passover celebration. Rather than cheering for the release of the innocent Jesus, they demanded freedom for a known criminal. It’s ironic that the guilty ‘son of the father’ gained freedom, while the innocent son the “The Father” was executed.
This is the story that first inspired me to write Everyday Heroes. We don’t typically consider the life of Barabbas to be heroic, but perhaps we should. Without Barabbas, there is no tangible substitution made. No guilt readily observed. No freedom offered. Without Barabbas, there is no mercy, no grace, and no salvation. By not identifying with Barabbas we miss the heroism.
The first section in each chapter of Everyday Heroes is written as historical fiction. All of the everyday heroes (with the exception of the last one) is someone we know very little about, but whose contribution develops the big picture. Historically, we don’t know much about Barabbas, but that may have been the way God intended it. He is Everyman.
I grew up thinking about Barabbas as some kind of ogre. Perhaps he was. Perhaps he was a wild, angry, belligerent, evil, monster of a man. (I’ve met people who might identify with that kind of Barabbas.) Maybe he joined the revolt just so he could knock some heads together, without really believing in the cause. Seeing Barabbas this way hindered me from identifying with him. After all, I don’t consider myself to be that bad. Do you?
Maybe you’re like me. I grew up going to Sunday school, memorizing Bible verses, and putting on a pretty good show. I understood the rules, and followed them as best I could – for the most part. Guilt was always covered with cleaner living. Life was tidy and neat, until I met women who didn’t know a blooming thing about Jesus, but wanted to. These ladies forced me to read the Bible from a different perspective. I went back and read as if I knew nothing, and found out how little I really knew. As I learned more about grace, the Holy Spirit, and freedom, I began to see where salvation really comes from. And now I identify with Barabbas.
Today, I picture Barabbas as a man who thought he was fighting for a good cause. He was tired of being a slave to Roman authority. He sought freedom. He got caught up in the moment, and let his temper take over. The movies often show a sneering Barabbas upon release, but I tend to see a man melting into the eyes of Jesus. I see a sorrowful Barabbas as he realizes his own guilt was paid by an innocent man. Maybe he thought later, “I should have insisted they release Jesus! I should have done something!” Maybe he spent the rest of his life trying to do enough good to make up for such a monumental mistake. Not only did his quest for freedom take the life of some father’s son, but his freedom killed the Son of God. This is a Barabbas I can relate to.
Maybe you’re looking at your own caught-up-in-the-moment sin, and trying your hardest to get right again. Just do what I hope Barabbas finally did. Let your guilt melt into the grace of Jesus. Repent and joyfully tell others what Jesus, the Ultimate Hero, did for you. Then you will become the everyday hero God intended you to be.