It happened too fast. One minute Barabbas was in his cell on death row playing tic-tac-toe on the dirt walls, and the next he was outside squinting his eyes at the bright sun.
“You’re free to go.”
Barabbas scratches his beard. “What?”
“You’re free. They took the Nazarene instead of you.”
Barabbas has often been compared to humanity, and rightly so. In many ways he stands for us: a prisoner who was freed because someone he had never seen took his place.
As far as we know, he took his sudden freedom for what it was, an undeserved gift. Someone tossed him a life preserver and he grabbed it, no questions asked. You couldn’t imagine him pulling some of our stunts. We take our free gift and try to earn it or diagnose it or pay for it instead of simply saying “thank you” and accepting it.
Why do we do that? The only reason I can figure is pride. To accept grace means to accept its necessity, and most folks don’t like to do that. To accept grace also means that one realizes his despair, and most people aren’t too keen on doing that either.
Barabbas, though, knew better. Maybe he didn’t understand mercy and surely he didn’t deserve it, but he wasn’t about to refuse it. We might do well to realize that our plight isn’t too different than that of Barabbas’s. We, too, are prisoners with no chance for appeal. But why some prefer to stay in prison while the cell door has been unlocked is a mystery worth pondering.
from No Wonder They Call Him the Savior