Published March 27, 2012

Paul's Epistle...
"Criminal Freed"

The author of the following is unknown, but the main character is familiar.

The scene was a prison's death row. A young man cowered in the corner of his cell. His execution was scheduled for that day. His last memories on the face of the earth were destined to be of this cold, musty cell block.

He knew he was guilty. He was a thief and a murderer. He knew he was only getting what he deserved. But he was scared. He sat silently as he awaited his executioner, his mind jumping between old memories and shuddering thoughts of his soon death.

Suddenly he heard the jingle of keys and the slow, steady rhythm of the jailer's footsteps in the hallway. He was suddenly gripped with an icy feeling of fear and despair. His heart pounded. "This is it," he thought.

The jailer reached the cell, looked down at the young man and said, "Get up! You are free to go."

What? What was he hearing? Could it be true, or just a cruel trick?

The jailer said again, "You are free to go."

Could he believe it? Slowly he staggered to his feet and stepped cautiously past the jailer, fully expecting to be grabbed and thrown back in. But the jailer did not touch him. No one stopped him. He was free! But why?

As he left the jail, he noticed that the streets were packed with people. He now had an idea why he had been released — and he knew how he could find out.

As he went down the street from the jail, an old friend rushed up to him. "Hey, man. We heard you were set free. All the guys want you to come over and celebrate. Come on. Let's go."

The young man declined. "No," he replied. "I have some place I need to go."

Then suddenly he heard the familiar voice of his little sister through the rumble of the crowd. "Mom and Dad sent me to find you," she said. "They have a great party planned. We are all going to celebrate. Come on."

"No," he told her. "I can't come. I have some place I have to go." He pushed on.

Finally, he made it to the center of the crowd. He tried to force his way through to the front, but his efforts were thwarted by the mass of onlookers. He could get no closer.

Someone shouted to him, "Hey, aren't you Barabbas? What are you doing out of jail?"

He glanced back to see who spoke to him. "Yes," he replied. "I am Barabbas. I was supposed to die today. I just wanted to see the man who took my place."

And now it can be told...

I, too, was under a death sentence. But that same man took my place. He died for my sins.
In fact, you were under that same sentence. But that same man took your place, too. He died for your sins.
He didn't die for His own sins – because He was the Son of God, and had no sin.  (2 Cor. 5:21.)
But, because He died, we have "passed from death into life" (John 5:24), much as was the case for the criminal Barabbas.1
That man is Jesus Christ – "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
And someday – soon – we, too, will see the Man who took our place!

Are you ready for it?

"He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

"Christ also suffered for us ... who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Peter 2:21, 24)

- Paul

Notes:  Read the Biblical account on which the narrative above is based in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23 and John 18.
1No one knows if Barabbas subsequently became a believer. Christ's death saved Barabbas' physical life at the time, but only subsequent faith in Christ would have given him eternal life with Christ.

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