The approaching sounds of the guards’ feet sent some sensation through Barabbas. He was definitely aware of the criticalness of whatever could make more than necessary soldiers come around to a condemned criminal’s cell. He had heard the ruffles from outside the building though he couldn’t make the connections. That was one of the pains of having one’s prison sentence in the dungeon.
The taste of the outside world becomes totally alien and the feel of it extremely impossible. He couldn’t complain. He was surely guilty of causing political stirs, perpetrating dissensions and exploiting in ungainful ways. He was a terror and a thorn to the Roman security flesh. He has no moral right to rescind fate. He could just hope their coming was not to snuff time. He needed it if he was ever going to come out vindicated. He had been courageous enough to challenge authorities, strong enough to resist adversaries. Now, he doubted if he has the courage to face death. He felt a shrewd shrill go through him.
He was sweating.
The tumultuous crowd was yelling abrasively now, and Barabbas could faintly hear his name. He was overwhelmed by mixed feelings. Was his name being called for release? Or was it an earnest call to expunge him from the surface of the earth? He was troubled. He looked up; the guards were close. There was no smile on their faces, no guile, no beam, and no frown. He couldn’t place it. He couldn’t guess. He just had to wait till they say why they were here. Oh, how he wished things could be different! If he could only see the orange sun smile again… If only the gentle caution of his mother could only be revisited. But it seems all is now too late.
‘Hey!’ The voice said, betrayed of excitement or interest. ‘Someone else is taking your place. He’s going to the tree that you might be free.’
That sounded insane to him. For what reason would a man decide to die for him. Maybe not directly, but why would he stand in his stead. Was it love? Was it duty? Whoever he was, he knew he was not his family and surely not a friend. Before the death of his mother, he had heard of how the father’s family dissociated themselves after his death. He was the only child, and surely his mother was a loner. She was the only one he ever knew. She was the only person he grew to love, trust and respect. Whoever the person was, he was no family, he was no friend. Why would someone even consider a man so vile, dangerous and unloving like him? He was eager for answers.
‘Don’t think too long.’ The voice added. ‘The crowd wants you and Pilate ordered your release. Be assured, you are not loved. The hatred for another was your ticket to freedom. That’s the story. Now let us move.’ There was a key shuffle, a guard stepped forward and the gate was opened.
Barabbas was still stunned. But he must not show his weakness. Why must he be ridiculed in front of this castrated set of slaves? He wore a pretentious smile, something he was sure he would remove when the time comes. He walked behind some soldiers and was sandwiched between others. He was extremely cautious of foul play. He however couldn’t wait to smell clean air. He couldn’t wait to see this man.
As he made his way with the guards to the pavement where Pilate stood, the crowd cheered. He responded valiantly. He must be strong. He turned a bit and saw the man. He was unmistakable. His flesh was covered with blood. He panted rather sparingly, exasperated. He looked miserable. As he drew a little closer, the man lifted his head and gave him a piercing look. It was a look that pinned through him. He couldn’t explain. Was it the convicting gaze or the inexplicable glow of joy even in weariness? Was it something communicating love, something communicating connection, something calling for affinity? He couldn’t explain. Just a look and his whole world seem disturbed.
Who is this man?
He heard onward to Golgotha as they led the man on. He moved down a bit, drawing strength as he watched the ferocious guards lead him on. He was still unsettled. That look has stirred a conscience cry within him. He felt weak, softened yet somewhat cleansed. He kept trotting, following through.
The tears of those around were certainly deafening. More drilling is the derisive shouts, laughter of a greater percentage of the people there. Blows kept coming, whips, spits and to top it all, a cross. Barabbas found out that the heartless person he was was feeling an unusual sympathy for this man. He was muttering, what could he have done? He wished he knew someone around to ask but that couldn’t be. No one seems to notice him. As far as everyone is concerned the man with the cross is the news. He decided within himself he was going to help with carrying the cross, but someone else had.
At Golgotha he could not come in terms with the way he was treated. He wanted to know this man’s crime and why he was treated like a criminal. At the foot of the cross, it was like mercy and suffering were meeting. He looked around and noticed a man whose gaze had been on him for a long while. As he later got to know, he was the disciple that the man loved most. He asked him who he was.
With a gentle tone, he told him, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’
N/B: I believe we all are like Barabbas, in the prison of sin and fit for death. But Christ came along the line and paid the price we deserve. (October, 2009)