Barabbas was a prisoner who was chosen to be released instead of Jesus Christ. He was an insurrectionist and a murderer and was described as notable.
When Jesus Christ was arrested, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, and the entire council met together to consult on what to do with Jesus. They decided to send him on to Pilate.
Pilate asked Him if he was the king of the Jews and Jesus answered, “Thou sayest it.” Although the chief priests offered many accusations, Jesus did not respond to any of them. Pilate asked him about this, noting the many accusations, and when Jesus continued to refuse to answer, Pilate marveled.
It was the tradition to release one prisoner at the Passover feast and the people were permitted to choose. When the people gathered, they began to call for the release of Barabbas, despite his terrible crimes. Pilate asked if they would like Jesus freed instead, because he understood Jesus had been arrested out of envy, not as the result of any true crime.
The chief priests quickly reacted by stirring the people up, convincing them to continue to ask for Barabbas’ release. Pilate asked what should be done with Jesus then, if they didn’t want him freed. They called for Him to be crucified. Pilate asked what evil Jesus had done. They didn’t respond, but merely continued to call for his crucifixion. Pilate scourged Jesus and turned him over to the people. The soldiers led Jesus Christ into the hall and a mob dressed him in purple and placed a crown of thorns on his head. Mockingly, they called out, “Hail, King of the Jews.” Barabbas went free, while Jesus Christ was crucified.
Jeffrey R. Holland, a Mormon apostle, wrote:
“Such ecclesiastical and political rejection became more personal when the citizenry in the street turned against Jesus as well. It is one of the ironies of history that sitting with Jesus in prison was a real blasphemer, a murderer and revolutionary known as Barabbas, a name or title in Aramaic meaning “son of the father.” Free to release one prisoner in the spirit of the Passover tradition, Pilate asked the people, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?” They said, “Barabbas.” So one godless “son of the father” was set free while a truly divine Son of His Heavenly Father moved on to crucifixion” (Jeffrey R. Holland, None Were With Him, April 2009 General Conference).
This article adapted from:
Every Person in the New Testament by Lynn F. Price, Cedar Fort Publishing, 2002, United States of America