Matthew called him notorious.
John referred to his as a bandit.
Mark and Luke called him a rioter.
Barabbas was an insurrectionary, a terrorist, a murderer, and an all-around nasty fellow. Barabbas, vile, smelly, the riff-raff mothers shielded their children from in public, was what my Grandma would call just low-down, dog mean.
It is likely his mother rubbed his soft hair as she suckled him, his smooth skin against her breast, and dreamed about what kind of man he would become. Would her heart leap with happiness as she watched him becoming a young man? Would he give her grandchildren? Would he care for her, providing food and shelter when she was old? Like almost every mother, she would do the best she could with him.
It probably never entered her mind that he would be the first person Jesus would die for.
There was a Jewish custom that when prisoners were sentenced, Pilate would release one, giving a pardon from death. Maybe someone who the crowd thought was innocent, or one who had family to care for. Maybe someone who had contributed much to society before they made bad decisions. Someone who was still loved by someone.
Never someone like Barabbus. History is silent about how Barabbus morphed from a little boy into the despicable person he was on that day, the history-changing day when Pilate released him from crucifixion, and put Jesus in his place.
Barabbus, with his black heart and blood-stained hands became the symbol of the ugliness of sin.
I was Barabbus. While I looked fine on the outside, clean and fashionable, well-mannered and acceptable to this society, Jesus could see the real me, the real Barabbus. When I came to His feet with my black heart and blood-stained hands, He covered me, cleansed me, changed me.
He loved me enough. Enough to suffer pain and humiliation, enough to bear stripes and scars, enough to bleed and be broken.
I can never thank Him enough.
In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:4-5