A few years back in 2012, I decided to set my good ol’ KJV (King James Version) Bible aside and read my new NIV (New International Version) Bible instead. One day as I read a familiar story in Matthew, I noticed something about Barabbas that I had never known before… probably because I had always read out of the KJV. The new thing I noticed was Barabbas’s first name. You might be surprised to know, as I was, that his first name was…wait for it…. his first name was Jesus (Matt 27:16). Many transcripts chose to eliminate his first name because they thought Barabbas was not worthy to have the same name as Jesus.
I was in disbelief at first so I researched it; and sure enough, it’s true. This blew me away. As is my usual tendency when reading scripture, I talked it over with Jesus, my teacher, the same yesterday, today and forever. He began to open up all kinds of revelation which convicted me deeply, yet ended up blessing me immensely.
Part of this research led to the meaning of the last name, Barabbas, which is ‘son of the father‘. At this point, my wheels are spinning. This cannot be coincidence, as nothing with an omniscient God is coincidence. Let’s think about this for a minute. Here you have two men with whom the crowd is given a choice of which one would go to the cross and which one would go free; two men with the same first name standing next to one another – Jesus the Christ, who is THE Son of the FATHER, and Jesus Barabbas. Are you intrigued yet? Well let’s keep going then…
Since I gave you the definition of his last name, it is equally important to note that the first name, Jesus, means ‘God saves’. Interestingly enough, the reason Barabbas was imprisoned in the first place was because he was an insurrectionist against the Roman government. In other words, he fought (rebelled, murdered, robbed) against the injustices of the tyrannical government of his day, of Rome. People often want this kind of savior to rescue them. In fact, this type of Messiah is what much of Israel expected and hoped for.
One only has to look around our world today (and our church, for that matter) to see that we are much the same in our preferred choice of savior.
Those closest to Jesus held similar hopeful and traditional expectations that the Messiah would be like Moses; that He would set himself up as a leader here on earth and rescue them all from the evil government by revolting against it, “Let my people go or else!” Even though He had told His disciples repeatedly that His Kingdom wasn’t of this earth, and that He would die and rise again; they simply couldn’t wrap their minds around it as they continued on in their learned religious presumptions. For instance, Peter had already declared Jesus the Messiah, through revelation of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 16:15-17); but then he turned around right after and rebuked Jesus when He spoke of His upcoming death (Matthew 16:21-23). Then there was Judas, with whom many theologians believe his main motivation in betraying Jesus was not necessarily out of greed, but to accelerate the long-established and time-honored revolt that was expected to happen. They all knew Jesus was the Messiah, but they still reasoned in their limited understanding what exactly that entailed.
Don’t we still do this with our Savior today? We don’t like to think of the bad that Jesus speaks about, only the good. We frequently imagine how Jesus will do something the way our limited understanding warrants it should be done; or we blindly follow religious and traditionally held beliefs about how He will do something. We can avoid a lot of chaos and confusion if we would simply fine-tune our ears to who Jesus says He is and to how He says He will do it.
This confusion stems primarily from preconditioned ideologies. I don’t believe it was fear alone that caused the disciples to disperse when their Savior was arrested, but more likely confusion. In fact, confusion was the source of their fear. Peter proved this when he chopped off the soldier’s ear. This act, alone, proved that he meant it when he had previously told Jesus he would die for Him (Matthew 26:35). It appeared he was more than instinctively willing to fight and die for His Savior. But then, wait a minute, Jesus did something confusing. He not only rebuked Peter, but He healed the enemy. Wait! What?! Can you imagine Peter’s confusion? I can! “What do you want from me?” “I was fighting for You!” “Didn’t I prove to You that I would lay my life down for You?” “Why would You heal this, this religious servant of the high priest; this enemy of Yours?” “Why would you let the enemy win?” “I thought You didn’t like the high priest.” “I thought this is what you wanted!” “What do you want from me?”
How many times have I been like Peter; fighting for the Kingdom of God by chopping off people’s ears? I’ve chopped off ears in arguments and debate. I’ve chopped of ears in pride. I’ve chopped of ears because I thought it was what Jesus wanted from me. I’ve chopped off ears in religiosity. Then the rebuke comes, and I squirm in anger; or I distance myself from Jesus (also as Peter did – Matthew 26:58). Then to top it off, Jesus goes and heals those I feel are my enemies; His enemies. Grrrr…. Then my flesh wrestles some more… until the Lord eventually draws me near to Himself and reveals the answers to my confusion.
Something I was always curious about when I was a child growing up in church was how the masses of people who had witnessed Jesus many miracles and who sang “Hosanna” as Jesus entered Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9) could turn around less than a week later and choose Barabbas to be set free while shouting, “Crucify Him” about my Savior (Matthew 27:21). This used to anger me when trying to understand how easily they could turn on Him. Through witnessing the wickedness of today’s culture, and seeing how quickly people turn on the righteous, how some “Christians” get puffed up in their own limited knowledge of the scriptures, how they blindly follow religious leaders regardless of the truth before them, and how quickly they can turn into an angry mob; it has become more understandable how they were able to turn on Jesus. This Barabbas revelation reveals to us one of the reasons all these aforementioned things are possible. Let me explain as I quickly sum all of this up…
First, as I begin this closing overview, let me remind you that Satan is the great imitator (2 Cor 11:14) and deceiver (Rev 12:9). With that in mind, let’s reiterate the fact that the man who stood next to Jesus Christ (Savior who is THE SON OF THE FATHER) was Jesus Barabbas (an imitation savior with the same name). The people wanted an uprising, and when it appeared Jesus the Christ wasn’t going to do what they expected Him to do the way they wanted it done, they chose Jesus Barabbas to be set free. Perhaps this ‘imitation savior’ would bring down and kill a few of those evil Romans. At least he would stand up and fight. Both had similar hopeful messages, but different techniques. One was of love and one was of hate. One was of spirit and one was of flesh. These real struggles have been the real battle for everyone since the beginning of time.
As I considered all I had learned, I heard very clearly a question, “Who do you choose?” The ‘spiritual’ side of me would answer, “You, of course,” but the reality of this revelation caused me to squirm. Ugh! Ouch! This question came at a time when I was in, let’s just say, fight mode. This fight inside of me wanted to continue chopping people’s ears off, and most definitely would’ve chosen the loud obnoxious hateful man standing next to Jesus the Christ.
Barabbas symbolizes the Jesus that many of us want Jesus to be, a false image of what He’s supposed to do and be. Our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. This struggle is real and this choice (the choice between Jesus the Christ and Jesus Barabbas) is one that all of us still have to consciously make on a daily basis in various areas of our lives. His way or our way? Spirit or flesh? Love or hate?
When I first received this revelation, it was reaffirmation of the constant struggle I had had with current events (and, admittedly, still have occasionally), and how my flesh wanted to fight a very different way than the way He had called me to fight (no matter how I tried to justify it). It is true; the Holy Spirit has given me a gift of truth and has called me to be a warrior. However, as with any gift/calling, there are 2 different ways to “choose” to go about it…one of spirit and one of flesh. God has a plan for our lives, but so does the imitator/deceiver. #realenemy
Soooo… Who do you choose? Jesus Christ or Jesus Barabbas? Ask the Lord to reveal any area where you are choosing Barabbas, and He will definitely show you. Your flesh may not like it at first, but it is for your good that you choose Jesus the Christ in EVERYTHING!