In earlier writings, BARABBAS’ name was Jesus Barabbas literally meaning Jesus, son of the father. However, the Gospel writers say he was the following:
- Mt (27:16) notable/notorious prisoner
- Mk (15:7) insurrectionist/rebel
- Lk (23:19) sedition/rebellion, murder
- Jn (18:40) brigand/robber
While Barabbas was a robber, his antithesis was Jesus Christ “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philipians 2:6). Barabbas played an important character during the trial of Jesus Christ, but we have to dig into Old Testament scriptures to understand his goatish nature.
Barabbas was a notorious robber, murder, and rebel. As has been speculated by some, I doubt he was some kind of heroic ‘freedom fighter’. If he had been one, would Pontius Pilate have considered the possibility of releasing him? All that the Governor Pilate would have needed on his hands would be a future Spartacus style uprising, for which Pilate would have been answerable to Caesar. Knowing that the Jewish leaders, out of spite, desired Jesus to be crucified, Pilate gave the people a choice to release either Jesus Christ or Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, who undoubtedly would not win the support of the people. As we know, Pilate’s plan backfired.
Before being brought to Pontius Pilate, Jesus had been interrogated by Caiaphas, the high priest. When angered by Jesus’ words, Caiaphas then rent his clothes. Because it was sin for the high priest to rend his clothes (Lev 21:10, 10:6), Caiaphas’ action would have disqualified him from his religious service during Passover.
Matthew 26:64-65 – Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!
Had Pilate, in a sense, become the Jewish high priest, since Caiaphas had rent his clothes? The Roman Emperor was the ‘pontifex maximus’, the high priest of the Roman religion. Representing the Emperor Tiberius, Pilate who was the prefect could decide judicial cases. By religious disqualification of the Jewish high priest, Pilate unknowingly filled the seat of the high priest when he decided the fate of the “goats” and by washing his hands of the affair. In essence, he was replacing the Roman appointed Jewish high priest, who could not officiate due to the rending of his garments.
ATONEMENT SACRIFICES IN LEV. 16 FORESHADOW CHRIST ON CALVARY
Lev 16:7 The high priest presented two goats before the tent of meeting, where judgment decisions were made. (Ex 33:7-10)
- The Governor Pontius Pilate presents Jesus and Barabbas in front of the praetorium, the residence of the Governor.
Lev 16:8 The high priest cast lots for the two goats: one for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.
- Pontius Pilate asks the crowd to make a decision of whom to release: Barabbas or Jesus. Having come under Roman rule, the Jews were allowed the privilege of asking for the release of one prisoner of their choosing during Passover.
Lev 16:9 The goat on which the Lord’s lot fell was to be sacrificed as a sin offering.
- The people, at the urging of the priests and elders, choose Jesus to be crucified.
- They choose Barabbas, a symbol of the antichrist, a man of sin and a son of the devil. Then Pontius Pilate releases Barabbas unto them.
Lev 16:15-17 Then the high priest would kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat, making an atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle of Congregation, and for the Congregation of Israel.
- After Pontius Pilate has Jesus scourged, Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified. Christ is making atonement for the sins of the world.
Lev 16:18-19 The priest would make atonement for the altar, and would sprinkle the blood upon it seven times, cleansing it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.
At Gethsemane, his sweat becomes great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Lk 22:44)
- Internal bleading (Is 53:5, Micah 5:1, Mt 26:63-64)
His beard is ripped out (Is 50:5-6)
Jesus is whipped (Ps 129:3, Is 50:6, Is 53:5, Mt 27:26, Mk 15:15, Jn 19:1, 1 Pet 2:24)
The crown of thorn causes bleeding from the head (Mt 27:29, Mk 15:17, Jn 19:2)
His hands and his feet are nailed to the cross (Mt 27:35)
His side is pierced (Jn 19:34)
Lev 16:20-22 When he had made an end of reconciling the holy place, the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he would bring the live goat, making confession of iniquities and transgressions upon its head, and sending it away into the wilderness. The goat would bear all the inquities unto a land uninhabited, and he would let go the goat in the wilderness.
- Barabbas is the scapegoat that will be set free to go wild, while Jesus becomes the sacrificial goat for the sin offering.
Lev 16:24, 26 The priest would wash his flesh and his clothes.
Deuteronomy 21:6-8 The elders would wash their hands of an innocent murder.
- Pilate is washing his hands, though prior to the death of Jesus, of murder. It was a Jewish custom, not a Roman custom.
Imagine how this scene of the two goats was played out for centuries during their sacrifices to be as a foreshadow of Christ and the scapegoat.
Jn10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.