Trading Places with Barabbas

If you go to a Good Friday service today, or simply read the Passion narrative at home, it is easy to read it as an event that took place long ago. While incredibly sad, we already know the ending. But before we skip ahead to Easter, it is important to enter into Good Friday, because it was not simply an event that happened long ago, but a reality that affects your life still today.

As Allan Wright recently shared on Morning Air®a good way to enter into Good Friday is to place yourself into the Passion narrative through the character of Barabbas. Though Barabbas is a relatively minor character in today’s Gospel reading, viewing the Passion from his point of view can give meaningful insight into Christ’s suffering and death on the Cross.

Imagining the Passion from Barabbas’ point of view, Wright painted a picture of what it was like for Barabbas as he was sitting in jail. Wright explained, “He knows what’s going to happen. He’s seen first-hand the brutality of the Romans. And yet the crowd shouts something. The crowd is shouting, ‘We want Barabbas!’ And I wonder if Barabbas heard that. He probably did, if there was a sizable crowd. And it can be something else to have the crowd yell your name. So I wonder if Barabbas had a little bit of hope, thinking the crowd remembered him, that they want Barabbas.”

“But what’s the next thing that’s yelled? It’s crucify him, crucify him! If Barabbas had any hope at all, probably his face fell. He knew what was happening next.”

Knowing his guilt, knowing that his fate is sealed, Barabbas was no doubt surprised by what happened next. “The Roman soldiers come down, unlock him, and at some point say, ‘Barabbas, get out. You’re free,'” Wright pointed out. “And it doesn’t make sense, because he knows he’s guilty.”

Murderer though he was, God took his place. And while you may not have murdered anyone lately, the story of Barabbas is your story, too.

“We know our own sin. We know our own failings, our own shortcomings,” Wright said. “And yet, when we look at Jesus we say, ‘Lord, You took my place’ And that, God-willing, spurs something in us. For receiving such love, the only acceptable response is to love. And we do that through our veneration of Christ, and our service to one another.”

So this Good Friday, as you read the Passion narrative, try to trade places with Barabbas and see it from his perspective. Because Barabbas (whose name means ‘son of the father’) may have been the first one freed through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, but on Good Friday we remember that Jesus took the place of each of us, freeing us from the power of sin and death.

“To trade places with Barabbas? I think we all can,” said Wright. “And I think as Catholics, we have an opportunity to really let that sink in. … We have an opportunity to fix our gaze upon the Cross, and to thank Christ for what He has done for us.”

Listen to the full reflection below:

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