“Oh, Barabbas! How could you ever have done such a thing? It’s not at all like you. It’s not like the Barabbas I know.”
“I’ve asked myself that question a million times since. I’ve excused the killing of the soldier in the rebellion as part of the insurrection attempt. But perhaps one killing softened me to be able to kill again. Oh, Deborah, I feel terrible when I think about it. I was so happy to be free, but now that I’m here and thinking about what I’ve done, I know I don’t deserve my freedom. I’m a robber and a murderer. How could they have chosen me to release? Why didn’t they choose him? He didn’t do anything worthy of death?”
“Who? Who are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the Nazarene who claimed to be king. I believe his name is Jesus.”
“You mean Jesus the prophet? The children and I went to see him to see if he could tell us when you’d be home. He didn’t make any specific prophecy, and yet I found his words very comforting and enlightening.”
“Well, he’s the one who should be free--not me! And they’re crucifying him now.” Suddenly he stood up. “Deborah, I’m going to Mt. Calvary.” He started toward the door.
“But, Barabbas, why? You just got home. Why are you going out already?”
“I must go, Deborah. I must see this man who is taking my place.”
PART II CHAPTER 19: CRUCIFIXION
Even so must the son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
---Jesus (John 3: 14b-15)
The dreary road to Calvary
Was trod that day by figures three
Who crosses bore
Whose weight wore sore
Upon their backs
Then one did fall
And someone from the crowded scene
Was called to bear the cross
Of him, the Nazarene.
“Why don’t they get someone to carry our crosses too? Maybe if I faked a fall too--. I mean, who is he, someone special?”
“Oh, be quiet, Lucas!”
And on they trudged.
Around them formed a multitude so great;
And women mourned
And wept for him who’d been their help of late.
“Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children; for if they do these things in a green tree, what shall they do in a dry?”
Timotheus marveled at the power of these words and at the magnificence of a man who, though facing death, was less concerned about himself than he was about those around him. What kind of man, indeed?
The pain from the spikes was excruciating. But as Timotheus gazed upon the stranger’s sores, his own pain seemed strangely to lessen or to grow less important.
Behind them sat the soldiers
Who gambled for his clothes;
Before them knelt his faithful followers few;
Around them surged a crowd of angry faces of his foes;
And from those mouths, sharp, bitter
And most scornful phrases flew.
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
But their railing did continue,
Lucas adding his voice too.
Timotheus was pensive, but unmoved until Lucas started on him too. Maybe Lucas was right. Surely this stranger was just like anyone else. All other belief must have come from a deluded imagination. Alas, there was no hope now of his finding true peace and happiness. He had lived a miserable life. He must die a miserable death, reconciled to the fact that there is no real peace or happiness to be found.
But just then he sighted a new but familiar figure there among those at the foot of the stranger’s cross. It was, of all people, Barabbas. Timotheus was deeply moved at the sight of the big brute upon his knees.
Suddenly Timotheus’ sins swarmed before him. Then, he thought once more of this Nazarene – of all he’d heard of him and all he’d heard him say. It seemed suddenly to fit. Could this man be the promised Messiah? Surely he must be.
From the throng came an upsurge of cutting quips, and one from Lucas: “If you be the Christ, save yourself and us!”
That was too much! It was time for Timotheus to stand. “Lucas,” he groaned reprimandingly, and as strongly as he could, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’re in the same condemnation? And we, indeed justly. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Lucas, at last, was silent. But, as good as it felt to mouth those words, Timotheus was not yet satisfied. There was still something missing– something, which he was sure this stranger alone could supply. If he was a king, then he must have a kingdom. And if he was the Messiah, he could offer the forgiveness and the peace Timotheus so longed for. Fixing his eyes upon him, Timotheus pleaded, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The Nazarene smiled at him. It was a warm, radiant smile that made him feel all at peace inside. “This day,” he said, “You shall be with me in paradise.”
Timotheus’ face relaxed. “In paradise! At last!” he thought, “I’ve found it at last!”
Now the pain seemed strangely bearable. It lasted for only a short while more, or so it seemed. Then, as the soldiers came and broke his legs, he hardly even felt this final torment but entered calmly into that wonderful realm of light and beauty to be forever with his new-found king.
PART II CHAPTER 20: REDEMPTION
Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.
---Paul and Silas (Acts 16:31)
Let's go back, for a moment, and view more closely the other figure whom Timotheus had seen kneeling at the cross. He had come in fear and confusion. He had come out of a strange sense of compulsion. Somehow he knew he had to come, although he wasn’t quite sure what to expect. He only knew that, as he had told Deborah, he had to come and see this one who was taking his place.
As he walked up that hill, his sense of guilt and shame almost overwhelmed him. He knew that even though he had escaped the justice of this world, there was a greater judgment ahead in the world to come and he feared this more than anything. He had told God he was sorry for his sins. He’d said it perhaps a million times since that fatal night. But somehow the heavens seemed like brass. Was there no way to find forgiveness and peace?
As he stood there and watched them drive the nails into those hands, he noticed a sense of calmness in the midst of agony on the Nazarene’s face. Then, as he heard those enduring words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” it was as if those words were meant for him alone. He knew they were not. He knew they were meant for the soldiers who were driving in the nails, but somehow, it seemed that he, Barabbas, must be included in their meaning as well. After all, it was he who should be being nailed to that cross. Surely this man was taking his place in a far greater way than he had first realized. A man who could pray for the forgiveness of those driving the nails into his hands– must not this be the Messiah? Then, he raised his eyes upward and caught sight of the inscription nailed above the cross, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS.” The Messiah would be king, wouldn’t he? But where was his kingdom? Why, of course, it had to be in the hearts of men like himself.
He watched as the Nazarene hung there, suspended between heaven and earth, calmly submitting to the pain of crucifixion, as if he knew he was meant to die. But then, he heard the agonizing cry, lifted to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Was this man forsaken of God? Could it be? But, why? Then, it struck him. He had always been taught that God was holy and could not look upon sin. If this man was really the Messiah, then perhaps he was bearing the sins of the people upon him. He was bearing his, Barabbas’, sin upon him. Yes, that was it. Then, he, Barabbas, was really forgiven. He was forgiven of the insurrection, of killing the soldier, of the robbery attempt, of killing Benjamin, and of every other sin he had ever committed in his life – of getting angry with his wife and children of---of-of---he was forgiven! This was wonderful! Now he really knew what it was to feel good.
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