It was late at night, and I was asleep. Suddenly a sound from outside sliced the silence. For a moment I didn’t know where I was. Opening my eyes was difficult because blood had crusted over them. When I did take in my surroundings, my heart sank. It was cold and dark, and I lay on a bare floor, confined by stone walls.
My body ached. My mind seemed cloudy. Though now awake, I still felt half-asleep. I yearned for a bed, yet I lacked so much as a pillow. The little food I had was rancid. A cramp pierced through my arm. I tried to shake it out, but I was weak and chained to the wall. Even moaning took too much effort.
Again I heard a sound from outside like people shouting.
A rat scurried up to my cell, where it paused and then darted through the bars. Instead of being repulsed, I welcomed the creature’s intrusion. It pleased me to be visited by someone who was not hostile toward me.
I wished that I could return to sleep, but the wall’s jagged edges agitated the open sores on my back. I daydreamed of home, but soon I relived in vivid detail the reason I was in prison. It was hopeless. I would never go home.
A thunderous clang jolted me from my thoughts, and I heard the sounds of men’s boots striking against the stone floors. My heartbeat quickened. A faint glow flickered at the end of the corridor outside my chamber. The light illuminated the silhouettes of the soldiers—they were coming to my cell! Was I going to die? For a minute I welcomed the thought of death.
A soldier entered and grabbed my left arm, wrenching the iron cuff off my wrist. Another man seized my right arm. Pain shot through me as they ripped me from the floor. The men carried me by the arms because my legs failed to keep up with their pace.
At the end of the corridor the sound I had heard earlier grew clearer. I advanced toward a doorway and I squinted from the light. I saw movement, people, a crowd. They shouted my name: “Release Barabbas!”
I stopped in my tracks, stunned. I was guilty of murder and set for execution. But I was free? Only because Jesus died in my place.
Like Barabbas, we participate in the Easter story. Each of us stands convicted of sin, under a death sentence before our just and holy God. Yet in His infinite mercy He sent His Son as our substitute. He has taken our place.
Chris Thompson (MA/CE, 2004) is the junior high pastor at Richland Bible Fellowship in Richardson, Texas.