googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: What’s in a Name?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What’s in a Name?

The gospels tell of the man named Barabbas (Matthew 27:16, Mark 15:7, John 18:40, Luke 23:18). He is described as a “notable prisoner” who committed insurrection, murder, and robbery. Here was as guilty a man as you’ll ever find and he was sentenced to be crucified for his crimes. However, it was the custom of the Romans to release a prisoner to the Jews at the time of the Passover (John 18:39). Now, Pilate wanted to release Jesus because he felt Jesus was not guilty of any crime but the crowd cried out for the release of Barabbas (Matthew 27:24). Therefore, Jesus (the innocent man) was sentenced to die and Barabbas (the guilty man) was set free. Jesus literally died in his place.

I’ve often wondered how Barabbas might have felt about this. Certainly he would have been relieved he did not have to die. I wonder if he felt thankful to Jesus who bore the cross for his sake? I wonder if he might have accepted Christ because of it. What a wretched man Barabbas would have been if he watched an innocent man die for the sake of his sins and did not even care.

But there’s something very interesting about the name, “Barabbas”:

“Bar” is a Hebrew word meaning, “son of.” In Matthew 16:17, Jesus calls Peter, “Simon Barjona.” This means, “Simon, son of Jonas.” See also John 21:15-17, where Jesus refers to Peter as, “Simon, son of Jonas.”

“Abba” is a Hebrew word meaning, “Father” or “Daddy” (Mark 14:36, et al).

So, “Bar-abbas” literally means, “a son of a father.” When you think about it, every man is “a son of a father.” Indeed every one of us is a child of a father. So Barabbas could have been anyone – he is a “generic man.”

This paints a wonderful picture of the substitutionary death of Jesus. Each one of us is a Barabbas: all guilty of many sins and all sentenced to die. But we don’t have to die. Jesus – the innocent man who knew no sin – has died in our place. He went to the cross and we were set free.

As you read the account of Barabbas, think about his name. He’s the “anyone” man. Try reading it again and inserting your own name instead of Barabbas’. Now, how do you feel about it? Have you accepted Jesus’ death as the payment of your sins? Are you grateful to Jesus because of it? Or do you not even care?

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