Elizabeth Cree is on trial, accused of poisoning her husband John, who is himself suspected of a series of savage, grisly murders in London’s Limehouse. The court finds her guilty and here she is on her way to the gallows.
Will the compassionate Inspector Kildare get there in time to save her? Is she guilty of her husband’s murder? What will become of her? Inspector Kildare races through the crowded streets to do his best to reach her. Last minute reprieves make for great film drama, as we watch and move towards the edge of our seats, wondering which way the story will go. Who is guilty? Who is innocent? And will justice be truly done? Will Kildare be on time or just too late?
Was Jesus Barabbas on edge, wondering if anyone would save him? Or did he have no such hope of any reprieve? He was, we are told in Matthew’s gospel chapter 27, a notorious criminal. Clearly guilty of perhaps several crimes. However, he wasn’t up there pleading his innocence or crying out for someone to come and rescue him. He most likely had no such hope. Yet he did not die on execution day. The plot played out another way. Another Jesus died and Barabbas walked free. In a spite of his notoriety.
His name means Son of the Father, which is interesting because he would be replaced by another son, of another father. Another Jesus. From Nazareth. If there was ever one man who could claim that Jesus died in his place it was surely Barabbas, and yet we have no idea whether it brought any kind of response from him.
Did he just go back to his life of crime? Was he changed forever? Did he gradually discover who Jesus of Nazareth was and become a follower? Was he among the crowds who heard and saw Jesus after the resurrection? We will never know, and if there is a mystery here, then it is the question of what became of Jesus Barabbas. I guess we must make up our own mind. About him and ourselves. For, in the words of that famous author Paul, ‘God showed he loved us deeply by sending his son to die for us.’ There would be no edge of the seat reprieve for Jesus of Nazareth, he didn’t try and fight his way out of his crucifixion, but willingly, mysteriously, laid down all he had for all of creation. (Romans 5 v 8)