Barrabas stood tense and sweating; the crowd below...jeers and shouting everywhere. A Roman soldier stood guard, while nearby, a man called Christ, whom everyone regarded as a prophet, stood silently...smiling. While Pilate, under the shadow of the pillars of the Judgment Hall, reasoned with the multitude.
"He is innocent. He is your prophet. That man is a murderer!" After a pause he continued: "Whom will you have?"
The shout rang out unanimous: "Christ! the Christ!"
And the Christ smiled knowingly upon them all. And their faces with fire and hatred cut across Barrabas: "Crucify Barrabas...let him die the death!" ... "Murderer!" ... "Thief!"
"Shall I crucify Barrabas?"
Barrabas bowed his head in grief. There was no hope. The people would have it so.
And so he was led away. As he went, he saw the Christ released, Pilate clasping the hand of the prophet with pleased countenance. Then, he saw the Christ no more; he was freed...once more to rove among the people with his doctrine of some kingdom he would set up right here on earth, some promised Paradise, where nobody would have to work, or be hungry, and everyone would have money.
In a cold dungeon, he was flung rudely by the soldier. With oaths he cursed himself, the soldier, his fate, and the prison cell. Why had he done it? Now, crucifixion faced him, the worst kind of death a man could imagine. The mocking, the ignominy...the torture, the prolonged spiritual agony of waiting on death to overtake him. The flight of the soul into the unknown, unseen...whatever it was. Hope had wings and had flown. There was no dove of peace for him.
That first day was Hell itself. The aloneness was horror enshrouding him. And only late that night did a single soul, who cared, come to the cell. His mother. A small woman, her face drawn, her eyes sunken with grief and tears, edged up to the bars and called his name.
And he, half-drunken with the stupor of sleep, came awake.
"It's your own mammy, Barrabas!" she sobbed.
Barrabas stood up by the bars, and looked out down upon her tiny form.
"Why, son, why?"
Those were her only words...and he could not answer them...he did not know why. He only gazed on her, and she on him. She kissed his rough hand through the iron bars, lost in thought...then, after a long time of silence between them left slowly...poor, broken-hearted soul!
Barrabas could not bring tears to his eyes as he saw the shaken form disappear into the darkness. The tears were choked.
He was roused early next morning and taken outside the city walls along with two others, where they were all forced to dig three holes upon a hill called Calvary. Then, he was slowly led back inside the city, back to the prison, where he was hung on a wall and beaten with a Roman scourge...thirty-nine times.
At ten o'clock, he was fed with herbs along with the two others...criminals like himself. They each bore a rough and bearded countenance. They were shaved in their cells.
At twelve o'clock, the buffeting began, by those specially trained and employed for the task. At one o'clock, they were led out to be crucified. And each one bearing his cross stumbled over the rugged streets. They were followed and surrounded by the entire population of Jerusalem, it seemed...who jeered, taunted, spat and kicked the worn and bleeding men.
"Crucify them!” was the cry.
Women hovered around weeping, soaking one tear-cloth after another as paid official mourners. Soldiers kept close to the three condemned all the way, constantly scourging their backs with the seven-iron-hooked whip, goading them on.
A Jewish rabbi wailed from the book of Lamentations and offered prayers. A mother fainted at the thought that another mother's son should end thus. The voice of Barrabas' mother kept up a soft whimpering, perpetually to add to the tragic dirge. The mother of one of the other condemned kept stride with her son's cross, seeking consolation.
But amidst all this, the Christ walked at a distance, conversing with the Pharisees about the coming Utopia he planned to establish.
And when they went through the city gate and outside with the crowd pressing in around, under the heat of the noon-sun, the foremost one collapsed under the weight of the cross and the procession was held up momentarily.
"Crucify him!" came the cry.
When he was revived with water, the journey was continued uphill. On the mound, the crosses were taken...and all the condemned howled, as the end drew nearer. The mother of the first, her arm around Barrabas’ mother to keep her up, as both wept and watched. But now they were being nailed, as the hammer drove securely the nails into their hands and feet to keep them to the crosses. Then, the soldiers raised the crosses, and plunged them into the holes on the hill. Someone else fainted. A clearing was made around the spot of execution. Some, at a distance, sat and watched...while soldiers gathered to gamble and drink.
The condemned were bleeding, sweating, writhing in agony.
"Is there none to save us?...Lord, have mercy!"
The Jewish Rabbi offered no hope, but dark despair in the ever wailing lament. "There is no peace, saith my God,to the wicked!" was all he could say, and " the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest!" and again: "The wicked shall be turned into Hell and all the nations that forget God!"
The other criminal muttered oaths and curses, and cried: "We are each one receiving our just reward!"
“I...I...I am guilty! ! !" cried Barrabas, "worthy of death...ah, no hope, no hope for me...!"
And the Christ stood with the people...the Popular Christ. Without concern. And sitting down he watched them there.
Was it a trance, a dream, a vision...a revelation of some deep spiritual significance?
Barrabas shook, himself, for here he was FREE. There were no chains on his hands. Was he really free? He looked on his hands...at his whole self scarcely believing. Yes, it must have been some fantasy his mind had conjured up in his unbelief. It was only yesterday he had heard the desperate cry of the thief on the cross: "Lord ... remember...me...when you come into Your kingdom!" and the Master's loving reply: "Aye,...you will be with me...in Paradise!" He had heard it himself.
No! Jesus was not `the Popular Christ' of his fantasy...nay...but he was despised and rejected of men. Nor was He `the Unconcerned Christ' ...for He did care enough to die.
He saw Him, led as a lamb to the slaughter, and He never said a mumbling word...not a word!
Who knows? Perhaps, Barrabas did have such a fantasy. Perhaps, he did rejoice: "Thank God, Christ died. He died for me!" No-one knows the truth of the man for whom Christ died.