And do no fear. It's much too late for that.
Don't even look around. I'd prefer you just keep on doing what you are doing.
My name is Barabbas and although murder is but one of my crimes, I mean you no harm.
What is that I hear? Did you just say… 'phew'?
You catch on quickly for I will never again lift a finger to harm.
I am here because you have been observing me in Scripture and because you have a sanctified imagination. Hence my suggestion - 'do not look around'. It would simply be a waste of time.
Interestingly, your relieved 'phew' perfectly reflects my own story and for the sake of authenticity I would like to take you back.
Back to Passover week; and more precisely to the day of my planned crucifixion. Back to when I lay crouching in the antechamber of hell - the Palace prison where despite a royal connotation rats feed on exhausted prisoners who can no longer fight them off, and deranged men like me heave bile in anticipation of impending death.
But today even the rats' shifty red eyes dilated and stopped their persistent hunt for flesh when two prison guards came bellowing down the stairs calling 'Barabbas get out of here; the King of the Jews will die in your stead.'"
"My skin crept –what was happening now? I hated the Roman occupation as much as I hated death.
It didn't take me long to find out. They dragged me upstairs into blinding daylight and there I saw the Nazarene. He was bound and tethered and bleeding. Even half blind I could count the bones that lay exposed from the scourge.
A soldier, thinking it amusing that one man should die for another pushed me so hard I stumbled and fell at the bleeding man's feet.
'Say thank you' he boomed, lifting his voice for all to hear and the crowd roared laughing.
The Nazarene's eyes, or what remained visible, met mine. They were filled with love.
I, cruel Barabbas, wept in fury and unaccustomed remorse but I struggled to my feet and shouted 'Thank You Lord'. I meant every word.
It's dark now; and it's all over.
The air is sweet and cool and I lean my back against a sycamore tree in a garden below Golgotha hill. I can just make out the grotesque skull shape staring from the hillside and an empty horizon above that. The bodies are gone.
Two things keep going over and over in my mind. No one has ever loved me. And why would the Nazarene?
I'd seen him around Jerusalem many times. He was always surrounded by people and he was always … at peace. Nevertheless there was something about him that filled me with dread.
A noise at the bottom of the garden catches my attention. Two women remain behind although the rich man has rolled a heavy stone across the mouth of the Nazarene's grave, and left. The women are weeping and rocking, weeping and rocking, and I wish I could go to them and ask them many things. But I must remain hidden in the shadows. I do not trust anyone.
The crowd that today demanded my release and his death is the same crowd that cried "Hosanna in the highest" to the Nazarene last week – the day I was arrested for murder.
Now I am free. My hatred is strangely gone. I am disarmed and I've never felt so clean.
Occasional cries drift up the hill. My eyes strain through the gloom; if need be I will use my fighting skill to protect these women from attack since we are very vulnerable beyond the city walls. But I see no threat and I turn my gaze toward the night sky. It's the second time of darkness in one day. Tonight the stars twinkle steadily; reassuringly.
After the earthquake and the noonday darkness many Jews began beating their chests and creeping away from Golgotha. I imagine when the curtain in the temple was rent asunder; the Pharisees would have looked like the startled rats in the prison. What a day!
Once again I focus on the tomb. I live, only because he died. The barbarian John the Baptist called him the Lamb of God and tonight is Passover. I called him Lord.
Long puffs of air escape my lips. Phew!
There is no better word to express my amazement and relief. And so I wait."
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