This is a work of fiction based on Matthew 27. The characters are real, and quotes are taken directly from Scripture. What isn’t real is the surrounding narrative. I’ve tried to be true to the Scriptural account while also painting a picture of Christ’s substitutionary death for our sins–for my sins.
The dawn awakened differently this morning. There was a heavy breath in the air. The clouds seemed cumbersome. Today was the day. The day the announcement will be made. Every prisoner could feel the tension in the air as we awaited one man’s fate.
I hold no hope of release. My fate was sealed by my actions and my reputation. I deserved my sentence, and I took pride in rejecting the social constructs of friendship. No one would be calling for my release.
But that might not be true of one prisoner in particular–this man they’ve called Jesus. There are whispers throughout the cells about who he is. I’ve never heard such a stir about one person–and a prisoner nonetheless. But if what they say is true …
He performs miracles and raises the dead. He was betrayed by one of his own–betrayed with a kiss–and sold for silver. Even in the deepest underbelly of criminal alleys, a man’s own companion betraying him is not tolerated.
I hear rumblings again as I wait in my cell. The man Jesus is with Pontius Pilate, they say. That means the announcement will come soon. Perhaps this Jesus is who will be released at this morning’s announcement.
There. There’s the trumpet. We all move forward to our cell doors. At least getting out into the fresh air will be a change from the putrid odor of prison life. We’re shackled and led out into the courtyard. The blinding sun forces my eyes closed as I walk. We’ve been so long living in the dark.
We were left standing in the courtyard for an hour. The tension is palpable. Someone is speaking and the crowd is hushing. Wait? Did he say my name? Surely not.
“Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”
Barabbas … Barabbas … the crowd is chanting my name. They want me to be released? I don’t understand. They know me … they know I am a murderer. I don’t even bother denying it. I am the worst kind of criminal.
Barabbas … Barabbas.
But Pilate is trying to speak over the crowd.
“Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
Why, what evil has He done?
CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!
I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.
HIS BLOOD SHALL BE ON US AND ON OUR CHILDREN!
Those words ring in my ears as I walk away with my freedom. The fresh air is suddenly sickeningly cloying in my throat and I can’t breathe. It doesn’t feel real. I want to run away as fast as I can in case they change their mind. But my feet are iron engulfed by quicksand. I stand immovable as too much time passes.
I am startled back to reality as a procession is moving toward me. A man is bowing under the load of a very heavy cross and Jesus is following behind. But he’s bloody now, and someone has forced a crown of thorns onto his head. He’s hardly recognizable.
I swallowed hard. I didn’t intend to have emotions about this … I didn’t intend to be here, but I am strangely compelled. I join the crowd following behind the procession as they make their way to Golgotha.
My every step mocks me … This should have been you. You should have taken this punishment. You deserve death. This should have been you. The accusation is deafening.
I still can’t quite catch my breath, and I can’t look away. With the impact of each hammer strike, my internal accusations increase their volume. THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU!
And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him…
The sky finally succumbed to its grief. Darkness. Utter darkness. Tangible. Palpable. A voice pierced the darkness.
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
I didn’t know what he said, but the crowd started murmuring the interpretation. He asked why God had forsaken him. I have no compassion for others but there was something in the way Jesus spoke those words. Something haunting. Something eternally memorable.
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
The rumble started from deep within the bowels of the earth. It almost didn’t even surprise me. The earth had been draped in anguish all day. Everyone was terrified, but I felt as if I was moving in slow motion. A centurion ran past me but not before I clearly heard him say, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
The Son of God? How is that even possible? IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME.
It wasn’t until a few days later that I started hearing whispers that Jesus had risen from the dead. Maybe that centurion was right … maybe he really was the Son of God.
Jesus literally took Barabbas’ punishment on the day He was crucified. He was Barabbas’ substitute. But Jesus is also the substitute for every believer. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The full force and weight of God’s judgment for our sin falls on Jesus. For our salvation.