" But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?" 40 Then they all cried again, saying, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber. (John 18:39-40)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Not only was Barabbas a robber, the other Gospels tells us he was a murderer and had taken part in a rebellion. He was a bad dude. There is no better picture of what is happening on Good Friday than the release of Barabbas. If anyone should get the death penalty, it's this guy. And this worthless man who has wasted his life and taken the lives of others is set free. Meanwhile, the guy who is completely and absolutely innocent gets whipped to within an inch of his life, dragged outside the city, and nailed to the cross. What a travesty of justice!
And thank God that people aren't getting what they deserved that day! Praise be to God the Father that on that day, Jesus doesn't get what He deserves: to be set free. He is sentenced to death instead of this criminal. Instead of going free, He is killed. Thanks be to God for that. Why?
Well, thanks be to God the Father that Barabbas didn't get what he had coming, which means that you and I don't get what we've got coming. No hell for you. No damnation and eternal punishment. No crushing weight of God's wrath against your sins to kill you. Nope. You go free. Declared innocent, as if you were no sinner. Jesus takes your place.
And just as Pontius Pilate stood at the place of Judgment and set Barabbas free, so the Lord declares that you are free, because Jesus has taken your place. It is the declaration of Holy Baptism. The pronouncement of Holy Absolution. The verdict of the Supper. The Son of God has taken your place. Never doubt it: Your sins are forgiven and heaven is yours. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
The sinless Son of God must die in sadness; The sinful child of man may live in gladness; Man forfeited his life and is acquitted; God is committed. (LSB 439:5)