Everything that Jesus did on earth is a testament to God's love and grace over our lives. He perfectly showed us just how good and merciful God really is, even when He was treated unjustly.
In Matthew 27:15-26 we find one such moment in the earthly life and ministry of Christ -- the moment He took the place of a criminal named Barabbas.
What can we learn from this moment in Christ's life and ministry?
When envy fuels the hatred against you
Christ Jesus experienced such unfair and unjust treatment, all because the people were envious of Him.
"Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy." (Matthew 27:15-18)
The Jews, Pharisees and the chief priests in particular, were the ones who handed Christ over to Pontius Pilate to be crucified on the cross. If Christ was a criminal who did wicked things, we'd understand why He would be brought to Pilate.
But He was utterly innocent, unless loving people and showing God to men was a crime.
Pilate himself knew why the people handed Christ over to him:
"For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy." (Matthew 27:18)
The Jewish religious leaders were so envious of Christ, they handed Him over to the authorities for punishment, despite Christ being totally innocent and sinless.
This should encourage all who face injustice. Christ knows how you feel.
Taking our place
Now we proceed to the meat of our topic: what can we see about Christ as He took the place of Barabbas?
That Christ willingly and humbly took our place to receive the punishment for our sins and save us.
John 18:39-40 quickly tells us how the innocent and sinless took the place of a criminal:
""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?"
Then they all cried again, saying, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber."
We all know the story from here on: how Pilate released Barabbas, and how Christ suffered and died on the cross.
A quick look at the life of Barabbas, however, shows us so much more. Mark 15:7 tells us who Barabbas was and what he did to be imprisoned under Pilate's custody:
"And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion."
Matthew 27:16 even describes him as "a notorious prisoner."
In short, Barabbas was a notorious prisoner who was both a robber and a murderer. He was rightly imprisoned for his crimes, and it was right for him to be held under Pilate's custody.
What we find amazing here is that, although Christ's detractors were the ones who demanded that Barabbas be released in exchange for Christ, He still took the place of this criminal.
Jesus was the one who received the beatings, the sufferings, and the death on the cross. Barabbas, on the other hand, was given another chance to live right.
Such is the love that Christ had for us.
"Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6)