About 43% of the Bible is told as a narrative—like a story. From our favorite Old Testament heroes to Jesus’ parables, scripture is full of stories. Of course, how we read a narrative is different from how we read one of Paul’s letters or David’s songs.
To take away practical life application from the Bible stories I read, I ask myself two questions:
- How can I see myself reflected in the characters portrayed? By using scripture as a mirror, I see facets of myself reflected—my personality, my tendencies, my sin, my thoughts, my feelings, and my potential.
- What can I learn about God’s character? The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to humankind. Since God does not change (Malachi 3:6), the God of Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Daniel, and Jesus that we read about is our God, too.
Let’s practice this process with the story of Barabbas.
According to Jewish tradition, during the time of Passover, one prisoner was pardoned from their impending execution. Although Pilate was a Roman, to gain favor with his Jewish constituents, he decided to let one prisoner free. Having not found a reason to charge Jesus, he offers Jesus or Barabbas, an actual criminal, to the crowd. (see also Matthew 27:17)
Pilate went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release the ‘king of the Jews’?”
They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising (John 18:38-40).
When we hold up the mirror to scripture, we see ourselves in Barabbas. We’ve committed horrible sin, we deserve to die, yet Jesus died in our stead.
Barabbas deserved to hang on the cross, but Jesus took his place.
You deserved to hang on the cross, but Jesus took your place.
In this story, Just as we learn about who we are, we also learn about who God is. He is rich in mercy and forgiveness. He fulfills his promises. He longs for our salvation. He sacrifices the one he holds most dear for us.
- Take a closer look at some of the other characters portrayed in this chapter: Judas, Peter, and Pilate. How do you see yourself reflected in their stories?
- Examine the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection as a whole. What does God reveal about his character?