Did He Know Who to Thank?


There were three crosses prepared on that hill. It was going to be a triple execution; not an unusual thing for Rome, who had at times crucified tens, and even hundreds on the same day. Who would the victims be this time?

Mark 15:7 indicates that there were some insurrectionists in prison, who had committed murder in the course of their insurrection. The two who wound up on the left and right-hand crosses are called robbers (Mark 15:27): the word can also be translated insurrectionist.

For whom was the third cross prepared? Perhaps it was prepared for Barabbas. Speaking of Barabbas, John uses the same word robber in John 18:40, and Luke makes clear Barabbas’ crime: “He was one who had been thrown into prison for a certain insurrection made in the city, and for murder” (Luke 23:19).

Perhaps the three crosses were meant for three who had rebelled against the imperial might of Rome. There was but one sentence for the crime of insurrection: crucifixion. Perhaps the third cross—the middle one—was intended for Barabbas.

The sun had risen on Barabbas’ last day. I wonder what he was feeling as he contemplated the horror and excruciating pain the next six to twelve hours would hold for him. Surely he had seen crucifixions and knew that they were always preceded by scourging.  Doubtless he had seen men die under a Roman whipping. Was his hatred of Rome so strong that it obscured his fear? Or did he dread the coming lash that would expose his bones and internal organs as the flesh was ripped from his body? I wonder, was he ready to die? For that’s what was surely coming.

I wonder if he could hear, faintly through the prison walls, as the crowd roared his name? Were they shouting for his condemnation? Was he the next blood spectacle? The booted feet he heard approaching his cell – was it the guard coming to tie him to the whipping post?

I wonder whether icy fear gripped his heart as the ring of keys clanked against the bars when the jailer unlocked his door, and two burly soldiers stepped in, grabbed his manacled hands, and began to drag him out of the cell. Did he scream, or cry out, or beg for mercy?

I wonder what he thought when they dragged him out of the prison, removed the shackles, and left him standing alone on the outside, blinking in the sunlight, set free. 

I wonder, did he know Who took his place on that middle cross?