We can learn a lot about faith by understanding the way Barabbas serves as a type and shadow of our salvation.
And what a name it is!
Bar Abba = "son of the father"
If ever the universe conspired to send us a message, here it is: Barabbas (whose name literally means 'son of the father') ― standing next to Christ (who was the Son of the Father).
And yet Pilate freed Barabbas. Why?
Did he deserve it? No! Barabbas was an awful sinner; a Roman prisoner the scriptures call "a robber" (John 18:40) who awaited death for sedition and murder (Luke 23:19).
In other words, he was me.
Like Barabbas, we were guilty and yet pardoned. Was that fair? Was it just?
A Tale of Two Sons and Two Goats
A father had two sons. They both loved him and offered sacrifices to God.
One of the sons, Cain, offered the fruits of the field; the other son, Abel, offered the fruits of the flock.
Only Abel's sacrifice was accepted. Why? Is it because the Lord hates zucchini?
Well, the problem was blood ― or lack thereof. For "all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (Hebrews 9:22).
Cain and Abel ― Barabbas and Christ; murderer and martyr ― remind me of the two goats paraded out on the Day of Atonement.
One goat was permitted to live and was set free in the wild (like Barabbas). We call this the 'scapegoat' (also called Azazel, which, being interpreted, means something like "the rugged place of power").
The other goat, the unlucky one, was killed and sacrificed; its blood was sprinkled in the Holy of Holies upon the Ark of the Covenant by the High Priest (this was done on the Day of Atonement, the only time each year he got to enter the Holy of Holies).
So that paints a striking picture: the Ark of the Covenant being splattered with fresh, warm blood. What did that represent (Moroni 10:33)?
Now the question you're probably asking is, Which goat got to go free? How did the High Priest pick?
We're survivors. We want to live! In this dog-eat-dog world, we're all looking for ways to improve our prospects by being the better-goat, right? The one who produces the most milk? Maybe bribing the High Priest into setting us free by slipping a nice horn into his robes? Or we show up at the selection ceremony with our hair combed and braided, hoping to look too-nice-to-slaughter.
Well, here's the surprising part: it was all decided by pure chance. The high priest cast lots to see which goat lived or died.
So we see their fate was determined irrespective of their worthiness.
I think there's a lesson in this. Just like there is in the way Barabbas was released due to no credit of his own.
Faith in Christ?
The lot fell upon Christ to carry our sins. "And the Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). In a weird paradox, Christ fulfilled the role of both goats: the scapegoat upon whom the High Priest placed the sins of the people, and also the goat that was sacrificed.
And that he died for all, that they which live [all of us Azazels running free] should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.
(2 Cor. 5:15)
Now, maybe you've got a big heart and are thinking, "Tim, I'll be the goat that goes under the knife. I'll do it. Sacrifice me. Because that's the kinda G.O.A.T. I am."
Well, kudos for the selfless gesture, but sorry, there's a problem with your offer. You see, the Law required the Sin Offering to be a specimen that was unblemished. None of us are, shall-we-say, new-in-the-box anymore. Not mint condition. We've all sinned and come short.
Ye were not redeemed with silver and gold [see, not through paying tithes] or from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers [neither from holding fast to the faith of our forefathers];
But with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot.
(1 Peter 1:18-19)
Look, I know many people who are amazing, incredible, gifted, (almost) superhuman. But I don't have faith in them; none of them are "without blemish."
And this explains our predicament: none of us carry in our DNA the "precious" blood that can redeem another person.
Do You Need a Hug?
I suppose we could lay down our lives as human sacrifices. And some do.
But shedding our "own blood will [not] atone for the sins of another" (Alma 34:11) ― not even for our own sins (which is why I really don't understand the whole 'Blood Atonement' doctrine, which is a drastic departure from the Christian faith).
Despite all the wonderful qualities we may possess, there is one quality we yet lack ― and it's quite an important one!
We can give birth but we cannot bestow life; we can take someone's life away but we cannot take away their sins.
Except for Barabbas-Christ, the Beloved Son of the Father, who alone among us could.
I suspect until we understand why He could (and we cannot) propitiate for another's sin, it'll be tough to exercise faith in Him.
He shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice. . . which overpowereth justice and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
Please let that sink in: Christ's sacrifice "bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith." What specifically was it about His blood that enabled / activated / triggered our faith?
Note that Christ's blood, spilled upon the Ark, turned the world upside-down and inside-out. It (He) literally "overpowereth justice" in order to "encircle [us] in the arms of safety" (Alma 34:16).
This is important, for us to understand why He asks us to come unto Him. It's not because He wants to be popular; He has no desire for groupies, as it were. He would much rather focus our attention on the Father. But it is because Christ knows that it is only within His embrace that we are safe (see, 2 Nephi 1:15).
I fear we may not grasp the enormity of what it means for Him to "overpowereth justice" on our behalf.
If you really want to get red-carded in Elders Quorum, just try teaching that Christ has "overpowered justice." It'll drive them wild!
For if there's one thing the natural man craves, it's justice (not for himself, naturally, but for all the other sinners out there).
In case you weren't aware (and here's the kicker), Salvation-Through-Mercy is not fashionable at Church these days; instead, we're teaching Salvation-Through-Justice.
Which version of salvation did the Pharisees preach? Did Christ teach? Which version produces the fruit of faith?
Answer: See Luke 18:9-14.
A Tale of Two Sacrifices
Strange as it seems, what we find in churches is the tendency to offer up sacrifices like Cain. Bloodless things, bitter fruits that we believe are needed to complete Christ's eternal sacrifice.
We've all seen the mischief and unbelief this causes. It baffles me when I go to Church and observe us wiping Christ's blood off of the Ark, then pricking our pinkies to squeeze a few drops of our own blood on the Sacramental bread (as if co-mingling our works of righteousness with Christ's sacrifice will somehow improve or accelerate or round-off His atonement).
Do we really believe Christ's sacrifice was "infinite?" Then let's do the math. What is infinity times three drops of our own blood? What is infinity minus syphilis, plus going Ministering on Tuesday night, divided by marijuana use and the square root of singing in the choir on Sunday?