Then, he raised his eyes upward and caught sight of the inscription nailed above the cross, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS.” The Messiah would be king, wouldn’t he? But where was his kingdom? Why, of course, it had to be in the hearts of men like himself.
He watched as the Nazarene hung there, suspended between heaven and earth, calmly submitting to the pain of crucifixion, as if he knew he was meant to die. But then, he heard the agonizing cry, lifted to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Was this man forsaken of God? Could it be? But, why? Then, it struck him. He had always been taught that God was holy and could not look upon sin. If this man was really the Messiah, then perhaps he was bearing the sins of the people upon him. He was bearing his, Barabbas’, sin upon him. Yes, that was it. Then, he, Barabbas, was really forgiven. He was forgiven of the insurrection, of killing the soldier, of the robbery attempt, of killing Benjamin, and of every other sin he had ever committed in his life – of getting angry with his wife and children of---of---of---he was forgiven! This was wonderful! Now he really knew what it was to feel good.
He didn’t know how long he stayed there kneeling, lost in the rapture of his new-found faith and peace. Then, he remembered that he had told Deborah he wouldn’t be gone long, so he got up to leave.
As he was making his way down the hill, he noticed another figure just ahead of him, walking slowly down the hill. The black robe and white belt looked familiar. As he picked up his pace, he realized that it was indeed the strange looking man who had first confronted him on the idea of insurrection. Coming upon him, he smiled and saluted him. “Shalom!”
“So, you returned to view the crucifixion? Quite impressive, isn’t it?”
“Oh, it’s much more than that! It has changed my life. I have a joy and peace I’ve never known before.”
“What do you mean?”
“That man on the middle cross. Not only did he take my place, but I’m certain he’s the Messiah, the true king of the Jews, as the sign says. When he asked God to forgive, I felt somehow it was for me, as well as for the soldiers who were driving in the nails.”
“You know, I too felt there was something about him, although I couldn’t understand what. Perhaps you’re right. But if he is a king---”
“Then,” interrupted Barabbas, “his kingdom is a spiritual one, in the hearts of those who will believe in him.”
“But, is he the king of the Jews only? Or is his kingdom broader than that?”
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