Lenten Devotional: A Letter From Barabbas by Jay Dee Conrad

Over this Lenten season, the Spiritual Formation team at First Presbyterian Church in Bend put a call out to all to submit writings for a Lenten Devotional. I will do my best to post those here daily. You can also go to our website and access all of the devotions on a pdf file.

Here is the next submission:

A Letter From Barabbas

Barabbas experienced the mystery of God’s unconditional love without understanding it. (Luke 23:13-25) He expresses it in a letter to his father…

Dear Father,

I know you’re wondering what became of me after my release from prison. Following that extraordinary liberation I left Jerusalem immediately. I was afraid, confused, tired… needed time to think. Perhaps I can come to some understanding as I write you, Father. I wonder why. Why did this man, Jesus of Nazareth, who did not deserve it, have to die? And yet I, who was scheduled to die, live? I don’t understand.

I suppose I should begin with an explanation. As you know, I was charged as an insurrectionist. Perhaps my activities are simply a result of your good teaching. You always taught that we’re the chosen people; God gave us this land. I could never understand why the Romans were allowed to stay.

I felt, as did others, that something needed to be done about the Roman occupancy of our land. We needed to throw off their yoke, even by force if necessary. It was pursuing this goal that I was arrested. If my activities and arrest have been disconcerting to you, Father, forgive me. I did not do them to embarrass you. I did them because I thought I was right.

After my arrest I was thrown in prison. I grew more and more bitter as I languished in my cell. My hatred for Rome stretched into every part of my being. Then they brought in this man Jesus. They put him on trial. As the events unfolded I became even angrier. What right did Rome have to decide his fate? I was furious.

Then Pilate asked who he should release to meet the Passover custom. And the crowd cried out my name instead of the other man, the man clearly Pilate wanted released. It seemed a miracle when I heard them yelling my name; a chance to be free!

Some in the crowd were my friends. I knew some were Zealots who had come hoping for my release. But most of the people had no feelings one way or another for me. Yet they were shouting for my release and screaming for Jesus’ death. I could not (and still cannot) figure out why.

Then, suddenly, it was over. The man was turned over for crucifixion and I was free. It seems like a dream. I should be happy and ecstatic. I thought I was going to die and now I live. I can’t help wondering, why? Why did this man who didn’t deserve it have to die? And why do I, who was scheduled to die, live? Is it just an odd quirk of fate . . . or is there more to it than that?

I can’t get that man out of my mind. We were so different. I spoke of the sword and overthrowing Rome, but he spoke only of love and accepting our enemies. I spoke of a better country and a better life, but he spoke of an inner kingdom, a spiritual life.

I can’t quit asking why. Why did he die and why am I alive? The world is turned upside down. When I saw him hanging on the cross I wondered why I wasn’t there . . . as if this man was dying in my place. It’s as if he has given me a new life, one different from the old.

I am confused, Father, full of questions. What am I to think? What am I to do? What am I to be? What am I to make of my life? Who was this man Jesus? Why did he come? What was his purpose? Why did he die and why am I alive? Pray for me, father, that I might know.

In love and respect,


–Jay Dee Conrad


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