I am many unflattering things. Sinful. Unrighteous. Guilty. Rebellious. Unloving.
I am Barabbas.
For it was necessary for [Pilate] to release one to them at the feast. And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas”— who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder. Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go. ”But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will.
--(Luke 23.17-25, NKJV)
"Barabbas or Jesus: one must die, the other will live. Either Barabbas will die and Jesus be freed, or else Jesus will die and Barabbas goes free. The death of One buys the life of the other. So Pilate has now decided, but His power to judge comes from above, and the decision of this unrighteous man is what the Righteous One has determined in His eternal plan. Barabbas or Jesus; but the rebellious murderer Barabbas is Adam and all his race, who rebelled against God and brought death into the whole world. So which of these two: sinful mankind or righteous Jesus; the race that fell away from God, or the Father's only-begotten, beloved Son? Justice demands death for the transgressors, but mercy toward us made the choice. 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.'
"Barabbas means me. My heart by nature is disobedience and arrogant, rebellious and angry, which before God is murder. I confess this in truth; by my evil inclination apart from grace I would have fallen into David's sin and I deserve death. But--incredible love--now I am completely saved from wrath and death. As Barabbas then went completely free by Jesus' death, so now in the same way I am purchased by it and redeemed from the bondage of the law, the guilt of sin, and the power of death. In this we find something so assuring and comforting that I no longer have the slightest reason to doubt that I am saved from condemnation. He has already suffered my death, so now God's justice demands my freedom. Barabbas or Jesus, not both." (N.L. Laache)
These words above were penned by the Norwegian Lutheran pastor, Nils Jakob Laache and purely and powerfully picture what Luther called the 'Beautiful Exchange,' which is nothing less than the gospel itself:
Is not this a beautiful, glorious exchange, by which Christ, who is wholly innocent and holy, not only takes upon himself another's sin, that is, my sin and guilt, but also clothes and adorns me, who am nothing but sin, which his own innocence and purity? And then besides dies the shameful death of the Cross for the sake of my sins, through which I have deserved death and condemnation, and grants to me his righteousness, in order that I may live with him eternally in glorious and unspeakable joy. (LW 51)
Were it not for the unspeakable love of God in Christ Jesus, none of us would have an inkling of hope. As God is merciful beyond measure, however, we all have hope unshakable.