The Substitution

Introduction: This is a bit of a departure for me. My writing is normally of an expository nature, and this is definitely not. It is, however, a bit of an exposition on a name, one whose meaning is overlooked in the telling of a much bigger story – that of the crucifixion. But the meaning of this name has some very profound implications to that bigger story that we totally miss because we do not know what that meaning is. And that is what this story is all about.

For those who are not familiar with Hebrew terms, I have included a glossary of the names and words I have used at the end of the story. I have also added a few comments about the background for the story as well. I hope you enjoy my exploration of the life of this overlooked man and his unusual name.

 The Story

This English language of yours is a really strange language. You only have five letters that are vowels but you have so many different sounds for each one of those letters! How is anyone supposed to know how to pronounce anything you write? And then there is your strange insistence on changing people’s names – at least those whose names are not “English” names. Why do you do it? Why do you not let people keep their own names? It is all so confusing!

Take my father’s name for instance, you pronounce his name as if it were DAY-vid, rather than the way it should be pronounced, daw-VEED. And then there is my name, why you insist on spelling it with a “J” is something I do not understand. Especially since there is no equivalent to the letter “J” in Hebrew, in fact we do not have that sound at all in any form. I can understand why you spell it with two S’s, that is because of the Greek influence on those in the Diaspora. For some reason the Greeks insist on adding the last “S” simply because my name ends in a vowel, however I do not know why they have the first one. You see, there are no S’s in my name at all. I do have an “SH” sound in my name, but unlike in English it is not two letters, but a single letter.

What? You do not know how to spell my name? Why not? It is not that hard to sp. . . Oh, yes, that is right I have not told you my name have I? So how could you know what I am talking about! I am sorry! So, . . . my name. . . . I was named Yeshua Ben-David at birth, although you might know me better by a, . . . a title – I guess you could call it – that my followers gave me. I was known for years as Bar-Abba. (I know, I know, you think my name should be Jesus, and my title should be “Barabbas”. But I am Hebrew not Greek, and I am from Eretz-Yisra’el not from somewhere in the Diaspora, so my name and title would be in Hebrew not Greek would they not?) I do not know if you know it or not, but Bar-Abba actually means “Son of the Father” in your language. The reason I was given that name is a bit complicated and actually goes clear back to the events surrounding my birth.

You see, I was born in Beit-Lechem, the City of David. I was born the year everyone was required to return to their ancestral home town to be registered in Rome’s worldwide census. As with everyone in Y’hudah and Eretz-Yisra’el, and well, . . . even the people of the Diaspora, my parents had to return to my father’s tribal hometown in Yisra’el to be registered. It did not matter that my mother, Rachel, was pregnant, nor did it matter that we lived less than half a day’s travel away in Yerushalayim, and my father could have made the trip to Beit-Lechem and back in a single day and still had time to do whatever he needed to do as often as needed. No, our entire family had to go for the entire time it took to be registered. And with as many people who were there, the registration process took weeks.

Well, you guessed it, they had to go just before I was due to be born, and so I was born in Beit-Lechem rather than at home in Yerushalayim. Due to the registration process, and because of my birth and the regulations my parents needed to obey as observant Y’hudim, we lived in Beit-Lechem for sometime after I was born. Actually, we were there for several months.

I do not know how long we would have stayed there if it were not for a message my parents received from my mother’s sister back in Yerushalayim. She worked and lived in Herod’s household, actually she was a handmaiden to Herod’s wife, so she got to overhear a lot of things that went on in Court. And what she had to say scared my parents to death. She warned them that some Goyim from the East had visited the Court and had caused quite a disturbance.

It seems they had informed Herod that according to some prophecies they had in their keeping, it was time for the “King of the Y’hudim” to be born. So they had come to honor Him as was proper. The problem was, Herod did not have a new child, nor was his wife pregnant, and he already had an heir, so if what these Magi said was true, then somewhere a child had been born who could challenge the Herodean dynasty’s claim to the throne.

Herod pretended to go along with the Magi in wanting to honor this new king, so he questioned them about their prophecies. When he found out that they were from their chief Magi from over 500 years earlier, a man they said was a Hebrew named Dani’el, Herod told them that he would search the records the Y’hudim Torah-teachers and Rabbis kept to see if he could find any information that Dani’el might have given to the people returning to Y’hudah that might help them find the new king. And they would also see if any of the other prophets had recorded anything that would help. As the search might take several days, he told them they could rest from their journey in the guest quarters.

After they left for their quarters, Herod called for the head cohanim and the leading Torah-teachers and Rabbis. After he had given them an account of what had happened, he asked them where this “king” was supposed to be born. Although they knew what the prophecies foretold, they told Herod they needed to do some research “just to make sure”.

After making Herod wait for two days, they returned and informed him that the prophecies proclaimed that the coming prince would be born in Beit-Lechem as the prophet Mikhah foretold:

“And you, Beit-Lechem in the land of Y’hudah, are by no means the least among the rulers of Y’hudah; for from you will come a Ruler who will shepherd my people Yisra’el.”

Herod thanked them and after he gave them a very generous “donation” to keep them quiet and sent them back to their duties, he called for the Magi. He informed them that they would be able to find the new king in Beit-Lechem. He asked them to find out exactly where this new “king” was and then come back to Yerushalayim and tell him so he could go and honor him as well.

The Magi agreed, and set out. What he did not tell them, and what my aunt was warning my parents about was that Herod had no intention of honoring this new king. What he really had planned was to send several squads of soldiers to Beit-Lechem and the surrounding area to kill any new born males they could find, and just to be on the safe side, because of some of the things the Magi had told him, he decided have them kill all males under the age of two. And to make sure no one knew of this new “king” he gave orders to kill the Magi as soon as they left Yerushalayim to return to their home country. And to prevent a war, they were to make it look like Bedouin raiders had attacked and looted their caravan and killed everyone in it.

Fortunately for me, my aunt overheard Herod telling his wife about his plans, and she was able to send a warning in time for my parents to pack a few things together and leave town. My father was afraid Herod’s men might learn about them having lived there and that they had left recently, and did not want to risk them finding us in Yerushalayim, or anywhere else in Y’hudah, so we left the country completely. He thought that the safest place for us to be was Egypt, because Herod and the Roman governor of Egypt were not on friendly terms, so that is where he took us.

And so I survived the slaughter of all the male babies in Beit-Lechem. My parents always taught me that Yahweh had protected me, and that was the only reason I was alive when so many others were not. Because of His protection my mother was not the “Rachel” foretold by the prophet Yirmeyahu:

“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and lamenting loudly. It was Rachel sobbing for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they were no longer alive.”

Later in life, when my followers learned of these events in my life, they too agreed with this belief and gave me the sobriquet “Bar-Abba” because they believed that Yahweh must consider me his “son” to have protected me like that. So they called me “Son of the Father”.

Well, back to Egypt. We lived there for several years – in fact we did not return to Eretz-Yisra’el until my aunt sent word that Herod had died and his son was ruling Y’hudah. And as far as she could tell, he was not interested in anything about the Magi and their news about a newborn king so she thought it was now safe to return to Yerushalayim.

My father however, did not agree, so when we returned we did not even try to find a place to live in Y’hudah, but went all the way to the Galil to live outside a town known as Natzeret. He thought that it was far enough from Yerushalayim that Archelaus would not find us even if he ever did want to do anything about the Magi’s announcement of a rival king, and learned that his father had not killed all the newborn males when he slaughtered all those babies. By living just outside of the city we would also be out of the regular notice of the Romans who occupied it and therefore should be fairly safe. However we would still be close enough for me to study under the Torah-teachers at the synagogue until it was time for me to go Yerushalayim to study under Gamli-el.

When I grew up and it came time for me to leave home to continue my studies, I went to live with relatives in Yerushalayim. It was while I was there, that I learned what my destiny was to be. You see, I never did get to study under Gamli-el as his school was full and besides that he was focused on teaching his star talmid, one from the Diaspora, although a Y’hudim he was also a Roman citizen named Paul, or as he was known in Eretz-Yisra’el, Sha’ul, from a city in Cilicia called Tarsus. Maybe if I had been able to join Gamli’el as one of his talmidim my life might have turned out differently. And in some ways that would have been a good thing, but in others, I am not so sure, but I am getting ahead of myself.

The Torah-teacher I did studied under was a very nationalistic Rabbi. And it was from him that I learned that it was my calling to restore Y’hudah and drive the Romans out. Oh I learned the Ta’nakh just like a normal talmid, but I also learned that Eretz-Yisra’el must be purified before Yahweh could once again bless us. And it was under his teaching that I came to understand that, due to the events surrounding my birth and my miraculous deliverance, I was anointed by Yahweh to be the one to free Y’hudah and bring about the purification of Eretz-Yisra’el.

As with so many in Eretz-Yisra’el I did take time from my studies to go and listen to an itinerant Rabbi that was creating quite a bit of controversy. He had a way of talking about the things of the Torah that was very different than my Rabbi, or any other Rabbi I had heard for that matter. He never seemed to think he needed to quote any other Rabbi in the history of our people as authority for what he had to say. He taught as if he inherently had all the authority he needed for his new message.

I did enjoy listening to him, and I did have some interesting discussions with the other talmidim of the various Rabbis about what he had to say, but he did not seem all that interested in getting rid of the Romans, and the rest of what he had to say did not agree with the teachings of my Rabbi. I did have several long talks with one of the talmid of another Rabbi, Gamli’el, that Sha’ul I mentioned earlier. He was much better versed in the Ta’nakh than I, and even with all he knew we could not reconcile these new teachings with what our Rabbis were teaching us. And so I decided to just concentrate on my studies and forget about the new teachings of this Rabbi Yeshua.

So after finishing my studies I set about fulfilling my destiny. It did not take long to gather a group of likeminded men to help drive out the defilers. We started small, mostly just harassment type operations against outlaying Roman outposts. We thought that as we attacked more and more of their outposts the Romans would have to send more and more men to staff them and of course send larger supply caravans to provision them, which we could also attack. And that would require larger escorts which would mean even more men involved. Our aim was to make it so expensive in men and materials to maintain all the small garrisons that Rome had placed all over Eretz-Yisra’el that they would eventually abandon them and move all the troops into the cities. Once they had moved them all into the cities the Y’hudim would finally get fed up with their oppressive presence and they would join us in driving them out.

The problem was, it did not working very fast, well actually it really did not work much at all. We did manage to get a couple of the garrisons closed, but not as many as we thought we would be able too. So over time the things we were willing to do escalated. Our attacks got larger and more violent, and still the Romans insisted on staying. Finally I decided we needed to change our tactics. Instead of focusing on the Romans in the countryside we needed to attack them where they were in larger groups and where they felt safest – the cities. And what better city to start with than Yerushalayim?

And that is what lead to my downfall. I lead an uprising right in Yerushalayim itself. It started off fairly well, we managed to get quite a large following together, and we started our offensive. But then things went horribly wrong. I and two of my followers killed several Roman sympathizers. Oh, we had not set out to kill anyone, it just sort of happened when thing got out of hand during our attack, and before we knew it, three people lay dead at our feet.

It would not have been a huge problem except the Romans caught us almost immediately. And with all the witnesses, they knew exactly who was responsible. Even so, because we had not killed any Romans all they would have done normally would have been to flog us or at worst scourge us. However, rather than flogging or even scourging and releasing us, the governor, Pilate, decided that we needed to be used to warn others to not resist Rome’s rule. So he ordered us to be crucified.

To make matters worse he decreed that we be crucified just before the Feast of Unleavened Bread while everyone was in Yerushalayim for the celebration. There were even thousands of Y’hudim from all over the Diaspora so we were going to be a good “bad” example, at least in his eyes.

And so I came to my last morning. It was the Preparation Day before the High Shabbat, the first Shabbat of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Pesach Lambs would be sacrificed that afternoon, but I would not be sacrificing a lamb this time, no, I would not be celebrating the Pesach this year – or any year – ever again. I did not understand it, I was Bar-Abba, mashiach of Yahweh. How could I end up here? What happened? Had I offended Yahweh somehow? Was He discarding me for not doing what He wanted me to do? In desperation I cried out, Elohi, oh, Elohi, where are you? Why have you abandoned me? But all I heard in answer, was a deafening silence.

The questions would not stop. I had thought that my old Rabbi might visit and I would be able to ask him, but he never came. Did he try and the Romans refuse to let him in? Or did he not even bother? Had he too abandoned me? No one came, none of my former talmidim friends, none of my relatives, not a single one of my followers – no one. I was totally abandoned.

Well, the time came, or at least the soldiers did, and rather than taking me to the yard as I expected, they took me outside the Praetorium to the Gabta. Why there? I had already faced judgment once and my sentence had been decreed, there was no need to judge me again was there? I was so caught up in my own internal struggles that it took me a bit to notice the mob . . . and the other prisoner. He looked bad. He had bruises everywhere. He had been so badly beaten that you could not even tell who he was. I was amazed he still had the strength to stand up!

But my attention was jerked away from him by what happened next. Pilate motioned to my guards and they dragged me over to stand by the other prisoner. Pilate’s next words took my breath away. Motioning to the two of us, he called out to the mob before him, “Who do you want me to release to you, Yeshua, Bar-Abba? Or Yeshua of Natzeret, who you call the king of the Y’hudim?” But I was Yeshua from Natzeret, what was he talking about? Then it came to me who this other man was, he was the Rabbi Yeshua, everyone was so excited about, the one they called Mashiach. I had never known he was from Natzeret just as I was. And we had the same name too! This was really, really, strange.

But what happened next was even harder to believe. A voice I instantly recognized bellowed MY name! It was my old Rabbi! And his voice was immediately joined by hundreds of others shouting my name. But why me? They knew what I had done. They knew I had killed some of our own people – even if they were collaborators. The other Yeshua had done nothing wrong, but instead of calling for him to be released, the man who had healed so many of our sick and infirm, they called for me. I had heard he had freed people from demon possession and had even raised three people from the dead! And they wanted me released to them? Pilate asked them what they wanted him to do with the other Yeshua, and they yelled, “Crucify him, Crucify him!” Had they gone mad? It seemed even Pilate thought so because he asked, “Why, what crime has he committed that is worthy of death?”

But rather than give him an answer, they just kept shouting, “Crucify him” over and over and over. And the more Pilate tried to set him free and hold me the louder and more threatening the mob got, until he finally had had enough. He called for a basin of water and after ceremoniously washing his hands declared, “I wash my hands of this man’s blood!” And the mob’s response chilled my bones, “His blood will be on us and on our children!”

And then reluctantly Pilate turned to my guards and motioned for them to set me free. How could this be? I had committed murder and I was going free? Even Pilate said the other Yeshua was innocent and did not deserve to die, but he was going to be crucified anyway? I stood there frozen, expecting them to suddenly grab me and put me back in chains, but it did not happen, instead one of the guards gave me a shove and in disgust told me to get out of his sight.

I stumbled down the steps and blindly made my way through the still chanting mob. But as I came to the side gate that lead to the interior of the Praetorium, I stopped in my tracks. This Yeshua had been chosen to die in my place. I was guilty and deserved to die, not him, but the people had insisted he be substituted for me. There was no way I could walk away from this, I was going to have to follow this to the very end. So I moved off to one side and waited to see what would happen next.

It was not long before they came, and in shock I saw that Yeshua had been placed between my two men – he was quite literally taking my place! But maybe it was just a coincidence and things would change once they got to Gulgolta. It was then I noticed that even though he had already been beaten at least once, they had scourged him, badly. It looked like they had almost killed him it was so bad. I had thought he was weak from the beatings he had received before, but now it was even worse. He was so weak from his wounds that he could just barely stand and there was no way he could carry his cross as the Romans demanded of criminals. So one of the guards grabbed a man from the crowd and forced him to carry it for him.

Once they finally got to the execution grounds, they did indeed put him in my place in the middle. You see, I had been the leader of the insurrection and was considered the worst offender and therefore was to be crucified in the middle of my men. That was the place where they put the worst criminals, and for some perverse reason, that was where they put Yeshua, the only innocent man there.

The soldiers had the man who was carrying his cross drop it between my two men. And then something weird happened. It was while they were driving the spikes through his hands and feet, that Yeshua cried out, “Abba, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing!” I looked around to see who he was calling to, and wondering who it could be that it would matter if they forgave the solders or not, but there was no one around that looked like they might be his father. When I looked back at him to see if I could tell who he was looking at, I saw something strange – he was looking up, at the sky. Why would he do that? What did it mean? Or did it mean nothing and was just a coincidence? Had I missed who he was looking at and now he was just laying back and “accidentally” looking up?

Although it did make me wonder, there had been stories I had heard where people claimed he had said things many times that had really made the head cohanim, the leading Torah-teachers, and our other leaders furious. It was reported that he had called Yahweh his father. Was he asking Yahweh to forgive these men? Was he once again calling Yahweh his father? Was he claiming to be Bar-Abba? The question kept me rooted to the spot. Somehow I had to find out the answer. And so I stayed through it all – all the ridicule, all the derision, all the abuse.

Even my two men joined the mob in ridiculing him – at least for awhile. I noticed after a while that one of them, Ya’akov, fell silent. And then something odd happened, he turned to Yeshua, and rather than more abuse he said something really strange. When my other man renewed his insults, Ya’akov rebuked him by saying, “Have you no fear of Yahweh? You are getting the same punishment as he is. Ours is only fair; we are getting what we deserve for what we did. But this man did nothing wrong.” And then he ask, “Yeshua, remember me when you come as king!” What? How could this be? All that was going to happen was they both were going to die. Come as king? How could that possibly happen?

But then Yeshua said something equally strange, “Yes! I promise that you will be with me today in Gan-Eden!” How could that be? A murderer going to Gan-Eden? Impossible! But from the look on Ya’akov’s face he believed it would truly happen. He no longer looked as if he were a condemned murderer, but rather as if he too was now an innocent man! How could this be? What was going on?

The mob continued to insult Yeshua, but I no longer heard them. I had too much to think about. I have no idea how much time had passed, but I was jerked from my thoughts by something Yeshua called out. I heard my own words being uttered by the man hanging above me on the cross. “Elohi, Elohi, Why have you deserted me?” But the anguish in his voice was unbelievable, it was as if his very nephesh were being ripped apart. His pain was so intense, so deep, so desperate, it sounded as if his very heart was breaking, and it was enough to break my own heart.

When the end came, it came quite unexpectedly. Normally it could take a long time for a crucified person to die, it could even take days. But in less than six hours, it happened. Yeshua, cried out, “IT . . . IS . . . FINISHED!” . . . “Abba, into your hands I commit my ruach!” An then his head fell to his chest and he was dead! It was as if he had just decided to die and did! To this day, people say he died from being scourged and crucified, but I do not believe them. It seemed to me like HE decided to die long before the crucifixion could have killed him.

But as strange and unexpected as that was, that was not what held my attention. What caught my attention was his obvious reference to Yahweh as his Abba. This man who had just died in my place, had my name – Yeshua. Not only that, but it seemed HE was the true Bar-Abba. And Bar-Abba had just died! The man with my name, the man who had taken my place, had died in my place as well. Well, if Yeshua Bar-Abba was dead, who was I?

The question haunted me as I finally left Gulgolta. Who was I? Was I still Yeshua Bar-Abba? How could I be, when another man had taken my place and died instead of me? Yeshua Bar-Abba was dead, why insist that I was still him? And so I became . . . who? Who was I?

So I became . . . no one, or any one. I became the man with no name. I left Yerushalayim and headed north. I had no destination in mind, I just wanted to get away from . . . from what? I had no idea. I just knew I had to go. I moved from town to town never able to settle down. I worked at whatever job I could get for as long as it took to get the money I needed to live on, but I never stayed long, I could not, something kept pushing me on.

After several years, I finally ended up in a town called Tarsus. I have no idea how I got there or why I stopped there but for some reason I no longer felt the urge to move on. It did not take long to find a good job and a place to live and so I settled down. I stayed to myself, I no longer went to synagogue, and avoided any of the Y’hudim, even in the market place. I did not really feel like my old training held anything of value anymore, but I had nothing to replace it with. I don’t think I stopped believing in Yahweh, but I do know that I did not believe as I used to. But then, I did not have anything else to believe in either so I guess you could say I did not believe in much of anything anymore. And this is how I lived until once again something strange happened.

One day, when I went to market, I heard a voice that sounded faintly familiar. I could not remember where I had heard it before or who it belonged to. I decided to listen for a while to see if I could figure out who the speaker was. Were they a danger to me or not? Oh I could have just stepped around the corner and looked, but something held me back. What confused me was what this voice was saying and maybe it was the subject matter that was keeping me from remembering who the voice belonged to. He was telling someone about how a Rabbi named Yeshua had fulfilled Ta’nakh prophecies and after having been crucified he had risen from the dead! What? Yeshua was alive? How could that be? It was impossible was it not? But then I remembered the stories of how he himself had raised people from the dead, so maybe it was not so impossible after all!

I could not stand it anymore, I just had to see who the speaker was so I moved on around the corner and found a tent maker’s stall. And then I found out why I was having such a hard time placing the speaker, he was the last person I would have ever expected to be giving this particular talk! And would you believe it? It was Sha’ul! Except, I found out later, he was now using his Latin name – Paul.

As I stood there staring in astonishment he glanced up and saw me. He stopped in mid sentence and jumped up, ran over to me, and gave me a bone crushing hug. “Yeshua,” he cried, “it is wonderful to see you! What are you doing here? And what is this? You are not dressed like a Y’hudim. What happened?”

I told him it was a long story. So he motioned me to come in and sit and tell him while he finished what he was working on. And so I told him what had happened that fateful day so long ago, and how I had come to believe that Yeshua Bar-Abba had truly died that day. When I said this, Sha’ul, or Paul, got this strange smile on his face, as if he knew something I did not, something really important. I expected him to stop me and tell me what it was, but he just motioned for me to go on. I told him of my decision to no longer use the name I shared with the man who the people had demanded be substituted for me – and again there was that strange smile. I quickly finished my story of wondering north, of slowly becoming less and less of a Y’hudim as I went until I finally stopped here for no reason I could find.

At that Paul burst out laughing. Seeing my puzzled look, he told me that the reason I was here was that Yahweh had brought me here so I could hear the message he had given Paul to preach to everyone everywhere. “And what message is that?” I asked.

Paul, it seems, had had an encounter with a very much alive Yeshua, quite some time after the crucifixion! And it had clearly had a life changing affect on him, and on his theology. He told me that the Yeshua that had been crucified really was the Mashiach of Yahweh! And he could show it from the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the K’tuvim! And then he proceeded to do so! This was NOT the Paul I remembered from our talks back in Yerushalayim all those years ago. He was a changed man.

And then Paul told me that Yeshua had come to die in my place to pay the penalty for my sins, to be the perfect sacrifice, so that I could be saved by faith in him. “You see,” said Paul, “we have all sinned against Yahweh’s Law, and fall short of what He requires of us. And the lambs we offered year after year could never pay for that failure. If they could we would only have had to offer one sacrifice and it would be done. But when Yeshua came as the perfect lamb of Yahweh and offered himself, he substituted his life for ours, his death for ours. He paid the price of our disobedience. And because he was without sin, death could not hold him and he rose again, just as the prophecies foretold – and just as he himself said he would. He died that day as the Pesach Lamb and if you accept the sprinkling of his blood on the ‘door posts’ of your heart, death will pesach [pass over] you and you can have eternal life with him.” I sat there stunned. The man who had died in my place on the cross, had also died in my place before Yahweh? He really had been my substitute? It wasn’t just something the mob did?

Yeshua, died in my place! He really took my place! Yeshua, the true Bar-Abba, had died in the place of Yeshua, who had thought he was Bar-Abba, but was only a pretender, and a murderer at that! He saved me from dying that day so long ago, but he could also save me from dying forever? At that moment something inside me changed. I knew the man I had been was truly dead now, he really had died on that cross all those years ago. Now a new man was born, born to live a new life. My years of nothingness were over.

I decided that I had to follow this Yeshua, so I joined Paul and the rest of the followers of The Way. I was baptized in the name of Yahweh, Yeshua, and The Ruach HaKodesh. And I became a new man. I never again used the name Yeshua as my own, how could I? He had died on a cross years ago.

So who am I? It does not matter – I am no one, I am any one. What matters is who is in control of my life. Am I, or is Yahweh? I have decided that he is. I have accepted the very real substitution of the life of one Yeshua for the life of another Yeshua. And through faith in THAT Yeshua and all he has done for me I know I have been forgiven for ALL my sins, even the murder that was supposed to get me crucified. And so now I live for him. No, I am not perfect, but he forgives and each time moves me closer to who he wants me to be, as long as I leave control of my life in his hands. And I know that there is NOTHING I can do to earn anything he has done for me. AND there is NOTHING I can do to pay him back for what he has done. The substitution, it turns out was not on the terms of the mob. The substitution is on HIS terms and those terms are: Me as I am for him, the guilty for the innocent. Nothing more, nothing less. ALL of me for ALL of him.

Who are you? Are you Yeshua Bar-Abba going to crucifixion? Or has Yeshua taken your place on the cross?

Who is in control of your life? Are you or have you given complete control to Yahweh?

This is an all or nothing proposition, there can be no half measures. It is either all of you on the cross or it is all of him. It is either you in control or it is him. The choice is yours.

The answers to these questions have eternal consequences. Answer carefully and wisely.


Author’s Comments

A bit of explanation is most likely in order. This is a work of fiction – it is a product of my imagination. Although it was written with and after a lot of prayer for guidance. It is based on several facts. First, the man we know as Barabbas was a real historical person. Second, his Hebrew name really was Bar-Abba. (Barabbas was the Greek version of his name.) What we know about him is what is written in the gospel accounts of the crucifixion, and that is about it. The insurrection he and the other two men were being crucified for was not important enough to be mentioned in the histories of the day. We do not know what his real name was, although there is some indications as to what it might have been. Bar-Abba is not really a name, but more of a title or what we would call a nickname than a given name. However, one of the early church fathers of the third century, Origen, believed that his name really was Yeshua (Hebrew) or Yesous (Greek). It is a known fact that during the early first century, the name Yeshua was a very common Hebrew name – sort of like John or Bill is today. He believed that in spite of the fact that there were literally thousands of men that had this name, the scribes who were responsible for transcribing the Scripture manuscripts in the second century had decided that the name “Yeshua” was too holy for a man like Bar-Abba to have and so they had deleted it from the manuscripts they copied. Jesus had, on numerous occasions proclaimed Himself the Son of God, or claimed that God was His Father. Therefore, Origen believed that the choice that was made that day by the mob was between Yeshua, the messiah, the Anointed One (of Yahweh), the Son of Yahweh (God), and Yeshua, who had been given the title, the Son of the Father (Yahweh). Or to put it another way, they were choosing which “son” of Yahweh (God) they wanted, the true Son of the Father or the substitute, the human imitation.

My having Bar-Abba meet Paul in Tarsus is based on Acts 9. After his conversion in Damascus, Paul’s preaching there made enough enemies among the Jews that they tried to kill him, so the other disciples helped him escape the city. He returned to Jerusalem along with another believer named Barnabas. However, the believers were deathly afraid of Paul because of his former persecution of the church there and they refused to have anything to do with him. But Barnabas spoke up on his behalf, and told them of his conversion and how he had been preaching and bringing people to faith in Jesus. Because of this Paul was able to join the believers in Jerusalem. But once again, due to his preaching, he made enemies among the Hellenistic Jews (Jews from the Diaspora). They too tried to kill him, but when the other believers learned of it, they sent him home to Tarsus. And so, it was there, years after the crucifixion, that I had Bar-Abba meet Paul and learn the reality of the substitution that happened that day on the cross.


The Glossary

Abba – Father, although it is a term that implies a relationship that is more intimate than our “daddy”.

Archelaus – The son of Herod the Great.

Bar-Abba – Literally the son of the father. It could be a reference to a Rabbi, but was most often thought of as a reference to Yahweh.

Barabbas – The Greek version of Bar-Abba.

Bedouins – Groups of nomadic herdsmen that wondered the arid regions in and around the land of Israel.

Beit-Lechem – The town of Bethlehem.

Ben-David – Literally the son of David.

Cilicia – A province of Rome in Asia minor- to the north of the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.

Cohanim – We call them priests.

Dani’el – We know him as Daniel. A Hebrew who was born around 600 years before Jesus was born and who had been captured and taken to a foreign country (Babylon) when Jerusalem was conquered. Due to special abilities given to him by God, he was able to rise to a position very high in the government, and became the leader of the Magi until he died. While he was their leader he had multiple visions foretelling future world events, one of which was of a prince who would come to Israel. And so, 30 years before this prince was to start his “reign”, and because of a sign God sent them, the descendants of those Magi of Daniel’s time came looking for the new born king.

Diaspora – The scattered Jews, i.e., those who lived outside of Israel.

Egypt – The same area as modern Egypt, but it was a Roman province at the time Jesus was born.

Elohi – Literally My God. The words “My God, My God, why have you deserted (or abandoned) me?”, that Jesus said on the cross are a direct quote of Psalms 22:1. Eli, the “God” part of “My God”, is one of the titles used of God (Yahweh) and means “mighty one”.

Eretz-Yisra’el – Literally the Land of Israel.

Feast of Unleavened Bread – One of the yearly feasts commanded by God. This one commemorated the Exodus from Egypt and the fact that for the first 7 days of the Exodus they were unable to take the time to let their bread raise before baking and eating it because even though he had agreed to let them go Pharaoh had once again changed his mind and was pursuing them with the Egyptian army in an effort to recapture them.

Flogging, scourging, and crucifixion – Roman forms of punishment. Flogging was done with a whip, often made from rhino hide due to its strength which allowed it to be braided from very narrow strips of hide making the whip very thin. In use it would leave knife-like wounds. A good “flogger” could place the wounds such that they would be almost parallel and evenly spaced down the victim’s back and legs. The wounds would usually cut clear to the bone. Scourging was done with a multi stranded whip that had pieces of lead, chunks of bone, and broken pottery fixed in the strands. It would literally tear chunks of flesh from the victim. If not used carefully, it was not unusual for victims to die while being scourged. Crucifixion was done by hanging the victim on a wooden stake, with or without a cross bar. Sometimes the hands and feet were spiked to the wood, sometimes they were just roped in place. The victim normally died of either thirst or suffocation when they became so weak they could no longer hold themselves up long enough to get a breath of air. Either way it normally took several days for them to die. If the Romans gave them something to drink, it could take as long as a week or so. As part of the Roman punishment, the criminal was forced to carry his cross from the place of judgment to the place of execution. This public spectacle of Rome’s power was intended to instill fear in the minds of the populace and reduce the chances of others disobeying Roman law. Also, The worst offender was placed in the middle of those being crucified so those passing by would know the crimes Rome considered the worst offences. As part of the display, their crimes were recorded and posted above the heads of the criminals.

Gabta – The judgment seat. A alternative place outside the governor’s palace where the governor sat in judgment. Pilate met the Jewish leaders there when they brought Jesus to him because he knew they would not enter the palace due to the need to remain ceremonially pure for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread that started that afternoon and evening. If they became defiled by entering the palace, they could not become ceremonially pure until after sundown that evening and would therefore not be able to take part in sacrificing the Passover Lamb for their households. This would prevent them from being able to eat the Passover Meal or take part in any other part of the celebration including officiating at the public parts of the festival.

Galil – The area of the land of Israel we call Galilee.

Gamli’el – One of the, if not the, leading Rabbis of the early first century in Israel. We know him as Gamaliel.

Gan-Eden – Literally The Garden of Eden. The Jewish name for Paradise – the place the righteous went when they died.

Goyim – Literally, anyone who is not a Jew. May or may not be used derogatorily.

Gulgolta – Literally The Place of the Skull. We know it as Golgotha. A place outside of Jerusalem, along the main road into the city where the Romans crucified criminals, or at least those they called criminals.

Herod – Herod the Great, the king who ruled Judea (part of the divided land of Israel) when Jesus was born.

High Shabbat – A special Sabbath, not the normal weekly Sabbath. A Feast Day, a day of sacred assembly.

Jesus – An Old English corruption of the Latin version of the Greek version of the Hebrew name Yeshua.

K’tuvim – Literally The Writings, the third of the three sections of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Magi – Men versed in the arts of reading “signs” so they could “see” the future. They were also very good at reading people and political patterns and the like, which made them very good advisors to the rulers of their kingdom.

Mashiach – Literally anointed one. The term was used to refer to anyone who had been anointed for anything, king, prophet, whatever. Many people were anointed as it was a common part of the Jewish religious life. However, there was only one who was thought of as THE MASHIACH, and that was the one who was to deliver, or restore Israel.

Mikhah – The prophet we call Micah who wrote the “Old Testament” book that bears his name.

Natzeret – The town of Nazareth.

Nephesh – Hebrew for what we call the soul. To the Jewish way of thinking it actually refers to the entirety of the being. It is not something peculiar to humans, as any mammal has it (see Genesis 1 – days 5 and 6 – you will need to use a Hebrew interlinear Bible – or a website like or a similar software program that shows the Hebrew words).

Nevi’im – Literally The Prophets, the second of the three sections of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Paul – A Jew of the Diaspora, from a city in Cilicia called Tarsus. A Roman citizen, which would make him suspect in the eyes of many in Israel. This might have contributed to his “zeal for the things of the law”. Paul was his Latin name and Sha’ul was his Hebrew name. While he was in Israel studying under Gamaliel and until his conversion and subsequent mission to the Gentiles, he used the name Sha’ul, or as we know him, Saul.

Pesach – Literally to pass over. The Passover Meal commemorating the time when God passed over the Israelites but killed all the firstborn of Egypt.

Pesach Lamb – The Passover Lamb. The lamb that was sacrificed and whose blood was sprinkled on the door posts of each Jewish home in memory of the night that God “passed over” them and killed all the first born of Egypt (this was the last judgment before Pharaoh finally let Israel leave Egypt on the Exodus). This lamb was also part of the Passover Meal.

Pilate – The Roman governor at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Praetorium – The Roman governor’s palace.

Preparation Day – The day before a Shabbat or Sabbath. The day to prepare for the coming holy day. As any feast day was a Sabbath and they could fall on any day of the week including Saturday, a preparation day could also be on any day of the week, not just on Friday. If the feast fell on a Sunday, there would be no preparation day on Saturday as that was already a Sabbath. Therefore the weekly preparation day on Friday would have to suffice for both Sabbaths.

Rabbi – Literally great one, but usually used to mean teacher.

Ramah – An “Old Testament” name for Bethlehem.

Ruach – Hebrew for what we call the spirit. To the Jewish way of thinking it came from God and it was what made you who you are and it was also what made you alive. It also returned to God at death for safekeeping until the resurrection. It plus your body made you a nephesh. It is the addition of the ruach that made man different from the animals.

Shabbat – Sabbath. Any day of “sacred assembly” was considered a Sabbath. It can refer to the normal weekly Sabbath or it could be a feast or festival day, which are also Sabbaths. The feast days did not follow a weekly cycle and could therefore fall on any day of the week. This means there could be more than one Sabbath in a week.

Sha’ul – A Jew of the Diaspora, from a city in Cilicia called Tarsus. A Roman citizen, which would make him suspect in the eyes of many in Israel. This might have contributed to his “zeal for the things of the law”. Paul was his Latin name and Sha’ul was his Hebrew name. While he was in Israel studying under Gamaliel and until his conversion and subsequent mission to the Gentiles, he used the name Sha’ul, or as we know him, Saul.

Synagogue – The place of meeting for the Jewish people in each town or city. If the city were large enough there could be many synagogues in it. It was also where young men went for their Torah training. This training would be conducted by a scribe, or if one were rich enough and went to a synagogue that could afford to support one, a Rabbi.

Talmid – Disciple.

Talmidim – Disciples.

Ta’nakh – The Hebrew Scriptures. They were made up of three sections the Torah (The Law – sometimes called the Pentateuch), the Nevi’im (the Prophets), and the K’tuvim (the Writings). The word Ta’nakh or Tanakh was formed by using the first letter of each word. Sometimes they used just the Law, sometimes the Law and the Prophets, sometimes the Law and the Writings, when talking about all of the Scriptures – what we now refer to as the Old Testament.

Tarsus – A city in the Roman province of Cilicia. It was the home town of the man who became the apostle we know as Paul. It was most likely a Roman city as Paul was born there as a Roman citizen and his family did not have to buy their citizenship as so many did.

The Ruach HaKodesh – The third person of the Trinity whom we call The Holy Spirit, also known as The Spirit of God, or sometimes simply, The Spirit.

The Way – The original name for the church – those we now call Christians.

Torah – Literally The Law, sometimes called the Pentateuch, the first of the three sections of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Torah-teachers – We call them scribes.

Ya’akov – Jacob, a Hebrew name.

Yahweh – The constructed name used by the Jewish people in place of the name God gave Moses as His personal name. They believed that His name was too holy for any human to say so they removed all the vowels from it. But just the four consonants made it impossible to say, so they arbitrarily chose the vowels from one of the titles of God and added them in place of the real vowels giving them a word that was not “holy” so sinful man could say it.

Yerushalayim – The city of Jerusalem.

Yeshua – A very common name in Israel in the first century. It means He (Yahweh) saves. It is the given name of the man we know as Jesus. The name “Jesus” is an Old English corruption of the Latin version of the Greek version of the Hebrew name Yeshua.

Y’hudah – The kingdom of Judea. It can also be the name Judah, although I do not have anyone by that name in my story.

Y’hudim – Specifically, the people of Judea, but generally, the Jews.

Yirmeyahu – The prophet we all Jeremiah.

Yisra’el – Israel. Either the land, the nation, the people, or the man of that name – the “father” of the people. In my story I use it to refer to the nation, which includes both the land and the people.


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