There once was a group who rose up against the governing authorities in rebellion. There were many men involved in this uprising, trying to get control of their own little nation again. They murdered during this insurrection, killing heedlessly.
It didn't go so well for them- their uprising fell. And the survivors were imprisoned. One of these men was notorious among the prisoners, and probably not someone you would want back in society just yet.
His name was Barabbas.
One day, while brooding in his cell, the soldiers came and brought him outside. The governor was there, along with another prisoner, and the restless crowd was before them.
"It's that time of year again," the governor told the crowd, "and you get to pick one prisoner to be released to you. I'll give you a choice: you can have Barabbas, or Jesus called the Christ."
Any hopes that had been rising up in Barabbas probably plummeted. It was himself, or this other man that people had been calling the Christ? Of course they would let the Christ go- the Christ was the one they were all expecting God to send; the Christ was their only hope for freedom. This Jesus was probably in custody by mistake, and the people would want him freed at any cost.
But then, wonder of wonders, he heard the crowd calling out for him. "Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!!"
Maybe he thought it was some terrible dream. Maybe he thought it was all a joke. Maybe...
Maybe it was real.
It must be real, because they were releasing him!
He could hear the governor asking the people, "Then what should I do with Jesus, called the Christ?"
And he could hear the crowd chant, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
Barabbas probably shuddered.
Barabbas walked out, free.
And my guess is that he started asking around about this Jesus, and what had happened, and what he had done to anger the people so much. And, odds are, days later he heard the reports that the tomb was empty, and the testimonies of the people who had seen him and eaten with him and touched him.
And Barabbas probably understood more than anyone else about being set free because of Christ's sacrifice. And Barabbas probably got it more than others when the apostles preached about Jesus taking our place and our punishment.
But what if no one told Barabbas about Jesus?