The two thieves crucified with Christ were zealots. The term “thief” and “robber” actually refers to a terrorist – that is why they had been given a death sentence. Not for stealing, but for murder and mayhem committed to push against the Roman leaders.

There were 3 zealots arrested and sentenced. Three crosses prepared. But then, Pilate, in an attempt to let an innocent man go free, presented the crowd in his courtyard with a choice. As was custom at times to let condemned men live, he stood Jesus in front of the crowd alongside a guilty criminal, Barabbas.

Thinking the crowd would surely choose to see Barabbas die, Pilate likely believed they would hold it against him that any acts of treason or resistance he was involved with surely would have resulted in a brutal Roman response on the general public in order to flush these men out and capture them. But Pilate did not understand the crowd…or the will of God.

The guilty man was set free as the crowd cried out, “Give us Barabbas!” And when asked what to do with the Jesus the reply was “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

The third cross on the hill at Calvary, that cross was meant for Barabbas. But Jesus took his place. Doing so provided a living demonstration of atonement. The guilty “scape goat” was set free while the innocent was sacrificed for sin.

Read about it here: Lev.16; Matt 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:28-19:16