Lukeby Mike Raiter
Luke now takes us on the last leg of Jesus’ journey to the cross. The Roman governor Pilate interrogates Jesus, and although convinced of His innocence, will not do the just thing and acquit Him. Instead, he shifts responsibility to Herod, the tetrarch (ruler) of Galilee. Since Jesus is a Galilean, Pilate wants Herod to take control of the situation (v. 7).
Herod, who had beheaded John the Baptist, had expressed a desire to meet the miracle-working Jesus (v. 8) and be entertained. Jesus has nothing to say to someone who has no interest in spiritual matters. Yet, like Pilate, Herod finds Jesus innocent (v. 15).
Despite the fact that Jesus is innocent of any crime, the Jews are determined to see Him killed. Luke tells us that the chief priests, the rulers, and the people were there (v. 13). In other words, representatives of the entire nation are present and casting their vote against Jesus.
Three times Pilate pleads with the crowd to release this innocent man. He even offers them a cruel compromise: he will have Jesus flogged before releasing Him. Hopefully, the promise of blood will satisfy the crowd. However, they demand nothing less than the worst form of execution: crucifixion (v. 21). In the end, the loud demands of the many for execution overcome the single voice asking for justice.
The people demand the release of Barabbas in the place of Jesus (v. 18). Literally, “Barabbas” means “son of Abba”—the son of the father. Here is the people’s choice: either the Father’s Son who is innocent, or the father’s son who is guilty. The one who gives life will die in the place of the murderer. Jesus will now take Barabbas’ place on the cross, just as He took our place on the cross. Barabbas, and we, walk free because Jesus died in our place.
As Jesus trudges to the place of execution, along the way women weep and wail. Not everyone in Jerusalem consents to His death. Tragically, though, by committing this awful deed, the Jewish leaders have brought God’s judgment upon their nation (vv. 28–31).
We have seen here today an appalling abuse of justice. Yet, at the same time, we are reminded that Jesus bore this abuse because of His incredible love for you and me.
Why does Luke go to such lengths to emphasise the innocence of Jesus?
What important lessons are there for us to learn from the account of the release of Barabbas?