Markby Robert M. Solomon
The religious leaders brought Jesus first thing in the morning to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who was a cruel man. They needed to do this because the Roman government had in AD 7 taken away the Jews' right to put their criminals to death (John 18:31). They resented this, but often exercised it when the authorities looked the other way (e.g. Stephen's martyrdom, Acts 7). To put Jesus to death on their own would have been too dangerous for them, for He was a well-known figure. So they brought Him to Pilate. If the charge was that He thought of himself as God, Pilate would have merely laughed, for the Romans had hundreds of gods. So instead they charged Jesus with a political crime; that He claimed to be the king of the Jews. This would be considered seditious by the Romans.
But Pilate disliked the Jews. Following legal procedure, he asked Jesus about being the king of the Jews, to which Jesus replied, ″You have said so″ (v. 2). Pilate must have responded with an understanding smile. So the religious leaders poured on more accusations (v. 3). But Jesus remained silent and Pilate was ″amazed″ to see that He did not defend himself (v. 5). Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent (Luke 23:14), the victim of the envious religious leaders (v. 10), and tried to find reasons to release Him without causing a riot. It was customary for a prisoner, named by the people, to be released during the Feast. Pilate asked whether they wanted Jesus released (v. 9). But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask for another prisoner, Barabbas, to be released instead (v. 11). This man was a rebel and murderer (v. 7).
Pilate then asked the crowd what was to be done about Jesus (v. 12). The judge asked the mob to sentence Jesus! They wanted Him crucified, and kept shouting even when Pilate asked them why Jesus deserved death (v. 14). Pilate was a coward, more afraid of public opinion than his own conscience. ″Wanting to satisfy the crowd″ he handed Jesus over to be crucified (v. 15). Barabbas means ″son of a father″. The people had rejected the true ″Son of the Father″ for a man whose name represented all of us. Truly, Jesus died on the cross in place of the Barabbas in each of us.
Reflect on the various characters in the text: the religious leaders, Pilate, the crowd. Compare them with Jesus, who was the only calm person in the scene, though He was the one who suffered. If you were present, what would you have done?
Barabbas was released and Jesus was crucified. Jesus hung on the sinner's cross and was pierced by the nails meant for Barabbas. Consider yourself released from the prison of sin because Jesus took your place. Say a prayer of thanksgiving to Jesus.