The Crowd Chooses Barabbas
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted.
- This was probably an arrangement set up to keep the peace.
- The release of a prisoner whom the people thought was unjustly incarcerated.
16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.
- Perhaps Barabbas was a Charles Manson type of character. A person that everyone hates and would never want to see released.
17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”
- Pilate thinks he ha found a way out of this dilemma.
- So perhaps he has them stand together – the killer Barabbas and Jesus, the one everyone knows as the guy who wandered the countryside healing others.
18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.
- A little editorial side note by Matthew.
- ‘Delivered him up’ = handed over in Jesus’ words
19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”
- Pilate’s wife calls him righteous – she tells the truth. It’s a small sermon, but it is a true sermon – “that righteous man”.
- What was Peter’s sermon short time earlier? “I don’t know him.”
20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.
- The chief priest and elders are working the crowd to get their plan carried out. They are pulling the strings to get an anonymous crown to do their dirty work.
21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”
- Note that the Roman governor and the Jewish crowd – not just the chief priest and the elders, are all working together – no one is innocent.
22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!”
- Supposedly crucifixion was disgusting to the Jews … except in this case.
23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
- The account in Luke states that Pilate asked the crowd 3 times – Luke 23:22 = “22 A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.”
- Time for the gospel lesson. Why did Jesus have to die?
- We see that it is obvious that Barabbas should die for his sin – we just don’t think we should die for ours.
- In the end, this is THE PLAN of God playing out here.
- We are Barabbas – guilty, condemned to death and Jesus is chosen to die in our place.
- Jesus dies for sinners. Jesus died for Barabbas, Judas, Peter and us.
Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified –
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood, see to it yourselves.”
- Pilate is a practical political figure – what is going to work best … for me.
- This is what self centered sinners do – what’ in it for me.
- Can’t we just wash our hands of Jesus and declare ourselves innocent? You know, I just didn’t have enough information about Jesus to make up my mind about Jesus.
- Many evangelical churches work on this premise. If we just provide enough information, people will come to believe – so they lecture instead of preach.
- “see to it yourselves” – so much like Judas was told earlier (Matt 27:4)
25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
- There really are no truer words – this is a good example of “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
- As I said earlier most don’t read this passage with this emphasis – that right here the gospel message is presented.
- Directly put, the innocent one is ‘handed over’ for death so that the guilty may go free.
- This is what Luther called the Great Exchange – all our sins Jesus bares – and the righteous man dies.
- So here is the big question. If you were in the crowd, how would you vote? Jesus or Barabbas.
Jesus Is Mocked
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him.
- The mockery begins. This humiliation is to show that Jesus is nothing special and that his claims we wild fantasies.
- Where did the soldiers take Jesus – look at the many descriptions in the various translations.
- What was the size of the group and what were they called.
28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,
- We see the total mockery of the ‘kingly’ charge – the scarlet (purple) robe of royal color – the thorny crown, a droopy reed for a scepter in his hand.
29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
- Somewhere (Philippians 2:10-11) it says every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Even in jest, they don’t realize that they are the fulfillment of this prophecy – later it will either be in terror or shame.
30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.
- A repeat of the mocking back in 25:66-67 – “66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him,”
31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
- Their savagery has been satisfied – now back to business.