We find a number of characters mentioned in our Gospel text day, the foremost being our Lord Jesus Christ; but also the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, the wife of Pontius Pilate, a notable and notorious criminal named Barabbas; though unmentioned, the Jewish rulers and Roman guard; and finally, ALL THE PEOPLE!
Pilate was not a bad sort, but he was a compromising politician. The Jewish rulers were wicked to the core. It was their own instigation that convinced the people to call for Barabbas to be set free in lieu of Jesus; but all the people encompasses every person in the sound of my voice. The fact that the same crowds who hailed Christ’s entry into Jerusalem five days earlier would demand His crucifixion at this time is a condemnation of false ministers which the Jewish rulers, Scribes and Pharisees were. The blind were leading the blind, and they, and the heads of their children would suffer the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those we ordain as ministers are of considerable influence in leading the church in the Way of the Lord.
Is there anyone here today that could be compared to the criminal, Barabbas? Is there anyone guilty as was Barabbas here today?
Certainly, there is! Let’s study the Word together to get an answer to this mystery. The Lesson today is too long to cover in one service, so I have selected a particular portion of the text to expound upon. Let us consider the matter:
THE HOLY GOSPEL
11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. 12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. 13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? 14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. 15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. 16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? 18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. 19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. 20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. 22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. 23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. 24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
In the preceding verses of the text, we learn that Christ has been betrayed for thirty pieces of silver by a disciple who pretended to be His friend.. This was prophesied of Christ some hundreds of years earlier in Zechariah 11:10 And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. 11 And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD. 12 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty piecesof silver. 13 And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.
1 When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: 2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. 3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. 5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. 6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. 7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. 9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; 10 And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.
So Jesus now is delivered to the secular power. Even the Roman governor was more just than the religious leaders of the Jewish Sanhedrin.
Pontius Pilate would have been considered a good man and just for his time. He would also be well received in government office of today. He actually sought justice, and was politically correct. He sought justice and knew it, but lacked the courage of his office in dispensing that justice.
11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.
Pilate opened the interview with an honest hope of finding the truth.
12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.
This is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7-9 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
See how Pilate presses for some word of defense from the Lord:
. 13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
Pilate must have begun to suspect that Christ was no common man by his failure to utter a single word in His defense:
14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.
Pilate begins to believe that Christ is innocent, but he fears the Jews. What to do? Pilate begins to think like a politician. How can I do the right thing by satisfying everyone including these stubborn Jewish leaders?
. 15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. 16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
Barabas was a murderer and a violent sinner. He was the worst of the prisoners of Rome. So Pilate would use this card to politically and discreetly ease his predicament. He would squirm out of his troubled presence without having to make an unpopular decision. How is this different from politicians of our own day?
17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?
The choice is always Barabbas or Christ. Will we save ourselves, or must Christ die for us. The death of Barabbas would have been justice, but the death of Christ would be an egregious miscarriage of justice. We deserve, like Barabbas, to die for our sins, but God has provided Himself a Lamb for the sacrifice. He died a substitutionary death in our place. Barabbas was spared death by Christ, so are you and I – “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” Genesis 22:7-8 And Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Lamb that God has provided Himself!
18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. See this last sentence? Pilate knew that Jesus had been accused by the Jewish religious leaders out of envy and not out of guilt. He judged correctly. But the example which is presented to us in this text is this:
1) Making a correct judgment between right and wrong is important, but
2) It is far more important to act upon that knowledge.
19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
Even Pilate’s wife knew that Jesus was innocent. Had she personally brought the message, this weak man may have feared her more than the Jews, but now he had these trouble-making Jews alone before him who could stir up political unrest unless Pilate granted their wishes. He feared the present Jews more than the absent wife. He was a politician. He would trade off his honor for a political advantage.
But Pilate could not escape the political reality of the moment.20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.
See how the religious leaders of the day deceived and manipulated the people to evil and to sin. The same happens today.
Pilate presses, effeminately, for justice: 21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.
His political scheme is not working. Instead of placating the wicked Jews, he should act on justice. But he is too weak to do that!
22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.
My heart goes out to this pitifully weak man. He really tries, but he falls short.
He makes one last ditch attempt. He foolishly believes that these evil leaders might be swayed by the reminder of justice:
23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
Pilate now allows cowardice to overrule his sense of justice.
He now does what politicians are so adept at doing, he passes the responsibility for the coming evil to his tormenters.
24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed hishands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
Do you blame Pilate? Would you have done better?
HAVE you done better?
We are Pilate, the Jewish leaders, all the people, and Barabbas wrapped up into one entity.
Like Judas, we have sold out our Lord for personal gain, pride, and sin. We claim to be His friend, yet we denounce Him through our witness among our friends who ridicule Godly values.
Our sins have made us like unto the Jewish leaders in that they have led to the necessity of His dying for us.
We are like Pilate in that we put up a good illusion of doing justice and righteousness, yet we fail to live up to the model, and we pass the responsibility for our failures to others.
We are, especially, Barabbas because we deserve death for our sins, but Christ has died in our stead and paid the penalty of death for us.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Do we know Christ as our Redeemer?
Have we studied to show ourselves approved of God, Friend?