HOST: Ron House
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 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?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 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.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” 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.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
We see in this text another attempt by Pilate to weasel out of his responsibility in regard to Jesus. In fulfilling the standing tradition of releasing a Jewish prisoner during this feast week as a goodwill gesture toward the Jews, Pilate placed Jesus, a man who was innocent and only before him because of envy, alongside Barabbas, a notorious prisoner that was known to them to be violent and dangerous. Pilate was confident that he had found a way to release Jesus while staying in the good graces of the Jews; surely they would choose Jesus. Surely they would not want a dangerous criminal like Barabbas back on the streets. But Pilate underestimated the hatred and malice the Jewish leaders felt toward Jesus. They would gladly accept the robber and murderer rather than have Jesus released. Jesus’ death was the only outcome acceptable to these men who were determined to destroy Him. Despite Pilate’s desire to release Jesus, his fear of the crowds and of the backlash of doing the right thing caused him to give in and deliver Jesus to be crucified.
Why do you think Pilate was afraid to release Jesus?
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