Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” [Now he was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.]
But they cried out all together, saying, “ Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!” (He was one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection made in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept on calling out, saying, “Crucify, crucify Him!” And he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail. And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted. And he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. But Pilate went along to get along. Rome did not send to Palestine the most capable administrators. After Herod the Great, there was a series of inapt governors and rulers. Pilate was no exception. The last thing he wanted was a riot. If word of a riot got back to Rome, Rome would recall him. And the consequences would be unpleasant. Pilate went along to get along.
The chief priest and scribes also were afraid of disturbing the peace. They were afraid. They feared the Romans would retaliate for the people hailing Jesus as King. They had done so a few days earlier as he rode into Jerusalem.
All parties knew what was right. But there was the big picture to think about. They saw sacrificing Jesus as a small price to pay to maintain the peace.
Barabbas was an insurrectionist. Oh, the irony. That was the false accusation from the chief priests and scribes. But as Pilate was about to let Jesus go. Panic set in for the chief priest and scribes. If Jesus had been set free, after they had made this big play they would lose face. It would ruin their reputations and standing in the Jewish communities. Their panic led to a near riot. Being the latest in a string of incompetent administrators Pilate felt he had no choice but to give in.
All parties in this story desired peace. The chief priests and scribes want to insure the Romans did not attack. Pilate wanted to ensure there was no riot. But none of them realized they had the king of Peace standing before them.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “You have to keep the big picture in mind?” Keeping the big picture in mind is not a bad thing. But it is never acceptable to justify an immoral choice. Even if you believe the consequences of the right choice may be undesirable. Jesus told His disciples that men would hate them and despise them. Sometimes men will do undesirable things because you made the right choice. Choosing Jesus is always the right choice.