52 – The Innocent and the Guilty
And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
- Consultation: A meeting to discuss something
- Insurrection: A violent uprising against those in authority
- Perceived: Came to realize or understand
- Crucify: Put someone to death by nailing them to a cross
- Scourged: Whipped as a punishment
Have you ever been wrongly punished?
How do you think Barabbas felt when he heard that he was going to be set free?
The rooster has crowed, and the morning has arrived. Jesus has been questioned throughout the long hours of the night, had acknowledged that he is the Messiah, and had already faced punishment for that. The religious leaders were one step closer to getting rid of him at last, but there was one more problem that needed to be solved. They had no right themselves to put Jesus to death, and therefore they had to persuade the Roman authorities that he deserved to die. Therefore, they took Jesus to a man called Pilate, the Roman leader, and accused him of all kinds of different things.
Only one of the accusations is of interest to Pilate, namely that Jesus said that he was the King of the Jews and was therefore rebelling against Rome. Jesus replies, ‘You have said so,’ confirming what Pilate has said, and suggesting that Pilate saw that was true. But it is obvious that Jesus is no ordinary rebel. As he is accused of many other things, Jesus stays quiet, much to Pilate’s surprise.
We hear that Pilate tries to please the people by freeing someone during the Passover celebration. He expects that they will ask for Jesus because he had done nothing wrong. But the chief priests persuade the crowd to ask him to free a prisoner called Barabbas. This man had been a rebel against Rome and had killed people, but they still preferred him to go free rather than Jesus.
Imagine what was going through the mind of Barabbas. He knew he was meant to be executed, and that he was entirely guilty. Then, when the soldiers come to his cell, rather than taking him to be crucified they tell him that he is free! The guilty one was able to walk free; someone else was going to die on the cross in his place.
Why do you think that Pilate acted in the way that he did?
In which way is Barabbas’ experience similar to the experience of everyone who believes in Jesus?
that God will help you to do the right thing in every situation, and not to do wrong things just to please other people.