Luke 23 verses 20, 21. “Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Herod found the charges against Jesus so ludicrous that he made a mockery of it and sent him back to Pilate. Pilate then reconvened the court and announced that neither he nor Herod found any reason to execute Jesus. Note how the Gospel writers constantly draw our attention to the innocence of Jesus during this entire scenario. But what Pilate now discovers is that the priests were not prepared to bow to his authority, nor that of Herod’s either. They called for the execution of Jesus and for the release of a certain Barabbas, who was indeed a guilty felon.
So they accused Jesus of being worthy of death because they claimed he was attempting to overthrow the political authorities while they themselves would not bow to these same authorities. They also, moreover, called for the release of a convicted activist who had recently committed murder (verse 19). The whole situation became out of control and deeply hypocritical.
Pilate tried again to bring reason into the situation asking for clarity on the “crimes” Jesus committed. But like so many mob events, reason never prevails. We have seen only too often on our own TV screens, reports of people demonstrating where shouting and yelling rules, always stirred up by some troublemakers. Reason and intelligent discussion is thrown out and soon the riots turn to violence. The next time you see scenes like that on your TV news programmes, remember that this is what the Saviour faced. And He, the most innocent of men was falsely accused of things he never did, as the Gospel writers are at pains to show, and yet Jesus never uttered any word in his own defence. This makes us think of 1 Peter 2 verse 23; “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate, when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
It is interesting to note that Pilate wanted to release Jesus. From the other Gospel accounts it seems that his meeting with Jesus had a strange effect on Pilate, but sadly, not enough for him to do the right thing, for we read that he finally gave in to the mob and released Barabbas. There is a similarity here between Pilate and Herod, who also wanted to release John the Baptist – but did not.
Notice that this substitution of Jesus for a known criminal is a good illustration of the substitutionary role Jesus would carry out on the Cross for us. There he would stand in for sinners and rebels, like us. The Barabbas incident is a kind of foreshadowing of that.
What a debt we owe to Jesus our substitutionary Saviour. It is sad that many do not see this and just as sad are the many who say they do believe it but hardly move a finger to advance the cause of the Gospel.
Let’s do all we can for Him, who died for us.