Tuesday, December 22, 2015
They'd Rather Have Barabbas
“Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. “ (John 18:28)
While the Hebrew word for Passover refers to the specific meal on the fourteenth of Nissan, the Greek word refers to both the Passover and the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread. The day after Passover, was the first day of the feast. It was to be a holy convocation, a day given to the Lord. Some have taught that because it was a Sabbath the Jews had to wait a day after Jesus Arrest before the trial while others have taught that he was arrested a day earlier and crucified on the day of the Passover.
John makes it very clear they did not postpone the trial and both theories are incorrect. While the first day of unleavened bread was a holy convocation, a day when they were to avoid coming in contact with things that were polluted, it was not a Sabbath, and they were able to conduct business more or less as usual. The Jews considered the Roman court as polluted and refused to enter it, but they took Jesus there as soon as it opened.
“Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?
They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.
Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.
The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?” (John 18:29-33)
Because the Jews refused to enter the judgment hall, Pilate came out to enquire what Jesus was accused of. They offered no explanation, simply saying they wouldn’t have brought if he wasn’t guilty. They hoped Pilate would just order him executed on their word, or that he would authorize them to execute him without question. Pilate told them to enforce their own laws, and they reminded him that they were prohibited from executing a person without Roman approval. The Jewish method of execution was stoning. Because his execution would be conducted under Roman authority rather than Jewish, Jesus would be crucified, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 20:18-19, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.” Pilate then took Jesus into the court for further questioning. He was familiar with the talk around town, and the traditions of the Messiah, and asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews as many thought.
“Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?
Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:34-39)
Jesus asked Pilate whether he was asking because he really wanted to know or if he was asking because the Jews had put him up to it to try to justify his execution. Pilate responded that he was not a Jew and didn’t just follow the priest’s orders. He wanted to know what had actually happened. After all, it was those Jews who were making the complaint.
Jesus made the point that his kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, and not a physical one, As a result, it offered no competition to the Roman government. That he was offering no resistance and there was no force trying to prevent his arrest and execution was the best proof possible he was not a threat to the Roman Empire. Pilate asked if truly were king and Jesus explained that in the worlds eyes he appeared as a king but that he came to teach the truth, and that those who were interested in what was right would come to him.
“Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?
Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John 18:38-40)
Pilate then asked what right is. Was it right to free Jesus, knowing it would almost certainly cause a revolt, or was it better to let them have their wan and kill an innocent man to protect other people. He then went out to the Jews and said he could find no evidence of wrong doing to justify Jesus execution. In a sudden fit of inspiration he offered them a choice. It had become a custom that each year a political prisoner was released during the Passover week. He offered them a choice between Jesus and the most hated prisoner they had. Barabbas Was a known thief and gang leader who had caused several riots, and had been arrested for murder. Nobody in their right mind wanted Barabbas free. One can only imagine his shock when they demanded Barabbas be freed instead of Jesus. His effort to save Jesus had failed.