World English Bible translation
15:6Now at the feast he used to release to them one prisoner, whom they asked of him. 15:7 There was one called Barabbas, bound with those who had made insurrection, men who in the insurrection had committed murder. 15:8 The multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do as he always did for them. 15:9 Pilate answered them, saying, "Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?" 15:10 For he perceived that for envy the chief priests had delivered him up. 15:11 But the chief priests stirred up the multitude, that he should release Barabbas to them instead. 15:12 Pilate again asked them, "What then should I do to him whom you call the King of the Jews?"
15:13They cried out again, "Crucify him!"
15:14Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has he done?"
But they cried out exceedingly, "Crucify him!"
15:15Pilate, wishing to please the multitude, released Barabbas to them, and delivered Jesus, when he had flogged him, to be crucified.
Jesus had been tried by the Jews and been found guilty of blaspheme. The trial was by no means fair and impartial, but by their standards they could have ruled no other way. Jesus did claim to be divine. Because they could not accept this, they found Him guilty. But, they were not permitted by Roman Law to put Him to death. So they brought Him to the Roman governor, Pilate. They told Pilate that Jesus had claimed to be king of the Jews. Since no one could claim to be king without the backing of the Romans, Jesus was found guilty under Roman law of insurrection against the Roman State. Even though Pilate knew that it was a trumped up charge, Jesus would not deny it.
But there was something else that Pilate could do. It was traditional to release one prisoner during Passover as a gesture of mercy and leniency. Such gestures did not come often from Rome. So Pilate thought to offer Jesus as the one who would be released. He may have heard that Jesus had a popular following. Here was a way to release Jesus and not be under any cloud of suspicion from either the Jews or from a review of his actions by Rome.
So Pilate offered to release Jesus. But the priests had stirred up the crowd and filled it with their own supporters. When Pilate tried to release Jesus, they cried out to release Barabbas instead. Even though Barabbas was certainly guilty of insurrection and Jesus was not, Pilate agreed to release Barrabas. When he asked the crowd what he should do with Jesus, the multitude yelled back, "Crucify him!"
Here we have two shameful things that occurred. First the priest and the multitude demanded the death of Jesus even though He could have been released. They were eager to see Him crucified. They were not interested in justice OR mercy. They only wanted Him dead because He would not play by their rules. And second, we see the weakness of character of Pilate. He knew that Jesus should not be crucified. He knew that Jesus was no threat to Roman rule. Jesus did not threaten Rome so much as the position of the priest and the scribes. But Pilate would not stand up to this crowd. He gave into their demands and agreed to crucify an innocent man.
It takes great courage and character to stand up to a mob and keep your convictions. It takes courage to stand up for justice when it's unpopular. Pilate did not have such courage and neither did any of the Jewish leaders. Peter did not have such courage and neither did any of the other disciples. There was only one person there that showed the courage and character to do what must be done during such a terrible moment. That person was Jesus of Nazareth.
Where does a man get such courage as to stand up against a multitude and still maintain the power of his own convictions? Do you need to find such courage in your life and for your problems?
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