Pilate was a brutal prefect of Judaea. One of his key jobs was to keep the Jews peaceful and quiet, and in this he failed miserably. There were, however, some practices that he supported which aimed to keep the people happy. One of these was the custom of releasing a prisoner at Passover.
Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. – Mark 15:6–11
Pilate was trying to find a way to save Jesus. Terrorists back then were viewed much in the same way as they are viewed today. Barabbas was a murderous terrorist and Jesus had only taught peace and done good.
Pilate mockingly presented Jesus before the crowd, mockingly calling him the “king of the Jews.” He hoped to highlight the irony between the title and the bruised and battered man who stood meekly and peacefully before them. On the other hand was the angry, snarling terrorist.
Surely, Pilate thought, the crowd would choose Jesus over Barabbas! But the chief priests had done their work well, and stirred up the crowd so that they cried out for Pilate to release Barabbas to them instead.
Barabbas was probably the leader of the murderous terrorist gang who had been captured, and it was probably two men from that same gang who were due to be crucified with Jesus. The Romans were efficient. They crucified men in batches.
Because of the choice that was made that morning, Jesus was crucified in the place of Barabbas, and Barabbas walked free. Have you realised that you are Barabbas? Replay the events of that morning in your mind, replacing Barabbas with yourself. What feelings and emotions do you experience as you relive the story?
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