“‘But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?’ Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber.” John 18:39–40
Pilate was looking for a way to be able to release Jesus and maintain the peace.
Too often over the years leading up to Pilate’s installation as governor over Judea riots and destruction had been a frequent occurrence. Caesar and the Roman Senate had grown tired of frequent reports of these riots and the violence that had been required to quell them so they had made it clear to Pilate that his job was to keep the peace; which meant that he was to avoid unrest.
Now the Jewish leaders have assembled a throng of people which they have excited to the point that they’re on the verge of rioting to demand that Jesus be delivered up to be crucified.
Pilate, in an effort to help everyone save face, reminded them that there was a custom of his releasing a condemned prisoner at the time of the Passover. Not doubt he was hoping that the people would recall Jesus’ miracles and his teaching and would then choose to set him free, but they called for the release of Barabbas, a violent criminal, instead.
For the rest of the day Pilate continues to search for a way of reconciling the Jews with Jesus so that he can secure his release. He has Jesus beaten, a crown of thorns twisted and placed forcibly upon his head, and other abuses. Pilate makes it very clear that he can find no fault in Jesus, and no reason under Roman law for him to be executed.
Still the mob cries out for Jesus to be crucified.
“Shall I crucify your king?”
“We have no king but Caesar!”
Twice the Jewish people had been given the opportunity to choose Jesus, and twice they’ve chosen someone else. Both times they’ve chosen those that previous to this day they had considered their enemies: Barabbas, a murderer and a thief, and Caesar, the figurehead of the pagan empire keeping them under subjugation.
Pilate too chose Caesar and the Jewish leaders over Jesus though he knew hi to be innocent and so much more.
Who do you find yourself inclined choose instead of Jesus?
No one has done more for you than Jesus. He’s your creator, your healer, your provider, your Savior. Still it’s so easy for us to choose someone else. There’s something hiding in our sinful nature that predisposes us to rejecting Jesus.
Friends, we must not repeat the mistakes of Pilate and the Jewish people. We must choose Jesus. Even if it means turning our backs on our hopes and dreams and rejecting others in our lives that we hold most dear. We must choose Jesus.