6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.
14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
ut they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Mark 15:6-15

Did the Roman readers of Mark’s Gospel catch the underlying atmosphere of this story? Did they get the ludicrousness of these events? Jesus was quite obviously innocent of wrongdoing, though not innocent of the charges, and not worthy of death. Barabbas was equally obviously guilty of serious crimes and worthy of execution, yet in this scene playing out before the readers, God’s plan to rescue a guilty human race was unfolding, the innocent paying the price so that the guilty might go free.

How did Barabbas feel as he watched them leading Jesus away, knowing that it should have been him going to the cross? Did his conscience bite and his heart cry out against the injustice of it all? Did he ever feel gratitude for his freedom at someone else’s expense? Did he think about Jesus and wonder why He did it? We never hear of him again – he was only a blip on the radar screen but, like Judas, he stained history.

Once the die had been cast, Mark discreetly pulls the curtain down on Jesus’ suffering. No details are given about the whipping He received, only a few words to record that it happened. For Pilate, it might have been the end of the story, another criminal condemned and executed, but was it? According to Matthew, his wife warned him to stay out of it because she was having nightmares about Jesus, but it was too late. He had no choice but to be embroiled in the story.

Pilate wore two hats that day – Pilate, the Roman governor and Pilate, the man, and in both of these roles he had to make a choice that would affect his own destiny as well as that of the entire human race. This is one of those mysteries that only God can unravel. Even though he was part of the unfolding drama of redemption, he was still held accountable for his actions. He had to experience the principle of the harvest in his own life. “Don’t be deceived. God cannot be mocked. Whatever a man sows that will he also reap.” The seed determines the harvest.

Luella Campbell

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