Have you ever been guilty of something, but didn't get caught?
In Mark 15 we see a similar cowardice. We see just how far the fear of man can go to lead someone to absolve themselves of all guilt and shift the blame. We're going to see that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor had the ability to rise to the occasion and end the unjust and illegal trial of an innocent man, but instead he released a guilty man to please the crowd.
Here we can see that God's sovereignty prevails. Even seemingly inconsequential political problems were a part of God's plan to lead Jesus toward Calvary.
It's easy to see that Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. When he questioned the crowd, they had no particular crime to accuse him of. He then questioned Jesus himself. Pilate went so far as to tell the crowd that he could not find Jesus guilty of any crime. He even knew that the leading priests arrested Jesus out of envy. However, as a the crowd grew restless and shouted for Jesus to be crucified he offered to release one prisoner in honor of Passover.
In John 18:39 he asks “Would you like me to release this 'King of the Jews'?”
They shouted out “No, we want Barabbas.” Barabbas, a murderer.
So then Jesus was taken away to be scourged(a more severe form of flogging which included a lead-tipped whip. If Jesus had received medical attention afterward, his injuries would likely have required about 2000 stitches), then handed him over to the Roman soldiers for crucifixion.
Even though he was innocent.
While it may seem obvious that Pilate should have stood up for Jesus and what he knew was right, fear held him back. He tried to put the responsibility on the Jewish leaders, and eventually gave into the crowd's demands even if it meant letting out a criminal. However, as we look closer at Pilate and Barabbas we can see some similarities in our own lives.
In short, Pilate was a coward, but we have all been in a situation like Pilate's. We have crowds we try to please. He knew the truth, questioned it, but still let someone else take responsibility. He turned his back in fear, and saved himself at the cost of an innocent life. He was too worried about what the crowds thought and didn’t want to make a solid decision for Jesus. Similarly we may be wrestling with the person of Jesus, with His claims and His free gift of salvation by being swayed by the crowds, affected because of our own cowardice and our own fear of making a decision for Christ.
Barabbas was guilty of treason, a murderer, and terrorist who tried to overthrow Rome. He was actually a criminal and deserved punishment. However, he was set free by Pilate who put Jesus in his place. In the same way Jesus takes our place. We deserve punishment, but Jesus sets us free. He wants to offer freedom in his forgiveness himself. He wants to give us life and redemption as a gift.
So who will we be?