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Pilate Condemns Jesus

Pilate assembled the chief priests and other Jewish authorities.

Pilate: You presented this man to me as a rabble-rouser, but I examined Him in your presence and found Him not guilty of the charges you have leveled against Him. Herod also examined Him and released Him to my custody. So He hasn’t done anything deserving the death penalty. I’ll see to it that He is properly whipped and then let Him go.

[It was the custom for Pilate to set one prisoner free during the holiday festivities.]

Crowd (all shouting at once): Away with this man! Free Barabbas instead!

Crucifixion is a favorite Roman punishment for insurrectionists, slaves, and prisoners of war. Anyone daring to defy the power and authority of Caesar is executed in this public and humiliating way. Jesus indeed is a revolutionary. He doesn’t come to proclaim a new religion, but a new kingdom—a new way of life. He is indeed a threat to Caesar’s way of doing things, a way that co-opts the religious leaders.

Jesus’ revolution is a peaceful revolution. He doesn’t advocate the use of violence—in fact, when one of His disciples uses the sword to try to protect Jesus from arrest, Jesus heals the “enemy” and rebukes His disciple. So Jesus doesn’t support the regime of Caesar or follow the usual violent path of revolution: He leads a revolutionary revolution—in a path of love, healing, justice, and reconciliation.

Jesus appropriates and transforms the symbol of their power into a symbol of His greater power. He makes the cross not the icon of violent domination, but the reverse. By hanging on the cross and speaking of forgiveness, Jesus shows that there is a greater power at work in the world than the power of domination: it’s the power of God’s saving and reconciling love.

Barabbas had been imprisoned after being convicted of an insurrection he had led in Jerusalem. He had also committed murder. Pilate argued with them, wishing he could release Jesus, but they wouldn’t be silenced.

Crowd (shouting): Crucify Him! Crucify Him!

Pilate (countering a third time): Why? What has He done that is so evil? I have found in Him no offense worthy of capital punishment. As I said, I will punish Him and then release Him.

But they would not relent. They shouted louder and louder that He should be crucified, and eventually Pilate capitulated. So he pronounced the punishment they demanded.

He released the rebel and murderer Barabbas—the insurrectionist they had pleaded for in His place—and he handed Jesus over to them to do with as they desired (vv. 13-25, The Voice).

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