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Who Was Pardoned Instead of Jesus? (Y1.T2.D60)

Pexels; "Anastasia Zhenina"


When Pilate asked the crowd who should receive a customary pardon, they chose Barabbas over Jesus.

Here's how the New World Encyclopedia breaks down today's passages:

John 18:40 calls Barabbas a lēstēs, "bandit." Luke refers to him as one involved in a stasis, a riot (Luke 23:19). Matthew says Barabbas was a "notorious prisoner." (Matthew 27:16) However, Mark (15:7) makes his crime more specific, saying that he committed murder in an insurrection.

Clearly, Barabbas was no mere robber, but was probably a leader of a group that had acted violently against Roman authority. Some scholars posit that he was a member of the Zealots or of the sicarii (dagger-men), militant Jews that sought to overthrow the Roman occupiers of their land by force.

Barabbas was a threat to Rome—and possibly the Sanhedrin, who had stirred up the crowd—while Jesus was an absolute threat. Remember what happened in John 11:47–48:

The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council, and said, “What are we doing? For this man does many signs. If we leave him alone like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

So while the governor hoped to release Jesus by offering up a more dangerous man, he was never going to win over the angry mob.

It’s interesting how much our lives mirror Barabbas'. We've all sinned and fallen short of God's glory (Romans 3:23). And that sin has placed a death sentence on our lives that Jesus accepted on our behalf (Romans 6:23).

Barabbas may or may not have accepted the free gift of eternal life that came with this exchange, but I have, and you can too. If you've never acknowledged the sin that separates you from God, it's not too late. A short prayer of salvation follows the verses below so you can receive the pardon offered to us all.

Unjustly Freed

13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one that perverts the people, and behold, having examined him before you, I found no basis for a charge against this man concerning those things of which you accuse him. 15 Neither has Herod, for I sent you to him, and see, nothing worthy of death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore chastise him and release him.” (Luke 23:13–16)

Matthew 27:15, Mark 15:6, Luke 23:17b-a, John 18:39b-a

Matthew 27:16, Mark 15:7

8 The multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do as he always did for them. (Mark 15:8)

Matthew 27:17, Mark 15:9, John 18:39c

Matthew 27:18, Mark 15:10

19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of him.” (Matthew 27:19)

Matthew 27:20, Mark 15:11

21a But the governor answered them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” (Matthew 27:21a)

Matthew 27:21a, Luke 23:18, John 18:40a

40b Now Barabbas was a robber. (John 18:40b)

19 one who was thrown into prison for a certain revolt in the city, and for murder.

20 Then Pilate spoke to them again, wanting to release Jesus, (Luke 23:19–20)

Matthew 27:22a, Mark 15:11

Matthew 27:22b–23, Mark 15:13–14, Luke 23:21–23a

24 So when Pilate saw that nothing was being gained, but rather that a disturbance was starting, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this righteous person. You see to it.”

25 All the people answered, “May his blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:24–25)

23b Their voices and the voices of the chief priests prevailed. 24 Pilate decreed that what they asked for should be done. (Luke 23:23b–24)

Matthew 27:26a, Mark 15:15a

25 He released him who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus up to their will. (Luke 23:25)

Matthew 27:26b, Mark 15:15b, John 19:1

13 Behold, my servant will deal wisely.

He will be exalted and lifted up,

and will be very high.

14 Just as many were astonished at you—

his appearance was marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men—

15 so he will cleanse many nations.

Kings will shut their mouths at him;

for they will see that which had not been told them,

and they will understand that which they had not heard. (Isaiah 52:13–15)

Meditation Moment

Dear God,

Have mercy on me, according to Your loving kindness and the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions (Psalm 51:1). Through faith, I come to You believing that You exist and reward those who seek You (Hebrews 11:6) which is what I am doing. Therefore I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart You raised him from the dead. I fully accept Your promised salvation (Romans 10:9).


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