“Not this Man, but Barabbas.”
John 18:33-19:22 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”
And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him. 39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 So they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber.
19 Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; 3 and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face. 4 Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” 5 Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the Man!” 6 So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”
8 Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; 9 and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” 12 As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.”
13 Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” 15 So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
16 So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. 17 They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. 18 There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 20 Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Pilate, not wishing to be involved in crucifying Jesus, offered to release Jesus. The text says: “I find no guilt in Him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” So they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber. It’s hard to imagine that the people would choose a robber over Jesus. They had heard His teaching. They knew of the miracles He had done. They knew that He was a good man, yet they chose a robber over Him. Things really have not changed that much over the last 2000 years. Today too, people have heard of Jesus teaching. The miracles He did when He was here and many more miracles done in His name are documented so that people would know them. No one testifies that He is bad or evil, but rather that He is good, yet given the choice many choose Barabbas over Christ. It seems in our day, in our culture that nearly anything is chosen and glorified above Christ.
In Jesus day, when He was arrested and brought before Pilate, the tide of public opinion had turned quickly against Him. It was less than a week earlier that the crowds of people were shouting as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Matthew 21:9 speaking of that day, says: The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!" In today’s text, less than a week later, the crowds are shouting: “Crucify, crucify!” It may seem that the tide of public opinion against Christ has turned more slowly in our culture and our country. It’s been more than 200 years since this nation was established. Then it was founded on Biblical, Christian values. God is mentioned and embraced in our founding documents, within our laws and even on our currency the words “In God we trust” are printed. Prayer to God was not only tolerated in government, in schools and throughout society, it was seen as necessary, vital, essential in every aspect of life. Because the change in public opinion has happened slowly, over generations, some today would say we have evolved to, or become enlightened by a higher thinking and understanding. We, as a people no longer choose Christ because we are educated, filled with the knowledge of man. In truth though we are no different 200 years after the founding of the nation, than those nearly 2000 years ago. In 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 Paul wrote: Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe… Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. And in 1 Corinthians 13:18-20 says: Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” If we have truly evolved through, become enlightened by knowledge and understanding, why is it that since we have remove the Bible, God, Jesus and prayer from our schools and higher education our students are no longer the best, but now rank among the lowest in academic achievement? Why is it that since we have followed our higher knowledge our crime rates and our poverty rates have increased? Why is it that as our society has removed Christ from our government, our courts and laws, there is less justice and more corruption?
It may seem as though it has been a process of enlightenment and evolution, but it has happened in the time frame of one generation, in my lifetime, we have gone from a culture that embraced God and Christ in nearly every phase of life, to one which chooses instead the Barabbases of our day. In truth God and Christ are eternal. It doesn’t matter whether things happen over the period of a few days, a generation, 200 or 2000 years. In truth each one must decide, in their own lifetime, whether they will choose Christ or Barabbas. Jesus says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, (Barabbas over Jesus) for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:16-21)
In today’s text Jesus says: “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Later, when He was crucified, the text says: Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” The chief priests thought they could change what was written, what is true, but truth does not change according to the will or the knowledge of man. What is true is true, what is written is written. The will or the whims of man cannot change the eternal truth of God, His will and His word. Each one must choose, Jesus or Barabbas.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for truth, for Your unchanging will and Your unchanging word. Thank You that because of love, choosing Jesus, choosing light, choosing the truth of God, though it may seem foolish to the world, is life. Amen.