Give Us Barabbas – March 31, 2023
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”
Devotion based on Matthew 27:21,22
See series: Military Devotions
Bad choices lead to bad consequences.
No choice was ever as bad as the one made by the Jewish people at the trial of Jesus. We cringe to hear their words. Their decision defied reason. It ignored justice. It sprang from hatred and envy.
We might have expected this was done to defy the authority of the hated Roman government. Rome ruled with an iron fist backed up by the Roman sword. Israel strained against this foreign grip. Outright rebellion bubbled just under the surface of everyday life. Secret societies plotted Rome’s overthrow. One group called themselves the Zealots.
One of the disciples of Jesus had formerly belonged to this band of insurrectionists. That’s why he was known as Simon the Zealot. We assume his involvement came to an end when he began following Jesus. But those extreme groups still existed—and they grew stronger.
By 62 A.D. Rome was so fed up with the acts of rebellion that it sent its troops to wipe out the Jewish nation. Jerusalem was destroyed. The great temple was left in rubble. Some people may have remembered the warning of Jesus that not one stone would be left on top of another.
The Roman government would not tolerate insurrection.
That’s why it is so strange to hear the governor offer to release a man who was in prison for insurrection and murder. We wonder if it was a Roman citizen that he killed.
Pilate knew it was envy behind the charges against Jesus. Accordingly, he made the decision to turn loose a murderous insurrectionist to protect an innocent Jesus.
But the crowd would not have that happen. Their answer was, “Give us Barabbas!”
Sadly, this was not completely unexpected. Humans have a history of making such horribly wrong decisions. Eve surely did. So did Jacob. So did David. So did Solomon.
And so do we.
Like everyone before, we know right from wrong. The Lord has laid that out clearly for us. To curse, to lie, to steal, or to envy—that often requires a decision on our part. Before we do it, we already know it is wrong. What’s our excuse?
Maybe we think we have a good one. Perhaps, we feel that under the circumstances, it is better to commit a small wrong to prevent a major one. But wrong is still wrong.
Pilate decided it was better to condemn a Jewish rabbi than to lose favor with Rome and probably his governorship. He had heard the shouts of the crowd. “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” That was a threat. It was a risk he did not want to take.
Yet, in his heart, Pilate knew the judgment was wrong. He tried to wash his hands of it. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he told the crowd. “It is your responsibility!” Their answer? “Let his blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25).
“Give us Barabbas!” they demanded. The foolish human race of today still makes this dreadful choice. The symbolic cry echoes down the halls of time, “Give us Barabbas! Away with Christ! Away with Jesus who is called the Christ!”
The Lord God in heaven hears this. And what does he do?
He gives us Jesus.
He gives us the sinless life of Jesus. He gives us the suffering and death of Jesus. He gives us the right to share in the glory of Jesus. All this is handed over to us without charge.
The phrase, “His blood be on us and on our children!” now becomes our prayer.
Scripture points us to that same Jesus, “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5). His blood covers our guilt; frees us from sin’s grip; gives us heaven.
So, still today, we raise our voices to the holy God asking, “Give us Jesus! Give us Jesus!”
And he does.
Jesus, my Savior, my Lord, my Friend, hold your powerful hand over my head as I walk along the path of life. Keep me from bad decisions. Guide me on the path of righteousness. At the end of this path, show me your glory. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- Did the pressure of the crowd force some people to join in the rejection of Jesus?
- Could the people who asked that the blood of Jesus be upon them come to saving faith?
- How does God give us Jesus today?
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Stillwater, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.