Jesus before Pilate
Jesus’ silence before his accusers is the best modelling of the endurance under persecution that He commands. In Matthew 10:17-18 Jesus had told the disciples “They will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and Kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.” That will happen to His followers later, it happened to Jesus first.
Only Matthew tells us about Pilate’s wife’s dream. She was Emperor Augustus’ granddaughter and so better connected than her husband and maybe the reason he got the job of Prefect of Judea. She had a dream about Jesus and couldn’t get him out of her mind. God used dreams then and now to communicate with us. How different things may have been if Pilate had listened to his wife.
It was a Passover custom for a prisoner to be released as a goodwill gesture. It was a good way for Pilate to ingratiate himself with the Jews and evade responsibility for Jesus at the same time. Barabbas was a notable prisoner who had committed murder during an attempted coup. Contrary to Pilate’s expectation the crowd shout for him, so Jesus goes to die in Barabbas’ place. How ironic that the one who refused to take up arms to be a freedom fighting Messiah dies in the place of a violent freedom fighter.
Barabbas means “son of the father” and here are two sons of the father – interestingly many ancient documents cite his first name as Jesus! Here are two sons of the father, both called Jesus (God to the rescue!). One pillaged and killed, the other suffered and died. People were called to choose between the two and we still are. The guilty walks free. Jesus took Barabbas’ place and He takes ours too.
“Let his blood be on us and our children” shouts the crowd. So Jesus’ words on the cross “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing” is apt – Jesus blood is on us as believers, cleansing us from God’s wrath and the stain of sin on our conscience. Oh precious blood!
This is the most cruel and terrible punishment and the most common form of execution in Roman times.
Much of this passage emphasises the kingship of the Lord – verses 11,17,29,37, 40 and 42 point it out. Jesus suffered in a royal way, innocent, and demonstrating that suffering can lead to blessing. His suffering is an answer to ours. Jesus shares our pain, coming alongside, committed, not just involved.
Jesus is the one who took our place. He was mocked – “Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God” – it is precisely because He was the Son of God that he didn’t come down. He’s our Saviour!
Thank you Jesus for dying in our place, so that we might know the blessing of your abundant life, forgiveness and free access to the Father. Amen.