In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Jesus and Barabbas. One was called Christ—which means “anointed one”. (Matt. 27:17) One was called Barabbas—which means “son of a father.” (Matt. 27:16) St. John tells us this man was a robber (John 18: 40) which is exactly what Jesus the Christ called the temple—a den of robbers. (Matt. 21:12-13; Luke 19:46; Mark 11:15-18) And St. Luke tells us that Barabbas was in prison for insurrection and murder. (Luke 23:18-19) He, a murderer, was the choice of the den of robbers; of those of whom Christ had said, “You are of your father the devil, for He was a liar and murderer from start.” (John 8:44) And so they chose one of their own, a robber, a true son of their father, the devil. For they were not innocent. Not righteous. Pilate could tell their motives. That they handed Him over out of jealousy, resentment, and they demanded Pilate handover one whom was imprisoned for his murderous resentments against the government.
He was let off while Jesus Christ was put to death. For that was the purpose He was anointed for—to die in the place of liars, robbers and murders, sycophants, and ne’er-do-wells. To die for sinners. He was lifted up on a Roman cross—the Roman punishment for enemies of the state—for a traitor who fomented insurrection, rebellion against the state. He the Righteous One has taken the place of all sinners of all time. He has been made sin for them. (2 Cor. 5:21) Taken their consequence, though He was fully righteous (Matt. 27:19), innocent of all wrong doing, nothing guilty to be found in Him. (John 18:38)
We don’t know what happened to Barabbas—apart from the fact that he lived out that day, and was set free while Jesus was put to death in his place. We hope he heard more of Jesus. That he repented of his sin and found the true freedom of God, not in release from Roman prison and freedom from death sentence, but in release from the prison of sin and eternal freedom from death. We hope that great gift give him converted his heart and soul so that he was no longer rebellious and resentful, but repentant and thankful. That His association with Jesus didn’t end that day, but continued on through eternity.
But what of everyone else that day? Of Pilate? Of his wife? Of the chief priests? What did that day, and Christ our Lord’s death do to them? That day was a political hot potato for Pilate. For the chief priests were the key to governing Palestine and keeping peace, so he had to keep them happy, quiet, and compliant. And they had brought Jesus to him seeking the death penalty. This was serious business. Pilate could see by examining Jesus that they had only handed Him over out of jealousy. (Matt. 27:18) That there was nothing that He had done worthy of death, nor that corroborated their accusations against Jesus. (Luke 23:13-15) So he sought to free Him. (Luke 23:16) He sought it through a custom the Roman governors had at the Jewish Passover feast of letting a prisoner go free. (Matt. 27:15-17) Forgiving His sins. Amnesty for his crimes. He tried to let Jesus go. But in the very midst of this scheme while He’s sitting on the judgement seat—the political hot-seat—his wife sends him message begging him “have nothing to do with that righteous man, because I have suffered much today in a dream because of Him.” (Matt. 27:19) We don’t know what it means that she suffered much in a dream. Did an angel appear to her like to Joseph in a dream (Matt. 2:13) and tell who Jesus was? Did she have a vision of Jesus’ suffering and death? Or did she already know whom He was, did her servants tell her why the chief priests brought Him in the middle of the night to their house, and knowing of Him she suffered in repentance, the way all Christians do when they ponder their Lord’s suffering for their sake. We don’t know. But her point seemed to be: don’t put this man to death. He’s totally innocent. Not only of what they accuse him of, He’s also righteous—truly good. The best. You can’t kill someone so pure, so good, who loves so freely and fully and not have it heinously harm your soul. I always imagined that Pilate’s wife became a believer. That she knew He suffered for her sins on cross. Though we don’t know her final state of belief. But its clear she wants her husband to pardon Him. To let Him go. (Matt. 27:19)
But Pilate is caught by sin. His sin is expedience—trying to do the easiest thing you can to get the result you want. Pilate wanted peace and order, but he wasn’t willing to suffer and stand up against evil in order to have his rule be built on truth and justice. He was satisfied with an order that let him keep his job—with expedient solutions and what is easy. So he washes his hands of the affair and hands Jesus over to the will of the high priests. (Matt. 27:24-26) He does what his wife says. He has nothing more to do with Jesus. Possibly to his everlasting damnation.
And those chief priests, what of them? They had much to do with that righteous Man.They watched over and supervised His death. So that they are guilty of shedding His blood and taking His life. (Matt. 27:25, 41-43) But did they have anything to do with that righteous Man beyond that? Again we don’t know. Some of members of the Jewish ruling council, of which priests and scribes were part, did have something to do with Jesus, the righteous One. (Luke 23:50; Mark 15:43; John 12:42) They believed in Him. And by faith in Him have righteousness in His name which means they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. For Jesus’ innocent suffering and death won for all who are baptized and believe on His name (Mark 16:16) a robe of righteousness which covers over all your sins. (Gal. 3:27; Rev. 7:14)
And what of you? Do you have anything to do with that righteous Man? Will you take up His blood bought righteousness in faith? Will you wipe it on the door (Exod. 12:7, 13) of your soul? Receiving it on your lips so that His righteous judgement passes over your sin? Will you take His flesh on your lips? (Exod. 12:8; Matt. 26:26) So that He cleanses you body and soul? Opening your lips to sing His praise? (Ps. 51:15; Isa. 6:6-8) And your body to do His righteous works on earth?
Will you be like Pilate’s wife telling others of this righteous man whose suffering removes your sin? (Matt. 27:19)
Or will you be like Pilate? Walking away from the most important moment in the universe, muttering to yourself, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) Continuing to seek what is easy and expedient? What you think will get you want you want, but will only deposit you in a hell of your own making, rather than suffering for what is good, and right, and true?
Or are you like the high priests? Acting out of jealousy and spite? (Matt. 27:18) Resentful toward Jesus for His very goodness shows you for what you are? That you are a white washed tomb. (Matt. 23:27) that you are of your father the devil who lies constantly? (John 8:44)
No matter who you think you are this day, no matter what you have done, have something to do with this righteous Man. Admit your indifference toward Him. Your resentment of Him. Bury it all in His wounds. Let His blood be poured on you to cleanse you and revivify you. For in Him, in His bloody suffering, in His innocent death, is purpose, and meaning, forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.