HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
3. YOU CAN’T SET ANOTHER IN HIS PLACE (Matthew 27:15-18).
Pilate tried. We read that “at the feast, the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished” (Matthew 27:15). Such a prisoner was—it seemed—someone from among the Jewish people whom the Roman government had a particular interest in detaining. And in order to occasionally appease the Jews, Pilate would typically give them a ‘gift’ on Passover of releasing a prisoner that they requested. And it just so happened that he had a very noteworthy prisoner named “Barabbas” (Matthew 27:16).
Now understand; it wasn’t Pilate’s intention that Barabbas be released. Barabbas was, as far as the Roman government was concerned, a notoriously bad criminal! John tells us that he was a “robber” (John 18:40). Luke tells us that he was thrown into prison “for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder” (Luke 23:19). And what’s more, he was part of a gang of thieves and murderers. Mark tells us that he was chained with a group of fellow rebels because “they had committed murder in the rebellion” (Mark 15:7).
It’s interesting to note that, in some ancient texts of Matthew’s Gospel, Barabbas’ name is given as “Jesus Barabbas”. And if that’s the case, then Pilate had what he might have thought was a very clever solution. He would offer to release a prisoner, and he would narrow the choice down to just these two. They could pick which “Jesus” they wanted to be released: “Jesus Barabbas” or “Jesus who is called Christ”. And of course, he was certain that they’d never pick Barabbas—a vile criminal who was clearly worthy of death.
So; we’re told that “when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy” (Luke 23:17-18). But what a shock it must have been when they, nevertheless, chose Barabbas for release—and chose Jesus for death!
Now; I don’t want to inappropriately ‘spiritualize’ these words. But I can’t help thinking what a remarkable spiritual illustration they give us! The righteous Son of God has come into the world to die for our sins, and that fact obligates each one of us to do something with Him. His very identity demands that He be trusted, and followed, and obeyed. But haven’t people been trying to replace Him with someone else ever since? They’ll choose this religious figure over Him, or that philosopher over Him, or that celebrity over Him. In some traditions of Christendom, some people are accustomed to replacing Him with Mary, or one of the saints. Some people are so hardened in their sin that, if they have no other choice, they’ll even pick notorious sinners for themselves rather than bow down to the righteous Son of God!
One of the things we learn from Pilate’s experience is that you can’t replace Him with someone else. You must make a decision about what you will do with Him!
Then, along came Pilate’s wife. And through her, we also learn that once you encounter Jesus Christ as He really is . . . You would see the pure nature of the Man for who He was.
TO CONTINUE TOMORROW …