Now at that feast he released to them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.
A strange custom prevailed. To appease the anger of the rabble, and to curry favor with them, Pilate was wont, on the recurrence, of certain feasts, to release a prisoner, giving the mob permission to choose who should be the favored one. At this feast "the multitude went up and began to ask him to do as he was wont to do unto them." Knowing that "for envy the chief priests had delivered him up," he tested the feeling of the multitude by asking them if he should release "the King of the Jews," thus giving them the opportunity of repudiating the deed of the priests. The question hangs as in a balance. The voice of a rabble is called upon to decide the fate of "the Son of man. On that voice hinges (apparently) the course of the work of the world's redemption. The die is cast. The multitude make their election. The choice is proclaimed in a wild, uproarious cry, "Not this man, but Barabbas." So the besotted rabble declare their spirit, their low moral condition, their attitude towards truth and righteousness. Barabbas, we learn, was "a robber," and he was cast into prison "for a certain insurrection made in the city, and for murder." Thus they "denied the holy and righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted unto" them. Nothing could more clearly declare the spirit they were of. Sadly and in silence many pure hearts mourned while the rabble gave vent to their evilness, pouring forth the uttermost malignity as a flood to sweep away "the Prince of life." The insensate tools of a corrupt, self-condemned priesthood, they, by yielding all too readily to them who should have guided them into the right way, become identified with "the chief priests" in a choice which for ever brands them with the utmost vileness. The spirit of the people must be judged by their attitude towards Jesus on the one hand, and towards Barabbas on the other; and a word is sufficient to declare it. In the one we behold the Teacher of righteousness, who had endeavored to enforce the laws of God. He represented truth. To it he bore witness. He denounced evil in thought, in word, in deed. He opened to the feet of the people the path of virtue; he pointed to the gates of the eternal city, and gave men assurance of immortality. Never had the world looked upon so perfect an embodiment of pure goodness; never will it look upon his like until he himself appear again and every eye beholds him. The other is the embodiment of evil. His name is the synonym of it. The one name men dare not assume from its loftiness; the other they would not from its lowness. But this rabble-host chooses the evil one, and so declares its spirit is in accord with his. It is self-condemned. How painfully we read:
1. The perilous influence which unscrupulous leaders may exert over an undisciplined, untutored mob.
2. How possible it is for the human heart so to deceive itself that the highest representatives of the purest system of truth and morals may be debased into an alliance with the most corrupt and degraded, and may prostitute the holiest functions to the most evil ends. High priests of God may lead men to the service of the devil.
3. The sad consequences of
(1) a blinded intelligence,
(2) an undisciplined moral nature,
(3) a corrupt prejudice.
High priests and people have their way. "Their voices prevailed." And Pilate, moved with fear, and evidently against his convictions of right, "to content the multitude," "released him... whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will." Thus the world to-day demands its Barabbas and rejects Jesus. Truth, goodness, charity, patience, heavenly mindedness - all that is pure and good - is sacrificed, and by "the multitude" still evil is preferred, and they, alas! are "content." - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.