Now it was the governor's custom at the feast to release to the crowd a prisoner of their choosing.
1. The predicament of many among ourselves who would gladly be rid of the question. But it cannot be. There is this judgment to pronounce. Even if there were no blessedness in following Christ, the fact remains that he is presented to you, and that it is your duty to accept him.
2. We see how futile was the attempt of Pilate to transfer the guilt of this action to the Jews. They were willing to take the blood of Christ on their heads; but, though history shows how terrible has been their share in the vengeance they ignorantly invoked, Pilate was not necessarily exempt. Men frequently mistake the point at which their own power, and therefore their own responsibility, ends. They consent to iniquity, and say they were forced to it. How were you forced? Would every man in your circumstances do as you are doing? Or, men invite you to share their sin, persuading you that the guilt is theirs, if there is any; you will find that they cannot bear your share, and that you vainly seek to lay the guilt on them. The very fate Pilate feared, and to avoid which he sacrificed the life of our Lord, came upon him. Six years later he was deposed from his office, and died by his own hand. We are apt to say of him that he was weak rather than wicked, forgetting that moral weakness is that which makes a man capable of any wickedness. And who is the weak man but the one who is not single-minded, who attempts to gratify both his conscience and his evil or weak feelings, to secure his own selfish ends as well as the great ends of justice and righteousness? Such a man will often be in as great a perplexity as Pilate, and will come to as ruinous, if not so appalling, an end. - D.
Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ.I. It illustrates THE EVASION OF PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. We always admire courage in the abstract. Look at the position of Pilate! "I must sentence, gentlemen, you choose the culprit." We may be doing this same thing. How often we allow others to determine our duty. "If my wife would be religious I would." "Will you go if I will?" Alone you must die and give an account to God.
II. THE CONTROLLING POWER OF PREJUDICE OVER MORAL APPROBATION. They were to forget all the munificence of Jesus because He outraged their prejudices.
III. The choice of Barabbas in the end EXALTS THE ETERNAL PRINCIPLES WHICH UNDERLIE THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD. The eternal plan of God is carried out in the death of Jesus.
IV. THE ATTITUDE OF BARABBAS. Suppose he had refused release on the ground that it was not possible for him to live by the death of another. Some reject the substitution of Christ for themselves.
(R. Jeffery, D. D.)No trace of this custom is found in the Talmud. But the release of prisoners was usual at certain festivals at Rome, and at Athens during the Panathenaic festival prisoners enjoyed temporary liberty. It is not, therefore, improbable that Herod the Great, who certainly familiarized the Jews with other usages of Greece and Rome, introduced this custom, and that the Roman governor, finding the custom established and gratifying to the Jews, in accordance with Roman practice, retained the observance of it.
(A. Carr, M. A.)
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