For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over.
I. PILATE'S READING OF THE CHARACTER AND MOTIVES OF THE PRIEST PARTY. Pilate "was a typical Roman, not of the antique, simple stamp, but of the imperial period; a man not without some remains of the ancient Roman justice in his soul, yet pleasure loving, imperious, and corrupt. He hated the Jews whom he ruled, and, in times of irritation, freely shed their blood. They returned his hatred with cordiality, and accused him of every crime - maladministration, cruelty, and robbery." "Pilate understood their pretended zeal for the Roman authority." He may not have known the precise occasion for their strong feeling against Jesus; but he saw plainly that it was a case of malice and revenge, and they were prepared to humiliate themselves utterly in carrying out their evil purpose. But, if Pilate knew them so well, we must judge his guilt in yielding to them by the light of his knowledge.
II. PILATE'S READING OF THE CHARACTER AND MOTIVES OF JESUS. He seems to have known something of Jesus. The story of the triumphal entry had been duly reported to him; and he formed his opinion when he found that Jesus took no material advantage of that time of excitement. He settled it - Jesus was a harmless enthusiast, of no account politically. "He questioned Jesus in regard to the accusations brought against him, asking especially if he pretended to be a King." He may have laughed cynically at our Lord's answer, but he knew well that nothing of the demagogue lurked behind that calm and peaceful face. Again and again he declared him innocent - he found no fault in him. Pilate read him aright, but condemned himself in the reading. Our guilt is always measured by our knowledge. - R.T.
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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