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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE BARABBAS INCIDENT

Matt 27:15-20 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you, Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ, for he knew that for envy they had delivered Him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just Man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. (Also See Matt. 27:21-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-40)

The Jewish leaders, after accusing Jesus of blasphemy before the Sanhedrin, brought Him before Pilate, the procurator of Judea. There they falsely accused Him of treason against the Roman government in order to obtain the death penalty from their civil court. While there, Pilate learned that Jesus was a Galilean, and remanded Him to be heard by Herod Antipas, the Roman prelate that governed the province of Galilee. Failing there to find sufficient evidence against Him, Herod returned Jesus, once again, to the judicial authority of Pilate, in whose province the Jews brought these accusations. Here is where we begin this study from the lesson text.

The Feast of the Passover was currently taking place in Jerusalem, and Pilate, the governor wanted to continue the tradition of releasing a prisoner to the people during this holy day. When and why this custom began is unknown, but religious scholars speculated believe that this custom was established by Roman officials as a gratuitous indulgence to obtain favor among the Jewish people. Among those under Roman custody was a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Both Mark and Luke tell us that Barabbas was found guilty of insurrection and sedition against the Roman government, and, because he had committed murder, he was cast into prison (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18-19).

In announcing his release of a prisoner, Pilate called together a multitude of Jewish people and asked, Whom will ye that I release unto you, Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? Although the guilt of Barabbas seemed to be well established, Pilate seemed to be sure of Jesus' innocence. Barabbas, although guilty of sedition, was a notable prisoner, that is, he was very popular among the Jews. The Jewish leaders had, through envy, delivered Jesus into the courts of Pilate. Excluding these accusers, Jesus was also popular and had gained a large following among the people. By releasing either of the two, Pilate thought he would gain much favor among the Jewish people.

Having returned to his judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him. Although there is nothing to definitely substantiate it, some bible scholars think that Jesus, at this time, had already been taken away and placed in a prison enclosure. The reason for this seems to come from the fact that the wife of Pilate speaks of Jesus as if he was not in their presence. All we know about this woman is found in these few verses. She was probably a Gentile, and being unbiased by false Jewish doctrine, she had evidently gained sufficient knowledge about Jesus to judge Him to be a just man (righteous man RKJV). Often the thoughts we have during daytime are reflected in the dreams that we envision at night. No doubt fear arose in her mind over the possible punishment of Jesus that could occur by the action of her husband, Pilate, if he should give in to the riotous mobs that demanded His death. Because of this, she appealed to Pilate to disregard the Jewish demands and refrain from any judgment against Jesus that would jeopardize His life.

Persuaded by their religious leaders, the multitude were convinced to ask that Barabbas be set free and Jesus be destroyed. Therefore, when Pilate asked again which of the two should be released, they said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. Even after Pilate asked them what evil hath he done, they failed to answer, but continued to cry out, Let him be crucified. Washing his hands before them and saying that he would not be guilty of shedding innocent blood, the multitude answered by saying, His blood be on us, and on our children. How sad! The Jews rejected the promised Messiah, but asked that Barabbas, a murderous robber be set free. After doing so, Pilate, when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.