Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. –Mark 15:1-2
Today I want to introduce you to Barabbas. Strange name and a pretty questionable character: murderer, thief, a guy who might have walked away from his family. He was evil, filthy scum.
Smelly and vile, Barabbas sat in a dark dungeon waiting to die. Absolutely no one was going to miss him. The next day Barabbas was going to hang on a cross and literally no one would care. Most people would say, “Finally, he’s getting what he deserves. He deserves every bit of pain and humiliation on the cross.”
Unbeknownst to him, while he sat in prison waiting to die, something else was about to happen to him.
“It was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested” (Mark 15:6). People in the crowd asked Pilate to release someone. “‘Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews’ asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. ‘What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them. ‘Crucify him!’ they shouted. ‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’ Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified” (Mark 15:9-15).
The crowd chose Barabbas! Jesus, the kind man, miracle worker, healer, friend of children, had hurt no one. Yet the crowd chose Barabbas.
Pilate asked a key question to the crowd who had just a few days before honored Jesus on what we call Palm Sunday. “What will you do with Jesus, the one you call the King of the Jews?”
And the crowd yelled “Crucify him!”
Even Pilate was totally confused and asked, “Why, what crime has he committed?” But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him.” Jesus was whipped, spit on, mocked, and turned over to be crucified.
I’ve always wondered what was going on in the mind of Barabbas when he was set free and Jesus was hung on a cross. He probably heard Pilate’s words, “What will you do with Jesus?”
I wonder what decision Barabbas made. His very destiny, life eternal and abundant life on Earth, depended on his response to the single phrase of a Roman leader who in confusion asked a single question: “What will you do with Jesus?”
How about you? What is your response today? What will you do with Jesus?
1. What do you think you might have done if you were in the crowd who was yelling for Barabbas?
2. What do you think should have been Barabbas’ response?