24 Hours That Changed the World: Jesus, Barabbas, and Pilate 
Mark 15: 1-15 NT Pg. No. 50
Rev. Sandy Johnson
March 15, 2015
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you O Lord, My rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Crucify Him! Crucify Him! (Chant together)
What on earth would make a crowd of people lose their minds like that? Who were these people anyway? Were they followers of Christ? How could they have been? You see for yourself how easy it is to get a crowd stirred up? Surely those who loved Jesus would have stood up for him and not followed this bawdry crowd seeking blood?
We need to go back to the wee hours of that fateful morning. The Sanhedrin had done their job during the night; they had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and knowing that they weren’t allowed to put him to death, they trumped up charges that he was planning an insurrection, that the was claiming “King of the Jews,” a title that belonged only to Caesar. The Sanhedrin knew that blaspheming against God wouldn’t earn him the death penalty, but challenging the very political structure of the Roman Empire would.
They marched Jesus as the sun rose over Jerusalem, through the streets to the home of Pilate, to the Antonia Fortress, just a quarter of a mile away from where the Sanhedrin had met. A crowd followed them, we know Jesus’ mother was there, the disciple John and Peter and the bible states there were others.
John tells us that Jesus’ accusers wouldn’t enter Pilate’s home because they did not want to be defiled. The Gospel of Luke shares that the Sanhedrin spoke to Pilate saying “We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar and saying that he himself is Christ a king.” They perverted the truth to meet their agenda, they wanted the man Jesus to be put to death and they were not going to take no for an answer.
It’s curious that the very place that Jesus was tried at Pilate’s palace was called “The Stone Pavement” which points to certain irony as only “days before, Jesus had quoted Psalm 118:22 to describe the growing opposition to his teaching (Mark 14:10). The psalm says, “The stone [Greek Lithos] that the builders rejected/has become the chief cornerstone.” And now the “stone” was being rejected by the Jewish leaders at the “stone pavement.” Before the day was finished, Jesus would be laid to rest in a tomb hewn out of rock; and a large round stone would be placed at the entrance.” The story drips with irony.
The governor’s residence was a fortress, “a military garrison in the heart of the city.” The palace was next to the temple which grieved many of the Jews to know that the Roman military presence was so closely tied to their holy site. Pilate was not a stupid man, he knew that the Jewish leaders were lying about Jesus. He knew that Jesus had “no intention of leading a rebellion against Rome.” It was clear their intention was for Jesus to either recant his claim that he was the Messiah or “force Pilate to put him to death for insurrection.” Upon questioning, Pilate found a subdued and quiet Jesus. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus only response was to say “You say so.”
Pilate couldn’t figure out why Jesus wouldn’t defend himself, all he had to do was speak up for himself and Pilate could save him. “Pilate knew the chief priests were accusing Jesus out of envy – Jesus was becoming more popular than they were, and their fear and insecurity drove their hatred – but why, Pilate wondered, wasn’t Jesus defending himself?”
When I read about Jesus’ silence at his trials, I think that his resignation, or, better yet, his determination to die was overpowering. “He was not about to defend himself. He was not trying to get out of the death penalty. Jesus went to Jerusalem anticipating his execution, believing it was part of God’s plan.
God’s plan for atonement, right? God’s plan for us to forever be united with Him, reconciled “with God through Jesus’ death on a cross.” How did Jesus death bring about our own salvation? There are a number of theories but the one I’d like to discuss today is the substitutionary theory of Atonement, in which “Jesus suffered and died in place of humanity. He bore the punishment all of us deserve for our sins and in doing so offered grace and pardon for humankind.”
“The substitutionary theory of Atonement…can be summarized this way: “Every one of us has sinned, and in our sin we have been alienated from God. Justice calls for punishment for the collective weight of that sin; the bible says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and eternal separation from God. But God, who loves us like a father who loves his children, does not desire us to be eternally separated. God wishes us to receive grace. An ordinary person could not die for all humankind; but Jesus, being God in the flesh, could die for the sins of the entire world. He paid a price he did not owe, giving us a gift of grace we did not deserve.”
This theory played out in real life as Pilate turned to the crowd and asked which criminal they wished to be release as was their custom. You see, each year Pilate would release one prisoner to the Jews during the festival of the Passover. This was done as a memorial to the time when the Jews were released from bondage in Egypt. It was a symbolic act that had been their tradition for many years.
This particular day Pilate had two prisoners to choose from: Jesus of Nazareth or Barabbas, known also as Jesus Barabbas. “Matthew tells us Barabbas’ name was actually “Jesus Barabbas” (Matthew 27:16). The name “Barabbas” means “son of the Father,” and the name “Jesus” means “Savior”; so Matthew makes clear that the crowd was being given a choice between two messianic figures.”
If you were part of the crowd, which would you pick? “One is going to lead by force; throw out the Romans; reclaim your tax money, wealth, and prosperity and restore the strength of the Jewish kingdom. The other’s leadership involves loving these same oppressors, serving them as they dwell among you, doubling the service they demand of you.”
Which did the crowd wish to convict and murder, and which man would be set free. “Both men were charged with leading insurrections and with wishing to be king of the Jews.” Barabbas was a known murderer and it was likely his followers that were in the crowd that morning. He had been in custody for quite some time and they knew that Pilate was due to release a prisoner, they had come to get their leader released. Jesus’ followers on the other hand were asleep in their homes, not even aware of the drama that was taking place, although a few were present. Would the crowd really vote to have Jesus killed, the man “who loved lost people, who taught them about the kingdom of God, who healed the sick, and who blessed many?”
Pilate anticipated that the crowd would release the innocent man, he couldn’t have known that the crowd was filled with Barabbas supporters, and those from the Sanhedrin who would press their own agenda among the group. Jesus was an innocent man, he was nailed to the cross in place of the sinner, Barabbas. “This is one small picture of the substitutionary work of atonement Jesus performed with his death; for we, like Barabbas, have been spared, with Jesus suffering the punishment we deserve.”
If we think about the crowd and their motivations we can understand the choice of the crowd choosing Barabbas over Jesus. “They chose the path of physical strength, military might, and lower taxes over the path of peace through sacrificial love.”
“We have pictured ourselves as Barabbas, a sinner set free by Jesus Christ. We have seen ourselves in the crowd, calling for his release rather than the release of Jesus. I believe we are also meant to see ourselves in Pontius Pilate, another truly compelling character.”
“Pilate was procurator, or governor, of Judea from AD 26 to 36.” He has been described as harsh stubborn and an inflexible man who commanded respect. The first century Jewish historian Josephus said Pilate was known for killing both Galileans and Samaritans who appeared to be staging an insurrection. He was not beyond killing innocent people. In the case before him, however he hesitated. He wanted Jesus to defend himself, he couldn’t seem to bring himself to order Jesus execution.
“In Matthew, we find Pilate’s wife pleading with him to have nothing to do with Jesus’ death; for she had had a troubling dream about him (Matthew 27:19). Pilate thus pressed the crowd to call for the release of Jesus of Nazareth. But they continued to demand Jesus’ crucifixion and the release of Barabbas.”
Pilate had the authority to release Jesus. “After all his hesitation after all his resistance to the idea of crucifying Jesus though, we come to one of the saddest lines in the account of Jesus’ passion: “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15).”
He knew it was wrong. “Pilate sent Jesus to the cross to satisfy the clamor of the fickle and unruly mob in front of him.” “Do you see yourself in Pontius Pilate? Each of us surely has played the part he played. From the time we were small, we have known the pull of the crowd. As adults, we feel it in a variety of ways – in our desire for acceptance, in our fear of ridicule and rejection. Our inability to think for ourselves leaves us silent when we should speak, leaves us doing or supporting things we know are wrong.
“What have you done that you have known to be wrong simply because the “crowd” was clamoring for you to do it? What might you be willing to do if their pressure was intense enough?”
12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!”
Crucify Him! (Chant together)
15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Let us pray: Gracious God, we see ourselves in this story, we can relate to the crowd, to Pilate and especially to Barabbas. We see clearly how Jesus took not only Barabbas’ place on the cross, but he took our place as well. It is humbling for us to come to the realization of the true sacrifice Jesus gave for us. We are not worthy Lord, but you offer us grace any way. And for that we say thank you! Amen.
 This sermon series is adapted from Adam Hamilton’s book, “24 Hours that Changed the World”
 John 18:28
 Luke 23:2
 Hamilton, Adam. 24 Hours that Changed the World. Abingdon Press, Nashville. 2009. Page 62.
 Hamilton, Page 63
 Mark 15:2
 Hamilton, 63
 Hamilton, 65-66
 Hamilton, 67
 Hamilton, 73
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