Jesus’ trial now comes to a conclusion.
Jesus is declared innocent
This trial is truly remarkable. First, Jesus was never formally charged. No crime or wrongdoing was ever alleged. This was simply a “witch hunt” hoping to find something for which they could declare Him guilty. Secondly, after at least four trials (Annas, Ciaphas, Pilate, and Herod) Jesus is declared to be entirely innocent and without fault. This is remarkable. Even with paid false witnesses, Jewish law, Roman law, and four separate trials there was literally nothing that could be found as a charge to level against Jesus.
Pilate tries to save face
Pilate gives the Jewish leaders and everyone else the opportunity to save face. He will declare Jesus to be guilty, then pardon and release Him. That way the Pharisees can declare Him guilty, and Pilate does not have to make up charges to punish an innocent man. This way everyone can declare victory.
The Pharisees desire murder and a murderer
The Pharisees have only one aim, kill Jesus. Innocence does not matter to them; they want to use the Romans to murder Jesus. It should not surprise us that when offered the pardon of one Jewish man that they choose a known murderer. People whose hearts are filled with murder will desire a murderer.
The Pharisees’ desire for Barabbas shows us the depravity of the unconverted human heart. Given the choice between God and a vile murderer we choose the murderer. We do not seek God, and we do not desire God. If there is any “searching” for God it is merely an attempt to use His power for our own selfish ends. We will stop at nothing to fulfill our sinful desires. If God will not use His power to give us what we want we will resort to anything, including murder or murderers.
God’s grace changes everything
In the midst of this depravity the Gospel shines forth. There is no question that Barabbas is guilty, and there is no question that Jesus is innocent. The innocent one dies while the guilty one goes free. Jesus dies so the murderer might live. Jesus is punished so the thief might go free. This is the Gospel. Jesus dying in the place of sinners bearing their punishment. It is this grace alone that can change the most depraved heart. It is this message of the Gospel that God uses to transform vile men into the image of His Son.
Do you believe that Christ died for your sins? Will you tell others of His wonderful grace?