Reading through the Bible together
This chapter records Jesus’ trial before Pilate, as well as His crucifixion, death and burial. Also in this chapter is the suicide of Judas. While we celebrate the great act of Christ in suffering for our sins, I believe there are important moral lessons for us from the stories of Judas, Barabbas, and Pilate.
It seems to me that the crowd choosing Barabbas had much in common with Judas. Judas is long reputed to have served Christ in hopes of attaining a high societal standing in the new, messianic kingdom. When Christ did not use His divine power to deliver Himself, Judas realized Christ would be crucified, and his hopes of using Christ and His religion to gain prominence and significance collapsed. Christ was useless to him and his battle against conviction over the true purpose of Christ culminated in his suicide.
Like Judas, the crowd wanted a messiah who would elevate them over the Romans, making them the rulers of the world. Thus, when offered a gentle Jesus or a seasoned fighter like Barabbas, they chose the fighter, for he was more likely to help them achieve their worldly ambitions through the power of God and religion. We see again how easily ideological identity can blind a person’s spiritual and moral discernment, opening them to rationalize any injustice or immorality in the name of preserving their dreams. Identity and ideology are most difficult to surrender to the Lordship of Christ.
Finally, Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, yet had Him viciously scourged, merely to try to satisfy an unruly crowd and to preserve his power as governor. This first step failed, and to prevent a riot, he hands over an innocent man to a most cruel execution. Why? Because preserving his status as governor was more important than morality or justice. How easily identity and self-interest blind the most knowledgeable, most informed people to spiritual things. May we always surrender our identity needs to the Lordship of Christ.
Stephen Bauer, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology and Ethics
Southern Adventist University