A New Day: The Suffering Servant, Part 3

Under Roman law, the Jewish leaders could not put anyone to death, so at daybreak the religious leaders sent Jesus to Pilate. Pilate was known for his cruelty. In fact, it was his cruelty that led to his downfall. His career ended after he massacred a group of Samaritans at Mount Gerazim and he was summoned back to Rome a few years after this episode. But cruel Pilate routinely declares Jesus to be innocent in the Gospels.

The religious leaders claimed that Jesus was guilty of sedition, so Pilate asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied by saying, My kingdom is not of this world. The kingdom of God does not originate nor operate in the same manner as the kingdoms of earth.

Based upon this, Pilate declared that Jesus was innocent. As far as he was concerned, Jesus was no threat to Rome. But the chief priests persisted in their allegations, saying, He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place (Luke 23:5). When they mentioned that Jesus was from Galilee, it gave Pilate a way out. Pilate controlled Samaria and Judea, but Galilee was under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas, who was also in Jerusalem for the feast. So Pilate sent Jesus over to Herod.

According to the Gospel account, Herod had been wanting to see Jesus for a long time. But not because He had any interest in the Kingdom of God. Rather, Herod hoped to see Jesus perform some miracle that he might be entertained. But Jesus refused; miracles serve a purpose other than entertainment. So when Herod grew bored, he and his soldiers began to mock Jesus before sending Him back to Pilate. And Luke tells us that Herod and Pilate struck up a friendship that day. Prior to this, there had been hospitality between them. Herod had complained about Pilate to the Roman Senate on one occasion and that was the source of the bad blood between them. But on this day, Pilate recognized Herod’s authority, which seemingly pleased Herod — and thus they became friends. Even in his death, Jesus unites those who are natural enemies.

Both Pilate and Herod declared Jesus to be innocent. But the chief priests persisted yet again, this time stirring up the crowd. Trying to resolve this problem more peacefully, Pilate offered the people a choice. The Roman authorities would release one Jewish prisoner as a gesture of goodwill. Besides Jesus, another man was in custody. His name was Barabbas. According to the Gospels, he led an insurrection; so he was actually guilty of the crime of which Jesus was accused. He was also a murderer and a robber — so he had quite the rap sheet.

Interestingly, “Barabbas” means “son of Abba.” The Gospels do not give his actual name, probably to avoid confusing us. That’s because other sources claim that his name was also Jesus (or Yeshua in Hebrew). So here are these two men who share the same name; one was guilty of sedition, the other was accused of the same crime but was innocent. The one who was guilty walked away free, while the one who was innocent suffered in his place. And Barabbas stands for each one of us, too; for as Isaiah says, we are all like sheep who have gone astray. Jesus takes our place.

This entry was posted in Devotional, Faith, God, Gospel, Isaiah, Jesus, Scripture, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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