15Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. 16And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 17Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? 18For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. 19When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. 20But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. 22Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. 23And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. 24When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. (The King James Version, 1769)
I would like to comment on those sections in Matthew that are not revealed in the other gospels.
17 ...Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?
The Pharisees, elders and priests are gathered with the multitude before the judgement seat of Pilate. The people are given a choice of whom to release on this day before the feast. The choices: Barabbas, a known criminal or Jesus, who is called Christ (Messiah).
Is Jesus a criminal under the law of Rome? No! Then why is he appearing before Pilate? Because Jesus affirmed to the elders, when being questioned during the night, that he was the Son of God. Blasphemy from his lips, so they believed, was a just cause to have him killed. Yet under Roman rule they were forbidden to do so. Why not stone him like they did others? They were afraid of the people who took Jesus as a prophet. If they killed Jesus the people would revolt. Pilate would then have to suppress the revolt. The priests could lose power and influence because of their actions. It would be better if he died under Roman authority.
The triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The Elders saw the crowds that followed Jesus. Some didn't get the importance of what was happening before them. The Pharisees on the other hand did perceive what was happening. John 12.19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him. All their schemes and plans amounted to nothing. The people were eating out of the hand of Jesus. Their power and authority over the people were eroding. They understood, if Jesus is the Messiah then it is a game changer and nothing will remain the same. Even if he were a false Messiah, if allowed to continue, everything would change. Whether right or wrong they didn't want this Jesus to rule over them. They wouldn't stand for it and Rome wouldn't stand for it. Be safe... kill the messenger.
Pilate himself knew the reason for handing Jesus over: 18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
What started with envy also became tainted with fear. We can read in John 11 what the high priest said concerning Jesus, "that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not." Both of these are powerful motivators.
Both the priests and the Pharisees were among the crowd that day convincing people that given the choice, Barabbas or Jesus, that Barabbas was the better choice. What a fickle group of people. Because he fed them with the loaves and fishes they would take Jesus and make him king. Because the priests and Pharisees whisper in their ears they would crucify him.
19When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
We know that God can and does speak to individuals in their dreams. In fact, the enemy of our souls does the very same thing. Pilate's wife had this gifting. While the people were gathering she was still sleeping. In her dreams she was visited by a spiritual being. She was told by this being that Jesus was a righteous man. Imagine that a Roman woman would be warned that a Jew was a righteous person. Harming a righteous person, whether Jew or Gentile, would not be looked upon favourably by God or the gods. I believe that this is not the first time that Pilate's wife had a dream that was meant for him. Pilate did take the warning seriously. It is perhaps one of the main reasons he tried so hard to keep Jesus from death.
Barabbas is eventually released according to the governor's custom. Pilate asks straight out to the people before him, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" The crowd did not hesitate with their response, "Let him be crucified." Pilate asks, "why?" Crowd dynamics set in, the adrenalin flows, thinking begins to shut down and animal blood lust surfaces. Repeated shouts of "Let him be crucified." ring out.
Pilate understands crowd dynamics. If he didn't handle this strategically a revolt could break out. Rome would be informed and he might very well be recalled to give an account of his "mishandling" of the trial. Being warned by a wife's dream would not hold much in court. He is caught between a rock and a hard place. Pilate knows Jesus is a just man. That he committed no wrong. Yet he needs to turn over Jesus to the will of the people. He washes his hands before the crowd while pronouncing Jesus innocent. Yet in the same breathe he turns Jesus over to their judgement, "see ye to it."
Then comes the statement, the curse, self-inflicted upon themselves, 25 "Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children." Seldom do a people curse themselves. Yet they did. It could be that there was no other response they could have given. It reflects the judgement of Jesus in John 11.50 "That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;" Though the Jews today say it is an anti-Semitic inclusion in the gospels it is a statement the priests, Pharisees and multitude pronounced upon themselves.
In the time ahead they also will kill the prophets and apostles of God. The world will do the same. And judgement, delayed for the Jew forty years at that time and for the world almost two thousand so far, was and will be just.
Webite administrator: Joseph A Raymond
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada