Summary: A study on God’s grace.
Imagine yourself sitting on death row, with all the emotions running through your mind as the end comes closer and closer. With every appeal for pardon and every stay of execution exhausted, you endure each agonizing minute in hopeless condemnation. There is absolutely no way out, your actions have sealed your fate. Suddenly the silence is broken by the sound of approaching footsteps. A clamor of metal echoes through the building as surprisingly your cell door swings open. You’re ordered to your feet; your shackles are removed. Thoroughly confused you then hear the words, “you are free to go. You have received a full pardon. Someone is going to die in your place.” A man named Barabbas experienced just that. Using a most bizarre array of circumstances, Matthew paints a magnificent picture of Christ taking our place and dying on the cross. As we trace the events that are described so vividly for us in Matthew 27, we will encounter a stirring scene that gets to the very heart of the Gospel message: By the unjust death of a righteous man, a world of condemned prisoners is set free. The nagging question that still remains: Why of all the prisoners sitting in the Roman jail, did Pilate select Barabbas? Why not one of the two thieves scheduled to be crucified that day – the two who later would be crucified with Jesus? Why would Pilate offer to free a man with such a notorious criminal record as
I. Pilate: The governor who is exhausting all efforts to find a way around putting the innocent Jesus to death.
A. A close look at Pilate that will enable us to gain some insight into the choices he made.
1. Pilate ruled as a Governor over Judea from A.D. 26 and 37.
2. The Governors were chosen by the emperor and were given full control over the province and the occupying army.
3. The governor’s main job was to maintain law and order, collect taxes and rule over judicial matters.
4. They determined who would be executed and who would be pardoned and they even appointed the high priest and the use of the temple funds.
5. Pilate still was ultimately accountable for the well-being of his province to Rome which played a major role in regard to his decision about Jesus.
B. What we discover from the writings of the historian Josephus and the philosopher Philo, Pilate was not a big hit with the Jewish people.
1. All of Pilate’s efforts to enforce Roman rule in the province resulted in spectacular blunders or were deliberate offensive acts.
2. When Pilate first came to power all his soldiers carried banners that bore the image of the emperor which insulted the Jews who did not believe in emperor worship.
3. Pilate later chose to use temple funds on a variety of projects that made the Jews irate.
4. As the people would protest Pilate met their protests with violence.
C. A series of unfortunate events surrounded Pilate’s death.
1. In A.D. 36 Pilate had a skirmish with a group of Samaritans which resulted in many deaths and the protest over Pilate’s actions reached the ears of the Emperor Tiberius in Rome.
2. Unfortunately Tiberius died before Pilate reached Rome forcing him to deal with mentally unstable Gaius Caligula.
3. Evidence points to the probability that Gaius ordered Pilate to take his own life.
4. With Pilate’s history in mind let’s take a look at the next crucial character in this drama unfolding in Jerusalem.
II. Barabbas: the criminal on death row with no hope of parole.
A. Barabbas was an Aramaic name that meant the son of the teacher.
1. If this means that he was the son of a Jewish rabbi Pilate’s situation gets quite a bit more delicate.
2. He could be one of the impatient zealots that were tired of waiting for God to deliver the Jewish people from the rule of Rome.
3. Some early Greek manuscripts record his name as Jesus Barabbas which gives us a very vivid contrast.
4. Two deliverers: Barabbas a political revolutionary, and Christ the true liberator.
B. What is the crime that Barabbas is guilty of?
1. The Greek word for robber, lestes was often used in way different from the way we would expect.
2. Josephus often used this term to describe the zealots who revolted violently against Rome in an attempt to liberate the Jewish people.
3. So Barabbas is sitting in a Roman Prison awaiting his fate for rebelling against Rome.
C. Barabbas was more than likely imprisoned in a cell at the Fortress Antonia.
1. This fortress in Jerusalem also more than likely housed Pilate’s residence and the barracks for the soldiers.
2. Pilate spoke privately in his residence with Jesus, but spoke outside from his judgment seat to the religious leaders.