Wednesday, September 26, 2012

John 18:38b-40

After interviewing Jesus and dismissing the idea of Truth, Pilate goes back to the Jewish leaders with an attempt to appease them:

With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.  But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” 

They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion. (John 18:38b-40)

Even though he saw that Jesus was innocent of any charges, Pilate wants to placate the Jewish leaders, so he hoped to put the decision of Jesus’ fate on their heads. The custom was to release a prisoner for Passover, so he offered them Barabbas. Barabbas means son of the father. He was a Jewish rebel who had been part of an attempted sedition. Luke’s account tells us that he was actually charged with murder (Luke 23:19). Pilate probably figured that they would not want an obvious criminal type released over the innocent man, Jesus.

Pilate did not get the extent of the threat Jesus posed to the world. As Courson points out, Jesus would not bring in His Kingdom with violence or insurrection. He would bring it about through the regeneration of hearts. That was not what the people expected, nor was it what they wanted. Courson writes, “The crowd wanted activity, not spirituality. They wanted insurrection, not resurrection. They wanted to do something, not be something. They wanted Barabbas.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 414)

Give most people a “to do” list for getting into Heaven, and they would be happy. “Just tell me what to do! I can volunteer at a homeless shelter. I’ll visit old people in a rest home. I’ll donate money to good causes. Just tell me what to DO!” But Jesus had given only one job in response to this demand:

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

Salvation is a matter of the heart. It is not about what we do, but about what He has already done

Given the choice between submission to God’s plan vs. relying on our own ability to save ourselves, people seem to prefer Barabbas. We prefer taking charge like the rebellious people we are.

So Pilate, receiving no relief from his role as executioner, must try another tack. We’ll see that tomorrow.  

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