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Jesus Wasn't on Trial -- the World Was (a study of John 18:28-40)

Updated: May 5, 2023

Pilate and the Jews were jockeying for power that was actually held by Jesus, the one they thought was finally under their control.


Bible Study Ideas and Commentary for John 18:28-40

In this breathless look "behind the scenes" of Pilate's trial, Pilate realizes that he has been used by everyone else, but he lacks the fortitude to do what it right (even by his own law and trust). The Jews are guilty of substituting their God for an actual robber, and the Romans are guilty of enabling that. But Jesus still allows it so that salvation can be won.

“You are a king then?” Pilate asked. (18:37)

Getting Started: Things to Think About

I cover enough tangents in my notes that I really didn't leave much space for icebreakers. I'll put some ideas here, but I'll leave it to you to develop them.


The Importance of an Impartial Judge

Clarence Thomas's recent appearances in the news has brought this idea back to the fore. Of course, people are weaponizing this for political purposes, so set that aside for this discussion. Why is it important that a judge be above political persuasion? How can this be achieved?


When the Trial Is "Rigged"

We all should be aware of trials in which people believe the outcome was rigged -- the judge or jury was "bought" or pressured, the lawyers were influenced, etc. This has happened in America (spectacularly at times; the term "railroaded" which I use below originated in the USA), and it happens around the world right now. What does that make us feel? How should we respond to it?


One of my very favorite MLK quotes gets to the heart of this (imo):

In this week's passage, Jesus is completely railroaded by sham justice. (And yet, we can't help but notice that He is the only person who really knows what's going on.)


Where We Are in John

We watched the chapter from the Visual Bible last week, but someone pulled out this week's verses in a separate video:

A point of fairness to the moviemakers: I have developed a mental image of these proceedings based on the movies I have watched. But we have to remember that these movies have serious budget limitations (studios would rather fund blockbusters, amiright?). The settings and outfits and attendees could be much more impressive "in real life", but the moviemakers only had so much money to work with for props and sets and costumes.


More Details about the Trial

Last week, I mentioned the post where I went into a lot more detail about this trial:

John the author's approach to all of this is very interesting -- he's focused on Peter's denials. He acknowledges that there are hearings going on in the house while Peter is outside, but he's much more interested in what Peter is doing outside.


John turns his attention to the content of a trial when Pilate gets involved. And even then, he doesn't mention everything the other authors mention. Here's the complete outline:

  1. A hearing before Annas. Annas was a former high priest and the father-in-law of the current high priest who still wielded considerable power. Then our passage tells us that Jesus was sent to

  2. a hearing before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. Caiaphas was the current high priest. All of this is still taking place before dawn. Caiaphas declared that Jesus calling Himself the Son of God was blasphemy. But because capital crimes could only be sentenced during daylight, Matthew 27, Mark 14, and Luke 22 all mention

  3. a sentencing before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. This seems to be an echo of the earlier trial with the result that Jesus would be sent to Pilate. The Roman trial also had three stages. There was first in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 18

  4. a hearing before Pilate. Pilate wanted nothing to do with this trial, so when he found out that Jesus was from Galilee, Luke 23 says Pilate sent Him on to

  5. a hearing before Herod Antipas. Herod was in town for the festival, and he wanted to meet Jesus, but when Jesus would not “play ball”, he sent Him back to Pilate for

  6. a final appearance before Pilate. This was the public trial (in this week's passage) during which Pilate sat on the judge’s bench and the Jewish leaders incited the crowd to call for Barabbas instead of Jesus. All of this takes place in about 12 hours.

Why might you think that John zeroed in on Pilate's role?


Pilate does seem to represent "the world" to John the author, as we will see. But why gloss over the Jewish involvement? Probably the same reason he glossed over Judas's involvement in Jesus' arrest. What did your group say about that last week?

 

This Week's Big Idea: Pontius Pilate

If you've watched more than one Jesus movie, you've seen more than one interpretation of the man Pontius Pilate -- anything from a wicked overload to a sympathetic victim of vast power struggles. What do we really know about him? More than you'd think.


Let's start with the basics:

Luke 3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, God’s word came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
23:4 Pilate then told the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no grounds for charging this man.” 5 But they kept insisting, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he started even to here.” 6 When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 Finding that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem during those days. ... 11 Then Herod, with his soldiers, treated him with contempt, mocked him, dressed him in bright clothing, and sent him back to Pilate. 12 That very day Herod and Pilate became friends. Previously, they had been enemies.

So, Pilate was "governor of Judea". The Roman Empire was divided into provinces:

The ones in the center were known as senatorial provinces and were governed by proconsuls (because they were more peaceful). The ones further away, usually being a bit more feisty, were under the direct control of the emperor and were thus called imperial provinces. Each of these provinces would have a sizeable military presence, and the emperor would appoint someone to represent his interests in that province. The larger provinces had a legate; the smaller ones had a procurator (or prefect). Officially, Pilate was the procurator of Judea.


I included the passage that mentions Herod because things were weird in Judea. You should remember Herod the Great from our studies of the Nativity:

Herod the Great backed both Julius Caesar and Octavian, which got him appointed to be the "king of the Jews" in 40 BC. He was also frighteningly effective at brutally maintaining control over the Jewish population, which gave him a long leash from Rome (who didn't like him or trust him). Herod the Great had four sons, all named Herod; he divided his "kingdom" among them and called them "tetrarchs". Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, was the Herod mentioned in Jesus' ministry. When Herod the Great died, Rome brought in its own governors to rule the province but allowed the younger Herods to serve as "sub-governors" of their smaller regions (until they did something really stupid). The fact that Pilate tried to pass off this trial to Herod says something.


The Governor's Responsibilities

You can probably guess these.

  • Military. The governor was the acting commander of all Roman forces in the province. It was his job to quell rebellions and maintain order.

  • Administrative. The governor was responsible for collecting taxes and keeping records on how his province spent any money received from Rome.

  • Judicial. The governor was the chief judge in the province, hearing all major cases and ruling on them according to Roman law ("the Twelve Tables").

This makes it easy to understand why Pilate would be involved in a trial as high-profile as Jesus'.


Pilate's Record as Governor

Here's where the extrabiblical sources really shine. Two Jewish writers/historians (Josephus and Philo) give us some very interesting tidbits about Pilate's record.

Pilate served from 26-36 AD. His official residence was Caesarea Maritima (Caesarea on the Sea), which was a massive palace/government complex built by Herod the Great. When he traveled to Jerusalem (which was as infrequently as possible), he stayed in Herod's Jerusalem palace (more on this below).


Early in his tenure, Pilate tried to post some standards bearing the emperor's image close to the temple in Jerusalem. This caused a massive ruckus, and Pilate removed the standards to Caesarea in order to keep the peace. This happened again a few years later -- Pilate tried to hang some devotional images of the emperor in his Jerusalem palace, which again offended the Jews. This time, the Jews went directly to Tiberius Caesar who ordered Pilate to remove the images and reprimanded him.


Next is a strange episode Luke mentions in chapter 13:

13:1 At that time, some people came and reported to [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And he responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.

We hear about another possibly similar episode in which Pilate used temple funds to build an aqueduct, resulting in a public protest. Pilate ordered the protesters to be beaten.


Historians have concluded a few retrospectively obvious things about Pilate:

  1. He was in over his head. He never really understood the Jews living in Judea, and so he managed to offend them in a myriad of ways. He wasn't tactful. In Jesus' trial, he clearly knew what the Roman law said, but he couldn't figure out how to satisfy it and the crowd at the same time. In the extrabiblical literature, he comes across as an incompetent buffoon more than a victim.

  2. He was wishy-washy. Queue the Charlie Brown comic below. From the very beginning, he was willing to back down on his decisions rather than cause a scene, and he seemed happy to defer to anyone else who behaved authoritatively. This easily shows up in Jesus' trial as he goes back and forth between his private moments with Jesus and his public moments with the crowd.

  3. He was vulnerable politically. Rome didn't like Herod the Great, but Herod the Great got the job done. Pilate was sent to Judea with a very "simple" (but not easy) job: keep the peace and make us forget about you. When the Jews got Tiberius to censure Pilate directly, they knew how strong their leverage was. When they talk about "being Caesar's friend" in the trial, this was no innocent jab.

Pilate's tenure ended when he had some villagers executed for supporting a rebel. Tiberius recalled him in 36 AD and replaced him with Marcellus. Pilate's action was not seen as ruthless and calculating but as bumbling and embarrassing.


Mark captured Pilate's persona deftly in 15:15: he wanted to satisfy the crowd.

 

Part 1: The Transfer (John 18:28-32)

28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They did not enter the headquarters themselves; otherwise they would be defiled and unable to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man weren’t a criminal, we wouldn’t have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate told them, “You take him and judge him according to your law.” “It’s not legal for us to put anyone to death,” the Jews declared. 32 They said this so that Jesus’s words might be fulfilled indicating what kind of death he was going to die.

So, I feel the need to immediately digress into a pair of asides.

 

Aside #1: Wait -- When Was Passover?

This has always thrown me off. Didn't Jesus just share the Passover meal with the disciples the night before? So, what Passover were the Jews worried about eating?


Most of your commentaries will dismiss this with the observation that Passover was a week-long festival (which is true), so they were talking about keeping the rest of the feast. But unfortunately, this gets a little more complicated than that. Let's start with passages that seem at odds:

Mark 14:12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrifice the Passover lamb, his disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare the Passover so that you may eat it?”
John 19:14 It was the preparation day for the Passover, and it was about noon. Then [Pilate] told the Jews, “Here is your king!”
Mark 15:42 When it was already evening, because it was the day of preparation (that is, the day before the Sabbath), 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, came and boldly went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body.

Let's then add the strong oral tradition (based on 1 Cor 5:7 where Paul calls Jesus our Passover Lamb) that says Jesus was crucified at the same time as the Passover lambs.


And finally, I came across this article when I was researching the Jewish calendar, and it really stuck with me:

And as it happens, the first night of Passover can never fall on Maundy Thursday, even though that holiday commemorates a seder. That’s because Passover can never begin on Thursday, ever. “The calendar is rigged so that [seder] can fall only on certain days of the week,” Dreyfus told me. “If Passover started Thursday night, it would push Rosh Hashanah the following year to start on Saturday night.” And neither Rosh Hashanah nor Yom Kippur, the two High Holidays of the Jewish year, can fall the day after Shabbat.

So, wait, what? What's happening?! How does all of this fit together?


Option 1: The Last Supper took place on Thursday "morning" (Wednesday evening in our reckoning). Remember that Jewish days began at sundown. Crisis averted.


Option 2: Using that same logic, the Last Supper took place on Thursday evening (our reckoning) which would have been Friday morning by Jewish reckoning. Crisis averted.


Option 3: Jesus celebrated his Last Supper "a day early" with His disciples, knowing that He would be crucified before the official Passover meal. Crisis averted.


Option 4: Jesus celebrated a "normal" Passover, and the Jews were talking about being ritually unclean for the second day of the feast (the normal interpretation).


I have read trustworthy commentaries that take each one of those possibilities, so I think you're probably okay with whichever option you choose. I personally kinda lean toward option 4 (the traditional understanding). This means that I think that the guy in the quote (who clearly knows the Jewish calendar a whole lot better than I do) is either wrong, or the rules have changed in the past 2,000 years. I'll admit that option 3 has some good things going for it -- I can't help but think that the Jewish leaders are talking about the Passover itself in John 18:28, which implies that Jesus celebrated it a day early (for, in my opinion, perfectly defensible reasons). But then I'm not sure what to do with Mark 14:12. So that's why I stick with the traditional explanation.

 

Aside #2: Where Was the Governor's Headquarters?

This is on my radar because I've read so many articles who place Jesus' trial at the Fortress of Antonia (attached to the temple complex), but the best scholarship suggests something different. Here's a traditional map of Jerusalem:

The Greek word for "governor's headquarters" is praetorium, which actually refers to his residence. Well, Herod had built a large palace (called a praetorium) in Jerusalem. And in fact, it wasn't too far away from the High Priest's house.

This is a picture of that amazing miniature (bigature?) recreation of ancient Jerusalem. In the foreground is Herod's palace (the two rectangular buildings and the plaza between them). In the background on the right, that's the temple complex.


Of importance for us is that "square" that's attached to the "governor's mansion", the one with the tall walls and colonnades. The Jews couldn't go into Herod's residence without violating their rules they were so worried about, so Herod came out to them. Well, this giant square would be a perfect location for a large public hearing where Herod could still feel well-guarded.


All that to say -- I think that this part of the trial took place at Herod's Palace, which is where Pilate would have stayed when he visited Jerusalem. This location is also circumstantial evidence for the traditional site of Golgotha (but more about that next week).


Now, back to the passage.

 

The Roman cohort that had arrested Jesus and taken Him to Annas (and Caiaphas) now brought Him to Herod's Palace. That must have been very disconcerting to the Jews who lived along those narrow streets. Herod's Palace had a large enough public courtyard to accommodate the entire mob (plus any curious onlookers).


My Klink commentary says we should view this chapter in the form of a Greek drama, where the actors move between multiple stages. There's the public stage, where Pilate addresses the large crowd, and there's the private stage, where Pilate addresses the very small groups. The irony John the author wants us to notice is the struggle for power/authority (between Pilate, the Jews, and the crowd) that takes place in the dialog -- the power/authority that actually belongs to Jesus, the true focus of all of these scenes.


This famous painting of "Ecce Homo" ("behold the man") captures that:


Pilate's opening statement ("What charge...?") is a formal initiation of judicial proceedings in the Roman Empire. This would get the heart pumping for people who had heard it before.


The Jews' non-response to Pilate's question is particularly slimy. This is where it's helpful to understand Pilate's politically precarious position -- the Jews were rather impudently trying to use their leverage to get Pilate to do what they wanted with minimal explanation. And at the same time, they knew that Roman law would not result in the sentence they wanted.


Their request for the death penalty is often interpreted with respect to local rights under Roman rule. In other words, Rome didn't give local Jewish courts the right to sentence someone to death -- only the official governor could do that. That's certainly how the video above plays it, that Pilate is surprised to hear they want the death sentence. But that's probably not what's going on here. Rome granted a great deal of local autonomy, especially with respect to keeping the peace. Remember the number of times the Jews talked about killing Jesus (5:18, 7:1, etc.) -- "Pilate's permission" was never brought up. Plus, Pilate handed Jesus back to the Jews to execute Him.


There are two possibilities here:

  1. The phrase "it is not lawful" is almost always used in the Gospels to refer to the law of Moses. So, the Jews were acknowledging that the law of Moses did not justify executing Jesus. But, Pilate was not under the law of Moses, so he could be their patsy to get the legal outcome they wanted. Because that is so disgustingly hypocritical, I kinda like it as an option.

  2. Or, this is about the nature of the execution. Rome reserved the right to perform all public executions, and that's what the Jews wanted. Specifically, they wanted Jesus to be crucified -- the most disrespectful death they could imagine for their enemy -- and only Pilate could authorize that. Of course, that was simply playing into Old Testament prophecy, but we will talk more about that next week.

I personally think there's a little of both in play here. Verse 32 (in my opinion) clearly validates that second option, but again, let's save that discussion for next week.


John the author has established that the Jewish leaders are simply falling all over themselves to put Jesus to death. But we already knew that. Let's turn our attention to the "private stage" and see what else is happening in this trial.

 

Part 2: The Trial before Pilate (John 18:33-38)

33 Then Pilate went back into the headquarters, summoned Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you asking this on your own, or have others told you about me?” 35 “I’m not a Jew, am I?” Pilate replied. “Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 “You are a king then?” Pilate asked. “You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 “What is truth?” said Pilate.

This is one of the great exchanges in human history. God gently explaining to the world the misguided nature of their quest for control.


In Roman law, when dealing with a non-Roman citizen, the governor was the judge and jury. He represented the emperor's will, and he did not need the input of lawyers. His decision was final and could not be appealed. (You remember how Paul's Roman citizenship altered the outcome of his trial.)


Let's compare with what the other authors' report of this:

  • Matthew 27: 11 Now Jesus stood before the governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus answered, “You say so.” 12 While he was being accused by the chief priests and elders, he didn’t answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Don’t you hear how much they are testifying against you?” 14 But he didn’t answer him on even one charge, so that the governor was quite amazed.

  • Mark 15: 1 As soon as it was morning, having held a meeting with the elders, scribes, and the whole Sanhedrin, the chief priests tied Jesus up, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2 So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate questioned him again, “Aren’t you going to answer? Look how many things they are accusing you of!” 5 But Jesus still did not answer, and so Pilate was amazed.

  • Luke 23: 1 Then their whole assembly rose up and brought him before Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3 So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 4 Pilate then told the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no grounds for charging this man.” 5 But they kept insisting, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he started even to here.”

John obviously goes into much greater detail about this private conversation. Why? Well, it certainly fits with his overall theme of "Who is Jesus?" -- but I wonder, could perhaps John have found someone who was in the room with them? A young soldier who became a Christian? We think as if God must have supernaturally revealed these details to the Gospel authors, but they were also researchers and historians.


Pilate's question ("Are You the King of the Jews?") is intentionally dismissive, both of Jesus and the Jews. But of course, Pilate is not the one with the authority here, so Jesus immediately becomes the interrogator. His counter-question suggests that Pilate has been manipulated by the Jews (and knows it) which challenges Pilate to make a right judgment based on his own standard of "right and wrong". Think about it -- by asking this question, Jesus is forcing Pilate to acknowledge that he's been used and that he is about to violate his trust as governor. Powerful question!


Pilate attempts to sidestep this by throwing things back on the Jewish religion, dissociating himself from their squabble. But it's too late -- everyone is aware of how the two groups have been "dancing" together in this and other local power plays.


In any event, Pilate is genuinely perplexed by the Jewish hatred of Jesus. Perhaps we should take this as further evidence of his incompetence as regional governor.


Jesus comes back with a phenomenal "ace" -- Pilate is trying to establish his authority as dissociated from the Jews. Well, Jesus' authority is not only dissociated from the Jews but also every other earthly power. His kingdom is not from the earth at all! This could mean:

  1. His kingdom is spiritual/internal

  2. His kingdom is future/eternal

  3. His kingdom is not political

I think most of us would lean towards 1 or 2, but the primary answer is actually 3. The Jews have derived their authority from their religious identity. The Romans have derived their authority from their military superiority. But Jesus' authority does not come from any earthly standard. Their squabbles are petty and transitory, but the "kingdom of God" is before all, after all, and above all.


I don't have time to go into this in detail (sorry about how long this has gone!), but we have talked about the Kingdom of God (heaven) multiple times:

The Kingdom of God isn't about a place. It's not about an ethnicity. It's not even about "power". It's about God's sovereignty over all existence. That sovereignty cannot be violated or manipulated or circumvented. Pilate's final exchange with Jesus in the next chapter (we are skipping over this in our lesson plan) exposes all of this:

6 When the chief priests and the temple servants saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” Pilate responded, “Take him and crucify him yourselves, since I find no grounds for charging him.” 7 “We have a law,” the Jews replied to him, “and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was more afraid than ever. 9 He went back into the headquarters and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus did not give him an answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you know that I have the authority to release you and the authority to crucify you?” 11 “You would have no authority over me at all,” Jesus answered him, “if it hadn’t been given you from above. This is why the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” 12 From that moment Pilate kept trying to release him. But the Jews shouted, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Anyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar!”

John the author realized the cosmic nature of this exchange. It makes me think of the Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard -- the people hearing that parable must have thought the tenant farmers to be utterly insane! What could those farmers possibly do to stop the army that the vineyard owner was inevitably going to raise against them? And that's what both the Jewish leaders and Pilate have banded together as. Pilate, to his credit, begins to realize this. But he was too cowardly and wishy-washy to do anything about it. And so God is right in His judgment against the world.


Jesus identifies the parameters of His kingdom as "truth". What does that mean? We've talked about truth a number of times recently, so tap back into those lessons:

Truth only comes from God. Truth can only "truly" be experienced in a relationship with God. And that truth sets a person free from the false "kingdoms" of the world, each of which as it turns out is under the authority of sin and Satan.


But -- freeing people from the false kingdoms of the world demands a sacrifice on the part of God the Son. Hence, this charade of the Jews and the Romans jockeying for leverage and control.

Pilate's response ("What is truth?") is the equivalent of flipping the game board when you have lost. He's in way over his head, so he just tries to dismiss the whole scenario. "You're just another schlupp to be executed, and I've got other things to do." The way John reports this is in line with his larger theme -- Pilate is so much closer than he thinks. The question is not "What is truth?" but "Who is truth?".


Your discussion would be to go into more detail on verse 36:

“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

What are the ways in which that statement is true, and how does it apply to Jesus' trial? Just as importantly, how does it affect us today? (consider our study of Ephesians 2)

 

Part 3: The Trade for a Robber (John 18:38-40)

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no grounds for charging him. 39 You have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at the Passover. So, do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” 40 They shouted back, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

I'm not sure how we're going to have time left to cover these verses on Sunday morning. This is a very thick passage.


Pilate has rightly concluded that Jesus is innocent of Roman charges, and this matter is one of internal Jewish power struggles. But gool ol' wishy-washy Charl..., er Pilate is too far gone.


The Gospels are the only place where this "tradition" of releasing a criminal is reported. There's no reason to doubt its historicity or that Pilate was making this up. And there's certainly no reason to believe that this was an every-year-without-fail thing. To me, it reeks of Herod the Great. Passover was about God sparing the firstborn of the Jews, so this tradition is about Herod taking the place of God and sparing a condemned Jew.


But catch this! The Jews not only indulge this usurpation of God's (the Father) power, but they use it to replace God (the Son) with an actual criminal deserving of death!

But wait, there's more! Of course, we can start with the fact that Barabbas is a revolutionary. The word refers to guerrilla freedom fighters (something the Jews used to great effect during the Maccabean days) -- people that in Josephus's day did some freedom fighting but more mercenary work. A hero to some, a scoundrel to all. Jesus uses this term to describe the one who comes to "steal, kill, and destroy" (John 10:10). Who was that?


But there's also got to be a reason why the Gospels identify Barabbas by name. He is completely unknown outside of the Gospels. Barabbas is Bar-Abba. What does that mean? "Son of a/the father." My Klink commentary summarizes thus:

  • The Jews chose "a son of a father" instead of "The Son of The Father". They could have followed "The Good Shepherd" but instead chose "the robber".

When you put it like that, it's all pretty damning.


Here's your discussion: Passover is about the great substitution -- an innocent lamb for the life of a person. Jesus is our Passover Lamb. What are all the ways that shows up in this trial?

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