Jesus and the Jury
Tim Temple


It is always interesting to notice the unusual characters in the Word of God that are mentioned just in passing. Some of them are very striking. In some of these, there is quite a bit of detail; in others there is just a passing reference to some part they played in some crucial event in Scripture. It is interesting to think what the unmentioned details of the lives of some of these people might have been.

For example, we think of Melchizedek, first mentioned in Genesis, chapter 14, and referred to in Psalm 110 and in Hebrews, chapters 5-7. He is used as an example of the Lord Jesus as a prophet and priest, and without beginning of days or end of life. It is not that Melchizedek lived forever; it is just that we are not told anything about his beginning of days or end of life. He is just mentioned very briefly and then used as an example in the other two mentions of him. We might wonder about a lot of the other details about his life. We know that he was king and that he received tithes from Abraham, but beyond that, we just don't know anything about him.

The rich, young ruler in Luke, chapter 18, came to Jesus and asked Him what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to keep all of the commandments. He said, “I have done all of that from my youth up,” and Jesus told him that he would have to give away all of his riches to be able to enter the kingdom of Heaven. It says that he went away very sad.

Of course, Jesus knew that if that man had any real, sincere interest in getting into the kingdom of Heaven, he would have responded to those statements with more desire for understanding, and Jesus would have responded with more information for him, but this was a test that Jesus gave to this young man. We don't know what kind of ruler he was or where he got his riches. He just crosses the scene like a comet, and then he is gone.

We know very little about Joseph of Arimathea, the rich man who provided the tomb in which Jesus was buried, except his name and the fact that he was a wealthy man. It was prophesied that Jesus would make His grave with the rich in His death, and so we assumed that Joseph was a wealthy man. The kind of tomb he had would have been fitting for a wealthy man, but we just don't know very much about him.

Perhaps the most important one of all is Barabbas, whom we are going to come across at the end of this chapter. Even though there are several things that we want to look at before we get to him, Barabbas is a striking character in history. He has been subject to a lot of speculation over the years. There is really more speculative information about Barabbas than there is truth in the Word about him. We will talk about what little there is farther along in our lesson today, but very little is said about him, even though we feel like we know him well because he is such an integral part of the story of the crucifixion of Christ. The only biblical information that we have about him has to do with the fact that his path crossed the path of Jesus Christ. If he had not happened to be in prison at the time Jesus Christ was on trial, we would never have heard of him by this time in history.

When you come right down to it, that is the biblical standard for anybody. Men are only important in relation to the degree to which they are related to Jesus Christ. Some people are famous for their actions, and some people are known for their wealth, but with eternity's values in view, the only thing that really matters about any man or woman, rich or poor, famous or obscure, when it is all said and done is, what was their relationship to Jesus Christ. That is the only reason that we know what little we do about Barabbas, and it is the only reason eternity will know anything about you or me—what did we do with Jesus Christ and in what way were we related to Jesus Christ.

Barabbas is also important because he was the only person in all of human history who could say, in the strictly physical sense, “Christ died for me.” Many, many people down through the years have been able to say that spiritually. I hope that all of you have said that spiritually: “Christ died for me.” He died physically so that I would not have to die spiritually. He died spiritually because of my sins, but Barabbas was the only person who could say, “He died for me physically,” and because of that, he becomes a very good object lesson of what it means from a spiritual standpoint. We will talk about all of that when we get to that last verse of the chapter.

In this lesson, we want to look at the last third of the chapter. We talked about the arrest of the Savior, in verses 1-11, and the way that He was betrayed by Judas. The second part of the chapter is what I am calling the arraignment of the Savior where He appeared on trial. First, He was tried before the Jews, in verses 12-27, in two separate trials. Then interspersed between those courtroom scenes was the story of Peter's denying Christ in the courtyard.

Jesus is Delivered to the Judge

We come to verses 28-40, which show Him on trial before Pilate, the judge. There is a great deal of information about what and who Jesus Christ really was when He is referred to as the King of the Jews . That is the focus of these verses of Jesus appearing before Pilate. First, in verses 28-32, we find Jesus' delivery to the judge. Notice in verse 28:

John 18

28Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

Let's stop and think about this for a moment. Jesus has been on trial—two separate stages of His trial—and He was arrested at some point in the evening. It was late enough that the soldiers had to carry torches, but it was early enough that He and His disciples had not even talked yet about going to bed. We assume that it was probably soon after dark. We read in verse 28 that it was early morning, so Jesus has been basically on trial all night long. Of course, it was not legal for the Jews or anybody else to hold a trial at night. So the Jews have subjected Jesus to what amounts to an illegitimate trial in two stages—first, before Annas, the immediate past high priest, and then before Caiaphas, the current high priest. He has been subjected to false witnesses, trumped-up charges, all kinds of mistreatment by these men who were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of Israel. Because of their relationship with Rome, they also wound up being the governmental leaders of Israel.

As I have mentioned several times as we have moved through John, the Roman Empire's handling of nations that they conquered was to leave them with some kind of home rule to help keep insurrection down and to help the Roman officials have some liaison with the captive peoples. So in Israel's case, they had allowed the Sanhedrin, which was the Jewish religious body, to be that liaison and in effect put the Sanhedrin in the place of having civil authority as well as religious authority over the Jews. These members of the Sanhedrin, these religious leaders, had put Jesus on trial in their civil system that they had now become rulers over.

All of that is background for what we read in the last part of the verse:

John 18

28…and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

Here they were, these religious hypocrites who had broken the very laws of their own government and the laws of the Roman government all night long by holding trials at night. Not only that, but they had listened to perjured testimony and in fact had had a hand in attaining that perjured testimony. There were all kinds of wrong-doings all night long, but they didn't want to be defiled by going into a Roman courtroom, so that they couldn't eat the Passover. This is interesting insight into the state of their thinking at that point.

Notice verse 29:

John 18

29Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?
30They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.
31Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

There they state very clearly what their objective has been in this whole thing. They are trying to find some way and have been trying for some months to find some way to put Jesus to death. Finally, they have gone this legal route. The trials that they have put Jesus through were really just a legal sham, because they had to be able to make this statement to Pilate. The Jews had the death penalty but it could only be authorized by the Roman government. If they themselves issued a death penalty, it had to go through the Roman courtroom. From what we know from Matthew and Luke, they had had these trials, getting testimony on record that Jesus had said that He was a king and was going to rule over Israel.

Of course, they twisted what Jesus had said and trumped up these charges, but by having that kind of information in their records, they were able now to come to Pilate and say, “We know that we can't give the sentence of death. We want you to do that part of it, but here is what we have found out about Him.”

If we took the time to go back and look at the other Gospels, we would see that they had much more detailed charges than they make as John records them. Let me remind you again that John writes his Gospel with the assumption that his original readers were familiar with what the other Gospels writers had written. The critics point out the differences between John and Luke and Matthew and Mark, and John has more differences than the others. John's book is addressed to the people of the whole world, and he is not trying to document every detail that the other writers of the Gospels document. There are things that John leaves out, particularly Roman kinds of things, because he is trying to write a Gospel that will be understandable and readable and available for the Holy Spirit to use by Gentiles living hundreds of years later. So he just gives us a bare-bones summary.

Prophecy of Jesus' Death to Be Fulfilled

They do make it clear in verse 31 that they realize that they cannot put anybody to death, but it is obvious that that is what they want Pilate to do. They want Pilate to sentence Him to death. They have all the charges they need to give him the right to do that, but verse 32 presents the spiritual side. Those verses that we have just talked about present the physical side of it, but verse 32 says:

John 18

32That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.

Jesus had told His disciples weeks ago that the religious leaders would take Him and put Him to death, and here that prophecy is being fulfilled. These Jewish leaders thought that they were controlling this situation. They thought that they were being so clever to manipulate things so that they could get a human death penalty assessed, when what they didn't realize was that God Himself was moving things toward the death penalty of Jesus Christ, because God had a much broader picture in view.

The Jews probably proudly thought that they were doing away with this One Who had caused them so much trouble and Who was a continual thorn in their side. They had a lot of reasons for doing that. A lot of it had to do with their political power. A lot of it had to do with their total misunderstanding of all that the Scriptures have to say. They had chosen the parts they liked about a Messiah Who would rule over all the nations of the world and had neglected and ignored the prophecies—equally valid—that said He would come meek and lowly and suffer and die. They were moving this along with their agenda, but God was moving it along with His agenda. Jesus Christ faces this trial that we read about here in this chapter, not because those Jews manipulated it, but because God Himself designed the death of the Lord Jesus Christ in our place.

We talk a lot about the birth of Christ. Often at the Lord's Table, we remind ourselves of that, but it is interesting to notice that even in His death, Jesus went through a great many human emotions and human difficulties most of us will never have to face. Hopefully, we will never have to know what it is to go through a trial with the possibility of a death sentence. From a strictly human standpoint—certainly from a spiritual standpoint—Jesus went through the agony of being in a courtroom, facing the possibility of a death sentence and facing all of that from trumped-up charges and false witnesses. Think about the human pressure that that would put on anybody.

Jesus Christ knows what that kind of suffering is. “He was in all points tested like as we are, yet without sin.” Peter tells us that when He was threatened, He did not threaten again. When He was reviled, He did not threaten those people. That would be the natural tendency. Jesus went through this extremely difficult, this emotionally excruciating experience, and He did it all with perfect aplomb, perfect peace, perfect dignity. There was no sin involved along the line. Sometimes we think that we have had just about all that we can bear, but Jesus Christ faced all that we have faced and more.

They brought Jesus before Pilate. According to Luke, chapter 23, the official charge that they lodged against Jesus was that He had called Himself a King. Of course, that would have been in direct opposition to Caesar, and that was the basis for the death penalty. They said that He was an insurrectionist and that He was going to try to overthrow the government and that He was setting Himself up as king and demanding the loyalty of the Jews in opposition to their loyalty to Caesar.

So Pilate's problem, as this prisoner is delivered to him, is to determine the validity of these charges. That was a very serious responsibility in the Roman legal system, even in the days when the Roman government was deteriorating already. Pilate was faced with a real problem as they brought this prisoner to him.

Deliberations of Pilate

In verses 33-38a, we have the deliberations of Pilate. Here Pilate begins to grill Jesus. The first line of verse 33 is a significant statement:

John 18

33Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus…

That phrase indicates that Pilate accepted the case. Pilate would have been perfectly within his rights as the head judicial official of Rome in that area to say, “You don't have a case. I will not accept it.” He could have refused to take Jesus, but by turning and going into the judgment hall and by calling Jesus, he accepted the case. This means that he believed that the Jews' charges had some sufficient merit for him to at least investigate.

He begins his investigation. Notice how he words it in the last line of verse 33:

John 18

33…Art thou the King of the Jews?

As I say, we know from Luke's record of the account that that is what the Jews had charged Him with. John doesn't tell us that, but Luke tells us that that was what they had charged Him with: He was a king and therefore He was a threat to Caesar, so Pilate says, “Are you a king?”

There is a very careful distinction that needs to be made here. Notice that the Jews had not said and Pilate does not say, “Are you the king?”. He says, “Are you a king?”, and that tells us that that is what their charge was. The Jews knew that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, the King of Israel. They knew that Jesus was speaking in a spiritual sense. That was what was insulting them so because they had picked and chosen the Scriptures, and they had built their own picture of what the Messiah would be by just looking at the parts of the Scriptures that they liked—a mistake that Christians and non-believers alike still make today, just picking and choosing the part that we like and then saying the rest of it is open to interpretation, and it doesn't mean what it might seem to say. They were rejecting Him because He was claiming to be the spiritual king of Israel. They knew that, and Jesus knew that, but they had presented it to Pilate in such a way that they were leading Pilate to believe that Jesus was saying that He was a secular king and a threat to Rome. Pilate innocently says, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him in verse 34:

John 18

34Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?

At first glance, it would seem that Jesus was just hedging and trying to keep from answering the question. After all, it is a pretty simple, direct question: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus is being very wise. Here we see the very wisdom of God in Jesus, because his first question is, “Are you speaking this for yourself or did others tell you this concerning Me?” Jesus wants Pilate to think carefully. He wants Pilate to confront himself, because Jesus knows that a Roman official such as Pilate would never come up with this kind of thing on His own. Pilate's job was to stay very carefully abreast of what the Jews were doing, and if there had been some Jew who was going around putting together an insurrection, you can bet Pilate would have known about it.

Pilate had not heard anything about it because that was not what Jesus had been doing. We are going to come across Barabbas in a few minutes, and we know that Barabbas had been doing that kind of thing. He was in prison for that. Pilate knew what was going on, and he had not heard anything about somebody claiming to be the king of the Jews. Even Barabbas was not claiming to be the king. He was just trying to overthrow the Roman government. So Pilate asks this question, and Jesus says, “Think about why you are asking that question.” In so many words, that is what Jesus is saying. “Why are you asking that question? Stop and think for a minute. Is it because of your own very good sources that you have found out that I am claiming to be the King of the Jews, or is it because somebody told you that?”

We know that Pilate understood that question in that way, because in verse 35, he said, “Am I a Jew?” The Romans hated the Jews as much as the Jews hated the Romans, and so, in so many words, Pilate is saying, “Of course, somebody else told me this. I am not a Jew. I would not come up with this. Only a Jew would think of this in this way.” But in answering that, he tells himself as he tells Jesus, in the middle part of the verse:

John 18

35…thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me…

It dawns on Pilate that these charges are strictly coming from the Jews. He says, “My political sources haven't told me this. I am just having to take the word of the Jews.”

Apparently Pilate is impressed with Jesus. Look at the question he asks. He knows what the charges are against Jesus, and so he says, in the last part of verse 35:

John 18

35…what hast thou done?

He knows what the charges are, and now he suddenly realizes these could very well be trumped-up charges because he had only heard it from the leaders of the Jews, so he turns to Jesus and says, “What have you done? What have you in fact done? Why are you really here?” You see, he is on the verge of rejecting the charges that the Jews have made against Him.

Jesus Presents the Truth

In verse 36, Jesus answered him:

John 18

36Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

Look at the logic in what Jesus is saying. First, He doesn't deny that He is a king. He says, “I have a kingdom, but My kingdom is not of this world, and I can prove it is not of this world. The fact that I am standing here is proof that My kingdom is not of this world, because if I had an earthly kingdom, I would have troops. It would not have been nearly so easy for the Jews to arrest Me if I were a king, because My troops would have at least fought. They might have lost. They might have gotten Me anyway, but they wouldn't have just been able to march Me in here without any fight at all.”

Think about it. The only opposition that Jesus' followers gave at all was Peter's stupid blunder with the sword in which he cut off the servant's ear. What kind of defense is that? If Pilate had heard about that at all, he would have thought how laughable that was and how ridiculous that was. That is not the way troops do things. So, Jesus says, in so many words, “Yes, I am a King, but My kingdom is not of this world and I can prove it. I don't have any soldiers and if you have heard anything about My arrest, you know that I don't have any soldiers. One stupid fisherman tried to defend Me and even that was bungled.”

So Pilate says, in verse 37:

John 18

37…art thou a king then?…

The wording of this in the Greek is, “You are a king, then?” It is a question, but it is a more positive question than we might read it as it is worded here: “You are a king, then?” Of course, we can see that Jesus is saying in verse 36, “I am a king.” Jesus is telling him, “I am a king, but not the kind of king that you think and not the kind of king that the Jews are trying to make you think I am. I am not a king who is a threat to Caesar. I am not a king who is a threat to you. In the earthly sense, I am a king from a kingdom that is not of this world.”

Notice how Jesus continues to answer his question. In verse 37, Pilate says, “You are king, then,” and Jesus answers him:

John 18

37…thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

What kind of a King is Jesus? He says, “I was born into this world for a purpose. For this cause, I was born; for this cause, I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” A King has come to set people free, but not politically, not in some mechanical kind of a way, but through presenting the truth. He had said to His disciples earlier, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus is presenting a kingdom that is on a completely different level than anything Pilate had ever heard of before, but there is a very telling sentence in the last part of verse 37: “Every one who is of the truth hears My voice.” That must have struck Pilate right between the eyes. Pilate probably sensed what a unique person this was standing before him. This man, by this time, was bruised and bloodied, though John doesn't give us those details, a little withered figure, having been through all kinds of problems that night and not looking anything like a king; but there was something in the authority of what Jesus, the Son of God, said that must have impressed Pilate tremendously even though the text doesn't tell us so. Jesus puts the ball squarely in Pilate's court. He says, “Every one who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Down through the years, there have been those who have taught that this means that there are certain people who are truth seekers, and people who are seeking the truth just understand the truth when they hear it. But that doesn't really fit with the rest of Scripture. The Scripture says, “There are none righteous, no not one. There is none who seeketh after God.” There is not a group of truth seekers. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. On the other hand, there are those to whom God reveals truth, those whom the Spirit of God draws to Himself. Here was Pilate's opportunity to see the Son of God for Who He really was. Every person sooner or later has to deal with the truth of Who Jesus Christ is.

Pilate Rejects the Truth

This was Pilate's moment to deal with the truth of Jesus Christ. Jesus was saying, “If you are of the truth, you will hear My voice. If you accept what I am saying, you will have the truth. This is what I came to do—to present the truth which will set men free.”

Notice what Pilate says in verse 38:

John 18

38Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?

That sounds like a question of a philosopher, and I have had philosophy professors who say that this is the very essence of philosophy. This is a definition of philosophy: “What is truth?” This is what the philosophers seek and almost invariably they will quote Pilate as he said, “What is truth?” Notice what Pilate did not say. Jesus has been talking about the truth . You see there in verse 37: “I have come into the world that I should bear witness to the truth . Everyone who is of the truth , hears My voice.” Pilate did not respond to Jesus. Even though he talked about truth, he did not respond to Jesus Christ, because he did not say, “What is the truth ?” He said, “What is truth?”

There are a great many people in the world today, and there have been people in every generation from Pilate's day until our own day, who look for truth, but they will not accept the truth of Jesus Christ. The sad part is that in many cases these are very intelligent, highly motivated, highly principled people. They are looking for truth. They want to order their lives according to the highest and the best. They want truth, but when they hear the truth of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, for various reasons can't accept that, and they don't accept that. Pilate made the most serious error of his entire life. Jesus was talking about the truth ; Pilate simply talked about truth.

In the Roman world of that day, the philosophical background of Pilate's question is, “Nobody knows what the truth is anyway. Here you are talking about truth. How can I make a decision about You based on what truth is? What is truth anyway?”

You know, that is the question that human beings, unaided by the Spirit of God, cannot answer, cannot agree upon. That is why we have so many competing philosophies in the world today. That is why we have all of these different kinds of sects and all these different kinds of beliefs and all the different political movements because we do not know what truth is, and men cannot agree on what they think truth is. But in a completely different category is the truth of Jesus Christ , and the truth of Jesus Christ is what sets men free. The truth of Jesus Christ, rightly understood, is what brings men together. The struggle for truth in the human sense is what has driven nations apart and what has brought them together in battle to tear their people apart.

Pilate Makes a Deal

That is an extremely important distinction to make. The difference in truth and the truth is a distinction that Pilate failed to make at that point. These are the deliberations that Pilate had to go through, but notice in the last part of verse 38. It would have been better to have had verse 38 divided into two verses, because in the last part of verse 38, we find Pilate beginning to make a deal with the Jews. He said, “What is truth,” then in the last part of verse 38:

John 18

38Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

This is the man who either did not understand or did not accept what Jesus was saying about the truth, but notice what his assessment of Jesus is: “I find no fault in him at all.” Again, there are people exactly like Pilate in the world today who find no fault with Jesus, but at the same time, they are not willing to accept Him for who He is. There are many unbelievers who hold Jesus Christ in high regard and who say that He was a great teacher and that He did many great things. The only problem is He was not the truth in their opinion. He was not Who He claimed to be, and of course, the blindness that they have allowed to dominate their hearts and minds is blindness to the fact that if He was not good, He was not God; and if He was not God, He was not good. Jesus was not a great man if He was not God because He claimed to be God. Jesus was not a great teacher if He was not God because He said He was God.

The phrase has been coined, and I have quoted it many times and you have, too, probably: “He was either the Lord Who He claimed to be or He was a liar or He was a lunatic.” Pilate didn't seem to make that distinction, and people down through the years have not made that distinction. It is an extremely important distinction to make. People need to be extremely careful that they accept Jesus not as a good man, but as God. Pilate did not accept Him as God, but it is clear from the other Gospels, and really from verse 38, that Pilate really thought Jesus was innocent of the charges they were bringing against Him. He didn't accept Him for Who He was, but he didn't accept Him for Who they said He was. But rather than boldly and justly deciding that Jesus should have been acquitted, he gambled on a custom of long standing in Rome. Look at verse 39:

Pilate's Decision Based On Political Expediency

John 18

39But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

You see, it would have been a simple matter for Pilate to say, “This man is innocent, and I am going to let him go,” but he knew about the Jewish population of Rome. As I said earlier, it was his job to stay on top of what the Jews were doing and he knew, whether he understood it or not, that they were extremely incensed about this Man. So he took the option of releasing Him and probably hoped they would say, “Well, okay, you do release prisoners to us at Passover, so go ahead and release Jesus. We won't demand that you put Him to death.”

This had been developed over the years by the Romans as a means of placating their captive nations, and Pilate probably thought that they would opt for Jesus since Barabbas was such a notorious character. But in doing this, Pilate lost the gamble. They demanded that Jesus be taken to prison instead of Barabbas and that Barabbas be released. It shows the spinelessness and the terrible results that ultimately come from making decisions based on political expediency. It ties in with the importance of selecting leaders who make their decisions based on what is right and what is principled and what is just, rather than what is politically expedient. Pilate stands as a timeless reminder of the danger of political expediency, and it leads to the next point.

In the last part of verse 40, we are told that Barabbas was this prisoner, and that is about all that John tells us about him. In verse 40:

John 18

40Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

The other Gospels give us a lot of detail about Barabbas, and I want us to think about these details. In Mark, chapter 15, verse 7, Mark says:

Mark 15

7And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.

Here is this man who was part of a group determined to overthrow the Roman government. His name is really significant in itself. It is a combination of two words—the word bar , which means “son of.” The word abba means “the father.” We have talked about how Jesus said, “Abba, Father,” and how we can say, “Abba.” We can call God Daddy .

Rabbis were commonly called Father , and so it is a bit speculative, but Barabbas was a common name for sons of Rabbis—not limited to sons of Rabbis, but often Rabbis would name their son Barabbas , son of the Father, son of the Rabbi. As I say, it is speculative, but it is possible that Barabbas was a preacher's son. Remember, it is a preacher's kid who is pointing this out to you. We all know preacher's kids like that—maybe not to the extreme that Barabbas was, but it is very possible that Barabbas was a person who had turned off by the religion of his fathers and had become a murderer and an insurrectionist.

Other Scripture tells us more about Him. Luke, chapter 23, verse 19, and Acts, chapter 3, verse 14, say that he had committed murder in the course of the insurrection. Mark, chapter 15, verse 7, tells us that also, and of course, murder committed in the course of another crime is punishable by death even in our jaded society. So here is an ironic fact: Barabbas was actually guilty of insurrection, the very crime that Jesus was being charged with on trumped-up charges. In addition, John, chapter 18, verse 40, also says that he was a robber.

Another thing to notice about Barabbas has to do with a manuscript addition. Some ancient manuscripts say that his full name was Jesus Barabbas , and that would emphasize the complete difference between these two men. Barabbas was the complete opposite of what Jesus was. Jesus Barabbas was the opposite of Jesus the Son of God. Barabbas offered himself as a military messiah. He was going to deliver Israel by military means. Jesus was going to deliver all men by spiritual means. Barabbas represented political deliverance from the power of Rome. Jesus represented spiritual deliverance from the power of sin, no matter in what nation it might be found.

Isn't it interesting to notice the minute details that God has woven into the story of our salvation? In the many practical lessons from the passage, there is one that is outstanding. Barabbas is a perfect picture of the statement, “Christ died for me.” As I said in the beginning, he is the only person who could say in the strictly physical sense, “Christ died for me,” but he is a picture of that spiritual truth. First, he was a rebel, and he was condemned to die. He was simply waiting execution. The Scripture tells us that is true of every one of us. “The wages of sin is death…” “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God…” You and I, before we find Jesus Christ, are guilty sinners condemned to death. John, chapter 3, verse 18, says:

John 3

18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

So you and I are actually in the exact situation that Barabbas was in physically. Think about the jailer who came to Barabbas and told him that he was going to be set free. Surely Barabbas would have asked why, and the jailer would have said, “There is this man who is going to be put to death in your place.” How do you think Barabbas would have reacted? Do you think Barabbas would have said, “Oh no, that is too simple. Surely I have got to do something to be set free from this prison. I can't believe that you are going to set me free and put this other guy to death in my place.”

Do you think Barabbas would have said that? I think not. Barabbas would have said, “Where's the key? Why are you waiting to open that door?” But how many people will not accept their spiritual deliverance in the way that Barabbas accepted his physical deliverance? Barabbas' decision was exactly the same as any spiritual prisoner and that was simply whether or not to believe that message. All Barabbas had to do was to believe that they really were going to put Jesus to death in his place, and apparently he did believe it. He was set free from prison because of what Jesus did.

The prison guard's responsibility was not to convince Barabbas of it. The guard's responsibility was simply to give Barabbas the message, and there is no indication that anybody had to do any convincing of Barabbas. He could figure that out for himself just as God the Holy Spirit gives condemned sinners the ability to figure it out and to be set free.

Because of Jesus' action, Barabbas was a free man. He was no longer a condemned man in the eyes of the Roman government. He was set free. II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21, says:

II Corinthians 5

21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

There is one significant difference, and that is Barabbas still had a prison record. Even though he had been set free and even though he couldn't be tried again for those offenses, he still had a prison record. The Scripture tells us in II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21, that we are made the righteousness of God in Him.


In other places in the Scripture, God tells us that our sins He will remember no more. They are removed as far as the east is from the west. They are buried in the deepest part of the sea. So we have it even better than Barabbas did. Because of Jesus Christ, we are set free, but besides that, our criminal record is erased from God's sight and God's memory. We are made the righteousness of God in Him.

So it is an interesting little sideline story, but a very significant story that is woven into John's narrative and into the narrative of the other Gospels of the trial and the ultimate death of Jesus Christ.

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