Amnesty and Pardon
For the last few days, we have been preparing some articles featuring the exchange between Jesus and Pontus Pilate, the Roman Governor overseeing Judea for the Roman Empire. Pilate and Jesus had a short but intense conversation on that fateful Friday. They covered 4 different topics, 3 of which we have already studied. First, we examined ‘truth’. Next, we covered the true authority of Jesus, the King. Next, we looked at Pilate’s search for the guilt or innocence of the Lord.
Today, we examine the last topic, amnesty for Christ. And Pilate tried mightily to get Jesus freed because he knew very well, Jesus was guiltless. In each of these topics, Pilate asks a key question. It is no different this time only instead of asking Jesus the question, Pilate asks the Jewish people. In the crucial moment before the crowd when they were crying out for Jesus to be crucified, Pilate asks, “Why crucify Him? What evil has He done? As before, Pilate knew the right answer. Jesus had done nothing wrong. Yet, though Pilate knew the right answer, he relents to their murderous demands anyway.
Pilate was assigned by Rome to govern Judea on the empire’s behalf. He is to keep things peaceful, in order, and keep the tax revenue to Rome flowing. This case with Jesus was no ordinary problem. The Jews wanted Jesus executed as a common criminal but Jesus anything but common. They would’ve killed Him themselves but Rome had a law that no executions could take place without Rome’s approval. Enter Pilate. Upon being confronted by the Jews about Jesus, The Governor questions Jesus privately and soon discovers what is really going on. The Jewish religious leaders envy the Lord and want Him ‘out of the way’. (Math.27:18). Notice how accurately Pilate surmises the truth of The whole situation.
1. Pilate fears that Jesus is no ordinary man and wants to rid himself of this controversial case, yet he is afraid of the results of what he feels forced to do.
2. Pilate tries to convince the Jewish leaders and the crowd to release Jesus multiple times since this is the just thing to do. He fails.
3. Pilate has Christ severely beaten. He was whipped with 39 lashes. The whip had bone and metal pieces fastened to the tongs ripping great hunks of flesh from the victim. Most didn’t live through the experience. Yet, Pilate hoped the beating would instill pity for Jesus and he could then persuade them not to follow up on their intent to kill Him. It didn’t work.
4. Pilate appealed to his curious custom of setting a criminal under a death sentence at that time of the year. By recommending a known murderer, the crowd would choose to release Jesus. They called for Christ to be crucified instead.
All these Pilate tried, but to no avail. He felt forced to ‘sign off’ on the execution knowing full well it was a gross miscarriage of justice. Notice the scriptural record. Jn.18:31 – Pilate instructed the Jewish leaders to take Christ and judge by their own religious law & leave him out of their local affair. The leaders persist. Jn.18:38 – Pilate tries again to get Jesus released. Jn.18:39 – Pilate tries to use Barabbas (known murderer) as a substitute and get Jesus released by the strange yearly custom of releasing one prisoner at that time. That utterly fails. Jn.19:1-4 – Pilate has Christ flogged in hopes to inspire mercy from the crowd, but they scream for His execution all the more. Jn.19:6 – Pilate tries again to get Jesus released by repeated appeals to the crowd. Again, that effort failed. Jn.19:8-12 – Pilate tries one last time but to no avail. Matt. 27:24 – Pilate relents but tries to shame them into reneging on their choices by washing his hands in front of them and declaring that he is also innocent of Jesus’ blood. But he isn’t. He could have and should have stopped this farce but he cowardly caved to their wishes.
The crowd chooses Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus. There is some marked irony here. The criminal’s name is amazing. His name is actually Jesus Barabbas. Barabbas means, ‘son of a father’. The crowd chooses to favor the son of a father instead of the Son of THE Father! They choose the wrong Jesus. They choose a Jesus that doesn’t make them feel guilty about how they live; a Jesus more like them and less like God. Barabbas is a murderer and likely deserves the death sentence if anyone did. Jesus is innocent, sinless, without fault. Barabbas had spawned an insurrection in his murderous tirade. Jesus Barabbas fought for the political freedom of Israel. Jesus of Nazareth fought for the spiritual freedom and welfare of Israel first and then all others who would ever be born.
Needless to say, the crowd made the wrong choice – or did they? I say this because the crucifixion of Christ was God’s direct plan. Acts 2:23, “This man (Jesus) was handed over to you (Jews) by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross” (2Cor.5:19,) “that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” Jesus could not be given amnesty so that we could! Jesus must die – He must pay for us because we cannot pay for ourselves. Jesus refused pardon so that He could give pardon to anyone who comes humbly to Him for forgiveness. They wrongly chose the wrong person to free. But God was in all of that so that once Jesus paid our price, we could now choose Him, come to Him, believe in Him, rely on Him. We who are like Jesus Barabbas can be forgiven and become like Jesus of Nazareth.
Please take time this Easter season to read Isa.53 carefully. The prophet predicts (over 700 years before it happened) the story of what and why God did what He did in His Son, Jesus. And if you are convinced that God did not stop Pilate’s error nor the Jews hatred, but used it for our sakes, then hear what you and I can do at this very moment. Covid 19 and social distancing can never take away from the promise God gave us in 1Jn.1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Jesus refused amnesty and pardon so that He could offer God’s amnesty and pardon to us. Thank You Lord!