Luke 23:13-15 (NIV)
13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people,
14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him.
15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death.
On verses 13-15: As both Pilate and Herod confirmed, Jesus had done nothing to deserve death. Jesus was innocent, and yet like a lamb led to the slaughter, Jesus was being condemned to death.
Luke 23:16-25 (NIV)
16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.
17 [Some manuscripts include here: “Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.”]
18 With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!”
19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)
20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again.
21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
22 For the thirdtime he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”
23 But with loudshouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.
24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand.
25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
On verses 16-25: Why would Pilate so easily give into the demands of the Jews, even though Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent? It is because Pilate feared the Jews. Previously Pilate had ordered the killing of certain Jews while they worshiped in the temple (Luke 13:1-2). According to some historians, Pilate had also financed an expensive aqueduct project by expropriating funds from the Jews’ temple treasury. Thus Pilate was not popular among the Jews. As someone who had to answer to Caesar for this region of Judea, Pilate was concerned about keeping the peace in Judea and did not want to risk any riot, rebellion or insurrection among the people. Likely as a way to appease the Jews, who already did not like Pilate, Pilate gave into their demand to have Jesus crucified.
What can we learn from this? Because Pilate feared the Jews, Pilate compromised his integrity and had an innocent man – the Son of God, no less – tortured and executed. Pilate did so thinking it would save his career and his life, not realizing that he was murdering the only one who could truly save him.
Do not live in fear of people. Do the right thing even when it’s not popular. As Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”
Also, kind in mind that what happened to Barabbas is a picture of what God did for you and me. Barabbas was released and in his place Jesus was punished. Likewise, when we were guilty of sin and deserving of death, God released us and placed the punishment we deserve on Jesus instead.
Luke 23:26 (NIV)
26 As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
On verse 26: Interestingly, before Jesus would physically carry the cross for all of us, Simon from Cyrene would — just for a moment — carry the cross for Jesus. As Jesus is walking up the hill to be crucified, Simon is following behind Jesus, carrying Jesus’ cross. To think that Simon – for a brief moment – actually felt the cross that Jesus would later be nailed to.
To me this is a powerful visual reminder of what it means to follow Jesus. Of course, at the cross Jesus took on the punishment we deserved so that we wouldn’t have to die in every way that he did. The pain and suffering we go through cannot compare to the pain and suffering Jesus went through for us. Still, Simon carrying the cross behind Jesus is a powerful reminder of Jesus’ own words: that if anyone who come after Jesus, they must take up their cross and follow him (Luke 9:23).
Heavenly Father, I pray that I would not be controlled by a fear of people. I declare and agree with Your Word that fearing people is a trap, but trusting in You is where I am strongest and safest. So help me, God, to do the right thing, even when it’s not popular and even when I’m pressured to do otherwise. May I live for Your approval, not the approval of people. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!