6Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Pilate is looking for a way out of this mess – one that will be politically expedient. He realizes that the chief priests have ulterior motives for wanting Jesus out of the way. He has released a prisoner at the festival in the past; he thinks perhaps if he offers to release Jesus the crowd will have been appeased. But instead they ask him to release a convicted murderer named Barabbas. Remember, here, that it is very early in the morning – the “crowd” that has gathered is people whom the chief priest and his party have sent for, people who owed hims something. The Roman system operated on “patronage” – a wealthy person helped certain others get ahead and as a result they owed him allegiance, favors if you will. Caiaphas called in a lot of debts that morning! And his men were circulating through the crowd, starting the call – “Give us Barabbas!”
Pilate tries again – “then what do you wish me to do with the man you call King of the Jews?” And again the circulating servants of Caiaphas start the chant, “Crucify him!” Pilate asks, “Why, what evil has he done?” But the crowd persists, “Crucify him!”
And so, Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas, and had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified. Pilate killed men every day – he had toyed with the religious leaders, so intent on convicting this man – he had to admit this one had courage; he never once begged. But in the end, he shrugged his shoulders and gave in; what did it matter to him? Pilate probably went off to his breakfast and forgot the incident.
But Jesus, having endured the trial and beating at the hands of the religious leaders, who convicted him of blasphemy, and the trial at the hands of the Roman authority, who convicted him of treason, now endured flogging. He was so severely wounded by the flogging that he would die more quickly than usual on the cross.
Remember this – he did not have to endure all this. He could have called down an army of angels; he could have simply ascended into heaven. He chose to endure, so that you and I might be saved, might come to know him.