Now at the feast [Pilate] used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. (Mark 15:6-11)
Who would you pick? Jesus or Barabbas? Who would you rather have out on the street, a murderer or a king? We all want to say “Jesus.” But if you or I were in the crowd that day, we might vote differently, especially if the chief priests influenced us.
So how do you do that? How do you sway an “election” one way or the other? In our community, campaigns put up hundreds and hundreds of yard signs to convince you to vote for a candidate. Or, candidates for office knock on doors and introduce themselves. Some people wait to see who the local newspaper supports. Direct mail campaigns smear one candidate while praising another.
So it’s Passover and Pilate is willing to throw the Jews a bone, to release a prisoner. He suggests, “How about I release your king?” But at the urging of the chief priests, the crowd would rather have Pilate free Barabbas.
What does the crowd know about Jesus? Probably not much. Some may have heard stories about healings, exorcisms and teachings. But many had not met him. A good number may not have even heard about Jesus. What did they know about Barabbas? He was one of those rebels. He had blood on his hands. He wasn’t afraid of going up against the Romans. But many may not have known much about him, either.
Some religious organizations and churches hand out voter guides around election time. They publish the positions and voting records of candidates for office, recommending those whose values align with theirs. The chief priests served that function in this crowd. They were the voting guide, and stated, “Barabbas is the guy you want!”
In the end, it’s not a popularity contest. Jesus is the servant the people have rejected but God has chosen (Isaiah 42:1). He may have lost this election, but he will win the victory!
Heavenly Father, thank you for the faithfulness of Jesus, who loved me enough to be rejected by the crowd. Amen.