“Now at the feast he 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.”
(Mark 15:6–7 ESV)
What do you make of these verses?
Does it feel right to you?
Is this a way of doing justice?
Was this a charity act from a powerful dictator?
All I know is that Pilate was someone to be fearful of. He exercised great power and authority.
He could sentence someone to death or release a prisoner.
Could you imagine a government saying we will release a criminal this Christmas as a goodwill gesture? I don’t think so.
But this happens today. Recently in Chile, during Christmas, the Chilean President released about ten people from prison, known as “indulto presidencial”, as a goodwill gesture. It is a presidential pardon, and the President has the authority to do this with the advice of the justice minister. I don’t know all the details; I only know ten people were pardoned and released. However, one had an extensive criminal record. This caused consternation in the nation, and the President lost much support.
What an irony and what an act of injustice!
There is nothing fair and no justice in this kind of pardon! To release a criminal and set them free is a mockery of any justice system. It means that they will be free to commit acts of crimes, and Barnabas was a social outcast and a murderer. This is not an act of kindness but of pure manipulation of power. Even if a president can grant a pardon, it must be justified in a humanitarian context.
Pilate shows his true colours and tells the crowd and the Jewish leaders who the authority really is. It is just a provocation of power, a power of a dark source.
Jesus, the Son of God, is watching all this, and I wonder what went through his mind. No one knows! Was it sorrow? Was it anger? Was it peace? Or was it that he accepted and understood his fate? He is no prisoner of Pilate, nor is he a prisoner of the Jewish leaders. He is free, but how?
It is possible that Jesus understood Isaiah fifty-three, who outlined his destiny and place and comforted him. I believe these words empowered Jesus to remain silent, become the lamb, and take the punishment for sin.
If this was true for Jesus, it should encourage us to stay in the Word as our source of life.