“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. 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 ESVi)
I have attended more than one concert in my lifetime, and usually, there is a first act working the crowd so the band or comedian can have a receptive audience.
What we have here in these verses is spiritual manipulation.
This is not done in secret but in pure daylight.
Pilate is a clever man, and he can read people well. He realises that it was an act of envy that Jesus is being put on trial, and he plays on it. The crow comes to Pilate to ask him to release a prisoner, which he does.
However, sadly this can happen in political rallies where the speaker is so eloquent that they can move and influence the crow to act and behave in a particular way, which can quickly become violent. We know this is true. We have seen it recently.
Do you want me to release the king of the Jews? Pilate asks.
Strangely, I thought Pilate was trying to give Jesus a chance. He knows Jesus is innocent! Does he? Well, maybe he was upset by Jesus claiming to be a King.
But now I believe he is not giving Jesus a hand, the complete opposite. He is playing with Jesus’ life and realising it was out of envy of the Jewish Priests. Pilate plays Jesus like a trump card. This is dark.
It is manipulation, even though the Jewish Priest is playing the crowd against Jesus. Pilate plays with envy, and the Chief Priests are at the mercy of Pilate.
Envy is the root of evil. It is the fruit of the flesh, and it is dark. Do not covet, do not envy. The people who preached and taught the law and its commandments are now being played.
They influenced the crowd and incited the public to release the prisoner. Pilate asks, What shall I do with the man you call the king of the Jews? What would you have answered?
It could be seen as this was Jesus’ dark moment. I don’t think it was. Even as he remained silent and watched everything unfold, I have often wondered about the place of suffering, injustice and trials we all suffer and how we react to them. Jesus could have asked for an angelic army, but he didn’t. He remained a son, holding on to the Father’s purpose.
It is hard to see Jesus this way, and it is not a great picture. But I am comforted that he did suffer as a man, and he was not protected, nor he used his divine powers to his advantage. He let the story unfold, even if watching it was so painful.
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
(Isaiah 53:3 ESVi)