“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
Just about every weekend when I was growing up, weather permitting, we went fishing on the Chesapeake Bay. And part of the fishing experience is picking up the bait. At different times of the year, different fish were biting, so we picked up bait that matched. Worms for perch, clams for catfish, croakers, drum, flounder, sea bass, spot, striped bass (rockfish.) And if we were looking to catch really big fish, we’d buy some live crabs and whack them up into pieces. Each one of these expensive baits were carefully secured on a hook, and then we prayed for a “lunker.”
While Pontius Pilate wasn’t out fishing in a boat, he was fishing to catch the chief priests and the rest of the Jewish leaders. He had watched and listened carefully to all the accusations, noise, threats, and emotion that they had put into their charges against Jesus.
It was obvious for all to see that they were envious of Jesus in oh so many ways.
His ability to speak to the crowds with power and authority, not like their dry way that excited no one.
His way with words to not only deflect their verbal attacks, but to expose their inner weaknesses and sin.
His power to heal and even raise the dead – who can compete with that?
Christ’s real offense was His great influence with the people.
And their envy, their self-interest, had soured their heats to the point of holding a rigged trial that broke just about every rule in the book. They were motivated, even glad, to bring excruciating pain to Jesus. They were bitter to the point that right and wrong no longer mattered, only getting Jesus out of their hair once and for all. His pain was their gain.
And when Pilate asked if they wanted “the king of the Jews,” he knew exactly what they were saying. This wasn’t just some phrase they made up, or just happened to say. No, he knew that it meant something special to the Jewish leaders. It was said to stir up and divide the crowd and their leaders.
Pilate was too smart, with way too much sense and sensitivity when it came to dealing with the Jewish leaders. He wasn’t going to let himself be taken advantage of. He was nobody’s fool. He wasn’t about to be played to the point of his own political ruin.
So, after asking the question, the chief priests go into action. They use their power and powers of persuasion to move the crowd. I can just imagine that this is no demure, dignified, deductive, or dispassionate talk. This was a highly emotional, impassioned plea to get the people “on board” to their position.
By themselves, the chief priests didn’t have the votes to condemn Jesus. But with their words, they moved the crowd to their side. And their side was to choose Barabbas, a robber, rabblerouser, and reckless killer.
It’s oh so easy to jump all over Pilate, the chief priests, and even the people for not standing up for the truth. Standing for the right. They let their own agendas and wishes get in the way.
Wait a minute. Does that sound like anyone you know? Anyone you live with? Anyone in your family? Anyone at work? Anyone at church? Anyone reading this?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have to go any further than the mirror to find someone just as guilty. I want what I want. When I want it. Where I want it. How I want it. As one friend put it, “I’m going to do what I’m going to do, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop me.”
We’re all like this. And we didn’t have to sign up for any class or watch a DIY video series on how to have a breakthrough into selfishness. There’s no advanced degree on how to get better, and even perfect, selfishness. We don’t have to pay a registration fee to learn the secrets of selfishness.
We come that way. Standard. Right from the factory.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
But the really, really good news is in the words that follow.
and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
In a sense, God went fishing for us. He came where we were, offering grace and forgiveness that’s free to us. But it cost God dearly to pay the price in and through Jesus Christ. When we get a hold of this, it will wildly transform and revolutionize our entire life.