A Study of Matthew 27:20-22
“But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.” (Matthew 27:20-22)
The will of the people had spoken. It was not at all proper that a question such as whether Jesus be the Christ, the Son of God, should be submitted to a vote of the people. A shameful act it was on the part of Pilate to present the nomination of Jesus and Barabbas and to leave the preference to the will of the people. By that very act he trampled all justice underfoot. But it had been done. No doubt, God so willed it. For also the people, the majority of the world, had to express themselves on the crucial question, what will you do with Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God?
Let us not become pious and exalt ourselves above the multitude that chose and expressed preference for a murderer above the Holy One. Let us not draw the wrong conclusion that the multitude before the praetorium who preferred Barabbas above Jesus was an ignorant lot, a mob that knew not what they were doing, and that if we had been there, we of the enlightened twenty-first century, we who are so much more refined, civilized, educated, religious, we would have condemned Barabbas to the cross and voted in favor of Jesus. For then you and I deceive ourselves. The voters who cast their ballots for Barabbas, the murderer, were fully capable of representing any group of voters of all times, casting their ballot for or against Jesus, the Christ. They were religious people. They had Moses and the prophets. The word of God had been entrusted to them. They were well informed. And their choice represented the choice of the whole world apart from grace, the will of the natural man.
Always when the question concerning Jesus who is called Christ is submitted to a vote of the people, to be decided by the will of the world, the answer must be, “Give us Barabbas, and let Jesus be crucified!” Always when Jesus who is called Christ is presented to the will of the natural man, he will surely prefer darkness to light, the murderer above the Holy One, Barabbas to Jesus, and the world above Christ. “Now is the judgment of this world.” By its own testimony it is condemned. “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). Oh, let that world put on a cloak of righteousness and justice, it would be of no avail to them. Let them refuse to enter the praetorium, lest they become defiled and incapable of eating the passover (18:28). All their religiousness could not alter the fact that they stood forever exposed as friends of the murderer and enemies of the Holy One. Let them take two other malefactors; yes, by all means, let them take two thieves and crucify them together with Christ to attest to their own severe justice and hatred of all unrighteousness. No number of executions could undo the fact that they had revealed themselves as lovers of unrighteousness and haters of the good. Sin had been forever exposed to be sin through the cross of Jesus that is called the Christ.
With that sin upon himself, Christ proceeded to the place of execution. For such is the mystery of the cross: in the hour of judgment the rejected and despised Servant of Jehovah bore the sin of the hostile world that had rejected Him and preferred a murderer. He did so by divine appointment before the foundation of the world, as the head of His church. With that sin upon Him He willingly traveled all the way of the cross, by His perfect obedience bringing the sacrifice that took away the sin of the world. Having made atonement for sin, and having been exalted at the right hand of God, by his Spirit and grace Christ changes our wicked preference for Barabbas and all Barabbas represents into a profound and everlasting delight in the friendship and service of the living God.