Matthew 27:11-23 (ESV)
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. 15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
After the chief priests and elders bound Jesus, they sent him to trial before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, who asked Jesus whether he was the King of the Jews. This question is recorded in all four gospels, and the “you” is emphatic, meaning, “Are YOU the King of the Jews?” It is as if Pilate were looking at Jesus and thinking, “Wow! This guy is not what I expected. There’s no way he’s going to try to take over Rome.” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” The religious leaders accused Jesus of many other things, but Jesus refused to answer them. This amazed Pilate. This was no ordinary trial, and Pilate recognized that Jesus should not have been there. He knew Jesus was on trial because the religious leaders were jealous of him (v. 18). To top it off, Pilate’s wife was tormented in a dream about Jesus. She realized he was innocent too. At the time, as an act of mercy, one prisoner was customarily released during the Passover. Pilate offered to release one of the two prisoners there, certain they would choose Jesus. The other prisoner was a man named Barabbas, a murderer. Pilate figured even though the religious leaders didn’t support Jesus, the crowd certainly would. And he couldn’t imagine them choosing the murderer over the Messiah. But Pilate was wrong. The crowd wanted Barabbas released and Jesus killed.
Just days before, this same crowd “rolled out the red carpet” for Jesus and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” They were thrilled by the thought of their Messiah finally delivering them from Roman rule. Now the very same crowd chanted, “Crucify!” over and over again like frenzied fans at a football game. They didn’t get what they wanted from Jesus, and they were done with him. Many people today treat Jesus the same way. They get involved with Christianity, they find their lives don’t “improve,” and they toss him off saying, “I tried Jesus. He didn’t work for me.” If you feel frustrated because your life, even as a Christian, is still hard, remember that while things may seem unfinished here, they will all come together in God’s kingdom. Don’t forget that Jesus came to do God’s will, not ours. As a result, even though we still struggle physically, our spiritual need has been satisfied.