Mark 15:6-15 (ESV)
6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
Legally, Pilate had the authority to pardon whomever he chose, whenever he wanted. But rulers would often offer the release of a prisoner during festive occasions to curry favor with the masses. The crowd asked Pilate to act according to custom and release a prisoner in honor of the Passover festival. So Pilate allowed the crowd to decide whom they wanted released in this gesture of goodwill. Pilate asked them if he should let Jesus go. Contrary to Pilate’s expectations, the crowd begged for the release of Barabbas instead. Barabbas was a robber and a murderer who was part of an uprising; he probably sought to stir up trouble for Rome. The crowd begged for the freedom of this criminal, and the execution of the Son of God. Now Pilate realized something was fishy about all of this. Verse 10 says Pilate “perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up.” The word used for “envy” can also be translated as “jealousy.” The chief priests didn’t like that Jesus had won the honor and favor of the people. They wanted the praise Jesus received to go to them. Pilate recognized that they didn’t bring Jesus before him because Jesus was a threat to Rome. Instead, Jesus was a threat to the religious leaders. They wanted things to stay as they were, and they didn’t want anyone, even God, to change it up.
What’s discouraging in all of this is that even though Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, he “wished to satisfy the crowd” (v. 15). Pilate ordered the scourging of Jesus, which was a hideous and horrific way of preparing a prisoner for crucifixion. When one was scourged, he was strapped down and beaten with a leather whip. These whips had bits of metal and bone attached to the leather that worked to rip open the flesh of the prisoner and literally tear it apart. All of this was to begin the death process and possibly shorten the time of execution on the cross. Pilate allowed Jesus to suffer so that Pilate wouldn’t personally face rejection from the people and even his leaders. Have you allowed another person to suffer so that you could avoid rejection or mistreatment? Followers of Christ should never compromise what they know to be true out of self-preservation. If you have dodged suffering to avoid the negative actions and attitudes of others, decide to make the necessary changes and be honest today.