Why Did The Crowd Choose Jesus Instead of Barabbas?

Patricia L. Dickson

Matthew 27:19-23

19 While he was seated on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous and innocent Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21 The governor said to them, “Which of the two do you wish me to set free for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all replied, “Let Him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what has He done that is evil?” But they continued shouting all the louder, “Let Him be crucified!”

There are four accounts of the life of Christ (the son of God) recorded in the New Testament books: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each gospel tells the same story through four different perspectives. The four gospels follow Jesus’ ministry from its beginning at age thirty, to His death on the cross at age thirty-three. Throughout Christ’s ministry, the gospels recount the many miracles that He performed. Jesus is always described as being full of compassion as He performs such miracles as opening blind eyes, healing leprosy, feeding the multitudes or forgiving a woman caught in the act of adultery. Yet, after performing hundreds of miracles (so many that they could not be recorded John 21:25) it was Jesus whom the crowd chose to condemn to death rather than the murderer Barabbas. In fact, they chose to outright free Barabbas.

Surely there were people in the crowd that had benefited in some way from Jesus’ ministry. Was one of the ten former lepers whom Jesus healed amongst that crowd? What about the lame man that Jesus healed in Matthew 9:6-7, was he in the crowd? Could the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years (Luke 8:43-48) or the Centurion soldier (whom Jesus healed his servant in Luke 7:6-10) have been in that crowd shouting let Him be crucified? How could the crowd be so easily persuaded by the chief priest and elders (who from all accounts had really done nothing for them) to choose to condemn Jesus, who even Governor Pilate said was innocent of any crime, and in turn free a murderer? This is a question that I have often pondered.

Perhaps they feared the chief priest and elders more than they feared Barabbas. Why else would they be willing to free a murderer back into the community? However; that does not answer the question of why when asked by Pilate of what to do with Jesus, the crowd shouted crucify Him. Not only did they wish to have Jesus condemned to death, they were willing to let the responsibility of His innocent blood fall on them and their children:

Matthew 27:24-26

24 So when Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but rather that a riot was breaking out, he took water and washed his hands [to ceremonially cleanse himself of guilt] in the presence of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this [righteous] Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “Let [the responsibility for] His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 So he set Barabbas free for them; but after having Jesus severely whipped (scourged), he handed Him over to be crucified.

It appears that the crowd harbored a hatred for Jesus more than anything else. But how could they hate someone who had only done good? My mother used to always say that the way to make an enemy is to help someone. I thought she was crazy until I experienced it myself. To explain the crowds hatred for Jesus requires stating the truth. Jesus was a sinless man walking amongst sinful men. Scriptures teaches us that Jesus is the light of the world:

John 8:1

12 Once more Jesus addressed the crowd. He said, “[a]I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Light will always expose darkness. Although Jesus may have healed members of the crowd’s physical ailments, their hearts were still dark (by choice). When given the choice of (what they thought) would eliminate the light walking amongst them that exposed their darkness, they chose to have Jesus killed. They felt more comfortable with Barabbas freely walking amongst them because he could not expose their darkness. Although they may not have been murderers, they were guilty of sin. All sin darkens man’s heart. People would rather associate with someone who will engage in the same sins as them. As the old saying goes, misery loves company. Birds of a feather, flock together. This saying is true regardless of the type of relationship of the people. One of my colleagues and his wife are big drinkers. So much so that they even try to force their teenage daughter to drink (she complained to me about it). While attending a party at another of our colleague’s home last summer, I met their college aged son who was home for the summer (he noticed that I was the only adult not drinking). He told me that he didn’t drink alcohol (that alone is commendable and unheard of for most college kids) and that his parents kept trying to force him to. I asked his parents why they were insistent that their son drink alcohol when he clearly did not want to. Instead of being proud of their son who probably faced peer pressure all the time at college, their response was that he (their son) was too good and he needed to be like them. He probably makes them feel uncomfortable at home when they are drinking.

The crowd that condemned Jesus to death were looking for a way to rid themselves of the constant bright light shining on their sins. However, they did not recognize that He was the only one that could free them of their sins. It is natural for men to seek ways to heal what physically ails them and yet ignore his or her spiritual ailments. Jesus Christ is able to heal us and cleanse us from all unrighteous. When Jesus comes to live inside of us, we become the light of the world. And there is nothing that can put out our light except sin.



1 Comments on “Why Did The Crowd Choose Jesus Instead of Barabbas?”

  1. Patricia thought you might like this. I am Bill Julian Trump Supporter and Christian on Twitter. This by John MacArthur

    Through the creation of the world these things are not muddy but they’re what? Clearly seen, being easily understood by the things that are made. You say, “Well, in the time that the Bible was written people didn’t have science. I mean, could they see things?” Oh they could probably see some things clearer than we can see them. We’ve just about blotted out nature with concrete.

    In ancient times before the microscope and the telescope, men were able to reflect on the vastness of the universe. They were able to understand the fixed order of heavenly bodies. They could pick up a flower and see how marvelously the petals were arranged. They could look at how the leaves attached themselves to the stem. They saw the cycle of the water as it evaporated into the clouds and was carried over the land and deposited.

    They understood the mystery of human birth. They saw it. And they saw a growth. They knew the glory of a sunrise and the majesty of a sunset. They knew the rolling and the roaring of the seas, and the rushing of the rivers, and the trickle of a brook, and the flight of a bird, and the caterpillar that came out a butterfly.

    And they looked up and saw what the Psalmist saw in chapter 19 when he said, “The heavens declare – ” what? “ – the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork.” They knew what the Psalmist had in mind also in Psalm 94:9. “He who planted the ear, shall he not hear? he who formed the eye, shall he not see?” In other words, they said, “If we can hear, then whoever made us must understand hearing. If we can see, He must see. If we can think, He must think. And you can carry it all the way out.

    Sure they understood God. They understood about His nature from what they saw in their world. In Psalm 143:5 says the Psalmist, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.” I sit here and I contemplate what You’ve done, he says. Even in the non-sophisticated world then by our standards, they sat in awe of the creation.

    Look at Job. You just read through Job and see the staggering statements of that book about the creative power of God and the revelation of His nature. But just think about some things. Let me just tell you how you can see God in creation. Do you know that some birds navigate by the stars when they migrate? And do you know that if you raise birds, these kinds of birds, from eggs inside a building – they’ve never been out of the building – and if you show them an artificial sky – and this has been done in scientific experiment – representing a place their species have never been, they will immediately orient themselves to the proper place to which to migrate. Now you tell me how they know that.

    There is a special fish that I’ve enjoyed reading about called the archerfish. It gets its food like all other fish. It just swims around, and opens its mouth, and takes its food. But they have the amazing ability to fire drops of water with great accuracy and knock insects out of the air.

    And did you know that there is a little thing called the bombardier beetle who produces chemicals which mix perfectly and at the right moment explode in the face of his enemy, but the explosion never occurs prematurely and never blows him up?

    Think about the hydrological cycle of water, which just absolutely staggers my mind. Water is lifted against gravity from the sea thousands of feet into the air, and there it is suspended, just suspended, collected in clouds, and then the clouds are floated over the land and they’re dropped.

    Now we can’t invent a machine to do that, so God has one and it’s the sun, and it does it all an it’s only 93 million miles away. No wonder the Psalmist says, “Power belongs to God.” No wonder he says, “The greatness of his power.” No wonder Nahum says, “The Lord is great in power.” And Isaiah says, “The Lord God is everlasting strength.” And no wonder the Psalmist in chapter 65 says, “Who by his power establishes the mountains.”

    You know scientists have always tried to say it’s all evolution and it’s all explained by certain circumstances, and so forth apart from God, but they’re really running out of the ability to say that. They’re fast losing their case.

    Robert Jastrow, for example, who is an astrophysicist and currently the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for space study says this. “Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the biblical view of the origin of the world. The essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same. It wasn’t evolution at all,” says Jastrow. “It asks what cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter or energy into the universe? And science cannot answer.”

    He goes on, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance. He is about to conquer the highest peak, and as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who’ve been there for centuries.”

    Great statement. In other words, when you study science the conclusion is God created the world. And today with the 200 inch telescope at Mount Palomar, astronomers can look into space for 4 billion light years. If you don’t understand that, try 25 sextillion miles. Do you know how much space that alone would make, as far as they can see? Seven times ten to the sixty-seventh power cubic inches of space.

    If someone had been examining this large of volume at the rate of one million billion cubic miles a day since the universe began, he’d be just a little shy of halfway done. And the universe that we see with that telescope is a small piece of actual space. Can you imagine the power? Then some pea brain comes along and says, “Well, once there was a one-celled thing, said to itself, ‘Let’s be two.’ ” And away they went.

    A press bulletin from the University of Alberta in Canada said, “It may be surprising to people in a temperate climate to hear that there are on the average of 1,800 storms in operation at any time, and the energy expended in these storms amounts to the almost inconceivable figure of 1,300,000,000 horsepower. A large Caterpillar machine has 420 horsepower requiring 100 gallons of fuel a day. How much fuel does God have to operate storms with a horsepower of one 1,300,000,000 everyday?”

    A Canadian physicist wrote, “A rain of 4 inches over an area of 10,000 square miles would require the burning of 640 million tons of coal to evaporate enough water for such a rain. And to cool again the vapors thus produced, and collect them in clouds would take another 800 million horsepower of refrigeration working night and day for 100 days.”

    Agricultural specialists, for example, have found the average farmer in Minnesota, free of charge, gets 407,510 gallons of water per acre per year. That’s what the Lord gives him, nearly half a million gallons of water a year for his farm, no charge.

    Where does God get all the power to be moving this stuff around? Missouri has 70,000 square miles, and 38 inches average rainfall. That amount of water is equal to a lake 22 feet deep, 250 miles long and 60 miles wide. And God moves that water around just in that one state alone.

    The U.S. Natural Museum says insect species now number 10 million. And I know, and they were all at your last picnic, right? Do you realize there are 2,500 kinds of ants? And one colony alone can have 100 million ants. Do you know there are 5 billion birds in America? Some can fly 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico. Did you know that mallards can fly 60 miles an hours, eagles 100 miles an hour and a falcon can dive at a 180? I know you didn’t know that codfish can lay 9 million eggs, but they can.

    The earth is 25,000 miles in circumference. It weighs 6 septillion 588 sextillion tons, and hangs in empty space, and spins at 1,000 miles an hour with perfect precision so that time is kept to the split second, and at the same time careens through space around the sun in an orbit of 580 million miles at 1,000 miles a minute.

    Did you know that the head of a comet may be from 10,000 to 1 million miles long and the tail as long as 100 million miles and travel at 350 miles per second? Now where is the force for all of this? Halley’s Comet, by the way, has traveled without stopping for gas for 76 years.

    Consider the human heart. It’s the size of your fist, weighs less than half a pound. Your heart pumps 1800 gallons of blood a day. Your heart does enough work in 12 hours to lift 65 tons 1 inch off the ground.

    Consider the sun. The sun burns up 4 million tons of matter a second. If you could convert the energy the sun gives off to horsepower, you’d wind up with 500 million million billion horsepower. If that’s too big to handle, that’s the same as one and a half million million billion Corvettes.

    Think of the distance from the sun. The distance from the earth to the sun is 93 million miles, as I said. It takes the light from the sun traveling at 186,000 miles a second, 8 and a half minutes to get here. The speed of light is 186,000 miles a second, and if you take that speed of 186,000 miles a second going 60 seconds a minute, 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, that light travels over 6 trillion miles in one year. And yet, if you were to go across our galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy, where our star system is, going at 186,000 per second, 6 trillion miles a year, it would take you 125,000 years to get across our galaxy, and ours is one of millions. Now if you’re screaming “mercy,” I’ll quit.

    Now consider how small we are. Atoms are not visible. We know they exist, but to this day no one has ever seen an atom. They’re so small it takes 3 atoms to make up 1 water molecule, and if you were to take every water molecule in 1 drop of water and blow them up so each molecule was the size of a grain of sand you’d have enough grains of sand to make a road 1 foot thick, half mile wide, and the road would go from Los Angeles to New York.

    But did you know the atom is mostly empty space? The actual material – and this fascinates me – in an atom takes up one trillionth of the atom’s volume. And what you really have is a lot of little orbits. Everything is mostly empty space. For example, if the average person had all the space squeezed out of him, how much volume do you think he’d occupy? Take a person who is 6 feet tall and all the actual mass that’s in him, when all the space is squeezed out, he would fit on the head of a pin for he would occupy one one hundred millionth of a cubic inch. So don’t argue when somebody says you’re nothing.

    But you want to hear something amazing? That one, one hundred millionth of a cubic inch would be so heavy that a full cubic inch of that would weigh a billion or more pounds. Incredible.

    Listen, if God says He’s visible in His creation, then He’s visible in His creation. You can see the eternal power. You can see the divine nature of God. You can look at creation, and so can a Canaanite, or a Philistine, or an Egyptian, or anybody living in any period of history up until today, and he’s going to see that God is. There has to be a cause for all this effect. There has to be a designer for all this design.

    I mean when somebody tells me it just happened, that makes no more sense than saying take your watch apart, put all the pieces in your pocket, and see how long you have to shake your pants before you hear a tick. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Design speaks of a designer. And so you know God is. And if you know God is, you know God is powerful, and you know God is divine.

    And that’s why the end of verse 20 says men are “without excuse.” Everybody living on the face of this earth has experienced God, His wisdom, His power, His generosity in every moment of their existence, though they have not recognized Him He’s been there. He has bounded their lives. He’s been sustaining them. He’s been enriching them. He’s been giving Himself to them. And in their senses, they have perceived Him. So that they are without excuse.

    And as the Old Testament says, “A wayfaring man, though he be a fool, need not err.” Yes, general revelation is the foundation of all condemnation. General revelation is the foundation of all condemnation. Men have the opportunity because God is evident everywhere.

    That’s only the first of four points, but my time is gone, and the best is yet to come. Let’s pray together.


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