Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 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?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 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.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
(Matthew 27:15-23 ESV)
After the crowd chose Barabbas, a murderer and insurrectionist, to be released from custody instead of Jesus, Pilate asks the question of his life “What shall I do with Jesus?”. There is no more important question that each person on earth must ask themselves. For it is impossible to do nothing with Jesus. Everyone must do something with Him.
The crowd responded by calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. The extreme viciousness of their statement should not be overlooked. Crucifixion was, and is, a barbaric process in which the victim dies slowly and humiliatingly. The Jews abhorred the Roman practice of crucifixion. For them to call for it on one of their own is absolutely shocking and reveals the depth of their hate for Jesus.
Notice that when Pilate asked why they wanted Jesus crucified the crowd didn’t justify their answer. They pointed to no evil that He had done because He had committed no evil.
The crowd wanted Jesus dead because they hated Him and what He stood for. Reason, logic, and facts played no part in their decision. The entire basis for their desire to crucify Jesus was based on the fact that they were offended by Him.
Jesus was righteous and in so being exposed their wickedness. Jesus was holy and in so being exposed them as being unholy. Jesus spoke out against sin in an effort to teach people how to escape hell. But they weren’t interested in avoiding hell; they were interested in continuing their sinful lifestyle here on earth. Doesn’t sound much different from today, does it?
Just like the crowd in this scene that took place 2,000 years ago, people today hate Jesus without justification. They are offended by Him, thinking that He means them harm with His talk about sin and hell. So their solution is to “crucify” Him – eliminate Him from their lives both individually and collectively. But those who do this are either ignorant of the truth or willfully chose to ignore it.
Every one of us is a sinner who deserves to spend eternity separated from God (we call that ‘hell’) [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23, 6:23]. Jesus spoke about hell for the sole purpose of teaching us how to avoid it. Those who think otherwise are operating on a faulty premise, just like the crowd in this scene.
And just like Pilate, the question everyone must ask themselves during their lifetime is “What shall I do with Jesus?”. One can decide to run toward Him or run from Him. One can either be crushed on Him or be crushed by Him [Matthew 21:44]. One can either accept Him or reject Him; love Him or hate Him. There is no way of avoiding the question; there is no neutrality when it comes to Jesus [Matthew 12:30].
But to make the right decision emotions and ego must be jettisoned.
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