Jesus and Barabbas

(Matthew 27:15-26)

Jesus stood before the governor Pilate for judgement. Pilate could find nothing wrong by which to judge him in spite of the fierce accusations made by the chief priests. So Pilate wishing to release Jesus offered to set him free, as his custom was to release one prisoner at the Passover feast. So in order to polarise the decision of the people he put up two prisoners for them to choose; Jesus and Barabbas.

Barabbas was a criminal of some infamy at the time. Pilate judged that when offered two choices between a righteous man and a notorious criminal, the people would choose the good man over the evil man. However the chief priests understood psychology and the mentality of the mob. So they incited the crowd by placing a few people in it to whip up a frenzy of emotion and to have the mob choose the evil Barabbas over Jesus Christ.

Pilate’s wife sent word to him not to have anything to do with the judgement of Jesus. She had dreamed about Jesus and suffered anguish over him in her dream, so she warned her husband. When Pilate saw that the crowd was swinging towards Barabbas he asked them what they would have him do with “Jesus who is called Christ.” The emissaries of the priests now had sway with the mob and they then incited the crowd to have Jesus Christ put to death. So violent was this mob that they were at the point of rioting. So Pilate literally washed his hands of the matter. He took a bowl of water and before them all washed his hands saying, I am innocent of this mans blood; see to it yourselves.”

The mob mentality had complete control and they responded saying, “His blood be on us and on our children.” And at this saying Pilate released Barabbas and handed Jesus over to the will of the priests to have him put to death. Jesus had said that all the righteous blood of the prophets spilled on account of the word of God would come upon this generation. He said, “Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:36) And here we see that the mob took this on themselves. Thus Jesus said also of the chief priests, “Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.” (Matthew 23:38) As a result of their action in condemning and killing the Lord, the house of the chief priests, which was the temple worship, has become desolate and fading away, for it has been replaced now by the spiritual worship we have in Christ Jesus. This could not occur until he had died and been rejected by the priests and the people.

We can learn much from this. The mentality of a mob is not like the mentality of an individual. The devil likes mobs because they are not ruled by reason and logic, but by emotion. It is not hard to sway a mob once there is a head of momentum. In physics and nuclear reactions they talk about a reaction reaching a critical mass where the reaction just builds of its own accord with no outside ignition. That is what a mob mentality is like. They sway in accordance with the emotions of the rest of the mob and they innately pick up the moods of the mob to unite as if a single organism. Mobs are ruled by the powerful emotions: hate, anger, racism, fear, wrath and blood lust. Even football crowds suffer a mob mentality for their emotions run high, and if there is a negative event they too can become quite violent.

We need to learn from this. In Christ we stand as individuals and are being trained to think and act based upon reason. One of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 is self-control. Indeed all of the fruits of the Spirit are not the fruits of the mob mentality but of the individual. And this is how we stand before Christ and will stand before the judgement seat of God. We will stand as individuals giving account of ourselves. There will be no mob to hide amongst, for that is the power of the mob, the ability to do evil incognito.

For us then who choose the path of Christ, let us look to Jesus and learn to stand in our own right. Just because a hundred, thousand or million people may believe something and go one way does not make it right. We need to learn for ourselves and be guided by the Holy Spirit as individuals. Learn from the Bible. The Lord has put his teachers and preachers into the church to help us grow, but we need to ensure even what they are preaching is correct. Weigh all things against the word. Ask, seek and knock on the Lord’s door for him to open the truth and he will answer you.

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