Jesus, Barabbas and the Rule of the Mob

(Luke 23:13-25)

In one of the worst travesties of so-called justice in history we see here the exchange of the life of the Lord and Saviour of the world for a sinner accused of insurrection, murder and mayhem. And the decision was not based upon truth or justice, but jealousy, envy and the sway of public opinion causing the governor to make this worst of all decisions.mob rule

Jesus Before Pilate

Jesus had been brought before Pilate who examined him and found no wrong in Him. He sent Jesus to Herod for further examination, who likewise found no wrong and returned Jesus to Pilate as the Roman Governor of Judea.

Again Pilate addressed the crowds stating he could find no wrong in Jesus and sought to release him. To try and placate the bloodthirsty mob before him, Pilate offered them a choice. At the time of the Passover feast he had a customer of releasing one prisoner. He gave the people a choice. He offered to free Jesus, who had done only good things in his life and Pilate knew was under arrest because of jealousy and envy, or he offered to free Barabbas who was a career criminal imprisoned for murder and insurrection in the city.


The people knew of Barabbas for he was a high profile criminal. His reputation was widely known for he was described as a rebel in the prison in addition to having mounted an insurrection in the city and carried out murder. He is elsewhere described as a robber too. So it is evident he was a man of sin and was well known to the people of the city.

But Pilate, knowing the jealousy of the people tried to appeal to their sensibilities by offering to release either Jesus or Barabbas. He had hoped the people would come to their senses and realise in this contrast that they would choose to set Jesus free, rather than to release a man known to be a great evildoer and troublemaker in the city.

But the plan backfired as the chief priests aroused the people to cry out for the death of Jesus and the release of Barabbas.

Mob Rule

The power of the mob was evident on that fateful day. They raised their voices as one to seek the release of a sinner in place of the Author of Life. They chose sin over righteousness on that day and their fervour for this decision, driven by the coaxing and urgings of the chief priests who had ulterior motives, won the day.

Pilate was swayed to do the bidding of the crowd even though he knew there was no sense in their decision. He gave up on the people and gave up on attempting to appeal to logic and sensibilities, for good sense had fled from the situation as the people gave themselves over to the rule of the mob.

And in the end Pilate ordered Barabbas to be released to the mob and instructed that Jesus be led away to be put to death in accordance with the wishes of the mob.

A Lesson for Today

Mob rule is a dangerous thing. Crowds of people who become single minded about a matter, especially when it is an evil matter are a dangerous thing. We see people rioting and looting and causing all kinds of harm to others when they are taken over by the rule of the mob. They act like a single organism, driven by human passion to do evil. They are led by anger, wrath, malice and fury to do what is wrong.

Beware of the mob and do not go into the company of crowds that may lead to evil things. Unlike Pilate who knew the right thing but could not or did not have the strength to stand against the crowd, we must learn to be strong. In the face of opposition and evil, we must stand up for what is right in the face of opposition, and especially against the rule of the mob.

Just because many people believe a thing does not make it right. In fact there are countless times throughout history where a commonly held belief was discovered to be wrong. It is no different today. Many things that are claimed to be good are not. Many things that are held out as being good are not. Be prepared to stand up for what is right and stand in the will of God. Follow the Lord Jesus Christ and then your reward will be from Him.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Nick Winchester)

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