Matthew 27:16-20

Mat 27:16 (KJB)
And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.

(Mark 15:7 KJV) And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. Barabbas was a murderer but it was the kind of prisoner the Jews wanted released because he had made insurrection against Rome and no doubt killed some Romans. Israel was looking for a Messiah like Joshua who would throw off the yoke of Rome and Barabbas fit the type. I remember some years ago about 1981-2, the New York Times ran an article on Barabbas claiming that it was Jesus who was released. Barabbas means “son of the father.” So the liberal article claimed that Jesus never went to the cross because He was released, being the “Son of the Father.” The attacks on the life of Christ have only increased since 1982 and they are getting worse.

Mat 27:17 (KJB)
Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?

Now keep in mind that this was no small crowd which assembled. According to Josephus, there were about a quarter of a million people in Jerusalem that weekend but a crowd that size would not have been able to fit in Pilate’s court yet there would have been room for several thousand and no doubt, it was filled with those who were against Jesus. Pilate then hoped that if he brought Jesus out with Barabbas, they would find that Jesus was innocent and would ask for His release. Barabbas was a violent man and Pilate knew if he was released, then it would only be a matter of a short time that he would be in trouble again.

Mat 27:18 (KJB)
For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.

Pilate knew that Jesus was handed over to him because of the envy of the leaders who saw that the common people were very attracted to Jesus and they were fearing that if things did not go back to normal as it was before, then Rome would come and take their country and then take their places as leaders. The leaders were not well loved by their countrymen because the people knew that they were just in those positions to gain wealth and prominence. They did not care about the common people as Jesus did and they knew it.

Mat 27:19 (KJB)
When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.

Pilate here is being given another chance to set Jesus free and not acquiesce to the evil plot of the Jews who wanted Jesus dead. Pilate’s wife had a dream about Jesus and she called Him a “just man.” She urged him to have nothing to do with Him, in other words, let Him go and get these proceedings over with. Apparently the dream was so vivid it may have even been a vision which caused her much consternation and no doubt was a serious warning about Jesus. Even though Pilate had considered Jesus innocent, yet he was ready to crucify Him because of the violent atmosphere of the crowd. Because of Pilate being complicit with the Jews, he too suffered a mysterious death in 39 A.D., only six years after he pronounced sentence on Jesus.

Mat 27:20 (KJB)
But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

Barabbas was probably not very popular with the people assembled at Pilate’s court because it seemed the chief priests and elders had to continually persuade the crowd to shout out in favor of Barabbas. Then there were those who were already against Jesus and did not need any persuading. This crowd was under the authority of the High Priest and no doubt were gathered by his henchmen. The majority of the people had stayed outside of Jerusalem and were the ones a week earlier who cried out “Hosanna” when Jesus came into Jerusalem, so the crowd that called for the crucifixion of Jesus was basically a strict Jerusalem crowd. Their blindness caused them to believe that if they crucified Jesus that it would be the end, little did they know it was just the beginning.