Notwithstanding, the chief priests and elders were fully determined to use every means at their disposal to destroy their rival.  They gathered together a multitude to join them in requesting that Barabbas, who was a robber and murderer, should be released.  It has often been wondered by some whether some of this multitude were the very same ones who but days earlier were shouting hosannas to the son of David as He entered Jerusalem on the foal of an ass.  Knowing the fickleness of crowds, it is easy to imagine that this was the case.  But whoever composed this crowd, it is tragically revealing of the desperate hardness and wickedness of the hearts of men.  We witnessed earlier in Matthew that, when Jesus had healed the Gadarene demoniac by sending the devils into the herd of swine, the people begged Him to depart.  Thus they plainly showed that they preferred their livestock to the gracious Son of God.  Here we see the Jewish multitude descending to an even fouler depth, demanding of the governor that he release a rebel and murderer, and have Jesus crucified.  Wicked, unregenerate man prefers the vilest of criminals to the Son of God.  And this is surely because even upstanding citizens, who are still unbelievers, have much more in common with the scum of society than they do with the Lord Jesus.  His very sinless presence stands as an accusation against their guilt, and therefore they prefer the bandit roaming the streets rather than have Him survive another day.  What a devastating picture this is of the wickedness of our hearts!  Let none of us think that, unless God had already opened our hearts, we should not have been there with the crowd, tumultuously shouting that Barabbas be released, and Jesus crucified.

Pilate was sure they would never wish a violent criminal free on the streets again, and therefore asked whether they preferred Barabbas or Jesus.  But their hearts were already stirred with implacable rage against the righteous Christ, and therefore they requested Barabbas.  Apparently troubled by this, Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus which is called Christ (even the Roman governor knew that Jesus claimed to be the Jewish Messiah).  The chief priests and elders, along with the bloody-minded multitude, demanded that He be crucified.  Nothing less than the most excruciating and humiliating form of execution would do to satiate their lust for His blood.  In showing such hatred towards the Son of God, they show that the wicked hearts of men would like to so cruelly dethrone and slaughter the Almighty Himself, if only such power was within their grasp.  This, again, pictures the heart of every unregenerate man, for he cannot bear the presence of a God Who commands perfect conformity to His law, and threatens with eternal destruction those who do not bow to Him.

Astounded by this, the governor asked, “What evil hath He done?”  He knew Jesus to be an innocent man, and was certain that they had no legitimate charge which they could make stick against Him.  But the more he attempted to reason with them in Jesus’ favor, the more enflamed they became, and the louder they cried out for His crucifixion.

Now Pilate’s resolve wilted.  He was anxious that Jesus should be released, but certainly the life of one Jewish preacher was not worth permitting a tumult in an already unstable section of the Roman empire.  Fearful lest the disturbance get out of hand, in an act of great moral cowardice, he assented to their demands.  But to show he wished nothing to do with this ugly business, he had a basin of water brought, and washed his hands before the multitude, declaring that he was innocent of the blood of “this just person,” and that all the blame should rest upon the Jewish leaders and the bloodthirsty multitude.  We can be certain that God did not hold him guiltless in this greatest outrage of justice ever to be perpetrated on the face of His earth.  But the Jews were fully willing to accept the blame of His death upon themselves, and prophetically cried out, “His blood be upon us and on our children!”  Little did they realize what a terrible malediction they wished upon themselves.  The apostle Paul, not many years later, would write that, in consequence of their murder of their own prophets and the Lord Jesus, “wrath was come upon them to the uttermost.”  When we see the millions being slaughtered by each other and the Romans in 70 A.D., we are seeing their rejection of God’s Messiah being avenged by the righteous Judge.  I am firmly convinced that all the misery and anguish of the Jewish people over the succeeding centuries is God’s judgment for this imprecation that the murderers of Christ wished upon themselves.  From Titus Vespasian, and down the centuries through Czars and monks, to Hitler and Hammas, God has exacted a terrible revenge against the people who were so highly favored by Him, and yet rejected and murdered the Messiah He had promised to their fathers.  Surely, the blood of Christ was both upon His murderers and their children, and I am convinced will continue to be so, until they repent and seek the Lord their God and David their king.