Now it was the custom at festival-time for the governor to release any prisoner whom the people chose. And it happened that at this time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they assembled to make the usual request, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to set free, Barabbas or Jesus called Christ?” For he knew very well that the latter had been handed over to him through sheer malice. And indeed while he was actually sitting on the Bench his wife sent a message to him—“Don’t have anything to do with that man! I went through agonies dreaming about him last night!” But the chief priests and elders persuaded the mob to ask for Barabbas and demand Jesus’ execution. Then the governor spoke to them, “Which of these two are you asking me to release?” “Barabbas!” they cried.
It was an old custom during the Feast for the governor to pardon a single prisoner named by the crowd. At the time, they had the infamous Jesus Barabbas in prison. With the crowd before him, Pilate said, “Which prisoner do you want me to pardon: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus the so-called Christ?” He knew it was through sheer spite that they had turned Jesus over to him.
Now the governor had a custom. During the great Jewish festival of Passover, he would allow the crowd to pick one of the condemned men, and he, Pilate, would set the man free. Just like that. Gratuitous, gracious freedom.
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