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Matthew 27:17-18 meaning

"The Passover Pardon": Pilate's Second Attempt to Release Jesus. Pilate offers the crowd a choice as to which prisoner he will customarily release: the notorious prisoner Barabbas or Jesus, called Christ. Matthew points out that Pilate did this because he knew the Jews accused Jesus out of envy. Matthew 27:17-18 begins Matthew's account of the third phase of Jesus's Civil Trial. This phase is called: "Pilate's Judgment."

Mark 15:8-10, John 18:39 are the parallel Gospel accounts of this event.

After interjecting information about the Roman governor's custom to release one prisoner to the Jews at Passover, and mentioning that they held a notorious prisoner called Barabbas in their custody at that time (Matthew 27:15-16), Matthew returns to narrate his account of Jesus's civil trial. 

Matthew's interjection came between his account of the first phase of Jesus's trial (Matthew 27:11-14) and his account of the third phase of Jesus's civil trial (Matthew 27:17-26). Matthew, like Mark and John, skips the second phase of Jesus's civil trial, possibly because it had no effect on the outcome. Luke's Gospel is the only one that gives a detailed record of the second phase (Luke 23:8-12).

The three phases of Jesus's civil trial were:

  1. Jesus's Arraignment before Pilate
    (Matthew 27:1-2, 11-14, Mark 15:1-5, Luke 23:1-7, John 18:28-38)
  2. Jesus's Audience before Herod Antipas
    (Luke 23:8-12)
  3. Pilate's Judgment
    (Matthew 27:15-26, Mark 15:6-15, Luke 23:13-25, John 18:38 - 19:16)

The third phase of Jesus's civil trial was in the same location as the first phase—the Praetorium, the former site of Herod's palace, now being used by Pilate and also as the barracks for his Roman soldiers (John 18:28, 19:9). This event began while it was still morning, most likely sometime around 8:00 a.m. (According to Mark 15:24, Jesus was on the cross at 9:00 a.m.). According to the Jewish calendar the date was probably Nisan 15—the first day of Unleavened Bread. By Roman reckoning, the day was likely a Friday.

To learn more about the timing and sequencing of these events, see The Bible Says' "Timeline: Jesus's Final 24 Hours."

The third phase of Jesus's religious trial began after Jesus returned to Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, from the court of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee (Jesus's home district). 

At the second phase of His civil trial, Jesus was mocked by Herod and dressed in a "gorgeous robe" (Luke 23:11). The Greek term translated as "gorgeous robe" in Luke 23:11 indicates that it was white, which likely signified the white garments that an heir to the throne might wear. By returning Jesus dressed in this manner, it might have been Herod's ironic way to announce his verdict: Jesus was not guilty of the charge of insurrection—He was a wannabe king.

Luke reports that the third phase of Jesus's civil trial began with Pilate summarizing the entire trial's events to that point. Pilate reminded them that they brought Jesus to Him to be judged as one who incites the people to rebellion, that he examined Him, and that he had found no guilt in Him according to their charges. Further, the ruler of His home district of Galilee who happened to be in Jerusalem, Herod Antipas, had also found that Jesus had done no wrong. 

Therefore Jesus would not be put to death (Luke 23:13-15). But recognizing the chief priests' deep resentment and anger over these not-guilty verdicts, Pilate made an extraordinary gesture to them. Despite the fact that both a Roman governor and district tetrarch had each found no fault in Him, Pilate offered to brutally punish Jesus first by Roman flogging, and then release Him (Luke 23:16).

But if Pilate thought that this remarkable measure would appease their hatred, he was wrong. 

It is at this point that Matthew's narration of these events resumes.

Pilate's Offer
So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" (v 17).

Matthew's expression so when the people gathered together is his way of reporting that the third phase of Jesus's trial was underway. Readers may recall that the chief priests and elders were accusing Jesus of many things as He stood silently with Pilate (Matthew 27:12-14) before Matthew made his interjection (Matthew 27:15-17). Everyone was gathered when Matthew cut off his telling of these events. 

Now as Matthew resumes his narration, he begins by saying when the people gathered together (again). This implies that they disassembled and reassembled at some point in between the end of verse 14 and the beginning of verse 17. 

Luke's account of Pilate sending Jesus to Herod, and Herod returning Him to Pilate (Luke 23:7-11) not only affirms that they dispersed and regrouped; but it also describes why they dispersed, where they went, and what happened when they dispersed, and why they re-gathered together before Pilate

This is also the first time that Matthew, like Luke, uses the term—the people—to describe the crowds (Luke 23:13). Throughout their descriptions of the first two phases of Jesus's civil trial, both Gospel writers exclusively used terms such as "chief priests," "elders," "scribes," or "the whole body [of the Sanhedrin Council]" to describe the crowd at Jesus's civil trial (Matthew 27:1, 27:12, Luke 23:2, 23:4, 23:10). 

Mark also appears to make a similar distinction between the religious priests, elders, and scribes from the "crowd" which he begins to mention at this same point in his gospel narration (Mark 15:1, 15:8, 15:10).

Now as Matthew and Luke begin to describe the third phase of Jesus's trial, they introduce what appears to be a new group which they refer to as the people. This seems to indicate as the trial progressed, and relocated across the city and back, and as the morning advanced further into the day, that the crowd expanded from the conspirators-only, to include ordinary people who might have been curious about what the fuss was about so early in the morning. 

It could be that the conspirators had used the time Jesus was sent to Herod to recruit a supportive cast to seed the crowd. Perhaps these were some of the same "false witnesses" the conspirators had recruited (unsuccessfully) for Jesus's religious trial (Matthew 26:59-60). 

As the crowd of people grew, this made the religious leaders' task more perilous (for them) because they had to not only achieve their goal—convince Pilate to execute Jesusthey also had to do so in a way that would not upset the people

Given the political shrewdness of the Pharisees (Luke 20:23), and considering the outcome of the event, it seems likely that this was a carefully selected crowd, since random people who did not necessarily share their animosity toward Jesus, or even admired Him outright, could not be depended upon to insist that Jesus be crucified while avoiding crossing the thin line of creating an insurrection themselves. 

If they got Jesus executed at the expense of losing the respect of the people they sought to control, they would have lost their overarching objective. Their overarching objective was to hold onto their power (Matthew 23:45, 26:3-5, John 11:48-50). They needed to thread this needle. They did so by carefully reframing the confrontation.

With the crowds growing, the religious leaders shrewdly decided to manipulate the people, possibly by leveraging their natural dislike for Pilate and Rome, to join them in a Judea-versus- Rome-type-conflict. Framing mattered a great deal. They did not want this fight as "the religious establishment versus Jesus, the-hoped-for-Messiah." They would lose that fight. They needed it to become a Judean-leadership/Jewish-patriotism versus Roman-leadership conflict. 

We learn from other gospel accounts that Barabbas was actually an insurrectionist (Mark 15:7, Luke 23:19). This only added to the irony, and likely Pilate's clarity that this charge was a sham, that the Jewish leaders were falsely trying to get Jesus crucified as an insurrectionist while advocating for the release of a true insurrectionist. But Barabbas did not threaten their religious power, while Jesus did (John 11:48). The Jewish conspirators now falsely elevated Barabbas as one who actually stood for the Jewish nation, while asserting that Jesus undermined their religion. 

They wanted to frame this conflict as "Who do you want to follow: your Jewish religious leaders or an oppressive Gentile politician?" They framed the choice between Barabbas and Jesus by casting Barabbas as a heroic insurrectionist who hated Rome (like the crowd did). They contrasted this "national hero" with Jesus, who they casted as a boastful blasphemer of God. As is typically the case, whoever won the framing of what the overt fight was about would win the overt fight—which in this case was the trial to release or crucify Jesus

Superficially, enlisting the people to their side had two important advantages. First, it protected their evil conspiracy from becoming exposed because the people's suspicion would be directed at Pilate instead of themselves. And second, it confronted Pilate with Jewish unity, greatly amplifying their arguments and voices, which helped them to prevail (Matthew 27:23-24a, Luke 23:23). 

While there was jeopardy for the Jewish leaders to avoid instigating a riot, there was arguably greater risk for Pilate, as he was on shaky political ground with his Roman overlords. The Jewish leaders will play to this point in their "checkmate" move, when they frame Pilate's verdict as choosing between being loyal to Caesar by crucifying Jesus or betraying Caesar by letting Him go. Their "checkmate" move will be to make the assertion: "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:12). 

In a further and greater irony, to claim that Caesar was king of the Jews was actual blasphemy according to their own law; they were supposed to claim only the one true God as King. So the Jews threatened insurrection and advocated the release of an insurrectionist in order to falsely convict Jesus of insurrection, while committing actual blasphemy to get Jesus crucified for their false accusation that He committed blasphemy. Their wickedness knew no bounds.

Pilate and the Jewish leadership both recognized that to win the trial, they had to win the people. Both made efforts to do this. Pilate seems to have made the first move. His offer to release Jesus is an attempt to drive a wedge between the religious leaders and the people

For he (Pilate) knew that because of envy they (the religious leaders) had handed Him (Jesus) over (v 18). Pilate understood that this was a false charge, and sought to bring Jesus justice while maintaining his political truce with the Jewish leaders. 

Mark makes a similar observation: 

"For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy."
(Mark 15:10)

Matthew and Mark's observations suggest that Pilate was aware of Jesus's immense popularity among the people. As the governor of Judea, he likely would have been informed about Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem because "all the city was stirred" (Matthew 21:10). Pilate also was probably apprised about the crowds that Jesus drew as He publicly taught in the temple, and would have heard reports about how He had repeatedly humiliated the chief priests and elders when they tried to trap Him (Matthew 21:23 - 23:39). 

Moreover, when Caiaphas and the chief priests went to Pilate the night before, to request a Roman cohort to assist in the arrest of Jesus (John 18:3), they may have mentioned Jesus's overturning the tables of their moneychangers in the temple (Matthew 21:12) as an example of the threat Jesus posed to the status quo. 

Pilate was shrewd. He knew the envious motives the priests had when they handed Him over. And apparently, he also knew there were other Jews who deeply admired Jesus. In telling us these things, Matthew and Mark were demonstrating how Pilate, the cunning politician, was attempting to play these two groups of Jews (Jesus's accusers vs. Jesus's admirers) against one another in an attempt to release Jesus without instigating a full-scale riot. 

Matthew and Mark's observation also may help explain at least part of why Pilate was reluctant to quickly hand Jesus over to be crucified. He did not wish to upset the people who admired Him

Pilate may have made the first move to win the people, but the religious leaders quickly made shrewd countermeasures (Matthew 27:20, Mark 15:11). They also had several powerful advantages in the race to win the people to their side. First, they possibly had recruited a number of them who were already on their side (Matthew 26:59-60). They also had the advantage of the people's allegiance to Judea and their dislike of Rome, whom they viewed as an occupying force. 

Another advantage was that the religious leaders (and those they recruited) were seemingly more numerous and were scattered among the crowd. Their intermingling among the people gave them greater opportunities to manipulate the people while Pilate was removed and only spoke to them at a distance. 

Moreover, the Roman governor, though vested with sole legal authority, had to work the people by himself and had to give a significant portion of his attention to the proceedings of the trial while the chief priest and elders could divide their labors, with some focusing on the trial and others persuading the crowd. 

The Evolution of Pilate's Offer According to Mark, Luke, and John
Interestingly, the other three Gospels each seem to indicate that Pilate was responding to events rather than initiating this proposal. 

The Gospel of Mark appears to show that some of the people in the crowd (who may have been at least initially sympathetic to Jesus) were the ones to suggest to Pilate the idea to use his customary "Passover pardon" as a way to release Jesus,

"The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them."
(Mark 15:8). 

The Gospel of John aligns with this indication from Mark. When Pilate first appears to explain to the Jews how he is about to invoke this customary release of a prisoner, Jesus is the only name he speaks in his offer,

"Pilate answered them, saying, 'Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?'"
(Mark 15:9)

"But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?"
(John 18:39). 

Taking both Mark and John's accounts together, it seems as though someone in the crowd suggested to Pilate to use his pardon as a way to release Jesus, and as a shrewd politician, Pilate may have been trying to take advantage of this idea and asked the crowd if they would accept Jesus's release through the use of this customary pardon—hoping that the people in the crowd would "out vote" Jesus's accusers. 

If this was Pilate's intent and this maneuver had worked, it would have been a political victory for Pilate and Rome—especially if the idea originally came from some of the people—because the governor would have used his traditional "pardon" on a prisoner who was already thrice-declared to be innocent instead of having to release a criminal who was actually guilty. 

In the Gospels of Luke and John, the first time Barabbas's name appears is when it is evoked in the shouts of Jesus's accusers. 

"But they cried out all together, saying, 'Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!'"
(Luke 23:18)

"So they cried out again, saying, 'Not this Man, but Barabbas.'"
(John 18:40)

Moreover, the only time Barabbas's name is ever spoken by Pilate is in Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 27:17, 27:21). In the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John, Barabbas's name is only mentioned by the crowds demanding his release (instead of Jesus's) or by the narrator. 

The scene that Mark, Luke, and John describe suggests that when Pilate first presented his "Passover Pardon" to the crowds, the governor only offered Jesus as an option. But crowds unexpectedly proposed the notorious Barabbas as the prisoner-to-be-released when Pilate asked for their answer. 

In other words, they took Pilate's offer and reframed it from being a religious-leaders-versus-Jesus framework to include an option that was more advantageous to their objectives. Instead of 'Jesus released' or 'Jesus executed,' it became 'release the prisoner Rome offers or the prisoner Judea wants.' 

The chief priests and elders seemed to have taken advantage when Pilate was distracted listening to his wife's account of her upsetting dream about Jesus; the religious leaders may  have stirred the crowd into demanding that Pilate release Barabbas (Matthew 27:19-20, Mark 15:11). 

When Pilate finally asked the crowd for their answer, he appears to have been caught off guard by their sudden proposal. So, he asks them again: "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" (Matthew 27:21). By asking the crowds this he adopted the framing of his opponents, and therefore lost the fight. The Roman governor seems to have doomed his efforts to release Jesus by using the "Passover Pardon" once he accepted their reframing of his original proposition. 

This also seems to be the moment that Pilate lost the fight for support to release Jesus from the people. From this moment on everyone seemed to be against him. The religious leaders had effectively won the fight to recruit the people to their side. 

For his part, Pilate will continue (and fail) to try to make this trial about executing or releasing the "King of the Jews"—i.e. their Messiah. The chief priests and religious leaders manage to successfully prevent the people from adopting this framework—ironically by going so far as to blasphemously say: "we have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15).

Matthew's Thematic Connection of Pilate's Offer to The Day of Atonement
Matthew's account does not describe the evolution of Pilate's offer to the crowd to choose between Jesus or Barabbas. From the outset, Matthew seems to present Pilate's mature and final offer after the governor incorporated the crowd's reframing, where both prisoners are presented as choices (Matthew 27:21). He presented this when he wrote: whom do you want me to release for you—Barabbas, or Jesus?

Matthew may have skipped the details describing the evolution of Pilate's offer for the sake of simplicity. However, simplicity is not Matthew's only reason for only stating Pilate's final/mature offer instead of describing its evolution as the other Gospels seem to do. He seems to be trying to connect this event with important themes from the Book of Leviticus for his target audience of Jewish readers. 

Specifically, Matthew appears to be trying to associate the chief priest's choice to liberate Barabbas and condemn Jesus with the priestly rituals on the annual Day of Atonement. On this annual festival day, the priests chose one goat to sacrifice and one goat to set free. This ritual is described in Leviticus 16.

The high priest was to "take from the congregation…two male goats for a sin offering" (Leviticus 16:5). After offering a bull as a sacrifice for himself (Leviticus 16:6), the high priest would then "take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting [and] cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat" (Leviticus 16:7-8). 

In Hebrew, the terms יְהֹוָה (H3068—pronounced: "Ye-hō-vâh") and עֲזָאזֵל (H5799—pronounced: "az-āw-zēl") were used to designate each goat. "Yehovah" is God's proper name and is translated as "the LORD" in this verse. "Az-āw-zēl," the term translated as "scapegoat" in Leviticus 16 is derived from the name of one of Lucifer's fallen angels according to Jewish tradition. The idea Leviticus 16 is portraying with these terms is that one of the goats is Yehovah's (the LORD's) goat, the other is Azāwzēl's goat.

The priest was to offer the LORD's goat as a sacrificial sin offering (Leviticus 16:9). This sin offering would be "for the people" (Leviticus 16:15). The LORD's goat would be sacrificed "because of the impurities of the sons of Israel and because of their transgressions in regard to all their sins" (Leviticus 16:16). 

As for Azāwzēl's goat (translated as "scapegoat") the high priest:

"shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness."
(Leviticus 16:21)

The image is that Azāwzēl's goat is allowed to live free and wild in the wilderness far away from the people, even as it bears on itself all the people's iniquities (Leviticus 16:22).

The person who released Azāwzēl's goat "shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water" (Leviticus 16:26).

According to Rabbinic tradition, these two goats were to be a perfect match and as identical as possible. 

So, what is the thematic link Matthew seems to be suggesting between this prescribed ritual for the Day of Atonement from the Law of Moses, and Pilate's offer of Jesus or Barabbas?

He seems to be suggesting that Jesus is the LORD's goat that the priests chose for slaughter, and that Barabbas is Azāwzēl's goat who is released to go free. 

Consider how Jesus fulfills the role of the LORD's goat which is sacrificed on the Day of Atonement for the sins of Israel:

  • Jesus was from among the sons of Israel (Matthew 1:1-17).
  • Jesus was Yehovah—the LORD—who came "to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
  • Isaiah prophesied that "the LORD caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (Isaiah 53:6) Additionally Isaiah prophesied that Messiah would: 
    • suffer "like a lamb that is led to slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7
    • be "cut off from the land of the living" (Isaiah 53:8
    • "render Himself as guilt offering" (Isaiah 53:10)
    • "justify the many as He will bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:11)

     

  • Caiaphas, the high priest the year Jesus was crucified, "prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (John 11:51b-52).
  • The priests chose Jesus as the LORD's goat to be killed when they directed the crowd to demand that Pilate "crucify Him!" (Matthew 27:22).
  • Jesus would die for the ungodly (Roman 5:6) as the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2).
  • Jesus "who knew no sin [was made] to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • "The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, [is able to] cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14).

Consider how Barabbas functions as "Azāwzēl's goat (the scapegoat)" in the Day of Atonement:

  • Barabbas is widely presumed to have been from among the sons of Israel.
  • Barabbas is set free.
  • The priests chose Barabbas to be set free by directing the crowds to yell Barabbas when Pilate asked them "which of the two shall I release for you?" (Matthew 27:21).
  • Insurrection was confessed upon Barabbas's head when he was convicted of this crime. Azāwzēl's goat has the nation's sins confessed upon his head. Insurrection was Israel's basic sin against God, and insurrection would be the crime for which Rome would destroy Israel forty years later.
  • Unlike many of the named figures associated with Jesus's trial—Barabbas is never heard from again. Even the early church is silent as to what became of him. (It was not until a thousand years later that Medieval Christianity began retroactively creating various legends about Barabbas's life after his release.) In this sense Barabbas is like the Azāwzēl-goat who is banished into the wilderness of history.
  • The individual responsible for Barabbas's release (Pilate) washes with water (Matthew 27:24), in a similar fashion to how the person responsible for the release of the Azāwzēl-goat washes with water after releasing it (Leviticus 16:26). 

Moreover, as was mentioned in The Bible Says commentary for the previous passage (Matthew 27:15-16), Jesus and Barabbas are superficially identical—just as the Rabbinic tradition required of the two goats before they were chosen. Jesus and Barabbas both shared the same title—"son of the father"; and they possibly had the same name—"Jesus"; i.e. Jesus "called Barabbas" (Matthew 27:16); and "Jesus who is called the Christ" (Matthew 27:22). 

All of these things suggest that the reason why Matthew chose to explain Pilate's offer thematically to his Jewish audience, was so that he could link this offer to the two goats on the Day of Atonement. This could explain why Matthew declined to explain the evolution of Pilate's offer like Mark, Luke, and John do. 

For more about this thematic connection, see The Bible Says article "Ransom and Redemption: Jesus and Barabbas as Day of Atonement Symbols."

Additional Ironies and Themes between Barabbas and Jesus
As was pointed out in the previous commentary (Matthew 27:15-16), the ironies and themes between Barabbas and Jesus are astounding.

Barabbas may not have been this prisoner's actual name. It may have been a nickname, or some other expression or term used to describe him.

The word Barabbas has Aramaic origins. It literally means "son of the father" (Bar = "son"; Abbas = "of the father"). 

Thus, this notorious prisoner Barabbas had the same title as Jesus and the same position as every person in their unredeemed state. 

  • Barabbas—"son of the father" like Jesus, who is "Son of the Father." 
  • Barabbas, "son of a father" is a kind of everyman who represents every sinner. 

Interestingly, church tradition suggests that Barabbas's given name was "Jesus." Early church leaders, Origen for instance, claimed that Barabbas was named, "Jesus." Some late Greek manuscripts of Matthew 27:16, 27:17 read: Ἰησοῦν Βαραββᾶν ("Jesus, Barabbas"). 

If this is correct, the notorious prisoner and the Messiah each had the same name and the same title: "Jesus, son of the father." And if Pilate's two prisoners (the notorious insurrectionist; and the Messiah) both shared the same name—"Jesus"—then it makes sense why Matthew wrote "a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas" (Matthew 27:16). 

It also gives further insight into Pilate's expression when he makes his offer to the people. The governor asks: "Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" (Matthew 27:17). Again, some Greek manuscripts of this verse literally read: "Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ." 

Pilate may have been asking the people: "Which Jesus do you want me to release for you: Jesus, who is called Barabbas; or Jesus, who is called Christ?" The add-on descriptions were necessary to distinguish the two, because they were otherwise identical (as the two goats were to be). 

Moreover, Barabbas is guilty of the crime of insurrection, the same crime Jesus was condemned and crucified for (even though He was declared innocent). 

Insurrection against God's rule is the basic source of all sin. Lucifer fell when he sought to ascend to the throne of the most high, placing himself as an authority above God, rather than submitting to Him (Isaiah 14:12-14). Adam and Eve rebelled against God's good command when they saw that the fruit of the forbidden tree would make them like God (Genesis 3:5-6). 

Each of us commit this same basic sin of insurrection and lawlessness every time we follow our own wicked heart instead of submitting to God's perfect rule (1 John 3:4). This is why it is important to confess our sins, and enter God's presence to receive His mercy to cleanse our consciences (1 John 1:9, Hebrews 10:19-22). 

When Pilate eventually releases Barabbas (the notorious prisoner with the same title as Jesus who essentially committed the same sin as every person) and executes God's only begotten Son (Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15, Luke 23:25, John 18:40, 19:16), it is a personal and graphic picture of Jesus's substitutionary atonement and pardon for humanity. 

Every sin was nailed to the cross with Jesus (Colossians 2:14). Jesus died for the sins of the entire world, because of God's love for the world (John 3:16). The sacrifice of Jesus and simultaneous release of Barabbas is perhaps a graphic picture of God's atonement for humanity through Jesus. It is an added picture to the more widely known picture of God's provision of the ram in the place of Abraham's son Isaac (Genesis 22:13). The sacrifice of the ram in the place of Isaac pictures Jesus as the Lamb of God being sacrificed in our place (John 1:29). 

The guilty prisoner Barabbas is freed and allowed to live because the innocent Messiah willfully receives His punishment of death (John 10:18). 

"But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed."
(Isaiah 53:5)

"The LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him."
(Isaiah 53:6)

"He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors."
(Isaiah 53:12)

"The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
(Matthew 20:28

"Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
(John 1:29)

"God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed."
(Romans 3:25)

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
(Romans 5:8)

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
(2 Corinthians 5:21)

"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."
(Colossians 2:13-14)

"Now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
(Hebrews 9:26b)

"For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God."
(1 Peter 3:18)

"He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."
(1 John 2:2)

"And I saw between the throne and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain."
(Revelation 5:6a)

Pilate's offer to release either Barabbas or Jesus was his second attempt to release Jesus. (His first attempt was offering to scourge Jesus, despite His proclaimed innocence—Luke 23:16). The Roman governor will continue to seek His release until he caves to the crowd's demands. 

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