A Notorious Prisoner

Matthew 27:15-23
November 3, 2019
James Shin


Sermon Script

Two months ago, I preached about a story of Jesus and His disciples. Briefly, the story was this, while Jesus was praying, disciples didn’t pray. And then, when Jesus was arrested by a crowd, the disciples ran away from Jesus. In today's passage, after Jesus was arrested, and now he is facing Pontius Pilate. In front of Pontius Pilate, the chief priests and elders are accusing Jesus with false testimonies.

I sometimes remember and miss the certain time when we played “Mafia” game during G5 meetings. It has been a long time since we last played the game. I think we all enjoyed the game. But, I was not good with the game.

Usually, I was accused quickly by other players even though I was not a mafia. I used to become nervous whenever I heard this, “I have an accusation against Pastor James.”

I was sometimes accused with false testimonies, like, “Oh, Pastor James is quiet. Oh, he didn’t say ‘I am a civilian in the beginning.’”

And then, like a lawyer, I began to prove why I was a civilian, not a mafia.

Jesus was also accused by the chief priests and elders with false testimonies; however, Jesus didn’t try to prove or persuade that he was innocent. He just intentionally remained silent. He remained silent to die. And the fact that Jesus didn’t defend himself made Pilate surprised.

Pontius Pilate wanted to release Jesus, because he knew that Jesus was innocent, and Pilate also knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests and elders accused Jesus with false testimonies. Moreover, in verse 19, Pilate’s wife said, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him to today in a dream.” So, there were many reasons why Pilate wanted to release Jesus.

In order to release Jesus, Pilate suggests one tradition. In verse 15 states, “Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted.” In the verse, the feast is referring to Passover. During Passover, the Roman governor used to release one prisoner whom Jewish crowd wanted.

Now, Pilates challenges the crowd by asking one question, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” At that time, Barabbas was notorious prisoner; he was a very well-known criminal among Roman governor and the Jewish people. Barabbas was a murderer and a robber, and he also raised a rebellion.

Since Barabbas was a notorious and well-known criminal who deserved death, Pilate thought that the crowd would choose Jesus rather than Barabbas because Barabbas was a criminal. That was why Pilate suggested the tradition to release Jesus, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

But the crowd chose Barabbas rather than Jesus, and Pilate couldn’t believe their response, because the crowd usually used to choose less dangerous person. For Pilate, Barabbas was more dangerous person than Jesus. Barabbas was the kind of person Roman governor would want to execute.

So, Pilate asked again, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” The crowd didn’t change their mind, they again chose Barabbas. They chose a sinner, but not a righteous person.

In the Mafia game, civilians sometimes make mistakes. Civilians sometimes choose a wrong person, and vote to kill the chosen person, and finally kill the innocent civilian. And then, at the end of the game, Mafia wins the game. I believe that you have already experienced such pattern during Mafia game.

The crowd chose a wrong person. The crowd caused one innocent man to be killed. Pilate finally recognized that the crowd wanted Barabbas to be released. And Pilate was surprised when he heard that the crowd wanted Jesus to be crucified, because Crucifixion was known as most cruel punishment leading to death at that cultural time. And, Pilate asked, “Why? What evil has he done?” But the crowd didn’t know exactly what evil Jesus has done; they just shouted, “Crucify Him!”

Now, Pilate couldn’t win over the voice of the crowd, and finally he decided to release Barabbas the criminal, and delivered Jesus to be crucified. The dangerous prisoner was released, and the righteous man was handed over to be crucified.

Instead of righteous Jesus, the sinner Barabbas became a freeman, and Jesus took his place. There was no condemnation for Barabbas because of Jesus. Barabbas got free from the bondage of sin and death.

Because of his sin and crime, the prisoner Barabbas was about to be crucified with two other robbers, but Barabbas were moved from death to life, and then, Jesus was crucified with the two robbers on Calvary.

The notorious murderer, robber, criminal, and prisoner, Barabbas avoided his crucifixion, and became a freeman. I am not sure if Barabbas gave thanks to Jesus after he was released, but one thing sure is that Barabbas was now released out of the bondage of death because of Jesus.

Like Barabbas, Highland Church, we were also notorious prisoners under the bondage of sin and death. Like Barabbas, we were also sentenced to death. But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners. Christ denied himself, and he took up our cross, and then he died on the cross for us.

Instead of righteous Jesus, we became freemen, and Jesus took our place which is crucifixion; therefore, there is now no condemnation for us because of the cross of Jesus.

Because of our sins, we were about to die eternally, but we are now moved from death to life. We are now released out of the bondage of sin and death through the cross of Jesus.

Jesus had scourged, and then had crucified to heal us and to save us from our sins. Isaiah 53:5 states, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Again, I am not sure if Barabbas gave thanks to Jesus after he was released, but one thing sure is that we are here to give thanks to Jesus. We are here to follow Jesus.

Highland, therefore, let us deny ourselves as Christ denied himself for us. Let us take up our cross daily and let us follow Jesus. We have ten thousand reasons to follow and to praise the Lord Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria