July 23, 2020 – Thursday
Luke 23:17 TPT (The Passion Translation)
17 For it was Pilate’s custom to honor the Jewish holiday by releasing a prisoner.
The Jewish holiday is the annual celebration of Passover. And as Matthew 27:15 makes clear it was indeed the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd (NIV). The problem for this verse in Luke is that it does not appear in all the manuscripts, especially the older ones.
Thus, while many versions of the Bible do not have this verse in Luke, some do have it, but have it in parenthesis as in the following versions.
KJV (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)
RGT (For it was necessary that he release one to them at the Feast.)
BRG (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)
Why might this discrepancy exist? Ellicott’s Commentary provides a very good clue when he writes first, The better MSS. are singularly divided as to this verse. Most omit it altogether. Then he follows with this explanation It would seem probable from these facts that the narrative was originally written without it, that it was then felt that the release of Barabbas required an explanation, and that a note was first added in the margin, either by a transcriber or by the writer himself in a duplicate copy, and then found its way into the text.
But now for some context. This verse in both Luke and Matthew occurs while the Sanhedrin are seeking the death of Jesus. They have broken many of their own laws and customs to get Jesus first to Pilate, then to Herod Antipas, and then (for this verse) back to Pilate. The Sanhedrin, both the Pharisees and the Sadducees, want Jesus sentenced to death before any of His supporters might show up because they feared the people.
Neither Pilate nor Herod had found any fault in Jesus. Pilate wanted Him released, even if he had to have Him punished first. With this in mind it is brought up that it was Pilate’s custom to honor the Jewish holiday by releasing a prisoner. This was to be Pilate’s ticket out of the mess he found himself in. What he had not counted on were the shills planted in the crowd before him. And when it came to releasing a prisoner there was only name raised up in shouts and it was not Jesus. Instead it was Barabbas who had been imprisoned for murder and insurrection. Finally Pilot acceded to the shouts of the crowd and it was Barabbas who was released. Then Pilot went still further and agreed to the Sanhedrin’s insistence that Jesus be crucified with the shills in the crowd shouting “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”
Today’s verse is the result of Bible study this evening at church where I was struck by a number of things during the study. To things in particular stood out. First of all, Jesus was found to be without fault, thus becoming the lamb without defect for the Passover. Second, the Gospel is presented in miniature as Barabbas, a great sinner, is released while Jesus is crucified and dies in his place. There is no record of what happened to Barabbas after Jesus death and resurrection. However there have been those who have written about Barabbas representing humanity and like all of having the opportunity to accept the free gift of Grace offered through Jesus’ death on the cross.
Jesus did not just take Barabbas’ place on the cross. He took our place as well, each and every one of us. Like Barabbas, we too have the opportunity to accept God’s wonderful free gift of Grace.