The religious trials, done by night, were illegal, but they served a purpose. They had to come up with a reason to have Jesus tried by the Romans, because they were the only ones who could carry out the death penalty. Pilate doesn’t see a dangerous revolutionary standing before him, and he wants to let Jesus go free. However the religious authorities sway the crowd, possibly because Barabbas was a popular figure for standing against the Romans. Pilate gives in to the crowds desires, and turns Jesus over to be humiliated and tortured.
Once again we should be struck by how much people can be influenced and swayed by others. Pilate is somewhat self serving here. He doesn’t want any bad reports going back to Rome. The crowd may be awed a bit by Barabbas’ reputation. They had a choice: the “rabbi” (albeit a miracle working one), or someone who had already stood up to the Romans (apparently an insurrectionist who was willing to fight). Keep in mind that Jesus had already befuddled His own disciples by His unwillingness to fight! So, perhaps not a surprise that the crowd went with Barabbas.
The subtle reminder here is to be one of the good guys. Don’t just go with the crowd. Stand up for what is right. Stand against sin! Jesus shows us the way. Even Pilate couldn’t come up with a reason to hold Him: “What has He done wrong?”
Proverbs 1:10-15 “My child, if sinners try to entice you, do not consent! If they say, “Come with us…do not go down their way, withhold yourself from their path.”