“And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”” – Matthew 27:23
Scripture reading: Matthew 27:11-26
Like so many episodes in the suffering of Christ, this account is full of irony. The imperial judge is a pawn on the Jewish chessboard. The governor does not govern. The religious leaders, supposed experts in the will and ways of God, oppose God’s anointed one, while the truth is revealed to a pagan. Far more than simply Matthew’s literary ingenuity, irony is a fitting way to convey the gospel message.
Notice too how the crowds prefer a hardened criminal to an innocent man. From the Gospel of Mark, we learn that Barabbas was imprisoned with others for insurrection and the murder of Romans. Barabbas is of course his family name, meaning literally, “son of the father,” suggesting that he emerged from a family of rabbis. Several ancient manuscripts indicate that his first name was Jesus, a very common name in 1st-century Palestine.
Pilate’s question, therefore, is: which Jesus do you want, which son of the father, which freedom fighter? Jesus Barabbas wants to save his people from the tyranny of Rome through violent revolution. Jesus Christ wants to save His people from the tyranny of sin through humble sacrifice.
In the end, the guilty party is released and the innocent party is condemned to be crucified. This irony especially depicts the gospel. You and I are guilty before God’s judgment seat. We are declared innocent and freed because Christ, the innocent one, was condemned and crucified.
Suggestions for prayer
Pray for a fresh embrace of the wondrous exchange whereby Christ receives our sin so that we might receive His righteousness.
Dr. Bill DeJong is the lead pastor of Blessings Christian church in Hamilton, ON and adjunct professor of Religion and Theology at Redeemer University in Ancaster, ON. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com.