The Lord Jesus Christ faced several forms of judgement before He was crucified on Calvary. This is all part of Him being “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Unless the Lord had gone through all of this and shed His blood on the cross, we would still be lost in sin and under the wrath of God.
“And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate” (Mark 15:1).
Here we see how the Jews treated the only Messiah that they would ever receive; they bound Him like a criminal and led Him away to be judged by the Roman Governor, Pilate. They did this because they no longer had the authority to put anyone to death. By this act they fulfilled Jacob’s prophecy, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 49:10). Their Messiah had come at a time when the Jews no longer held the sceptre of power in their own nation.
“And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it. And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing. And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee. But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled” (Mark 15:2-5).
At Pilate’s judgement seat the Lord had various accusations levelled against Him by His accusers. No doubt they were the same lies and half-truths as before. They said to Pilate, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” (Luke 23:2). Jesus did not give a reply to these falsehoods, but instead “endured such contradiction of sinners against himself” (Hebrews 12:3). The first Adam was guilty and yet tried to excuse himself, but the second Adam was guiltless and made no defence at all. Isaiah 53:7 says, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” When Pilate questioned Him about His kingship he received an answer, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:36-37). Pilate then asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). The truth was standing before him, but he chose to reject it.
Jesus is our example in all things, so we ought to remember this when we face times of tribulation, “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:20-23).
“Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them” (Mark 15:6-11).
Pilate was convinced that Jesus was innocent, but just like many politicians, he wanted to try and please all the people all of the time. He tried to find a way out of the predicament that the Jews had placed him in, and in so doing ease his own conscience. To make matters worse his own wife sent a note to him saying, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him” (Matthew 27:19). To his eternal disgrace he finally sided with the blood-thirsty religious leaders.
“But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? And they cried out again, Crucify him. Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him” (Mark 15:12-14).
The chief priests showed not an ounce of remorse over what they were doing. They had the choice between Jesus the Messiah and Barabbas the malefactor. They chose the murderer because he was unlikely to convict them of their sin. Though they did not put Christ to death, they were responsible for it.
“And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified” (Mark 15:15).
This verse teaches us something about the gospel of salvation. The guilty one is set free and the innocent is put to death in his place. One prisoner takes the place of another. This is exactly what Christ has done for each of us, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). He is our Substitute, for He suffered for our sins. He is our Surety because His blood was shed for us. By nature we are as guilty as Barabbas, and therefore worthy of condemnation. But in Christ we are acquitted by God. “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13) … “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
We ought to always praise God for the glorious salvation He has given us. Not one of us deserves the least of His mercies, yet Christ died for us. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). “He is able to save to the uttermost and the guttermost” (Leonard Ravenhill).