18 Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas was in prison for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government, and for murder.) 20 Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Remember we said at the beginning of studying the Gospel of Luke that one of his main purposes was to show that Jesus came to save all people, not just the Jews. And in this story of Jesus' trial, we see the cacophony of voices that contributed to the verdict to crucify Jesus. The Jews wanted to wash their hands of Jesus' death, so they tried to pawn it off on Pontius Pilate. Pilate saw no reason to execute Jesus, and didn't want the blood on his hands either. But in the end the cry rose from the crowd saying "crucify him". You can see the motivation of either the Jewish leaders or Pilate to get rid of him, but why the roar from the crowds?
Some might say it is the "mob mentality". But what did Jesus ever do to these people to stir them up to call for his execution? The answer is "nothing". All Jesus did was to show what God's kingdom looked like. He preached the Good News, he healed the sick, and deleivered people from darkness. Yet, even when Pilate demanded an answer as to why Jesus should be killed, the shouted even louder, "release Barabbas and crucify him". The irony was Barabbas was on trial for insurrection and murder, which he was guilty of, and Jesus was not guilty of anything.
What a perfect example of the gospel. Jesus a man not deserving of death, died for Barabbas whose sin was deserving of death. The sinless one, for the sinful one. And the crowd demanded it. All the people demanded Jesus' death, but wanted Barabbas to go free. Maybe they saw a little bit of Barabbas in themselves. Maybe they knew their own sin demanded a death sentence, but Jesus died in their place too.
This story reminds me of the old hymn, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Where you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh, oh, oh, oh. Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"
In sense though we were not there, when Jesus died in Barabbas' place, he died for us too!