Special Sabbath School Offering for

Let your gift reflect your longing for Jesus’ soon return!

Sabbath, May 6, 2017

“One other course suggested itself to Pilate whereby he might save Him whom he dared not give up to that maddened power, knowing that for envy they had brought Jesus to the judgment hall. Pagan invention, without one particle of justice in it, had made a custom that at the great national festival there should be set at liberty one prisoner who had been condemned to death. Could the convicted Pilate make use of this subterfuge and bring about that which he desired–save an innocent man, whose power, even while bound and under accusation, he knew to be the power of no common man, but of God? His soul was in terrible conflict. He would present the true and innocent Christ side by side with the notable Barabbas, and he flattered himself that the contrast between innocence and guilt would be so convincing that Jesus of Nazareth would be their choice.” –Christ Triumphant, p. 273.

Opportunity to reconsider

1. What did Pilate conclude when Herod sent Jesus back to him without judgment? What did he figure he would do to end the case?

Luke 23:13-16 And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: 15No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. 16I will therefore chastise him, and release him. 

“Pilate was disappointed and much displeased. When the Jews returned with their prisoner, he asked impatiently what they would have him do. He reminded them that he had already examined Jesus, and found no fault in Him; he told them that they had brought complaints against Him, but they had not been able to prove a single charge. He had sent Jesus to Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee, and one of their own nation, but he also had found in Him nothing worthy of death. ‘I will therefore chastise Him,’ Pilate said, ‘and release Him.’

“Here Pilate showed his weakness. He had declared that Jesus was innocent, yet he was willing for Him to be scourged to pacify His accusers. He would sacrifice justice and principle in order to compromise with the mob. This placed him at a disadvantage. The crowd presumed upon his indecision, and clamored the more for the life of the prisoner. If at the first Pilate had stood firm, refusing to condemn a man whom he found guiltless, he would have broken the fatal chain that was to bind him in remorse and guilt as long as he lived. Had he carried out his convictions of right, the Jews would not have presumed to dictate to him. Christ would have been put to death, but the guilt would not have rested upon Pilate.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 731, 732.

Dream at a critical moment

2. While this was happening, who sent a message to Pilate? How was Jesus presented in that message?

Matthew 27:19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto 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. 

“Even now Pilate was not left to act blindly. A message from God warned him from the deed he was about to commit. In answer to Christ’s prayer, the wife of Pilate had been visited by an angel from heaven, and in a dream she had beheld the Saviour and conversed with Him. Pilate’s wife was not a Jew, but as she looked upon Jesus in her dream, she had no doubt of His character or mission. She knew Him to be the Prince of God. She saw Him on trial in the judgment hall. She saw the hands tightly bound as the hands of a criminal. She saw Herod and his soldiers doing their dreadful work. She heard the priests and rulers, filled with envy and malice, madly accusing. She heard the words, ‘We have a law, and by our law He ought to die.’ She saw Pilate give Jesus to the scourging, after he had declared, ‘I find no fault in Him.’ She heard the condemnation pronounced by Pilate, and saw him give Christ up to His murderers. She saw the cross uplifted on Calvary. She saw the earth wrapped in darkness, and heard the mysterious cry, ‘It is finished.’ Still another scene met her gaze. She saw Christ seated upon the great white cloud, while the earth reeled in space, and His murderers fled from the presence of His glory. With a cry of horror she awoke, and at once wrote to Pilate words of warning.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 732.

Following custom

3. At that time, what custom existed on the occasion of the Passover festival? What did Pilate propose?

Mark 15:6, 8 Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired…. 8And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. 

Matthew 27:17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? 

“Pilate’s face grew pale. He was confused by his own conflicting emotions. But while he had been delaying to act, the priests and rulers were still further inflaming the minds of the people. Pilate was forced to action. He now bethought himself of a custom which might serve to secure Christ’s release. It was customary at this feast to release some one prisoner whom the people might choose. This custom was of pagan invention; there was not a shadow of justice in it, but it was greatly prized by the Jews.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 733.

The other prisoner

4. What report do the gospels give about the prisoner, Barabbas? Proposing that Jesus be released, what thought did the governor attempt to arouse in the consciences of the people?

John 18:40 Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

Mark 15:7 And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. 

“The Roman authorities at this time held a prisoner named Barabbas, who was under sentence of death. This man had claimed to be the Messiah. He claimed authority to establish a different order of things, to set the world right. Under satanic delusion he claimed that whatever he could obtain by theft and robbery was his own. He had done wonderful things through satanic agencies, he had gained a following among the people, and had excited sedition against the Roman government. Under cover of religious enthusiasm he was a hardened and desperate villain, bent on rebellion and cruelty. By giving the people a choice between this man and the innocent Saviour, Pilate thought to arouse them to a sense of justice. He hoped to gain their sympathy for Jesus in opposition to the priests and rulers. So, turning to the crowd, he said with great earnestness, ‘Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?’ “ –The Desire of Ages, p. 733.

The Jews choose

5. While a heathen governor repeatedly proposed that Jesus be released, what did the Jewish leaders continue to demand? Given the opportunity to choose between two people–and knowing that one was guilty–whom did they twice demand should be released? 

Mark 15:9, 11 But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?… 11But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. 

Luke 23:18 And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas.

“Like the bellowing of wild beasts came the answer of the mob, ‘Release unto us Barabbas!’ Louder and louder swelled the cry, Barabbas! Barabbas! Thinking that the people had not understood his question, Pilate asked, ‘Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?’ But they cried out again, ‘Away with this Man, and release unto us Barabbas’! ‘What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?’ Pilate asked. Again the surging multitude roared like demons. Demons themselves, in human form, were in the crowd, and what could be expected but the answer, ‘Let Him be crucified’?” –The Desire of Ages, p. 733.

Crowd behavior and judgment

6. What did Pilate say for the third time, trying to help Jesus? What was the multitude’s single demand? Who was really behind the frenzy demanding the death penalty for the world’s Redeemer?

Luke 23:20-22 Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. 21But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. 22And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go. 

Matthew 27:22, 23 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. 23And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.

“Pilate was troubled. He had not thought it would come to that. He shrank from delivering an innocent man to the most ignominious and cruel death that could be inflicted. After the roar of voices had ceased, he turned to the people, saying, ‘Why, what evil hath He done?’ But the case had gone too far for argument. It was not evidence of Christ’s innocence that they wanted, but His condemnation.

“Still Pilate endeavored to save Him. ‘He said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath He done? I have found no cause of death in Him: I will therefore chastise Him, and let Him go.’ But the very mention of His release stirred the people to a tenfold frenzy. ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him,’ they cried. Louder and louder swelled the storm that Pilate’s indecision had called forth.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 733, 734.

The Saviour in men’s hands

7. What did Pilate allow at this point in the trial? What abuse was committed against the divine Son of God? How did He react to the mistreatment? 

John 19:1-3 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. 2And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, 3And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

“Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth! Behold the oppressor and the oppressed. A maddened throng enclose the Saviour of the world. Mocking and jeering are mingled with the coarse oaths of blasphemy….

“His abasement was the pledge of His exaltation. The blood drops of agony that from His wounded temples flowed down His face and beard were the pledge of His anointing with ‘the oil of gladness’ (Hebrews 1:9) as our great high priest…. 

“All the abuse inflicted upon the Saviour had not forced the least murmur from His lips. Although He had taken upon Him the nature of man, He was sustained by a godlike fortitude, and departed in no particular from the will of His Father. 

“When Pilate gave Jesus up to be scourged and mocked, he thought to excite the pity of the multitude. He hoped they would decide that this was sufficient punishment. Even the malice of the priests, he thought, would now be satisfied. But with keen perception the Jews saw the weakness of thus punishing a man who had been declared innocent. They knew that Pilate was trying to save the life of the prisoner, and they were determined that Jesus should not be released. To please and satisfy us, Pilate has scourged Him, they thought, and if we press the matter to a decided issue, we shall surely gain our end.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 734, 735.

Thought questions 

  • What had happened to the consciences of the people that allowed them to reach the point of demanding the release of the one who was guilty and the condemnation of the One who was innocent?
  • Where was the people’s gratitude for all the healing, miracles, help, and blessings they had received at the Saviour’s hand as they now demanded the crucifixion of the Saviour? 
  • What benefit could the people and rulers receive from the release of Barabbas?
  • How can we be sure always to choose Jesus, not someone like Barabbas?

For additional study

Pilate longed to deliver Jesus. But he saw that he could not do this, and yet retain his own position and honor. Rather than lose his worldly power, he chose to sacrifice an innocent life. How many, to escape loss or suffering, in like manner sacrifice principle. Conscience and duty point one way, and self-interest points another…. 

“Pilate yielded to the demands of the mob. Rather than risk losing his position, he delivered Jesus up to be crucified. But … the very thing he dreaded afterward came upon him. His honors were stripped from him, he was cast down from his high office, and, stung by remorse and wounded pride, not long after the crucifixion he ended his own life. So all who compromise with sin will gain only sorrow and ruin. ‘There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.’ Proverbs 14:12.” –Conflict and Courage, p. 324.