Give Me Barabbas

It had been a long night for Jesus, Who stood before Pilate in the early hours of the morning. He had celebrated the Passover supper with His disciples before going out to Gethsemane to pray and prepare for the impending events. It is not known exactly how long He prayed, but it must have been for hours. Late in the night, a rabble approached with clubs and priests to arrest Jesus. Judas kissed Him with the betrayer’s kiss and He was arrested and taken before the Sanhedrin to be first tried there. Early in the morning He was taken to Pilot.

“Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.” John 18:28. What hypocrites! “Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which He spake, signifying what death He should die. Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me: what hast Thou done?” Verses 29–35.

This was an interesting question. Pay close attention to how Jesus answered. “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 I was 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. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will you therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.” Verses 36–40.

There are five roles that played an intricate part in this trial—Herod, Pilate, the church, Barabbas and Jesus. After self-examination, it will be discovered that every one of us will fit the description of one of these roles and hopefully by God’s grace we will all be like Jesus. In fact, this same trial will be carried out in these last days on such an immense scale that will be difficult to even begin to comprehend.


The record in the book of John does not mention Jesus’ interview with Herod. That is found in Luke 23. The Jews, knowing the weakness of the governor, took Jesus first to Pilate who dismissed Him sending Him off to Herod because He was from Galilee and not under the jurisdiction of Pilate. So off to Herod they went—Jesus, hustled by a group of soldiers. The interview begins in Luke 23:8: “And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.”

Herod brought a group of maimed people into the judgment hall so he could be entertained by Jesus’ miracles of healing with the promise of letting Him go free. Pilate and Herod were equally evil, but although Jesus had answered Pilate’s questions, when brought before Herod, who “questioned with Him in many words; … He [Jesus] answered him nothing.” Verse 9.

Jesus had no words to speak to Herod. Herod’s conscience by then was far less sensitive than when he had trembled in horror at the request of his stepdaughter, Salome, when she had asked for the head of John the Baptist. She had danced before Herod and his eyes had been dazzled. Under the influence of alcohol he foolishly offered her anything, up to half of his kingdom. He was horrified at her request and instead of making a stand for right and refusing, he yielded. His pride kicked in and he did not want to look like a fool in front of his audience.

We are told that Herod’s conscience had once been sensitive, but what happened? “For a time he had felt the keen stings of remorse for his terrible act; but his moral perceptions had become more and more degraded by his licentious life. Now his heart had become so hardened that he could even boast of the punishment he had inflicted upon John for daring to reprove him.” The Desire of Ages, 730.

Interviewing Jesus, “Herod’s conscience was now far less sensitive. … And he now threatened Jesus, declaring repeatedly that he had power to release or to condemn Him. But no sign from Jesus gave evidence that He heard a word.” Ibid. Jesus knew that the Holy Spirit could no longer influence this man’s mind. His conscience had been violated over and over again and Jesus had no words for him.


Pilate was a very discerning man. In fact, when the rabble had come to him in his judgment hall, waking him early in the morning, he was not happy. He had been called from his bedchambers. Seeing the crowd, he instantly recognized that the prisoner had been brought to him because of envy. “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 envy.” Mark 15:9. It is interesting that though the man had lived a licentious life, the Holy Spirit could still speak to him and instantly he was able to correctly survey the situation.

He knew it was an absolute farce that the priests would bring Jesus to be judged by him. “Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?” John 18:33, 34. The Holy Spirit was working in Pilate’s mind.

“Pilate answered, Am I Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me: what hast Thou done?” Verse 35. “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. Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice. Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth?” Verses 37, 38. This is a question we also should be asking ourselves: What is truth?

We do not know what would have happened right there if Pilate had paused and listened to the answer to his own question, but Pilot did not stick around to hear. “And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in Him no fault at all.” Verse 38.

“He [Pilate] had heard of Jesus and His works. His wife had told him something of the wonderful deeds performed by the Galilean prophet, who cured the sick and raised the dead.” The Desire of Ages, 724. She had also sent a letter through a messenger to Pilate telling him, “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.

“Pilate had a desire to know the truth. His mind was confused. He eagerly grasped the words of the Saviour, and his heart was stirred with a great longing to know what it really was, and how he could obtain it.” The Desire of Ages, 727.

“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 him nothing so that Pilate marveled.” Mark 15:3–5.

How easy a retaliatory spirit will rise so instantly when someone starts accusing us of something. Pilate was amazed that Jesus did not retaliate. “Jesus did not directly answer this question [Art Thou the King of the Jews?]. He knew that the Holy Spirit was striving with Pilate, and He gave him opportunity to acknowledge his conviction.” The Desire of Ages, 726, 727.

“Pilate’s golden opportunity had passed. Yet Jesus did not leave him without further light. While He did not directly answer Pilate’s question, He plainly stated His own mission. He gave Pilate to understand that He was not seeking an earthly throne.” Ibid.

What a tragedy! We each have a golden opportunity that can be missed. Pilate’s doom was sealed when “the Jews cried out saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.” John 19:12.

“When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. … and he saith unto the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ ” Verses 13, 14.

Pilate tried to release Him but, “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.” Matthew 27:24. “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.

What a sad ending for Pilate. He was more concerned for his reputation and standing in the Roman government than he was for the glory of God. He was of a vacillating character, one that is unstable as water. Pilate knew that Jesus was a just and righteous man. He had evidence after evidence and yet still he did not act upon his convictions, being worried more about his reputation. Pilate tried to secure his place as a Roman governor but ironically, just months later he was pulled from the throne and he killed himself. Stifling conviction is very dangerous. Pride had gotten the best of him causing him to make choices that would cost him eternity.

The Church

The church has a most interesting involvement in this event. “Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.” Matthew 27:15.

“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, 733.

“And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.” Matthew 27:16. That word notable can mean noteworthy and also infamous or notorious. “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? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.” Verses 17, 18.

Note here who was responsible for the choice made. “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.” Verse 20.

This is quite amazing. After all, are these not God’s chosen people? Pilate, desperate at that point to find some reason to release Jesus, brought both He and Barabbas hoping that as these religious leaders and the multitude compared the two, and unwilling to make the decision himself, he hoped the crowd would choose Jesus. After choosing Barabbas, “Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified” (verse 22)!

Pilate’s plan had failed. Many hardened criminals had stood before him and when Pilate looked into the face of Christ, he knew immediately that He was innocent. “The religious leaders and guides of the people—the men who ought to have led in right paths—persuaded the poor, ignorant multitude to reject the Son of God, and choose a robber and murderer in His place.” The Review and Herald, August 20, 1901. It is imperative to know what is truth for ourselves and not trust in the wisdom of others.

“Those who chose Barabbas thus yoking up with Satan gave evidence that a profession of piety and of love for God, and a claim to know the Scriptures, neither made them the sons of God nor led them to represent His character.” The Signs of the Times, April 14, 1898.

The religious leaders, the priests, were part of that mob dressed in their white robes, piously wearing their phylacteries on their hands and on their foreheads. The whole book of Moses they had memorized, learned from childhood, but this did not make them representatives of Christ. Profession is worthless!

“They [the high priest and leaders] cried out for the crucifixion of Christ and, as representatives of the Jewish nation, placed themselves under the Roman jurisdiction, which they despised, by saying, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ When they said this, they unchurched themselves.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 388.

No matter how high their profession, they were not God’s church. They were supposed to be the ones who led people in the right path, but they led them astray and unchurched themselves. They had switched leaders and the ones they hated, the Romans, now became their rulers. Remember, we are talking about parallels to our day.


This is the most interesting part of this story. It was the church that chose Barabbas. “And he [Pilate] released unto them him [Barabbas] that for sedition [conspiracy] and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.” Luke 23:25. Barabbas was a conspirator against the Roman government. The Jews also wanted to overthrow the Romans. For centuries they taught that when the Messiah came He was coming as a conquering king to overthrow their enemies. Barabbas was a murderer, but he was a better fit for their false interpretations than the meek and lowly Jesus.

The motives and actions of Barabbas reflect the devil himself. Lucifer also was a conspirator and attempted to overthrow the government of heaven. Just as the fallen angels had before them, the Jews accepted a false Christ, a counterfeit Christ, a false Messiah. Barabbas means the son of a father. Speaking to the leaders, Jesus said in John 8:44, “Ye are of your father the devil. … He was a murderer from the beginning.” The same thing had brewed in the hearts of the Jews and they had yoked up with the devil. He was also a robber: “The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” John 10:10.

A manuscript was discovered during the 10th century with text that said Pilate came out and said, “I release to you Jesus Barabbas,” meaning Jesus who is called Christ. The translators in the 16th century did not want to put the word Jesus in the same sentence with Christ; so it was removed. However, it is mentioned in the Spirit of Prophecy.

“This man had claimed to be the Messiah. He claimed authority to establish a different order of things, to set the world right.” The Desire of Ages, 732.

Barabbas “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.” Ibid.

They chose Barabbas, the Messiah, the false Christ, the one working satanic miracles. Jesus had warned that, “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:22, 23.

So far we have looked at Herod, whose conscience was hardened, who was beyond repair and beyond reaching; Pilate with his weak vacillating character who really did want to know the truth, but let his pride rise till he spurned that truth; and Barabbas, the false Messiah, son of the devil, whom the church chose. Now we will consider Jesus, but first let us look at the end time scenario.

End Time Scenario

“The scene in the judgment hall in Jerusalem is a symbol of what will take place in the closing scenes of this earth’s history.” The Review and Herald, January 30, 1900.

In “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1106, she says, “When Christ was upon this earth, the world preferred Barabbas.” Is it any different today? The world and the churches today are making the same choice. If the scenes of the betrayal and rejection of Christ will again be reenacted but on an immense scale, we need to stop and think for just a moment and consider into which category we fall.

When we yoke up with Christ we are on the side of infinite power, for there is nothing beyond God’s ability to accomplish in our life. Will we be the church that accepts Barabbas, the false Messiah, the worker of miracles and satanic delusions, or Jesus the Christ? “Those who apostatize leave the true and faithful people of God, and fraternize with those who represent Barabbas.” Selected Messages, vol. 2, 395.

Revelation 13:4 says, “And they worshipped the dragon.” “As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ. The church has long professed to look for the Saviour’s advent as the consummation of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation (Revelation 1:13–15). The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out upon the air: ‘Christ has come! Christ has come!’ ” The Great controversy, 624.

It has happened before. The Jews chose the imposter, Barabbas and again the majority will be deceived. “The people prostrate themselves in adoration before him, while he lifts up his hands and pronounces a blessing upon them, as Christ blessed His disciples when He was upon the earth. His voice is soft and subdued, yet full of melody.” Ibid.

The statement goes on to say that “he heals the diseases of the people, and then, in the assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which he has blessed.” Ibid. Ellen White says, “This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion.” Ibid.

Friends, study your Bibles. Pray daily. Those scenes in the judgment hall will be reenacted. Jeremiah 17:5 says, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” Put your trust in Christ. He is the only One Who can keep you from falling, not man. The church will be swept off its feet when the devil comes in all his deceitfulness.

You would think that the church would recognize something like this, but the church will be swept off her feet saying, “Christ is come! Christ is come!” prostrating themselves at the feet of the imposter in adoration, not in abhorrence but in acceptance.

When the church does this, she will have accepted Barabbas. When Barabbas was accepted, what did they want to happen to Christ? Crucify Him! That is what will happen in the person of the saints of God at that time. Those who experience this treatment will need a character like Jesus to be able to stand.


At His trial, Jesus was beaten and mocked. Jesus was patient with the people through His whole trial. There was no vengeful spirit in Him. This is a hard thing to fathom. Let me tell you friends, if we can’t even shut our mouths and lock our lips when someone says something wrong to us now, how will we stand during a trial like that? If I retaliate now when my coworker irritates me and gets under my skin, will I be able to be patient and Christlike when my character is attacked during the time of trouble? No.

We need to be like Jesus. That is the bottom line; we need to have His character and possess His spirit. The trials we suffer now are to prepare us for the trials of the end time.

By God’s grace, let us reflect the character of Jesus day by day and be ready to meet Him when He returns to take us home.

Mike Bauler was ordained into the ministry in 2005 and serves as pastor of the Historic Message Church in Portland, Oregon. Prior to locating in Portland, Pastor Bauler served as a Bible worker for Steps to Life Ministries. His goal is to help give the gospel to the greater Portland area with an emphasis in helping his Bible students discover the truths in Bible prophecy, which are so often neglected today. His wife, Amanda, a family nurse practitioner, and their daughters Hannah, Esther and Abigail assist him in his ministry.