“His blood be on us and our children.”
They were passionate about something. These are not the words of people who are doing someone else’s bidding. They were rioting, and Pilate gave them Jesus and released Barabbas to satisfy them. All my life evangelical preachers have implied that the cry for Barabbas was just a pretext of the crowd. The crowd, we’re told, wanted Jesus to die more than anything, and Barabbas was a convenient transaction who wandered into the scene.
But that’s reading into the text something that is not shown. I think the opposite is true. At face value, the crowd passionately wanted Barabbas and he was their focus. His meaning to the crowd is the missing backstory, which the gospel writers just left out. And if this is so, then Jesus was the crowd’s lucky find, not Barabbas. Jesus was the one simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For sure, the Pharisees and Sanhedrin were the drivers of the plot and they used the passion of the crowd. Their goal was the death of Jesus; but the crowd’s goal was the release of Barabbas.
This means that the videotape of the trial, in our heads from a lifetime of Sunday School illustrations, is wrong. Our picture has Jesus as the focus of the dramatic scene. He is front and center, and the camera is on him. But I think the crowd saw a different scene. They saw him fleetingly, peripherally, a figure over to the side who they traded away to save their hero, Barabbas, and he was the figure in bright lights.
If you had read the story the next day in the Jerusalem Post, you would have read a story about Barabbas, with a paragraph about Jesus. We are the crowd; we did not regard Him, even as we killed Him.