Does injustice bother you? Does it make you furious when law enforcement or courts of law are unjust? The trial of Christ that we are looking at was unjust, He was innocent, yet condemned to death. Here is what I want you to understand; This unjust trial was God's plan to bring us grace.
"Men of Israel, hear these words: Yeshua of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Yeshua, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Acts 2:22-23 ESV
The word "delivered" here is a word used commonly of those who are surrendered over to their enemies. God delivered over Yeshua to death. It says He was delivered not by the will of men, not because they plotted it out, and God looked way ahead and saw what they were going to do and said, I better work that into my plan. No, He was delivered by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God. God laid out this plan, marked it out, said this is my will, Yeshua will die on the Passover by crucifixion.
Through Christ's unjust treatment grace has come to all His elect. It may seem strange to you that injustice can be part of the plan of a just God, but it often is. Would you say that Joseph being sold by his brothers as a slave was unjust? Would you say that his imprisonment by Potiphar was unjust? Notice how Joseph's father felt:
And Jacob their father said to them, "You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me." Genesis 42:36 ESV
"All this has come against me"—he was dealing with some difficult circumstances, he had lost Joseph; he thought Joseph was dead: Joseph, the son of Rachel, his beloved wife. There was a famine in the land. Simeon is now in Egypt and the prime minister there is holding him, and the prime minister also now is insisting that Benjamin come. And so, Benjamin, the young son of Rachel, now appears to be gone also. Joseph is dead. Simeon is gone, they can't get more food unless Benjamin goes to Egypt. And Jacob responds, "All this has come against me."
At the very moment that Jacob uttered, "All this has come against me," actually, everything was working for him; for Joseph, the son that he had thought dead, was not only alive, he was the prime minister of Egypt, the greatest kingdom of the earth. Egypt was the place that had the grain that could solve their problems of food. In addition, Joseph, the prime minister, was the beloved son of Rachel, and Joseph, the prime minister, was longing to be with his family. The very time when Jacob says, All this has come against me," is the very time when all these things were working for his ultimate blessing and good. It was through Joseph's unjust treatment grace came to his family.
At this time in our Lord's life His disciples were probably thinking, All this has come against us." They really didn't realize that all the injustice that was taking place was for the purpose of bringing them grace. We, as children of God, must come to realize that even violence and injustice are tools in the hands of the Sovereign Lord. We need to learn to trust Him no matter what our circumstances.
When we put all four Gospels together, we see that Yeshua endured a night of two trials that each had three parts. The first trial was religious before Annas, the political boss of Jerusalem. The second was before Caiaphas, the high priest. The third trial was held at daybreak before the Sanhedrin to make it legal. A trial at night was invalid. The Ecclesiastical trial of our Lord Yeshua has ended with the verdict of death for the crime of blasphemy. Yeshua, claimed equality with God, and they saw this as blasphemy. Normally if someone claims to be God that should be considered as blasphemy, but when someone who heals the sick, casts out demons, raises the dead, feeds thousands with a few fish and some bread, claims to be God, They should listened to Him.
The next trial was civil, the religious leaders take Him to Pilate, and Pilate found no guilt in this Rabbi from Nazareth. The next part of the trial was before the Jewish monarch, Herod, who demanded a miracle, and when Yeshua would not perform for him, he had Him beaten and sent back to Pilate. The third part of His civil trial was before Pilate in which He again found no fault in Him, but put Him before the people to be released, but the people chose Barabbas.
So far we have seen the ecclesiastical trial that ended with a verdict of blasphemy which brought the death penalty. The Jews want Yeshua dead, but they can't do that themselves so they take Him to Pilate.
Then they led Yeshua from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. John 18:28 ESV
John 18:28-19:16 describes Yeshua's trial before Pilate. John reported much more about Yeshua's trial before Pilate than did any of the other Gospel writers. He doesn't mention Yeshua's appearance before Herod Antipas, which only Luke recorded (Luke 23:6-12).
"Then they led Yeshua from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters"—who are "they" who led Yeshua to Pilate from Caiaphas? Some of the members of the Sanhedrin who had been present at Yeshua's trial before Caiaphas must have accompanied Him to Pilate to present their charges against Him to the Roman governor.
"The governor's headquarters"—the Greek word here is praitorion, which identified either the headquarters of the commanding officer of a Roman military camp, or a Roman military governor's headquarters. Pilate's normal headquarters were at Caesarea, the capital of the Roman province of Judea. But during the Jewish feasts, Pilate came to Jerusalem with Roman troops to discourage uprisings.
Archaeologists differ as to whether this headquarters was Herod's palace on the western wall, or the Fortress of Antonia (named after Mark Antony) north-west of the Temple complex and connected by steps to the Temple's outer court. Many scholars now believe the Fortress of Antonia housed the praetorium, and that Yeshua was tried before Pilate there.
History of Pilate
Here we are introduced to Pilate, whose name is long remembered in history as the man who gave the order to send Yeshua to His death. Pilate, whose name is Latin for "one skilled with a javelin," was the Roman counsel for Judea and Samaria for ten years, from AD 26 to AD 36. Pilate may have ended up in this position because he married well. He married Claudia, who was the daughter of Julia who was the daughter of Augustus. And so Pilate married into royalty. His father-in-law was Tiberius ,who was the emperor. And so most likely as a marriage gift he made him the prefect of Judea.
He was the fifth Roman counsel in this region, and the name Pontius means: "fifth" and may be more of a title than a name. Little is known of him prior to coming to Jerusalem, but much of his activities there and his subsequent career is recorded by Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, and later Eusebius.
The region that he controlled for Rome was considered the most difficult of postings, the combination of religious and political differences between the Romans and the Jews made this a volatile region of the Roman Empire. When Pilate governed Judea and Samaria, he was a comparatively young man. Historians of the time gage him to be in his late twenties or early thirties.
Pilate did not like the Jews, nor did he like making concessions to them as he had proven rather cruelly in the past. But he was wary of them and their sometime influence in Rome, and knew he had to tread carefully. The description of him as "inflexible, merciless, and obstinate" was a Jewish viewpoint, but had some truth in it. He was quite ready to shed blood to have his way. He was a typical Roman procurator, a military man exalted above his rank as a demonstration of favor. But that he had some idea of justice comes out in his dealings with Yeshua.
Lord Action of England is credited with the statement: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." That is very true of the power Pilate had. A power that corrupted.
Early in his appointment by the Emperor Tiberius as the procurator of Judea, Pilate moved his army by night from Caesarea into Jerusalem bearing ensigns with the emperor's image. Previous procurators had avoided bringing any kind of image into Jerusalem since it offended the Jews who recognized this as emperor worship and as breaking the first and second commandments. But Pilate wanted to make his point that he was the governor of Judea, and he would give honor to Caesar wherever he desired! Pilate was still at his palace in Caesarea when this happened, so a large delegation of Jews incessantly pleaded outside the palace for five days for these idolatrous images to be removed. Pilate sent in the soldiers on the sixth day, threatening death at their insults of Caesar. But the Jewish demonstrators prostrated themselves, bared their throats for the Roman swords, showing their willingness to die, if need be, to rid Jerusalem of idols. Pilate relented and removed the images.
After that, he "appropriated" funds from the sacred Temple treasury (the "Corban") to build an aqueduct. In response to the Jewish outrage for this blatant act of stealing from the Temple treasury, Pilate sent soldiers among them dressed as Jews, yet armed with clubs. They viciously beat and murdered many of the people, delivering Pilate from their complaints, but adding to his reputation for savagery. Additionally, he ordered golden shields placed in Herod's Palace in Jerusalem, shields inscribed with Caesar's image. The Jews complained so strongly that word came to the emperor, who ordered Pilate to remove the shields and their offensiveness to the Jews. Even Yeshua told of an incident in which Pilate killed a group of Galileans and then mingled their blood with the sacrifices that they sought to offer.
Pilate's desire and demand for power finally caught up with him when a large number of Samaritans gathered at Mt. Gerizim to search for the hidden golden objects of the Tabernacle. Some were armed, and Pilate saw this as a threat and had his troops massacre many people. A formal complaint of this incident was registered with Rome, and Pilate was removed from office in disgrace.
Until 1961, there was no archaeological proof of the existence of Pontius Pilate. In the summer of 1961, Italian archaeologists were excavating an ancient theater at Caesarea, the Mediterranean port which served as the Roman capital of Palestine. They unearthed a stone that bore a partial inscription, bearing the name of Pontius Pilate.
Most of what we know about Pontius Pilate from the writings of the Jewish historians Josephus [37-100AD] and Philo of Alexandria [d.50AD] is not very favorable.
Josephus confirms the slaughter of the Galileans that is mentioned in Luke 13:1 and the Roman historian Tacitus reports Pilate's action against Yeshua in Annals XV, 44 where he reports: "The Christ had been executed in Tiberius' reign by the procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate." Of all the existing documentation of Pilate, the Bible gives the most favorable account of this man. In fact, in the writings of the early Church Fathers, he is regarded as a man who cooperated in God's plan of salvation. His image is found in early Christian art in the catacombs in Rome
The Orthodox Greek Churches list both Claudia and Pilate in their Catalogue of Saints, and some Fathers of the Church believed Pilate's wife Claudia was the Roman Christian lady who sends her regards to Timothy that Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 4:21. It has been suggested that Pilate was ordered to commit suicide because he and his family embraced Christianity.
"It was early morning"—literal this is, "it was proia": "dawn" is a better translation of the Greek word proia. This may be a reference to the technical term that the Romans used to describe the night watch, that began at 3:00 a.m. and ended at 6:00 a.m.
"They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters"—these Jewish leaders insult Pilate, who doesn't much like them, by refusing to enter his residence. So they force Pilate to come outside to speak with them.
"So that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover"—how would they have defiled themselves by going into the praetorium? The Jews thought that merely entering a Gentile's dwelling made them ceremonially unclean. There is no such Old Covenant regulation. The rabbis had invented things like this to isolate themselves from Gentiles. According to the Mishnah, the codification of Jewish law, we read, "The dwelling place of Gentiles are unclean." (Oholoth 18:7, 9; cf. SB 2. 838-839)
Why were Gentile dwellings considered unclean? Some thought is was because Gentiles might have yeast in their homes, which would have made participation in the "Passover" Feast unlawful for a Jew (cf. Exod. 12:19; 13:7). The Jews considered themselves "defiled" if they entered a dwelling from which all leaven had not been removed.
But the context of Mishnah, Oholoth suggests rather that the reason why a Jew would contract uncleanness in a Gentile home was because Gentiles were believed to bury aborted fetuses (i.e. corpses) in their homes, or flush them down their drains, and Numbers 9:7-10 insists that anyone who is unclean on account of contact with a dead at the time of Passover must not participate in the feast.
The Bible taught that when a person touched a dead body he was unclean for a certain period of time. But there was no law that said a Jew could not enter into a Gentile's house, but that was their tradition.
What is ironic here is that these men, so concerned with ritual purification with keeping their man made laws, are willing to violate the very Law of God:
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16 NASB
They are lying in order to achieve their goal of sending an innocent man to a horrible death. This is religion, worried about man made rules, while violating the Laws of God. Yeshua called them out by saying:
"You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Matthew 23:24 NASB
What day is it when the Jews take Yeshua to Pilate? It is Passover! The Passover was the Jewish celebration that remembered their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. And for a long time the Jewish nation had anticipated the time when God would send His special deliverer and once again liberate His people. This "liberator" was closely linked to the Passover lamb. So it was the tradition at Passover to kill and eat a lamb while anticipating God's deliverance. The huge irony here is that in order for the Jews to participate in these celebrations, they were actually conspiring to murder the very one that God had promised, and to whom they were supposedly looking forward.
Verse 28 clearly assumes that the Passover meal was to be eaten that evening, not the previous evening. For more information on the timing of the Passover meal see the message, "The Last Supper" on John 13:1 HERE
So Pilate went outside to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" John 18:29 ESV
They must have been taken somewhat surprised by Pilate's question, because it indicated that he was going to try the prisoner himself.
They answered him, "If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you." John 18:30 ESV
Instead of bringing an indictment, they come up with a pious sounding version of "trust me": "If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed Him over to you."
Roman law was very specific regarding this type of trial. It was a referral trial from the local, indigenous rulers who were granted limited powers. This type of trial had to take place in the early part of the day so the Roman authorities could attend to matters of state in the afternoon.
The trial would have begun with the verbal or written accusation against the accused. This resulted in an interrogation of the accused by the chief magistrate, in this case the only magistrate, Pilate. Dr. Luke gives us more detail here:
Then the whole body of them got up and brought Him before Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King." Luke 23:1-2 NASB
Here we see that three charges were leveled against Christ: 1. "We found this man misleading our nation"— The word translated "misleading" is the Greek verb diastrepho, which means: "to cause to depart from an accepted standard of oral or spiritual values." Notice that all of these charges were political (that is, against the state). They were saying that Yeshua was stirring up unrest and rebellion against Rome. Did Yeshua do this? No. Just the opposite.
2. "And forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar"—this is a flat out lie. Yeshua does not oppose paying taxes to Caesar, and they know this. They had heard Him say, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."
3. "Saying that He Himself is Christ, a King"—this was true, but His kingdom was no threat to Caesar.
In the text in John they really don't give an accusation, they just say trust us He's guilty and Pilate responds:
Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." The Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death." John 18:31 ESV
"Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law"—Pilate is basically saying, You guys deal with this yourselves. To which the Jews respond: "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death"—this is a highly debated topic, did the Jews have the right to carry out capital punishment? The 1st century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, records that from the time that Judea became a Roman province this was the law, he writes, "When Rome took over Judea and began direct rule through a prefect in A.D. 6, capital jurisdiction was taken away from the Jews and invested in the governor." (Jos., Ant. xii. 117)
The Jewish Talmud says, "Forty years before the destruction of the Temple (which is A.D.70) judgment in matters of life and death was taken away from Israel." . (Sanhedrin 1:1; 7:2) That would mean at about A.D.30 , the times vary by about 25 years, but both Josephus and the Talmud state that the Jews did not have the power of capital punishment agreeing with what John writes here.
But it may have been that the Roman governor gave the Jews the power of capital punishment for religious offenses, like for Gentiles caught trespassing in the inner courts of the Temple. We know that they stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7:58-60), and according to Josephus, James the Just was stoned in the 60s. This may be what Pilate means when he tells them, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." He may be saying, This is a religious matter, you deal with it.
If this was the case, and if the Jews were allowed to use capital punishment for religious matters, Caiaphas and the authorities wanted Yeshua to be crucified rather than stoned to death. The Jews may be saying, It is not lawful for us to put any many to death by crucifixion.
It is the religious' authority's intention to disgrace Yeshua in the eyes of the people by having Him die on a cross, as one who is cursed (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). What they don't realize is that Yeshua is sovereign even over His death, and it is God's plan for Him to die on a cross. This is the form of death He Himself has prophesied.
This was to fulfill the word that Yeshua had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. John 18:32 ESV
Yeshua had already prophesied that He would be crucified:
"See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day." Matthew 20:18-19 ESV
Yeshua foretold His crucifixion to Nicodemus in:
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; John 3:14 NASB
Later in dialoging with the multitudes, Yeshua stated,
"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. John 12:32-33 NASB
Our Lord's own words, by which He indicated how He would die, are being fulfilled. It was not enough that Yeshua should die. It was not enough that He should die during Passover, as the Passover Lamb. It was also necessary that Yeshua die as He had indicated—by being lifted up on a Roman cross.
Nothing could be worse than the death that Yeshua died. And this is what the chief priests desired. They desired the death of our Lord by crucifixion in order that there would be no question about the humiliating nature of our Lord's claims.
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Yeshua and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Yeshua answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" John 18:33-34 ESV
"Are you the King of the Jews?"—If Pilate meant, "Are You a political king conspiring against Caesar?" the answer would be, "No." If he meant, "Are You the messianic King of Israel?" the answer would be, "Yes." "King of the Jews" is a loaded title and implied that He was therefore planning rebellion, because many insurrectionists had taken the title "king." There had recently been such an insurrection which had failed, and there were at the time prisoners there who had killed during that insurrection and were awaiting punishment, one of whom was called Barabbas.
Had Yeshua given a direct affirmation of the question, and said, "YES," the proceedings would have ended, and Pilate would have had the legal right to sentence Him to die. But Yeshua did not really give an affirmative answer, He asked a question, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?"
Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?" John 18:35 ESV
Palate is saying, I'm a Roman, I have no firsthand knowledge of Jewish customs or belief. Pilate's comment about Yeshua's "own nation" handing Him over to him confirmed John's introductory statement that: Yeshua came unto His own, but His own did not receive Him (1:11).
Yeshua answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." John 18:36 ESV
This is a second class conditional sentence which is called "contrary to fact." It should be translated "If My kingdom were of this world, and it is not, then My servants would be fighting, which they are not."
Yeshua is a King and He has a kingdom but His "kingdom" was not the type of kingdom that would compete with Caesar's kingdom by waging war. Yeshua is no political revolutionary: His kingdom is not of this world.
Yeshua is saying in very plain words that His kingdom is not a physical, geographic, kingdom. His Kingdom is spiritual, it is other worldly, it is not of this (physical) realm. He is a King by nature, and He is a King over a spiritual dominion:
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, Colossians 1:13 NASB
It's a Spiritual Kingdom. Yeshua's Kingdom is "not of this realm" or "from another place." The Greek here is ouk enteuthen, which is literally, not from this place.
Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Yeshua answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." John 18:37 ESV
Notice what Yeshua says here, "For this purpose I was born," that's His humanity. "For this purpose I have come into the world," that's His deity. He existed before He was born. He existed in heaven; He came into the world. You have His humanity: "I was born." You have His deity: "I have come into the world."
"I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth"—by this He meant that He came to reveal God.
"Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice"—those who can discern the truth are the "sheep" given to Yeshua by the Father who hear His voice and follow Him. To be "of the truth" is to be on of the "given."
Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, "I find no guilt in him. John 18:38 ESV
Pilate scoffs, "What is truth?" Yeshua is the truth and came to bear witness of the truth. Because Pilate was not "of the truth" he had no idea what truth was even though the Truth was standing right in front of him.
"I find no guilt in him"— this is the first of the three times Pilate will judge Yeshua and find Him innocent, using this same phrase (John 18:38; 19:4, 7). The irony is that any animal offered to Yahweh in sacrifice had to be judged as perfect and without flaw. Caiaphas, the High Priest, had chosen Yeshua as the sacrificial victim, he announced that Yeshua had to die three times in John 11:50, 52; 18:14), but Pilate, a heathen Gentile, judged the intended sacrifice as without fault, three times!
Between verses 38 and 39, Luke tells us that Pilate shipped Yeshua over to Herod, who was close by in his palace in Jerusalem. Let's just look at that text to fill in the details:
Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no guilt in this man." But they were urgent, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place." When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. Luke 23:4-11 ESV
The Jewish religious leaders follow Yeshua to Herod and continue to accuse Him (v10). Herod mistreats Yeshua and sends Him back to Pilate, and here Lazarus takes up the narrative:
But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?" John 18:39 ESV
The custom mentioned here has no clear evidence outside the Gospel accounts. Roman history does indicate that the Empire made special concessions to the Jews that it didn't make to any other peoples. It is possible that on certain Jewish festivals, such as Passover, a prisoner would be released to improve Roman-Jewish relations.
They cried out again, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber. John 18:40 ESV
"They cried out again, "Not this man, but Barabbas!"—all four Gospels tell us of Barabbas. The name Barabbas in Hebrew would have been the name "Ben-abbas," which means: "son of the father," a title which applies to Yeshua Himself. What is really interesting is that in Matthew thereare some ancient manuscripts that have the name "Yeshua Barabbas" at this point, rather than simply, "Barabbas." The name "Yeshua" was not a reverential title as it is today in the Church, but was a regular name.
Origin refers to very early manuscripts, which contained "Yeshua Barabbas." It is very hard to imagine Christian scribes adding the name Yeshua to Barabbas if this was not already in the text, but very easy to understand their suppressing it, particularly as none of the other Gospels mention his first name. It may well be that originally this read "Yeshua who is called Barabbas."
The New English Bible is confident enough to put that name, "Jesus Barabbas," in the text:
At that time they had in custody a notorious prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. 17 So after they had assembled, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ? Matthew 27:16-17 NET
This makes sense when you notice how Pilate addresses the crowds by describing Yeshua as the One "Who is called Christ." He was contrasting the name with someone who bore the same name.
The next verse in Matthew is interesting:
For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Matthew 27:18 ESV
Pilate seems to understand that the motivation of the Jewish authorities to kill Yeshua is jealousy. This connects Yeshua death to the first murder recorded in Scripture. Jealousy led Cain to murder his innocent brother Abel. And Yeshua's "Jewish brothers" want to murder Him for the same reason.
"Now Barabbas was a robber"—the word used for robber, lestes, was commonly used in first century Palestine for roving brigands who were involved in terrorist activity against the Roman government. Unfortunately, many of these brigands pillaged, robbed, and raped Jews as well as Romans. They became outlaws under the guise of being freedom fighters.
The crowds call for the release of a man who has committed murder in his struggle against Rome, while condemning a man falsely accused of being a danger to Rome.
Peter preaching to the Jews in Acts says:
But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, Acts 3:14 ESV
The perversion of the Jews was so great in John's mind that they chose a Barabbas instead of Yeshua.
Let me ask you something, Who does Barabbas represent in this text? He represents all the elect of God, he represents all those who have been given to the Son by the Father. Barabbas found himself walking free because Yeshua died in his place. I think it would be fair to read between the lines of the text and say that the cross Yeshua hung on was the cross that was intended for Barabbas. And rather than hang that day on the cross, he is released. It isn't hard to realize that Barabbas is a picture of you and me.
Barabbas paints a vivid picture of what Yeshua did for you and me. Barabbas had been judged and legally condemned. Barabbas was guilty. Barabbas deserved death. Barabbas could do nothing to free himself. Yeshua took the place of Barabbas and died on Barabbas' cross. Barabbas was released. I am Barabbas. In this story we see the doctrine of substitution. Christ died for sinners.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 ESV
This idea of substitution; of Christ being condemned, and suffering and dying in our place, is fundamental to the Christian faith. Because, in contrast to every other form of religion, we hold to a Gospel of grace, which is unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor. We are forgiven, but not because our so-called "good" deeds outweigh our bad ones. We have eternal life, but not because we do our best to live up to a moral code. On the contrary, we know that our good works are insufficient; that we constantly fail to meet God's perfect standard of holiness; and that we deserve, not acceptance and approval from God, but rather rejection and condemnation. No, our hope is not based on anything we have done, or could do, but entirely on the fact that Yeshua, the sinless lamb of God, gave His life in exchange for ours; that by His death, He paid the penalty for sin on our behalf:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24 ESV
The reality is, we are guilty, and we are deserving of that cross. We are deserving of that eternal punishment. Yet, for all who trust in Him, God gives eternal life.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"— so that in Christ Yeshua the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:13-14 ESV
This is the Gospel story. This is what Lazarus is hinting at. People who deserve nothing but God's wrath can know what it is to be set free because another has suffered and died in their place.