Who Will You Follow: The Crowd or Christ?

Life is filled with important questions: who should I marry? Where should I live? What job should I take? Which model iPhone should I purchase? What make of car should I buy? Where should we attend church? Etc. Today you will learn what the most important and inescapable question that every human being on the planet must answer. In the context of our passage, Pontus Pilate poses the question to the crowd. Do you know what it is? I will give you the question in just a moment, but before I do, let’s look at the events leading up to it.

Mark 15:

And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged1 Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Rejected By The Leaders

After Jesus responded to the high priest with these words, “I am, and you will see the son of man seated at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” the high priest tore his garments and said, “what further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy.

The leaders wanted him dead. he had judged their corrupt practices in the temple when he turned over the tables. He exposed their hypocrisy over and over again in public. The powerbrokers of Israel had seen enough. The Sanhedrin had voted on their sentence the night before, but they had no power to carry it out. Jesus had to be condemned by a Roman court, so they led him to Pilate. At this point, Jesus has been held captive from 3:00 am to daybreak.

Why did they go to Pilate?

Pilate was the legal representative of Roman law in Kudea. He held the office for 10 years, which shows that Rome trusted him;
However, the Jews hated him. Why? There were 2 reasons:

  1. Josephus tells us that Pilate and his troops rode into Jerusalem with an eagle atop their poles. The Jews opposed idolatry, previous governors eliminated this practice when the entered Jerusalem. But not Pilate. Because of this, a riot broke out forcing him to remove the bird.
  2. Secondly, Pilate started construction on a new water system for Jerusalem, and funded the project by taking money from the temple treasury. This enraged the jewish people. They never forgot this act. The Jews despised him.

Remember what Jesus looks like when Pilate questions him. His outer garment is stained with blood and sweat. His face is bruised from punches they delivered. He has not washed the spit from his eyes. There is sarcasm in the question from Pilate: “you are the king of the Jews?” Jesus says, “you have said so.” Pilate asks him a second time to allow Jesus to prove his innocence, but Jesus remains silent. The governor is in a dilemma.

  1. The chief priests had painted Jesus out to be this rebellious, boisterous criminal who was leading an insurrection against the authorities, and yet, Jesus doesn’t say a word. A humble, passive, quiet, and calm individual is standing before him.
  2. Most people who are tried for a crime plead their innocence. They yell and scream in order to be set free. Not Jesus. He offers no response.

Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. He declared this before the people in John 18:38, “after he had interrogated Jesus, “Pilate went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.”

So, why did Jesus remain silent?

He was fulfilling prophecy. Isaiah 53:7, “he was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” He was focused on doing the will of the Father.

In less than 6 hours, he has been stabbed in the back by Judas, denied by Peter, rejected by the Sanhedrin, and he will be sold out by Pilate. But the extent of his denial is not close to being over.

Deserted by the crowd

Ancient sources say that Governors would set a prisoner free on Passover at the request of the people as a display of mercy.
Pilate gives the people a choice between Jesus and Barrabas. Mark describes Barrabas as a “rebel and a murderer.” John labels him a “robber” and matthew a “notorious prisoner.”

There are two clues as to why the crowd initially wanted to free Jesus.

  • Verse 9, when he asked, “do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?” it is as if he is reiterated the request of the crowd.
  • verse 10, for he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up.

The key word is envy. It is “displeasure aroused by seeing someone else having what you do not want them to have.” the chief priests hated Jesus because he was taking fame and focus off of them.

All of a sudden, Pilate is interrupted by his wife.

Matt 27:19, “while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” While Pilate was distracted with the note, verse 11, “the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.”

Turn to Matthew 27:16–17. Some of the translations have a footnote that says, Barbbas’s first name was have Jesus. Some scholars believe they both had the same name. Pilate turns around, unaware of what the chief priests had done, and asks, “who do you want me to release: Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Christ?

The fickle crowd is inconsistent in their support. Just a few days earlier, they were waving palm branches, placing blankets on the ground, and shouting “Hosanna, Hossana, save us, save us.” As long as Jesus was healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, raising the dead, and cleansing the lepers, they applauded him. But the moment He was seemingly helpless, they turned their backs on Him. They had a “what have you done for me lately attitude.” If we are not careful, we can respond this way. Out of nowhere, the fickle crowd cried out, “crucify him!”

Humiliated By The Soldiers

Mark 15:15, “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” Scourged is the word flogged which usually preceded crucifixion. On some occasions, the flogging ended in death.
After the beating, verse 16, “the soldiers led Him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. The whole battalion of soldiers, about 600 men, gathered around Jesus. They believed Jesus was delusional because of his false claims of being a king, so the band of soldiers demoralized and disgraced the king of the Jews. John Macarthur says, “they thought he was a village idiot, a lunatic, who in a deluded way thinks himself to be a King.” that’s why they mocked Him.

Verse 17, “and they clothed Him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on Him. 18 and they began to salute him, “hail, King of the Jews!” 19 and they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to Him. 20 and when they had mocked Him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on Him. And they led him out to crucify Him.


Jesus had already been stripped of his clothes in Mark 15:15 when they flogged him. They place a purple robe on his back. It was probably an old faded soldiers coat which was made of coarse wool. This rough, stiff, and scratchy cloak was wrapped around His lacerated and bruised back. Then the soldiers found some thorny twigs on the ground and weaved a crown in order to ridicule Jesus. As they pressed the makeshift crown onto Jesus’ head, the blood started trickling down His forehead, cheeks, and neck.

The tense of the verb striking suggests that they kept on beating him. A king needs a scepter, but they struck him with a cane.
Then they started mocking him by saluting him and striking him on the head. One after another, they spit on Him over and over and over. And if that wasn’t enough, they fell to their knees and acted like they were bowing to the king, crying out, “Hail, King Jesus.”

Jesus took it all without saying a word.

2 walking points:

1. Make a wise choice to the question I will ask you because it will affect where you spend eternity

Pilate poses the question, we all must answer. Look at verse 12, “what shall I do with the man you call the king of the Jews?”’

And that’s the question you must to answer.

Peter reacted correctly:

Matthew 16:15–16 he said to them, “but who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

The crowd and Pilate responded wrongly:

When Pilate says, “what should I do with him, he is asking, “should I release him? What has he done? Who is this man?”
The answer of the crowd is substitution.

You see, when he says, “what should I do with Jesus?” the crowd says, “you have a guilty guy in prison, Barabbas, an insurrectionist who is guilty of murder. Let him go.”

“Crucify Jesus!”

“What has this man done?”

They ignore the question.

“Just crucify him!”

We know he’s done nothing worth crucifixion, but we want Him dead. Switch the men. Substitute this one for the other. Mark couldn’t paint a clearer picture about Jesus being our substitutionary sacrifice. Barabbas was crook. He was rampant sinner. He was guilty. Barabbas had been judged and legally condemned. Barabbas deserved death. Barabbas could do nothing to free himself.

Jesus was innocent. He did nothing wrong. He was charged for a crime He didn’t commit. He was beaten for something he didn’t do. He took the place of Barabbas and died on a cross that Barabbas was supposed to die on. Barabbas was set free. You are Barabbas.

How do I know that?

Barabbas is a hebrew name. “bar” means “son of.” Like bartimaeus “son of Timaeus.” Abbas is from the word “abba” which means father. Barabbas means, “son of the father.” He is a representative type of all the sons of the fathers who have ever walked the earth. We are all of Adam’s race. We are all born bound into depravity. We are robbers of God’s glory and imprisoned in our sin until Christ enters the cell, calls our name, set us free, and takes our place.

Imagine what Barabbas was thinking moments before the soldier entered his cell. I have heard of men awaiting death going to through a motions of execution. A man who is to be hanged has difficulty in keeping his hand away from his throat where the rope is soon to choke him. I have read where men preparing to be executed in a gas chamber practice long breathing, and sometimes will hold their breath until it seems that their eyes will pop from their sockets. Barabbas probably rubbed his wrists that morning, wondering what rusted spikes would feel like tearing through his flesh. He probably envisioned the slow agony of death as he would struggle to breath. Nightmares from the previous night of hammers crashing against the nails probably traumatized him.

All of sudden, he thinks he hears his own name. Fear paralyzes him because of the uproar of the crowd outside his prison walls. He is startled by keys rattling down the hall, before one is inserted into the lock. The jailor walks in, releases him from the chains around him and leads him to the courtyard. He thinks to himself, “this is it.”he prepares for death. And at that moment he is set free into the crowd. Stupified, he wobbles into the sea of people, wondering what just happened. He is stunned.

Barabbas is the only man in all of history that can say that Jesus took his physical place. However, Christians can say that Jesus took our spiritual place if we have repented of our sins and put our faith in Christ. We deserved judgment, condemnation and hell, but he took our sins and bore the wrath of God.

Believing that Jesus died is history.

Believing he died for me is salvation.

2. Don’t let pressure from the crowd deter you from making the right choice.

Look at verse 15, “Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” He has to choose between Jesus and the crowd. Because of the pressures of public opinion, popularity, and power, Pilate chose the crowd and not the Christ. He cracks under the pressure.

This section is about compromise. Note the moral weakness of Pilate. He knew Jesus was innocent. He knew the Jews sought to kill Jesus because they envied Him. Jesus should have been released immediately. Instead of standing up for the truth, Pilate caves under the lies. Another word for compromise is adjust or conform. It is good to compromise when two parties disagree over a particular issue and an agreement must be reached. It’s good in business when two parties meet in the middle for a fair price. However, compromise is never allowed in your allegiance to Christ. God accepts no compromise when it comes to His son.

Don’t miss this: Jesus is not the one on trial: Pilate is. Pilate thinks Jesus is on trial. It’s actually Pilate who is being judged for eternity. Pilate’s instability in standing up for what is right will cost him. He was forced to choose sides, and he stood on the wrong side. In Matt. 12:30, Jesus said, “he who is not with Me is against Me.”

The side you choose will determine your eternal destiny.

There are only 2 sides today: Those for Christ and those against Christ. If you are not for Him, you are against Him.

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