“Now, when they were gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Which would you desire that I should release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was from jealousy that they delivered him.”
“And Pilate asked them saying, ‘Do you desire that I should release the King of the Jews?’ For he knew that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had delivered him.”
Again, there is a lot of coverage over this activity and each from a little different angle, yet complimenting one another as they provide a very full picture of the people’s betrayal of Jesus. The point is clear; all involved are guilty — every one. We have discussed the irony of Jesus Barabbas having the same given name as Jesus the Christ and we have discussed the significance of the title: “King of the Jews.” Yet Matthew records Pilate using the word “Christ” of our Lord. So far, we have seen the High Priest using the term as he questioned Jesus, pressing, “Are you the Christ?” but here we find Pilate essentially connecting the term Christ with Jesus, though not as a profession of faith, but simply as a way to harras the Jewish authorities.
Christ is of course the Greek word for Messiah, a Hebrew term that means “the Anointed One.” Many in ancient Israel were called the anointed of God: priests, kings, etc… but in the Old Testament there is also a thread that points to a greater anointed who will redeem the people from oppression. Moses led the people out of slavery to the Egyptians; this messiah needed to be greater than that. Sadly, the people, being focused on the things of this world, saw Rome as that greater enemy while in reality Jesus the Messiah was here to defeat an even greater foe than that — sin and death. The unbelieving priests were so blinded by their jealousy that they could not see the truth written on the wall and sought to destroy this Christ to preserve their own power.
Yet, isn’t that the tactic of the devil through history? Destroy that which could be the Holy One? The trend goes all of the way back to Cain slaying Abel — a prophet of God (Matthew 23:35, Luke 11:51). Yet, in seeking to destroy that which God had anointed, the Devil fell right into God’s design, for to defeat death, the Messiah must die and then be raised from the grave. Thus all of the plans of the enemy would be thwarted just as the enemy felt he had realized his greatest victory. What Satan perceived would be his victory became his utter defeat. Ahh, the grand majesty of God’s sovereign design. And while Satan remains as a menace — a lion roaring in the darkness — he is a defeated foe and has no ultimate power over the elect of God. That, loved ones, is a reality that ought to drive us to worship.
But doesn’t the jealousy of these chief priests hamper us yet today? Or perhaps the kind of jealousy that these priests had? They were jealous of the attention and glory that was being given to Christ. How often the work of Christ is hampered by the egos of people who would rather the glory come to themselves. Sad, isn’t it? Beloved, don’t let this trap befall you in the work you do in Christ’s church and don’t let this trap befall your pastor. We are not building our own kingdoms personally or denominationally; we are building Christ’s kingdom — everything else is secondary.
I love thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of thine abode,
the Church of our blest Redeemer saved
with his own precious blood.