Mark 15:15, “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” What a sad verse. Let us look a bit closer. The chief priests and scribes arrested Jesus in the middle of the night, at the Garden, while praying, because they feared the “tumult of the people.” They were afraid of the crowd. Pilate is afraid of the crowd and wants to “satisfy” it. But how did Jesus see the crowd?
John 10:11, one of the seven “I AM…” recorded in the Gospel of John, records Jesus saying, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep so when he see the wolf coming he abandons the sheep and runs away…I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me. Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus does not see the people as a “crowd” but as sheep of his creation. He does not abandon them to be controlled by anger and hate and jealousy. He does not appease them but allows the anger to take its course, absorbing it into himself. Perhaps you have had the experience of an encounter with an irate child or neighbor or stranger like in a car accident. There is no point in talking while the other rants and raves about what has happened. Often little can be done until anger runs its course, facts are sorted out, and the larger picture can be seen more clearly. Sometimes for the child’s own good, they must be refused something they want very much and words fly. Sometimes a child must be protected, restrained, from doing something they want to do because they could get hurt. We’ve all seen the child having a temper tantrum in the grocery or toy store, yelling while mother watches. The crowd’s screaming scares the religious leaders and is used by them, bullies Pilate and is appeased by him, but for Jesus who knows his sheep, he walks through the rejection to a better future.
How comforting to know that when we are out of control, being driven by forces we do not understand or when we have lost sight of the big picture, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows our name, knows we are but dust, and is willing to go to the cross for us. He walks with us through those times when we are our ugliest. We can only bow our head in gratitude and worship him.