The choices people make can be flat-out baffling. We wonder, “What were they thinking?” We encounter one of these perplexing moments on Friday of the Passion Week. It is now early Friday morning (John 18:28; Mark 15:1). Jesus had been subjected to what can only very loosely be called a trial by the Jewish leaders. He is now turned over to the Roman authorities to be tried for political reasons (the title “King of the Jews” was a two-edged sword in a Roman province). Jesus was before Pontius Pilate, prefect of the Roman province of Judea from 26-36 AD. After interrogating Him, Pilate concludes that Jesus is innocent. The Jews, particularly the chief priests (Mark 15:10-11), had one final recourse to see that Jesus was crucified. Pilate had a custom of releasing one prisoner during the Passover (Mark 15:6). Their options: Barabbas and Jesus. The former was a murderer and a notorious insurrectionist (Matthew 27:16; Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19; John 18:40). In short, Barabbas was a convicted thug. The latter was a Man who had done nothing wrong and posed no threat to Rome. On the contrary, He taught that Jews should render to Caesar what is Caesar’s (Mark 12:17). No brainer right? A reasonable and just people would call for Jesus’ release. The chief priests would not have it and they chided the crowd to choose Barabbas, so they did and Barabbas was released (Mark 15:11). This takes us to noon on Friday of the Passion Week (John 19:14).
By any account, the Jews made an irrational and unreasonable choice on Friday of the Passion Week. How about you? Who would you have chosen that day, Barabbas or Jesus? Let’s move beyond the hypothetical and into the here and now. Have you chosen Jesus over any other religious figure? Have you chosen Jesus over any pleasure or ambition? Jesus is the only reasonable choice.
Martin Luther wrote well-known hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” In it he declares,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He!
On this Good Friday we are reminded once again, “Christ Jesus, it is He!” who suffered and died for our sins. This is why Jesus of Nazareth was and remains the only reasonable choice for all people. In 1871, Antonio Ciseri painted a depiction of the scene of Jesus’ trial. He called it “Ecce Homo” which is a Latin phrase that means, “Behold the Man.” In the painting, Pilate is looking out that the crowd with his back to those looking at the painting with his hand pointing back at Jesus. Similarly, Good Friday calls our attention to look upon Jesus, the One who endured the ignominy of the cross for your sins and mine. On this Good Friday I urge you to “Behold the Man!” Choose Christ. For His suffering and death is the basis of our glorious justification. This is what makes Good Friday, well, good.