he answered, “Do you want me to release the ‘king of the Jews’ for you?”
a father’s son
in place of
a father’s son
The crowd has asked for the release of a prisoner. Understood is that the one they want released is Barabbas. Pilate is acting like a big tease when he, oh so innocently, wants to clarify that it is “the king of the Jews” they want released. Of course, it is not.
Not only is there mean teasing going on but some irony as well. The word for “release” is ἀπολύω (apolyō, give leave to depart). This same word has been used by the disciples when there were crowds of hungry people and by Jesus after those persons have been fed. He sent them back to their ordinary lives after an extra-ordinary event. It is also used in the debate about divorce and one person releasing another (10:1–12). It can also be seen at the end of each healing with release from sickness or an unclean spirit.
Those earlier recognitions of needful endings of a season of life are here continuing those natural, expected, habitual times to be followed by a reset.
Yet, in the play about releasing there is a different edge. In just another 6 verses, Barabbas will be released from captivity and Jesus will be released to crucifixion.
Pilate is in charge of this conversation about release. He has the authority to release or not to release. His wonderment at Jesus and toying with the crowd might lead a Reader to suspect that things might still turn out alright for Jesus. Peter may well have been correct to not buy the suffering and death part of Jesus’ vision and jump to rising from victory to victory until the end of time. Perhaps Pilate won’t give his authority away to a dancing girl’s desire (theleō).
Yet, Pilate is asking Herod’s question, “what do you want?” (thelete) to a roiling crowd.
Pilate appears disinterested in anything resembling a trial to deal with this problem put in his lap by the chief priests. His primary goal seems to be to avoid a significant disruption or riot during the time of overcrowding Jerusalem during this major feast.