Mark 15:11

But the chief priests incited the crowd to get Barabbas released instead.

do they have to do
all the work around here
those poor bishoprics
so put upon

defending faith all day long
with extra sessions
all through the night
lest something slip through

able to finally decide
yet another is to die
it’s only what you say
doing is no mitigation

now to hold to their word
Herod has nothing on them
there is an unruly herd
to wrangle into their image

Triangled relationships have been around for a long time. Here we have Pilate, chief priests, and crowd. Pilate and the chief priests find themselves speaking to one another through the actions of a crowd.

Pilate, knowing the envy of the chief priests, has teased them by baiting the crowd—asking if they want Jesus released. This raises the hackles of the chief priests and they respond to Pilate by stirring the crowd to clarify that they want Barabbas released, not Jesus.

This continues to this day as leaks to the press become a way to stir the masses to send a message through their predictable reactions.

A savvy politician will expect a reaction from their sparring partner and be able to take advantage of it. Mark does not record Pilate washing his hands to proclaim his innocence regarding the disposition of Jesus. However, in egging on the crowd, and thus the chief priests, it appears that the crowd has the last word—free Barabbas; kill Jesus!

The history of the church has borne this out. Pilate is innocent; all Jews are guilty. Anti-Semitism has been and still is all too alive and active within the church. This, in turn, justifies the state to disadvantage Jews on an almost predictable cycle. When they are not the ones being fired at, other minority groups take their turn. This makes it all too possible to begin blaming multiple groups for the anxiety loose in a society.

While still in the middle of an episode with Barabbas, it is helpful to remember how Mark puts a story within a story. Mark’s initial audience has literally seen insurrectionists like Barabbas lose the Temple. Mark could have moved from verse 5 to 15b but needed to give a warning about a choice of ways—Jesus’ or Barabbas’.

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