What if the Jews had picked Jesus instead of Barabbas?

It was a chaotic scene. A raucous crowd had gathered in the stone-paved courtyard called “Gabbatha.” The Governor of Judea set a proposal before the people, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” He gave them a choice. They replied, “Barabbas!” Pilate responded, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!” Now, Barabbas had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder. Jesus was innocent. He had done nothing wrong or illegal, yet, Barabbas was a murderer! Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, r saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (Matt 27:15-23; Luke 23:18-25;John 18:39-40) Was an opportunity missed? Should Pilate just have used his power to release Jesus, knowing He was innocent? What would have happened if the Jews had picked Jesus to be released instead of Barabbas? This is a question recently posed to me.

Anyone who knows the Gospel story knows that Jesus was led away and crucified. He died on that cross an innocent man and was buried in a tomb among the wealthy. But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus arose from the grave! His resurrection is the “Good News”! Why? Because He conquered death (Revelation 1:18). Since Jesus arose from the dead, we, too, can live again. For “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17). It all happened for a reason – it was part of God’s plan to save us from our sins (Acts 2:23)! So, to answer the question, “What would have happened if the Jews had chosen Barabbas instead of Jesus?” we can say, without a doubt, that Jesus still would have died, been buried, and resurrected. No matter the circumstances, the “fullness oftime had come” (Galatians 4:4), and God’s plan was to be fulfilled. Yes, the Jews had free will; they could have chosen Barabbas. God did not force them against their will in order to enact His divine plan. By no means! However, since they were such willing participants, eager to reject this “blasphemer” and destroy Him Gohn 5:18), God certainly used their hatred for Jesus to, ultimately, carry out the “Scheme of Redemption.” Notice that the Bible says their choice fulfilled prophecy of what would happen. John writes, “Then Pilate said to them, ‘You take Him and judge Him according to your law.’ Therefore the Jews said to him, ‘It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,’ that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die (18:31-32).” The evil, hostile Jews who were against Jesus thought they were ridding themselves of some undesirable, but instead, unknowingly became God’s servants, the same way evil King Nebuchadnezzar became God’s servant to carry out His plans and purposes many years earlier (cf.Jeremiah 25:9; Acts 2:23-34, 4:10).

Jesus Himself stated, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:7, 18:31-33). He was fully aware of what was coming. The word “must” is the critical term in that passage. It implies that the crucifixion of Jesus was planned, necessary, ordained, and guaranteed. His death was the primary objective. Why? How could Jesus overcome death (as a human being), unless he first died? It had to happen. It was just as Isaiah 53 stated, the whole event was laid out and prophesied beforehand. I like the way the CEV renders it: “The Lord decided his servant would suffer as a sacrifice to take away the sin and guilt of others. Now the servant will live to see his own descendants. He did everything the Lord had planned.” (Isaiah 53:10) I appreciate the question, but the real answer is, “It doesn’t matter what they did, because God’s plan would be and was carried out according to His will.” Let’s be thankful for what He actually did, instead of what might have been!