Matthew 27 15-18. “Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered Him.”
The Feast of the Passover was of such significance to the Jews that Pilate had established a custom. Every year, during the Feast, he would release a prisoner who had been condemned to death. Barabbas was such a man. We know from history that he was in insurgent, a man who had committed murder in the name of freedom from Rome. He was condemned to be cruicified. It is interesting that Barabbas’ name means the son of the father. The old Syriac version adds another name, the very name which our Lord bore, the name of Jesus. “Jesus Barabbas.” Satan just never stops.
Pilate had chosen Barabbas in hopes that the people would choose to free Jesus instead. Pilate knew very well that Jesus had been accused out of malice and envy, and was guilty of no crime. So the canny politician set up a choice that he truly believed would solve his dilemma for him.
He did not want to condemn Jesus to death. Barabbas was much more worthy of death, and surely the people would know that and choose to set Jesus free.