From: Over 50 Interpreters Explain the Gospel of Luke Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2015
Books Utilized Code Numbers at End of Chapter
WEB: The whole company of them rose up and brought him before Pilate.
Young’s: And having risen, the whole multitude of
them did lead him to Pilate,
Conte (RC): And the entire multitude of them, rising up, led him to Pilate.
23:1 And the whole multitude of them arose. Not of the people, who were not as yet turned against Jesus, but of the parties mentioned in verse 66 of the last chapter, namely, the ruling classes. 
The number would also include those following their orders either because of being servants or to be in the “good graces” of the elite. After all, those huddled around the fires were hardly likely to be of “the ruling classes” but of their followers. When Jesus is brought to Pilate the second time, there is a reference to “the people” in distinction from “the chief priests and the rulers” in verse 13 and that is typically read as indicating that the audience had picked up more typical citizenry. The language fits equally well, however, with being the same “people” as in verse 4 and here--being the non-elite participants in the arrest and any additional fellow travelers they could send for that would support whatever the rulers wanted. The possibility of genuinely uncommitted individuals being allowed to join the group seems modest. After all, they were “pushing the limits” of their influence and had a very weak case; genuine outsiders might do or say anything and compromise the “essential” outcome. [rw]
and led Him
unto Pilate. As the
Roman official in charge of
In depth: Personal
background of Pilate: Pilate
was the sixth Roman procurator of
Pontius Pilate, a Roman knight, owed his high position as Procurator of Judea to his friendship with Sejanus, the powerful minister of the Emperor Tiberius. He probably belonged by birth or adoption to the gens of the Pontii. When Judaea became formally subject to the empire on the deposition of Archelaus, Pontius Pilate, of whose previous career nothing is known, through the interest of Sejanus, was appointed to govern it, with the title of procurator, or collector of the revenue, invested with judicial power. This was in A.D. 26, and he held the post for ten years, when he was deposed from his office in disgrace.
In depth: Governing
style of Pilate . His very first act—the bringing of
the silver eagles and other insignia of the Legions from Caesarea to
Jerusalem—a step which he was obliged to retract—had caused fierce exasperation
between him and the Jews. This had been
increased by his application of money from the Corban
or Sacred Treasury to the secular purpose of bringing water to
In depth: Where was
the trial held at ? It is a disputed question whether Pilate now
lived, when at
WEB: They began to accuse him, saying, "We found this man perverting the nation, forbidding paying taxes to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king."
Young’s: and began to accuse him, saying, 'This
one we found perverting the nation, and forbidding to give
tribute to Caesar, saying himself to be Christ a king.'
Conte (RC): Then they began to accuse him, saying, "We found this one subverting our nation, and prohibiting giving tribute to Caesar, and saying that he is Christ the king."
23:2 And they began to accuse Him, saying, We found. A judicial expression, intimating that they had brought Christ, as one convicted of guilt after diligent examination. 
If Jesus had indeed taught rebellion as they said He did, it would have been their first care to have sustained Him, and Pilate probably knew it. 
this fellow perverting the nation. The technical Jewish name for an offender of this sort was Mesith, “seducer” or “impostor,” Acts 13:8-10. This was their first head of indictment, and had the advantage of being perfectly vague. 
and forbidding to give tribute. The taxes which were collected from a conquered nation; the sign, therefore, of their subjection. 
to Caesar. Tiberius was Emperor at the time. All the Roman Emperors were called Caesars, just as the Egyptian kings were of old called Pharaohs. 
This was a complete falsehood; but a political accusation was necessary for their purpose, since a heathen would not have listened to any religious accusation. This was their second charge. 
saying that He Himself is Christ a King. The word “King” is an explanation to bring the case under the head of treason. Yet they must have been well aware that this charge was all the more false in spirit from being true in the letter;--for Christ had always refused and prevented every effort to make Him a temporal king (John 6:15). This was their third charge. 
It is hard to believe that any person enjoying significant success in such an effort could have avoided having his identity being passed along to Pilate. There were simply too many individuals who wanted Roman influence or “friends in high places.” The far larger number of individuals not in that grouping would surely have been spreading tales of this man and this revolutionary movement and this would have “leaked” to those friendly sources and from them to the Procurator. In short if the “threat” had been genuine, the odds were overwhelming that Pilate would already have known of this rebellion-monger. Pulling this Jesus “like a rabbit out of a hat” could hardly have avoided stirring his deepest suspicions of the true intent of the proceedings. [rw]
And He answered him and said, Thou sayest
Pilate only attends to the third charge, and asks Christ this
question on the Roman principle that it was always desirable to secure the
confession of the accused. We see from
St. Luke gives
only this bare summary of the examination, in which the prisoner Jesus simply
replies "Yes," he was the King.
In its own strange way, this was exactly the kind of “king” Pilate would like to deal with, one of no threat to the political order—yet handed over to him by the religious leadership itself under the pretense that He was! For that very reason the accusation seemed ludicrous. Serving as Pilate’s “watchdog” to protect the regime was hardly on their normal agenda! Hence something else must be envolved here rather than just what he was hearing. And Jesus certainly wasn’t acting in that arrogant way that egotistical delusional “kings” would act! So in what happened next, Pilate would be predisposed to assume His innocence.[rw]
In depth: Setting the
Roman trial in the context of what the gospel of John tells us . To understand this scene
perfectly we must read
Pilate, who knew well from his past
experience how fiercely the[y] resented any slight offered to their religious
feelings, wishing for his own purposes to conciliate them, went outside. These Jews, prior to eating the Passover,
would not enter any dwelling from which all leaven had not been carefully
removed; of course, this had not been the case in the palace of Pilate. The governor asks them, in
WEB: Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" He answered him, "So you say."
Young’s: And Pilate questioned him, saying, 'Thou
art the king of the Jews?' and he answering him, said, 'Thou dost say it.'
Conte (RC): And Pilate questioned him, saying: "You are the king of the Jews?" But in response, he said: "You are saying it."
And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? If this charge had any validity, it was
strange that the religious leadership would bring it to his attention at all,
especially at a time when their attention was centered on the
And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. Jesus admits that, in a sense it is true. Pilate has to be thinking: And I haven’t heard anything about this supposedly dangerous man at all? And these religious leaders, who clearly have a lot of other things to object to in him that have nothing to do with my concerns, are so deadly anxious to have him killed when my people haven’t heard any rumor of an uprising at all? As his further questions yield nothing incriminating at all, Pilate’s suspicions are effectively confirmed (John -38).
When you are convinced that you are being played for a fool—especially due to hidden motives—you naturally throw a monkey wrench into their plans, as he immediately proceeds to do [rw].
WEB: Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, "I find no basis for a charge against this man."
Young’s: And Pilate said unto
the chief priests, and the multitude, 'I find no fault in this man;'
Conte (RC): Then Pilate said to the leaders of the priests and to the crowds, "I find no case against this man."
23:4 Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people. i.e., to everyone who had delivered this outrageous case to him in the first place. They wanted his own “judgement” and they were about to get it—but not the approval they wanted and needed. [rw]
I find no fault in this Man. i.e., no crime. This implies an examination by Pilate not here described [by Luke]. 
Pilate took Jesus into the hall of judgment, and examined Him privately. He found that the Jews had delivered Him unto him, through envy, and that His kingdom did not in any wise interfere with the rule or tribute of the Caesars. Matt. xxvii. 11-14; John xviii. 33-38. Pilate then came out and declared his conviction of the innocence of this charge. 
This is the first declaration of His innocence, from the only competent—even approximately competent—and impartial tribunal. It carried with it, of course, that he would not consent to the harmless man being put to death. 
WEB: But they
insisted, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all
Young’s: and they were the more urgent, saying --
'He doth stir up the people, teaching throughout the whole of
Conte (RC): But they continued more intensely, saying: "He has stirred up the people, teaching throughout all of
23:5 And they were the more fierce. Grew more desperate, more violent, more urgent. Since now they see that their last charge of the assumption of royal dignity finds no acceptance with the judge, they come with so much the stronger emphasis back to the first--namely, that He is perverting the people; and told Pilate that this man had set the whole country in an uproar from Judea even unto Galilee. 
What they can’t accomplish through reason and evidence they will attempt to accomplish through vehemence and rabble rousing. Indeed, were they all that far away themselves from being the instigators of the very public turmoil that they attributed to Jesus? [rw]
saying, He stirreth up the people teaching throughout all Jewry. Excites them by His teachings to disorder and rebellion. 
From the region of
words furnish one of the traces in the Synoptists of
the Judaean ministry which they imply, but do not
narrate. Compare “throughout the whole
For all of Pilate’s undoubted faults, there is no imaginable way he was
not alert to any significant report of rabble rousing both in
WEB: But when
Young’s: And Pilate having heard of Galilee,
questioned if the man is a Galilean,
Conte (RC): But Pilate, upon hearing
23:6 When Pilate heard of
Or: In the perplexity of Pilate, balancing between unwillingness to commit a great judicial outrage, and fear to provoke the hostility of the Jewish leaders, the word Galilee struck his ear as a signal of relief. 
he asked whether the Man were a Galilean. The bait took, but not as they desired. Pilate at once plans an escape from the odium of condemning an innocent man, and determines to send Him to Herod. 
WEB: When he
found out that he was in Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was
Young’s: and having known that he is from the
jurisdiction of Herod, he sent him back unto Herod, he being also in
Conte (RC): And when he realized that he was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him away to Herod, who was himself also at
23:7 And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod's
Galilee was in the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, the same who had slain John the Baptist. To him, then, belonged the decision of a charge like the present. Pilate, whose passions were not excited, but whose fears were, was just in this act [of passing the case on to others]. 
he sent Him to
Herod. To “send up” was the technical term for
“submit to a superior tribunal.” [Actually Herod wasn’t technically that
An “innocent” verdict would provide Pilate with political cover if he
decided to let Jesus go and the religious authorities screamed their protests
who himself also
WEB: Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad, for he had wanted to see him for a long time, because he had heard many things about him. He hoped to see some miracle done by him.
Young’s: And Herod having seen Jesus did rejoice
exceedingly, for he was wishing for a long time to see him, because of hearing
many things about him, and he was hoping some sign to see done by him,
Conte (RC): Then Herod, upon seeing Jesus, was very glad. For he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard so many things about him, and he was hoping to see some kind of sign wrought by him.
23:8 And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad. The stress on Herod’s desire to interact with Jesus argues that there was nothing threatening in what he knew of the Lord. That kind of person you aren’t much interested in questioning (verse 9) in the first place; executing, yes. Hence the only indictment he could (in honesty) bring against Jesus was a refusal to cooperate in the hearing. [rw]
This was Herod Antipas, the slayer of John the Baptist. He was at that time living in open incest with that princess Herodias concerning whom the Baptist had administered the public rebuke which had led to his arrest and subsequent execution. Godet graphically sums up the situation: "Jesus was to Herod Antipas what a juggler is to a sated court—an object of curiosity. But Jesus did not lend Himself to such a part; He had neither words nor miracles for a man so disposed, in whom, besides, he saw with horror the murderer of John the Baptist. Before this personage, a mixture of levity and sombre superstition, he maintained a silence which even the accusation of the Sanhedrin (Luke ) could not lead him to break. Herod, wounded and humiliated, took vengeance on this conduct by contempt." 
for he was
desirous to see him of a long season. However
he had gone through a period (extended?) where that was the last thing on his priority list: When he
used to hear that talk (9:9), he was in a very different state of mind from the
present. He was then conscience-smitten,
and afraid that Jesus was John, risen from the
dead. Now all is changed. His conscience no longer disturbs him, and to
his earthly soul, a man in chains was very different from the same man filling
because he had heard many things of Him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him. [The desire] was in the spirit which led Jews, again and again, to demand of the Lord a sign, which, from the time of Satan’s call, that he should throw himself down from the pinnacle, He would never give. Had it been the request of some poor, blind one for sight, or of some leper for healing, doubtless the miracle would still have been wrought. But not for curiosity. 
should be noted that Herod had no problem at all in believing that Jesus might
well have miracle working power. His
informants throughout the region would surely have passed on word if His
actions gave any hint of illusion or chicanery.
It was simply another piece of data any competent ruler of a highly
religious region would like to have in case things should change and they
become open adversaries. [rw]
Weymouth: So he put a number of questions to Him, but Jesus gave him no reply.
WEB: He questioned him with many words, but he gave no answers.
Young’s: and was questioning him in many words, and he answered him nothing.
Conte (RC): Then he questioned him with many words. But he gave him no response at all.
23:9 Then he questioned with Him. We know not what he asked him, but it seems that he tried question after question—perhaps relating to His person, His office, His doctrine, His miracles. 
in many words. It was an extended examination, conducted probably before the tetrarch's courtiers, with many a cross-question and device to draw out the wonder-worker. 
but He answered him nothing. It was no part of our Lord's calling to gratify an idle curiosity, nor could any object be gained by declaring His doctrine to one so utterly worldly. He therefore performed no miracle, and was silent to all the questions put to Him. A respectful silence is an instruction for some, and a refuge against others. 
Or: Because Herod asked Him nothing in that judicial manner, which was becoming in a judge. Herod, a curious compound of sin and fear, who had shown to John a character partly kind and attentive, now seeks from Jesus by questions, many things, probably, which were utterly unsuited to the situation in which they stood to each other. Jesus had ended His public teachings. He stood there on the question of guilt or innocence. Herod cared nothing for that, and hence his questionings being impertinent, were unanswered. 
WEB: The chief priests and the scribes stood, vehemently accusing him.
Young’s: And the chief priests and the scribes
stood vehemently accusing him,
Conte (RC): And the leaders of the priests, and the scribes, stood firm in persistently accusing him.
And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. They saw very well that their interest required them to paint Him to Herod in colors as black as was any way possible, and accuse Him; therefore, they did so, with visible emphasis (comp. Acts xviii. 28) as if they feared that even Herod himself, perchance, might be too equitable with their victim, seizing, as it would seem, the favorable moment when the chagrin of Herod disposed him to listen. An affected moderation would have rendered those accusers less suspected, their accusations more probable and their envy less visible, than this vehemence; but envy seldom or never consults prudence. 
They were now bent on securing their purpose, and perhaps feared that Herod’s well-known weakness and superstition might rob them of their prey;--especially as he was much less afraid of them than Pilate was, having strong influence in Rome. 
WEB: Herod with his soldiers humiliated him and mocked him. Dressing him in luxurious clothing, they sent him back to Pilate.
Young’s: and Herod with his soldiers having set
him at nought, and having mocked, having put around
him gorgeous apparel, did send him back to Pilate,
Conte (RC): Then Herod, with his soldiers, scorned him. And he ridiculed him, clothing him in a white garment. And he sent him back to Pilate.
And Herod. Showing that the abuse that follows had Herod’s tolerance, approval, and even active participation. [rw]
with his men of war. The soldiers of his bodyguard. 
Such as formed his retinue at the time; his military officers and soldiers. 
set Him at nought. Herod was acute enough to see that Jesus was not really open to any capital charge, and after the odium he had incurred on account of John the Baptist, he was not willing to add the death of Jesus to the number of his crimes. Yet, being exasperated at the dignified passiveness of Jesus, he, with his guards, treated Him as though He was nobody, a nothing, then scoffed at Him, then caused Him to be arrayed in a gorgeous purple robe (doubtless one of his own, and probably the same robe which was afterward used by the soldiers of Pilate), in derision of His Messianic dignity. 
Treating Him not as a criminal, but only as a person worthy of contempt. “He is despised and rejected of men;” “he was despised and we esteemed him not,” Isaiah 53:3. 
and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe. He treated Him, not as a criminal, but as a religious Enthusiast, worthy only of contempt and scorn. The "gorgeous robe," more accurately, "bright raiment," was a white festal mantle such as Jewish kings and Roman nobles wore on great occasions. It was probably an old robe of white tissue of some kind, embroidered with silver. Dean Plumptre suggests that we might venture to trace in this outrage a vindictive retaliation for the words which the Teacher had once spoken—with evident allusion to Herod's court—of those who were gorgeously apparelled (Luke 7:25). It was this Herod of whom the Lord had spoken so recently with for Him a rare bitterness, "Go ye, and tell that fox [literally, 'she-fox'] Herod" (Luke ). 
and sent Him again to Pilate. Then, not wishing to be outdone in a complimentary act by Pilate, he waived his claim of jurisdiction over Jesus, and sent Him back to the Roman governor, at whose tribunal He had first been arraigned. 
This involved a second distinct acquittal of our Lord from every political charge brought against Him. Had He in any way been guilty of either (1) perverting the people, (2) forbidding to pay tribute, or (3) claiming to be a king, it would have been Herod’s duty, and still more his interest, to punish Him. His dismissal of the case was a deliberate avowal of His innocence. 
WEB: Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before that they were enemies with each other.
Young’s: and both Pilate and Herod became friends
on that day with one another, for they were before at enmity between
Conte (RC): And Herod and Pilate became friends on that day. For previously they were enemies to one another.
And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together. This interchange of official civility had made amends for their estrangement. 
The remarks of some Commentators about their [sharing] in enmity against Christ (so even, recently, Wordsworth), are quite beside the purpose. The present feeling of Pilate was any thing but hostile to the person of Christ; and Herod, by his treatment of Him, shows that he thought Him beneath his judicial notice. 
they were at enmity between themselves. What had been the cause of their quarrel is
unknown. It is commonly supposed that it
was Pilate's slaying the Galileans in
However: There must have been many occasions for quarrel between two such men in such positions. 
WEB: Pilate called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people,
Young’s: And Pilate having called together the
chief priests, and the rulers, and the people,
Conte (RC): And Pilate, calling together the leaders of the priests, and the magistrates, and the people,
And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people. Notice that now, for the first time, Pilate formally calls “the people” into the consultation. We had one (verse 4) mention of the “people” as an accidental thing. Now they are to play an important part in the transaction. He had not failed to perceive that these accusations had slight backing from the respectable masses, and probably knew what remarkable zeal for this teacher they had manifested within the last few days. By their co-operation, he might resist the demand of the rulers that Jesus should be slain. 
Or a diametrically opposed view: We have no textual hint from Luke that this group called “the people” is any different in composition from the group called “the people” in verse 4 and which, in conjunction with the clerical authorities are labeled the even more emphatic term “the whole multitude” in verse 1. When Pilate addressed “them” in verse 14 the addressed individuals again explicitly includes the religious authorities—not just “the people” in distinction from its leaders.
Pilate’s use of the words “the people” certainly throws open the discussion to all in verse 13 and not just the priestly plotters—but there is no textual evidence for assuming they are anyone but the clerics’ supporters in the first place! (a) If there was an argumentation in numbers would it not have been from the authorities scrounging up additional supporters who would go wherever they were told and do whatever they were instructed? (b) At that very early hour in the morning, why would anyone else have a particular reason to know what was going on, much less to be at the judging seat of Caesar?
This does not rule out the possibility (probability?) that the very numbers involved had Pilate thinking that this was a more representative crowd than it really was. The crowd had been originally created to serve the interests of the upper priesthood and one can hardly imagine anything else than they taking steps to assure it stayed that way.
In Americanized terms, think of a traditional “lynch mob” raised by a group of de facto leaders—in the first century case, de jure leaders, the higher religious leadership--in which the outcome is foreordained—if the mob has anything to say in the matter. Of course this is one in which friends of the accused are decidedly advised not to come or, if somehow stumbling into the situation, to keep their mouths firmly shut! [rw]
WEB: and said to them, "You brought this man to me as one that perverts the people, and see, I have examined him before you, and found no basis for a charge against this man concerning those things of which you accuse him.
Young’s: said unto them, 'Ye brought to me this
man as perverting the people, and lo, I before you having examined, found in
this man no fault in those things ye bring forward against him;
Conte (RC): said to them: "You have brought before me this man, as one who disturbs the people. And behold, having questioned him before you, I find no case against this man, in those things about which you accuse him.
Said unto them. This was a formal speech from a bema—perhaps the throne of Archelaus—set on the tessellated pavement called by the Jews Gabbatha (John ). 
Ye have brought this man unto me. If I thought this Man was dangerous I would have had Him hauled here on my own orders. This hearing is solely and totally your responsibility. If things are not going as you assumed, it’s because you’ve given me no reason to do what you wish. [rw]
as one that perverteth the people. In some cases that would deeply concern me because it would involve public order and stability. But you’ve used language that could cover such a problem but doesn’t have to, and you’ve given no usable evidence to prove that it should involve my governing concerns at all. [rw]
and, behold, I, having examined Him before you. It hasn’t been in private or secret—at least not in part. I’ve heard nothing from you nor in answer to any question of mine that would justify the kind of course you insist I must take. (At this point he must feel more than a little annoyance at their transparent effort to use him for their own purposes.) [rw]
The I is emphatic; you bring a charge, I after a public examination find it to be baseless. 
have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse Him. To put it even more bluntly: I have to have something to justify convicting Him of anything . . . and you’ve totally failed to provide me a reason—not even a decent excuse.
WEB: Neither has Herod, for I sent you to him, and see, nothing worthy of death has been done by him.
Young’s: no, nor yet Herod, for I sent you back
unto him, and lo, nothing worthy of death is having been done by him;
Conte (RC): And neither did Herod. For I sent you all to him, and behold, nothing deserving of death was recorded about him.
No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him. If Herod had thought Him worthy of death he would either have sent Him back with the recommendation, leaving it to me since this is my jurisdiction, or returned northward with Him in chains to be executed there. Yet He is returned with no recommendation for the death penalty. [rw]
and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto [has been done by, NKJV] Him. The charges are not proved against Him. They had every opportunity of proving them, first before Pilate, and then before Herod, unjustly subjecting Him to trial before two men in succession; and yet after all that [neither declared Him guilty]. There could be no better evidence that He was innocent. 
WEB: I will therefore chastise him and release him."
Young’s: having chastised, therefore, I will
Conte (RC): Therefore, I will chastise him and release him."
I will therefore chastise Him and release Him. It was the Roman custom to scourge those who were about to be crucified, especially slaves, making this the most ignominious punishment. The scourge was composed of ox nerves, extremely sharp, interwoven with sheep bones, so as to lacerate the flesh. The victim was bound to a low pillar, in order that, stooping forward, he might curve his bare back to receive the full, fair stroke. 
Note that this chastisement was not in [preparation for] His crucifixion and therefore not that punishment the Romans used to inflict upon malefactors as a preparative to their crucifixion. Pilate intended it [to] exempt Him from that death they so studiously endeavor to expose Him to.  [1 of 6]
This was the point at which Pilate began to yield to the fatal vacillation which soon passed into guilt and made it afterwards impossible for him to escape. He had just declared the prisoner absolutely innocent. To subject Him, therefore, to the horrible punishment of scourging merely to gratify the pride of the Jews, and to humble Him in their eyes (Deuteronomy 25:3), was an act of disgraceful illegality, which he must have felt to be most unworthy of the high Roman sense of “Justice.” 
In effect, he has thrown Jesus’ enemies “a bone to chew on:” Yes, I’ll do something to get you off my back. But this is severe punishment in and of itself—sometimes even causing death by itself--and I’m going beyond the existence of evidence to do even this much. But there is simply no way I can go beyond this, no matter how much you wish me! You’ll have His “blood” shed; isn’t that enough without taking it to execution as well?
(At this point Pilate is surely convinced that there is an element of brazen irrationality among Jesus’ foes and, perhaps, even considering that they might be far more dangerous than Jesus by stirring up their own riot and disturbance against the judicial restraint. A riot that their minions might spread by rumor and lies to engage the entire town in open unrest. Today we might say that “Pilate had a tiger by the tail” and was afraid it might turn and bite him when it couldn’t get the Victim it really wanted. The odds were this would not happen, but when leaders are behaving this irrationally—who knows for sure?) [rw]
WEB: Now he had to release one prisoner to them at the feast.
Young’s: for it was necessary for him to release
to them one at every feast,
Conte (RC): Now he was required to release one person for them on the feast day.
(For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) This habit of releasing a criminal unto the people at the feast of the Passover was one of such invariable practice and long continuance, that it became a fixed and necessary custom. From what the custom arose, or by whom it was introduced, is not known. It was probably adopted to secure popularity among the Jews, and to render the government of the Romans less odious. Any little indulgence granted to the Jews during the heavy oppression of the Romans would serve to conciliate their favor, and to keep the nation from sedition. It might happen often, that when persons were arraigned before the Romans on charge of sedition, some peculiar favorite of the people, or some leader, might be among the number. It is evident that if they had the privilege of recovering such a person, it would serve much to allay their feelings, and make tolerable the yoke under which they groaned. 
It is quite possible that Pilate was attempting to convert the situation from a time-wasting one for him to one where he actually came out ahead: faced with the tradition of freeing a prisoner, by freeing Jesus he permits an innocent man to walk free and avoids having to release a guilty one. He fulfills the “letter” of the tradition while gutting it of its probable original intent—to free a popular individual who has been legitimately convicted of a death penalty crime. [rw]
In depth: The textual issue revolving around this verse . The sentence (in the Common Version) here put in parentheses as verse 17 lacks support of the most decisive documents, and seems to have been a gloss from Matthew 27:15, which crept into the text. (It is wanting [in manuscripts] A, B, K, L, J, H.—A. H.) It was intended to explain by it the mention of Barabbas in the next verse. The custom alluded to, of releasing a prisoner at the Passover Feast, is spoken of by Matthew and John as obligatory on the governor.
WEB: But they all cried out together, saying, "Away with this man! Release to us Barabbas!"--
Young’s: and they cried out -- the whole multitude
-- saying, 'Away with this one, and release to us Barabbas,'
Conte (RC): But the entire crowd exclaimed together, saying: "Take this one, and release to us Barabbas!"
cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man. They knew,
indeed, that they had no basis of argument, but they knew also the virtue of
uproar. We may imagine a clamor (like
and release unto us Barabbas. The meaning of his name Bar-Abbas is "Son of a (famous) father," or possibly Bar-Rabbas, "Son of a (famous) rabbi." A curious reading is alluded to by Origen, which inserts before Barabbas the word "Jesus." It does not, however, appear in any of the older or more trustworthy authorities. Jesus was a common name at that period, and it is possible that "when Barabbas was led out, the Roman, with some scorn, asked the populace whom they preferred—Jesus BarAbbas or Jesus who is called Christ!" (Farrar.). That this reading existed in very early times is indisputable, and Origen, who specially notices it, approves of its omission, not on critical, but on dogmatic grounds. 
WEB: one who was thrown into prison for a certain revolt in the city, and for murder.
Young’s: who had been, because of a certain
sedition made in the city, and murder, cast into prison.
Conte (RC): Now he had been cast into prison because of a certain sedition that occurred in the city and for murder.
(Who for a certain sedition. Nature unspecified but of a serious enough nature to obtain Roman notice and arrest. The descriptive term used (“sedition”) argues that the direct reason (“murder”) was part of a far broader piece of intended troublemaking. In short, he was exactly the kind of troublemaker that the preservation of peace and stability required be removed from the general population. [rw]
made in the city. It occurred locally and not in some obscure part of the province. The people Herod addressed would have knowledge of it, far more so than if it had happened anywhere else. [rw]
and for murder. Roman or Jewish victim, we know not. Nor the economic status. (Widespread poverty made the well-to-do natural targets.) Whatever the specifics of the assault—did Barabbas think it would encourage a wider outbreak or was it an attack never intending to end in murder in the first place? So many things we don’t know and which intrigue us! The important fact for this narrative was that he was a murderer and of that there was no doubt. [rw]
“Ye denied the Holy One
and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you,” Acts .
Nothing is known of Bar-Abbas, but it has been
conjectured from his name that he or his father belonged to the order of the Sanhedrists, who therefore desired his release. If he had been a follower of Judas of
was cast into prison.) Whether anyone else was caught or not, we are not informed. Whatever had been done or not done in the disturbance, he had been caught and his guilt of such a major crime assured that the heaviest possible punishment was coming down on his head.
In depth: The “sedition” (typically rendered “insurrection,” “rebellion,” or “revolt” by more modern translations) that Barabbas was involved in [rw]. We know nothing of the nature of this insurrection but can make a few reasonable inferences from the scanty data:
(1) It had been recent: the Romans would have no good reason to needlessly prolong the wait between conviction and crucifixion.
(2) Because of this, it also shows the potential for unexpected turmoil even at the most pious of occasions, such as the Passover. Even assuming it attracted only 100,000 pilgrims—a thoroughly unrealistic undercount—and that only 1% of the group was willing to engage in the “anonymous” violence of riot and revolution, then you always had a 1,000 potential troublemakers. Multiply that number by the number of 100 thousands you believe attended, and you obtain an even more eye opening number. No wonder the Romans stationed extra troops in the city at the feasts!
(4) Unless there had already been executions in the matter, then the known participants were Barabbas and, quite possibly, the thief who was crucified with him.
(5) Only one person is known to have died from the violence—at the hands of Barabbas himself.
In short this sounds more like a riot than
an insurrection, but with a large population center (especially at feast time), even a modest size riot can degenerate into something far
more serious, especially if those who start it are loudly shouting their hatred
“Revolutionary?” From the standpoint of a historian writing at his desk two thousand years later, quite likely not. But from the standpoint of the Roman governor and, quite possibly public opinion of the day, that “mere” riot was the potential beginning of an attempt at revolution whether explicitly aimed at that purpose or not. Any major riot was such. Hence the label given—one which we ourselves would surely have given if we had been living in the city at that time. (Especially as Gentiles, a small minority!)
WEB: Then Pilate spoke to them again, wanting to release Jesus,
Young’s: Pilate again then -- wishing to release
Jesus -- called to them,
Conte (RC): Then Pilate spoke to them again, wanting to release Jesus.
Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. This was in the midst of their shouting, when it would be hard to make himself heard. What he wanted to say was in the strain of further protestation against wrong to an innocent man. 
Or (and less likely): He did not make them a second speech, but simply called out again his question as to their choice. 
Weymouth: They, however, persistently shouted, "Crucify, crucify him!"
WEB: but they shouted, saying, "Crucify! Crucify him!"
Young’s: but they were calling out, saying,
'Crucify, crucify him.'
Conte (RC): But they shouted in response, saying: "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
But they cried. The word implies a continuous cry of increasing vehemence. The vox populi was in this instance vox Diaboli. 
saying, Crucify him, crucify him. It was the first mention of this awful mode of execution. 
The first explicit mention, yes, but the very trouble the religious authorities are going through to present Jesus as a dangerous Man to Pilate surely implies such a fate. Short of death, what could Pilate do to Him that the religious authorities themselves couldn’t do under cover of enforcing the Mosaical system against religious dissidents and deviants? [rw]
WEB: He said to them the third time, "Why? What evil has this man done? I have found no capital crime in him. I will therefore chastise him and release him."
Young’s: And he a third time said unto them, 'Why,
what evil did he? no cause of
death did I find in him; having chastised him, then, I will release him.'
Conte (RC): Then he said to them a third time: "Why? What evil has he done? I find no case against him for death. Therefore, I will chastise him and release him."
And he said unto them the third time. There is a grim historic paradox here: Peter denies Jesus three times and Pilate defends Him three times! [rw]
Why, what evil hath He done? He does what a responsible governor should do automatically: demand evidence. Here he has the religious authorities and their backers in the audience demanding that he do what their religious code of the Torah prohibited them from doing—(1) convicting without evidence and (2) doing so because the influential and powerful wanted it done! The “heathen” lands up standing for a higher standard of behavior than the supposedly “pious!” [rw]
I have found no cause of death in Him. He wants a true “cause” not just a mere excuse. Truth be told, did he have enough justification for even the beating he proposes as a compromise? Perhaps he reasons that there is no way Jesus is going to get out of this situation without a major injustice occurring. He could be reasoning that this hideously painful injustice was the best he could arrange without the situation flying totally out of hand—for both Jesus and himself. Though he had no desire to see the unjustified execution of a pilgrim, he also had the utilitarian desire and responsibility not to see the city thrown into total chaos--which, if things continued at this rate, they could well do. [rw]
I will therefore chastise Him, and let Him go. This was a horrible punishment. The condemned person was usually stripped and fastened to a pillar or stake, and then scourged with leather throngs tipped with leaden balls or sharp spikes. The effects, described by Romans, and Christians in the 'Martyrdoms,' were terrible. Not only the muscles of the back, but the breast, the face, the eyes, were torn; the very entrails were laid bare, the anatomy was exposed, and the sufferer, convulsed with torture, was often thrown down a bloody heap at the feet of the judge. In our Lord's case this punishment, though not proceeding to the awful consequences described in some of the 'Martyrologies,' must have been very severe: this is evident from His sinking under the cross, and from the short time which elapsed before His death upon it. 
WEB: But they were urgent with loud voices, asking that he might be crucified. Their voices and the voices of the chief priests prevailed.
Young’s: And they
were pressing with loud voices asking him to be crucified, and their voices,
and those of the chief priests, were prevailing,
Conte (RC): But they persisted, with loud voices, in demanding that he be crucified. And their voices increased in intensity.
And they were instant [insistent, NKJV] with loud voices, requiring that He might be crucified. They were adamant and unrelenting that Jesus be put to death. Evidence, justice both irrelevant. His death would be the only thing that would appease their rage. (The cynic in me can’t help but suspect that by this point they were “well oiled” with the ancient forms of liquor, a contribution that would assure the crowd’s boisterous support for whatever direction the religious leadership moved. Or, if you will, as a “bonus” for all the work for them that they were doing. [rw]
And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. Unmindful even of properity, they joined in the cry of the rabble. 
The crowd—obviously far more numerous than its priestly leaders—had apparently led the chanting previously. Now the priestly clique maneuvering the crowd and the arrest join in so that there can be absolutely no doubt that there was any division in the audience: it was united in behalf of what the priestly faction wanted--death. Their screaming told Pilate that they were beyond the point of even arguing about the matter. They demanded agreement. Period.
And he had to ponder whether the
result of continuing to protect Jesus was going to result in more general chaos
throughout the entire city. And how was he
going to explain that it was all because he had stood up for a Jew the
officials in Rome had never yet heard of?
Hence he capitulates. Faced with
the unknown and fearful—potential chaos in
However it might have been simply giving up in face of the crowd supporting the priests rather than their own joining in to the bedlam: “And of the chief priests” is left out by the best [Greek manuscript] authorities. 
In depth: What happens before the final sentencing that Luke omits ? Luke here omits the flagellation (Matthew 27:26); the derision and mock homage of the soldiery—the scarlet sagum and crown of thorns; the awful scene of the Ecce Homo; the fresh terror of Pilate on hearing that He called Himself “the Son of God,” and the deepening of that terror by the final questioning in the Praetorium; the “Behold your King!”; the introduction of the name of Caesar into the shouts of the multitude; Pilate’s washing his hands; the last awful shout “His blood be on us and on our children;” and the clothing of Jesus again in His own garments. (See Matthew 27; Mark 15; John 18, 19.) To suppose that there was a second scourging after the sentence is a mistake. Matthew 27:26 is retrospective.
Weymouth: So Pilate gave judgement, yielding to their demand.
WEB: Pilate decreed that what they asked for should be done.
Young’s: and Pilate gave judgment for their
request being done,
Conte (RC): And so Pilate issued a judgment granting their petition.
And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. He goes through the formalities to make it official. One can easily imagine him rushing through it as quickly as decorum alowed. For all Pilate’s faults, it is unlikely that he remembered this day without a sense of nagging failure and embarrassment. If not so much for Jesus (though his judgment of His innocence might well nag at him as well) but for allowing himself to be intimidated by nothing short of a priestly organized mob. One can’t help but wonder what actions he later took to annoy the dominant religious leaders. . . for it is hard to imagine him letting such a humiliation going by without some kind of response so they will know that this will not be permitted to become a pattern. [rw]
gave sentence. The two technical formulae for the sentence of death would be—to the Prisoner “Ibis ad crucem” (“Thou shalt go to the Cross”); to the attendant soldier, “I miles, expedi crucem” (“Go soldier, get ready the Cross”). 
In depth: Pilate’s behavior in light of all four accounts . We can only obtain from all the four Evangelists, and especially from John, a full conception of the earnestness with which Pilate strove to escape from the necessity of what he felt to be a needless crime. If he was not, as Tertullian says, “jam pro conscientia sua Christianus,” he was evidently deeply impressed; and the impossibility of doing right must have come upon him as a terrible Nemesis for his past sins.
It is very noteworthy that he took step after step to secure the acquittal of Jesus. 1. He emphatically and publicly announced His perfect innocence. 2. He sent Him to Herod. He made an offer to release Him as a boon [favor to the people]. 4. He tried to make scourging take the place of crucifixion. 5. He appealed to compassion.
John shows still more clearly how in successive stages of the trial he sets aside, i., the vague general charge of being “an evil doer” (18:30); ii., Of being in any seditious sense “a king” (18:39); iii., Of any guilt in His religious claims (19:12). He only yields at last through fear (), which makes him release a man guilty of the very crime for which he delivers Jesus to a slave’s death. The fact that Pilate’s patron Sejanus had probably by this time fallen, and that Tiberius was executing all connected with him, may have enhanced Pilate’s fears. He knew that an accusation of High Treason (under the Lex Majestatis) was generally fatal (Tacitus, Ann., iii. 38; Suetonius, Tib., 58).
Weymouth: The man who was lying in prison charged with riot and murder and for whom they clamoured he set free, but Jesus he gave up to be dealt with as they desired.
WEB: He released him who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus up to their will.
Young’s: and he released him who because of
sedition and murder hath been cast into the prison, whom they were asking, and
Jesus he gave up to their will.
Conte (RC): Then he released for them the one who had been cast into prison for murder and sedition, whom they were requesting. Yet truly, Jesus he handed over to their will.
And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired. Somehow one does not imagine that once Barabbas was released into the hands of the priests and their mob of supporters that they kept him around any longer than to send him on his way, happy to be rid of him. Just as the authorities had no further interest in having Judas around (when he threw the bribe money back at them) after they had no further use for him either. [rw]
but he delivered Jesus to their will. Note the “their will.” Pilate made the whole thing “legal,” but it had nothing to do with his personal preferences.
Note: The time frame of the events before Pilate : The events of this chapter, hitherto, must have busily occupied the time from , or earlier, until about
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