The Trade


You may have heard that familiar phrase, “Life is a series of trade-offs.” No matter our life stage, we all face deciding what changes are needed, what risks we’re willing to take, and which choices we’re going to make as we give up certain things in exchange for others. Some trade-offs required more than we were prepared to give; others netted more than we hoped to gain. There are also times when our trades fall terribly short of our expectations, or when we foolishly choose to our own detriment. Today’s passage shows how both Pilate and the Jewish leaders had critical choices to make. Their trade-offs serve as a warning for us all.

  • Consider some of the trade-offs you’ve made lately. In what ways have you exchanged what is good for something less than? What is just for something unjust? God’s truth for a lie?


28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


(Today’s questions focus on verses 38b-40. Verses 28-38a were covered previously.)

  1. After questioning him, what did Pilate declare to the Jews regarding Jesus (vs. 38)? In Pilate’s estimation, was Jesus a threat to Rome in any way?
  2. According to Pilate, whose custom was it to set a prisoner free during Passover (vs. 39)? 
  3. Consider Pilate’s question and his reference to Jesus as “the King of the Jews” (vs. 39-40). Why was this an incendiary move?
  4. The Jewish authorities demanded Pilate to release whom, and what was this man’s crime (vs. 40)? 
  5. Where have you made a “Barabbas trade” in your life—choosing something less, or even a lie, over Jesus?


This Barabbas was no ordinary robber—he was an insurgent who had opposed Rome by murdering and rebelling against the government in an uprising (Mark 15:7). And yet, the chief priests and Jewish authorities clamored for his pardon. Pilate knew Jesus had committed no crime and was even “wanting to release Jesus” (Luke 23:20). But instead of choosing to rule justly, Pilate moved to appease an infuriated mob. With the chant of a murderer’s name on their lips, God’s own chosen people traded-off the innocent Son of God. And while we might not identify with Pilate, or perhaps believe we’d have chosen differently than the Jews, we still make our “Barabbas” trades for any number of things in our own lives.

  • Spend some time in prayer today asking God the Father to expose where you’re choosing something else over following and loving Jesus. Confess to him what’s on your heart as you consider your trade-offs.