(Mark 15:6-15 ESV)
He asks the crowd, shall I release the King of Jews? Now here's the point that caught my eye "For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up." Envy... that's what Pilate saw in the religious leaders. So to him it made sense to ask the people if he should release Jesus to them, as envy wasn't a good enough reason to hold Jesus.
He didn't reckon on the chief priests working for their own good, stirring up the crowd against Jesus, stirring them up so much that they wanted a murderer released rather than a man who did no harm to any. Stirring up the crowd so that they would cry out for Jesus to be crucified.
And Pilate? What did he do?
He satisfied the crowd.
So even though Pilate cut to the chase with the priests he wasn't without wrong. Knowing that Jesus wasn't the problem, that it was the chief priests, he still made it easy for himself by pleasing the crowd. He satisfied the people rather than doing what was right.
He released Barabbas, scourged Jesus and delivered him to be crucified. To scourge someone means to have them whipped.
Pilate did try to have the crowd think about what it was asking him to do. Asking them "Why, what evil has he done?" but the crowd merely hollered for him to Crucify Jesus.
Mob rule it became.
Mobs can be a horrid thing when whipped up to a pitch. Doing and saying things that later the individuals involved will feel poorly about. Makes me wonder what the individuals in this mob thought after the fact, when they realized that Jesus was dead and Barabbas.. a known murderer was out walking among them again.
Can't say the Pilate was a slouch though. He saw what the chief priests were up to very clearly, but yet he did what the crowd demanded. If he was perceptive enough to know their reasoning, he would have figured out they were whipping up the crowd as well. He could have stood against them, but did the easy thing, the most mob appeasing thing to do, and whipped Jesus and let him go to be crucified.
It's a hard thing you know. To know something is wrong and not do anything about it.
Helps me to understand these verses from Matthew 27 better: "  So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.”  And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
Faced with a riot forming, in a city filled with people, he may have felt he had no other options. Quell a riot during a religious holiday over an unruly people? He would have wanted to keep the peace.
But he saw things for what they were, and that was what hit me this morning.