“You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him.”
The presumption of innocence principle–“innocent until proven guilty”—is one every defendant adamantly proclaims. Even the obviously guilty defendant will often plead “not guilty” at first in hopes of possibly getting away with wrongdoing.
Yet Jesus was brought before Pilate and then Herod under different circumstances. He was innocent, doing nothing deserving arrest, let alone death, yet He was brought in under the assumption of guilt. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus actually questioned those arresting him, asking, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?” (Luke 22:52). Jesus knew He was innocent; Jesus knew those accusing Him knew He was innocent. Nevertheless, the leaders treated Jesus as a guilty man from the get-go and declared Jesus’ guilt vehemently before the authorities. They even used false witnesses to twist the words Jesus had spoken throughout His ministry.
As we read above, however, even after all this–after all the accusations and false testimonies–even after Jesus’ stunning silence in response to the accusations–neither Pilot nor Herod could find fault with Jesus.
Because Jesus was innocent.
We must remember this key detail. Jesus was innocent. Jesus did not go to the cross because He was found guilty; Jesus went to the cross because He was found innocent.
He was found innocent–yet He paid the penalty of a guilty man.
Actually, if you look closely at the passage in this chapter of Luke, you’ll see an interesting connection between the spiritual and physical. I do not think it a coincidence that the earthly circumstances of the time mirrored the spiritual actions taking place in the heavens. For as you read on in the chapter, you’ll see Jesus literally took the place of Barabbas. Luke 23:25 reads, “He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.” Barabbas was in prison for insurrection and murder; Jesus was in prison for supposedly misleading the people. Barabbas killed people; Jesus healed people. Barabbas bucked authority; Jesus respected it. Barabbas was definitely guilty; Jesus was definitely innocent. Yet Barabbas went free, and Jesus was crucified.
Jesus took on what Barabbas deserved as He also took on what WE deserved.
Jesus not only paid the price of one guilty man during His time period, but He also paid the penalty for our guilt as well. He did not deserve the death He bore. We did. Barabbas did. Yet Jesus endured it anyway.
John provides the reason in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus loved Barabbas–even though Barabbas deserved to die for what he’d done and Jesus deserved to live for what He didn’t do.
Jesus loves me, even though I daily mess up and deserve to pay the price of my sin.
Jesus loves you–all of you–and willingly paid the price for you as well.
So I encourage you today, my friend. Accept this love. Accept this great exchange. Accept the freedom purchased for you by the One who loves you more than you could ever love yourself. You don’t deserve it. You can’t earn it. But you can accept it and be grateful.
Jesus loves you and paid the penalty for you. He was innocent; you and I were born guilty. Yet, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus didn’t deserve to die; He chose to die. He died for Barabbas. He died for me. He died for you. So rejoice in this, my friend, and be thankful. Be thankful knowing that the One who created you loves You, and “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).