John 18:40
Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
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(40) Then cried they all again.—St. John has not recorded any clamour before, but implies that of Mark 15:8, and Luke 23:5-10.

Now Barabbas was a robber.—Comp. Note on John 10:1. The word includes the meaning of unrestrained violence, which often leads to bloodshed (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19), and is thus used in a striking parallel in Sophocles:—

“And him, so rumour runs, a robber band

Of aliens slew.”

(Œdipus Rex., 724. Plumptre’s Translation.)

There is a solemn emphasis given to the context by the abrupt brevity of the sentence. (Comp. John 11:35; John 13:30; see also Acts 3:14.)

18:33-40 Art thou the King of the Jews? that King of the Jews who has been so long expected? Messiah the Prince; art thou he? Dost thou call thyself so, and wouldest thou be thought so? Christ answered this question with another; not for evasion, but that Pilate might consider what he did. He never took upon him any earthly power, never were any traitorous principles or practices laid to him. Christ gave an account of the nature of his kingdom. Its nature is not worldly; it is a kingdom within men, set up in their hearts and consciences; its riches spiritual, its power spiritual, and it glory within. Its supports are not worldly; its weapons are spiritual; it needed not, nor used, force to maintain and advance it, nor opposed any kingdom but that of sin and Satan. Its object and design are not worldly. When Christ said, I am the Truth, he said, in effect, I am a King. He conquers by the convincing evidence of truth; he rules by the commanding power of truth. The subjects of this kingdom are those that are of the truth. Pilate put a good question, he said, What is truth? When we search the Scriptures, and attend the ministry of the word, it must be with this inquiry, What is truth? and with this prayer, Lead me in thy truth; into all truth. But many put this question, who have not patience to preserve in their search after truth; or not humility enough to receive it. By this solemn declaration of Christ's innocence, it appears, that though the Lord Jesus was treated as the worst of evil-doers, he never deserved such treatment. But it unfolds the design of his death; that he died as a Sacrifice for our sins. Pilate was willing to please all sides; and was governed more by worldly wisdom than by the rules of justice. Sin is a robber, yet is foolishly chosen by many rather than Christ, who would truly enrich us. Let us endeavour to make our accusers ashamed as Christ did; and let us beware of crucifying Christ afresh.See the notes at Matthew 27:15-21. 39. But ye have a custom that I should release one unto you at the passover, &c.—See on [1907]Mr 15:7-11. "On the typical import of the choice of Christ to suffer, by which Barabbas was set free, see the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus, particularly Le 16:5-10, where the subject is the sin offering on the great day of atonement" [Krafft in Luthardt]. But such was the malice of his adversaries, that though Barabbas was one that had committed murder in an insurrection, yet they choose him rather than Christ.

See Poole on "Matthew 27:15", and following verses to Matthew 27:18. Then cried they all again,.... For it seems that Pilate had made this proposal once before, and that this was the second time, though not mentioned; yet some copies, and the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions, leave out the word "again": they all, priests and people, in a very clamorous manner, cried out as one man, with one united voice, all at once;

saying, not this man, but Barabbas; now Barabbas was a robber; who was an emblem of God's elect in a state of nature, released and set free when Christ was condemned. These, as he, many of them at least, are notorious sinners, the chief of sinners, robbers and murderers; who have robbed God of his glory, and destroyed themselves; are prisoners, concluded in sin and unbelief, and shut up in the law, and in a pit, wherein is no water, in their natural state; and were, as this man, worthy of death, and by nature children of wrath; and yet children of God by adopting grace, as his name Bar Abba signifies, "the son of the father": these, though such criminals, and so deserving of punishment, were let go free, when Christ was taken, condemned, and died; and which was according to the wise and secret counsel of Jehovah, and is a large discovery of divine grace; and what lays those who are released under the greatest obligations to live to him, who suffered for them, in their room and stead.

Then {e} cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

(e) Literally, made a great and foul voice.

40. Then cried they all again] Better, They cried out therefore (John 18:3) again all of them. S. John has not mentioned any previous shout of the multitude; he once more assumes that his readers know the chief facts. See on John 19:6.

Barabbas] Or, Bar-Abbas, son of Abba (father). The innocent Son of the Father is rejected for the blood-stained son of a father. In Matthew 27:16-17 some inferior authorities read ‘Jesus Barabbas’ as his name, and Pilate asks ‘Which do ye wish that I release to you, Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus Who is called Christ?’ The reading is remarkable, but it is supported by no good MS.

Now Barabbas was a robber] There is a tragic impressiveness in this brief remark. Comp. ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35), and ‘And it was night’ (John 13:30). It is to be regretted that ‘robber’ has not always been given as the translation of the Greek word used here (ληστής not κλέπτης). Thus we should have ‘den of robbers’ or ‘robbers’ cave’ (Matthew 21:13); ‘as against a robber’ (Matthew 26:55); ‘two robbers’ (Matthew 27:38; Matthew 27:44). The ‘robber’ is the bandit or brigand, who is more dangerous to persons than to property, and sometimes combines something of chivalry with his violence. In the case of Barabbas we know from S. Mark and S. Luke that he had been guilty of insurrection and consequent bloodshed rather than of stealing; and this was very likely the case also with the two robbers crucified with Jesus. Thus by a strange irony of fate the hierarchy obtain the release of a man guilty of the very political crime with which they charged Christ,—sedition. The people no doubt had some sympathy with the insurrectionary movement of Barabbas, and on this the priests worked. Barabbas had done, just what Jesus had refused to do, take the lead against the Romans. “They laid information against Jesus before the Roman government as a dangerous character; their real complaint against Him was precisely this, that He was not dangerous. Pilate executed Him on the ground that His kingdom was of this world; the Jews procured His execution precisely because it was not.” Ecce Homo, p. 27.Cried (ἐκραύγασαν)

Peculiarly of a loud, importunate cry; a shout. Plato uses it of the howling of a dog: "The yelping hound, howling (κραυγάζουσα) at her Lord" ("Republic," 607). Others, of the cries of spectators in the theaters and of the croak of a raven. See on Matthew 15:22.


Assuming John's recollection of a previous "crying out," which he has not recorded.

Robber (λῃστής)

See on Matthew 26:55; see on Mark 11:17; see on Luke 10:30. Matthew calls him a "notable prisoner" (Matthew 27:16). Mark states that he had made insurrection, and had committed murder (Mark 15:7), speaking of the insurrection as a well-known event. Luke says, "for some insurrection (στάσιν τινὰ) that had arisen in the city, and for murder" (Luke 23:19). Writing for Gentiles, Luke would not refer to the event as something familiar. Bandits of this kind were numerous in the neighborhood of Jerusalem under the Roman dominion. Their leaders were well known. Josephus describes them by the same word which Matthew uses, ἐπίσημοι, notable. Their depredations were often committed under patriotic pretenses, so that Barabbas might have had influential friends among the people.

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