The Foes of Jesus
Mark 15:11, 12
But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas to them.…

It is remarkable that the evangelists speak of their Lord's enemies with such unruffled calmness. If our dearest friend had been subjected to inhuman treatment, ending in his death, we should have held up the names of his oppressors to the execration of the world. But in the Gospels we look in vain for a strong epithet, or a burst of indignant declamation. This was not because the evangelists were deficient in love to their Lord, but because they had caught something of the spirit of him "who, when he was reviled, reviled not again," and because they had learnt that amid these strange, sad scenes the Divine purpose was being fulfilled, and that he who was the Victim of sinners was the Sacrifice for sin. Hostility to the Lord Jesus Christ is the irrefragable proof of man's antagonism to goodness and truth. The cross of Calvary, stained by his blood, is a witness at once to the depravity of man and the infinite love of God. Hatred to goodness was never more pronounced and desperate, for goodness was now both incarnate and aggressive. It was no longer an abstraction, but a Person; no longer inert, but active. The Jews were generally left unmolested, because they were content to dwell as a peculiar and separate people, without assailing idolatry in others. But our Lord and his disciples endeavored to make the truth known and felt. Moses said in effect, "Keep yourselves from surrounding peoples, lest ye be defiled." Christ said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." The old economy was represented by the temple, which was compact, perfect, kept free from the defiling tread of the heathen; the new was represented by the mustard seed, which would grow under the open sky till it became a tree, and many nations found rest under its shadow. It was partly because Jesus Christ was aggressive in his work that the world rose in arms against him. Let us study the characteristics of some of his foes, and discover their motives, that we may be on our guard against becoming their modern representatives. In the two verses we have chosen we have glimpses of the priests, of the people, and of Pontius Pilate.

I. THE PRIESTS WERE HOSTILE TO OUR LORD FROM PRIDE. They should have been the first to welcome him. As Jews they were familiar with the utterances of the prophets, and as priests they should have known the meaning of the sacrifices they offered. They had heard the preaching of John when he announced Messiah, and they had again and again had evidence respecting the work and teaching of Jesus. But pride summoned prejudice to build up an obstacle impervious to all assaults. Their social dignity refused to recognize this peasant Teacher; their intellectual culture spurned the utterances of the Prophet of Nazareth; and their ecclesiastical prestige held it to be incredible that a carpenter's Son should be "the Light of the world." In our day, too, pride has such disastrous influence. Many admit that Jesus Christ was a pattern of benevolence and of moral purity; but when he declares himself to be an infallible Teacher of Divine truth, when he claims superhuman power, when he demands submission to his will, they rise against him, as those did who once exclaimed, "For good works we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; because thou, being a man, makest thyself God."

II. PILATE WAS HOSTILE TO OUR LORD FROM POLICY. He saw at a glance the vindictiveness of the priests, and the innocence of him they accused; and, after a few minutes' conversation, frankly said, "I find in him no fault at all." But this was followed by a pitiful struggle and fall. He tried to rid himself of responsibility by sending the Galilean to Herod; he offered to release him, not on the ground of innocence, but as an act of grace, usual at the Passover; he cruelly scourged him, in the hope that this would satisfy the bloodthirsty mob. But when these devices failed, and the people threatened Pilate himself, as a traitor to the emperor, he delivered Jesus to be crucified. He fell through moral cowardice, brought about by former crimes, fearing lest he should lose office and honor unless he fell in with the demands of this brutal crowd. Things seen rule the man who has no faith in things unseen. Personal interests seemed more to him than the life or death of one poor Prisoner. He yielded to clamor; and though at the time he knew it not, he crucified the Christ.

III. THE PEOPLE WERE HOSTILE TO OUR LORD FROM PASSION. "The chief priests moved the people." They would urge that Jesus had been condemned by their own orthodox court, and that it was the duty of every patriot to induce the Romans to support its decisions; and they would further urge that Barabbas, the leader of an insurrection, was a friend of the people and a champion of their liberties, so that he was to be preferred to Jesus of Nazareth. The mass of the people were not intelligently hostile to our Lord. Some knew little of him, and thought that the Sanhedrim was best able to judge of such questions; and others went with the popular current, whether it led them to shout "Hosanna!" or "Crucify him!" Hence they were included with the soldiers in the prayer of our Lord, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." - A.R.

Parallel Verses
KJV: But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.

WEB: But the chief priests stirred up the multitude, that he should release Barabbas to them instead.

The Persecutors -- the Causes of Their Hostility
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