Daily Word

Substitution – Gospel Essence | John 18:38b-40

38 Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime. 39 But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. Would you like me to release this ‘King of the Jews’?” 40 But they shouted back, “No! Not this man. We want Barabbas!” (Barabbas was a revolutionary.)

John 18:38b-40 (NLT)

Not guilty

Pilate officially confirms Jesus is not guilty of any crime according to Roman law so He should be released. There was no reason to convict Him and surely no reason to kill Him. This fulfilled OT prophecy (Psalm 31:13). Here’s a list of other OT prophecies about Christ.

But Pilate wanted to pander to the Jews so offered a way of escape for himself and for them. Knowing it was the Jewish leaders who wanted His death, Pilate made the offer to the Jews in general. He was likely thinking the Jews at large would have a less antagonistic, more favorable view of Jesus – especially as he presented Him as their King.

Pilate, on his own, decided to refer to Jesus as, “King of the Jews”. This may have been to help justify his decision to allow Jesus to be killed when there was no proper trial and no conviction by a court – especially for death.


Here we have the essence of the gospel – substitution. An innocent man is judged and punished in place of the guilty who is set free. Pilate offered them the choice: they could either release Jesus, an innocent man who causes no trouble, or Barabbas, a known criminal who would continue to cause trouble. 

Mark’s gospel (Mark 15:11) tells us that the Jewish leaders influenced the crowd to ask for Barabbas. “Matthew 27:20 says that this was not a spontaneous response from the crowd, but one deliberately promoted by the religious leaders” (enduringword.com) They (the Jews led by the Jewish leaders) rejected Pilate’s offer.

“Barabbas was accused of at least three crimes: Theft (John 18:40), insurrection (Mark 15:7), and murder (Mark 15:7).” (enduringword.com) All mankind has sinned against God (Romans 3:23) and deserve death. Thank God Jesus took our punishment!


  • Jesus died for the sinners of this world. Have you repented and believed? Have you thanked Him recently? If it were not for this, we’d have no hope, we would be judged for our sin and be separated from God for eternity.
Substitution in football (soccer). Image from timesofindia.indiatimes.com *

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