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Mark 15:8

ESV And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them.
NIV The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
NASB And the crowd went up and began asking Pilate to do as he had been accustomed to do for them.
CSB The crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do for them as was his custom.
NLT The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual.
KJV And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.

What does Mark 15:8 mean?

The chief priests, elders, and scribes of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, have riled up a crowd. This mob is assembled to push Pilate to crucify Jesus. The crowd also demands Pilate follow the tradition of releasing one prisoner at the Passover.

This tradition is not widely corroborated. The Jewish Mishnah mentions that if someone is promised to be released from prison, others may prepare their portion of the Passover lamb. Another document records the governor of Egypt releasing a prisoner by request of the crowd instead of scourging him.

However, the act is corroborated in Roman law. Roman magistrates can endorse an abolition, which frees a defendant, or an indulgentia, which pardons a convicted criminal, if a crowd demands it. Even if the evidence is overwhelmingly against the defendant or the prisoner was proven guilty, if a crowd demands their release, they can be freed so long as the charge is not high treason.

The practice is consistent with the history of Passover. The first-borns of the Egyptians were killed while the Jews were spared (Exodus 12:1–32). To release a prisoner may be a Roman custom, but it is mirrored in Jewish history.

This little detail is even more poignant for us. Pilate gives the mob a choice between Jesus, an itinerant teacher who heals and feeds people, and Barabbas, an insurrectionist and murderer. Entirely separate from what's happening with Jesus and Pilate, Barabbas is already convicted and was likely set to be crucified this day. Instead, the people demand Jesus be executed. Jesus literally takes the physical punishment meant for a murderer. While doing so, He takes the spiritual punishment we deserve.

It's easy for modern readers, especially believers, to condemn Jerusalem's leadership for accusing Jesus, to berate the disciples for fleeing, and to criticize Pilate for not having the backbone to do what is right. But we have an ugly role in this story, as well: we are Barabbas.
What is the Gospel?
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