At first reading, much of what Luke has regarding the trial of Jesus mirrors the account of the other gospel writers. But for Luke’s purpose, what stands out are the differences. Only in Luke is Jesus accused of “perverting the nation” and “forbidding to pay taxes.”
Since Jesus claims to be “King of the Jews,” he is sent to Herod for interrogation. Only Luke tells us this story. The choice given to the crowd is to release or Barabbas. Only Luke tells you that Barabbas was charged with the crime of “insurrection,” a point he makes twice in the space of seven verses. Thus the charges against Jesus in Luke are not religious, but political.
Only in Luke’s account will you find Pilate specifically declaring Jesus innocent three times, and yet, Jesus goes to the cross innocent of crimes against the State and Barabbas, guilty, goes free.
Two points demand our attention. First, Luke takes pains to show that neither Jesus nor his followers (in the book of Acts) are guilty of political crimes – though they stand accused at every turn. Christian people must be certain, if we are to be true followers of Jesus, that we are not guilty of breaking civil law – of being evil doers. Only in Luke does the Centurion declare of Jesus that he was a “righteous” man. People with a politically rebellious agenda cannot legitimately say they are followers of Jesus. Followers of Barabbas perhaps, but not Jesus.
But second, we should seriously note Luke’s pointed lesson that an innocent man died for the sins of the guilty. Jesus did it not only for Barabbas, but for us all.