20 Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus,
21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”
22 A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.”
23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed.
24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted.
25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.
As all of the people are in town celebrating the Passover, they are acting like it’s the Day of Atonement. Passover was a holiday celebrating the deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Pagan governments would no longer control them and they would be God’s people. Instead, they are calling on their Roman oppressors to do their dirty work.
On the Day of Atonement, two goats were taken as part of the sacrifice. They would both bear the sins of the people and be sacrificed in different ways.
One would carry the sins of the people as a slaughtered sacrifice. It’s blood would be carried by the High Priest into the Holy of Holies, and spread on the Ark of the Covenant of the Testimony.
““Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.”
Leviticus 16:15–16 ESV
But the other goat didn’t have such a glorious end. All of the sins and iniquities of the people were put on it too, but it was released. It was ‘set free’ out into the wilderness to carry all of that sin into the world until it died in the wild. They didn’t want that critter to come back into town, so in later times they started the tradition of breaking one or two of its legs. That way it would be eaten or killed by wild animals faster.
As soon as they released the murderer (isn’t it interesting that they don’t say his name any more?), anybody that was thinking about Torah and the Day of Atonement would see what was about to happen to Jesus. Jesus certainly saw it as a confirmation of the plan.
Barabbas wasn’t forgiven or pardoned, he was just sent out with his sin upon him. Jesus, in the mean time, was about to carry the sins and iniquities of all of the people right into the place of God’s mercy.
He is about to deliver the sacrifice of Himself, and in the process deliver all people who call on His name.