v. 13-25 "Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, 'You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined Him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against Him. Neither has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; as you can see, He has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish Him and then release Him.'" The leaders were furious, "Away with this Man! Release Barabbas to us!"
(Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Herod asked for the third time, "Why? What crime has the Man committed? I have found in Him no ground for the death penalty. Therefore I will have Him punished and then release Him." The people shouted all the more and demanded that Jesus be crucified. Pilate fearing action from Rome granted their wish and released Barabbas.
Pilate was trying to avoid killing this innocent Man. The leaders were demanding that Jesus die and they would accept nothing else. The leaders hated Jesus so much that they wanted to trade Him for a man in prison that had done what they claimed Jesus did (incite rebellion) and worse Barabbas was a murderer. Barabbas was part of a rebellion against the Roman leadership. He was probably thought to be a hero among the people for standing up to Rome. How interesting that this man was set free in place of Jesus' life, just as we are today. They kept on protesting and finally got their way. Sometimes we compromise because we are tired of resisting the enemy. Pilate was in charge, but he could have lost his position if there were complaints to Rome about his conduct. He had already been warned and with all the Jews coming for the Passover he did not want any trouble. He went against his beliefs to secure his job. Pilate was a politician and wanted to keep the peace. We are to stand up for what is right no matter the stakes.
I think by this time the leaders had spread their hatred to the crowds. So the people also wanted to condemn Jesus. They went right along with the leaders plan. Peer pressure can be very damaging to our souls. The right decision could have big consequences: social rejection, destroy your career/relationships or public ridicule. Pilate wanted to punish Jesus then set Him free which could have killed Him. By Jewish law it was permitted to be beaten with a three pronged whip up to 40 times. This in itself was terrible, but the leaders wanted Him killed before those that would choose to defy their authority. He was going to be made an example of those that defy the law, when in fact He was the Law.