Journal Matt 27:1-31 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any (single) prisoner whom they (the crowd) wanted. And they (Pilate) had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.
So when (the crowd) had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Who do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Christ?”
(For (Pilate) knew it was out of envy that they had delivered (Jesus) up.)
Observation: Hate, I get. Despise, I understand. Hatred coming from shame being convicted with Truth, I am aligned with. But—envy? Is this the discernment Pilate read into the situation?
Analysis: I never noticed that word before in the Crucifixion story. Envy.
When I read this passage in the past, why did I gloss over this word? This is the same as in Mark 15:10: “For (Pilate) perceived that it was out of ENVY that the chief priests had delivered him up.” But, in Luke and John this isn’t found. (Note: I am so appreciative of ESV.ORG). If I had to describe it, I would say that Matthew and Mark assigned motivation and Luke and John just observed actions.
But why would the Holy Spirit slide “envy” into this section of scripture? What should I take from that? Sometimes I must go straight to the scriptures for explanation. Here is what Paul said about Men:
“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought NOT to be done. There were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of ENVY, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless…” Ro 1:28-31
Wow! This is a mouthful—and Paul was not done. I see how ENVY is related to a bunch of other wicked descriptions—some that are not thought of as wicked, but God thinks of them that way.
James asked this, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (NOTE) You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” (Ja 4:1-2a) I want and do not get, so I pitch a fit and fight. I mumble, grumble, and complain. I want and do not get, so I murder.
Now that I have framed all of this up, I start to get a sense of the priests and the crowd wanting the Righteous One to be put to death. “How dare He show me my faults, my sin!!”
This is where I usually struggle with self-identification with the crowd. I want to resist thinking “I am just like the crowd” and would rather tell myself “Of course I would recognize the King of the Universe—I would NOT be like those folks.” Truth is, I certainly would be among that crowd.
I still wonder how specifically envy ties into this. Best I can tell is that all of the descriptions from Paul and James are all of a lump—and I understand that the Holy One sees them all the same way: manifestations of rebellion deserving judgement and subsequent execution of God’s Wrath.
If not for the Grace of God, I would be right there.
Prayer: Father, if not for your grace…what a stupendous statement. Help me be on the watch out for “envy” (in any of its iterations and expressions). The review of the process leading up to the crucifixion is important and I don’t want to speed read right through it—I am prone to do just that.
I want to embrace knowing more of you, O Lord Jesus, in this historical record.