+IHS PASSION OF OUR LORD: The 23 Meditation of the Requiring of Barrabas

DUCCIO di Buoninsegna 
Pilate's Second Interrogation of Christ (detail) 

The 23 Meditation of the Requiring of Barrabas

But Pilate calling the chief Priest, and the Magistrates, and the people, said unto them: yee have offered unto me this man as averting the people; and behold I examining him before you, find no cause in this man of these things in which yee accuse him, no nor Herod neither, For I have sent yee unto him, and behold nothing worthy of death is done unto him: therefore I will dismiss him, being corrected: And on the solemn day, the President had a custom, and must of necessity dismiss one of the prisoners, whom soever they should require. And he had then A notable prisoner called Barrabas, who was taken with the seditious, who in the sedition had committed murder: Then Pilate said: yee have a custom, that I dismiss one in the Pasch: whome will yee that I dismiss unto you? Barrabas, or jesus, who is called Christ? For he knew, that the high priests had delivered him by envy.

Consider first, that Herod though he saw nothing worthy of death in Christ, yet he did not deliver the innocent out of the hands of the Jews; but to gratify the Priests, and the President he referred the knowledge of the cause to Pilate. In like manner every one desireth to please man, but none to please Christ.

Consider secondly, that so many Judges sought the life of Christ, and nothing was found worthy of death, or of imprisonment. Do thou so order thy life like unto Christ, that the Devils at the hour of death may find nothing of their own on thee. Purge thy soul with daily examination of thy conscience of the sins; so as nothing pass out of this world with thee, but that which is holy.

Consider thirdly (corrected of chastised I will let him go) Pilate thought to deliver our Lord, but corrected: not because he deserved it, but in favor of the raging people. That they might be satisfied with his stripes. Thou seest first, that the people could not be satisfied, but with the blood of Christ; both because evil men are delighted only in sins, which draw blood from our Saviour; and also because just men have no sweetness but through the blood of our Lord; nor any rejoicing, but in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Consider fourthly, that Pilate intended a good work, when he purposed to set Christ free, but not pure, but mingled with much evil, to wit, with beating and whipping Christ. And thou doest imitate him, as often as thou attemptest any good thing, mixed with sin; when thou givest alms out of money evil gotten; or goest to the Church, that thou mayest seem religious, or doest any other thing not with a true intention.

Consider fifthly, when Pilate thought of the delivering of our Lord after this manner, then he remembered a more mild way. For he saw the people assembled together, that according to their custom one of the prisoners should be given unto them, whom they should choose out of many, which the President should propound unto them, of what crime so ever they were accused, and that in remembrance of the people of Israel, which about that time of Pasch were delivered out of the bondage of Egypt: When he remembered this Custom, he resolved to name Christ alone, (whom he knew to be well liked of many for his noble acts, and hated only of the Priests and Pharisees) with a Murderer, a Captain of the seditious, and a hateful man, making no doubt, but that they would choose Christ before that most wicked man. Thou seest first, that the Author of life is compared with a turbulent murderer: & thou art angry if never so little be detracted from thy honor and titles. Thou seest secondly the holy custom of delivering a prisoner in remembrance and favor of the benefit of their delivery out of the bondage of Egypt. Thou being so often delivered from the snares of the Devil, and from the bonds of sin; succor and help also thy neighbors in memory of this benefit, that by thy labor and help, they may be freed from the bonds of their debts, sins, miseries, and of all other evils.


And as he was sitting in place of judgment, his wife sent unto him, saying: have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in my sleep for him.

Consider first when the people were sent away to deliberate whom they would choose, Pilate sat in judgment, and received this message from his wife, admonished either by her good Angel according to the opinion of Hilarius, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Origen; or else by a wicked spirit, who perceiving his own power by little and little to be weakened, and that his judgment was at hand, and that the holy Fathers in Limbo did exult for their speedy deliverance, endeavored to hinder the death of Christ, according to the doctrine of Ignatius, Cyprian, Gregory, Rabanus, and Bernard. Thou learnest here the innocency of Christ, witnessed by the very Angels, either good or bad. And if this vision come by the help of the devil, thou maist see the malice of men; whom when the Devil hath once incited to evil, he cannot call back from sin: For the malice of concupiscence, and the force of sin is so great, that it cannot be taken away, but by the help of God alone. Therefore the Priests which were provoked by envy, were not warned; bu Pilate, whom the disease of concupiscence had not yet stirred up Labor thou with all thy strength to subdue the force of thy concupiscence.

Consider secondly the Epithet of Christ (that just man) for he is truly our Justice, perfectly just in himself, without sin, & always doing most just works, by which he satisfied his Fathers wrath for us, and left an example for us to imitate.

Consider thirdly (have thou nothing to do with that just man) that is, meddle not with his business, let there be no dealings between thee and that just man. Learn, that this just man doth not appertain to wicked men, and that only good men are partakers of his justice. Do thou pray this just man to vouchsafe to admit thee into his commerce and society, that thy wares from his wares, that is, thy good works from his merits may bring much profit to the salvation of thy soul.


But the chief priests & elders stirred up the multitude, & persuaded the people that they should demand Barabbas and destroy Jesus: and when the multitude were come up, they began to pray Pilate, that he would do as he did always unto them. And the President answering said to them: which of the two will ye have dismiss unto us Barabbas: And Pilate answering again said to them: What then shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ? But they cried out again, let him be crucified, crucify him, crucify him: but Pilate said unto them the third time: for what evil hath this man done? I find no cause of death in him: there for I will correct him, & dismiss him: but they urged with many cries, desiring, that he should be crucified, and their voices increased, and they cried more, let him be crucified.

Consider first, that the people inclining to Christ, were led by the Priests to demand Barabbas, and to destroy Christ: That thou maist know first, that one speech of wicked men doth more hurt, then many exhortations of Saints can profit. For that which Christ had built with great labor in three years, is here overthrown in a moment. Beware therefore of the speech of evil men, especially of heretics, whose words creep like a canker. Thou seest secondly, that the authority of Superiors is of great force, either to good or evil. If therefore thou hast any of Christs sheep under thy charge, use thy authority to the glory of God. 

Consider 2. The ingratitude of the people, which esteemed so great a Benefactor less then a Thief, and chose him to the Cross. Thou learnest first to contemn the applause of the world, which hath so cruel an end. They cried a little before Blessed is he, which commeth in the name of our Lord: and now in other words (Not this man) but Let him be crucified.) Secondly thou seest the blind judgment of the world, which contemning the highest good chooseth the worst things, hateth a benefactor, and embraceth an enemy. Take thou heed, least for a small gain or human favor, thou dost betray Christ against thine own conscience, least the same happen to thee, which fell unto the Jews, to whom instead of the Messiahs which they expected so many years, & at last rejected & condemned) came Barabbas (which signifieth the son of the Father) a Murderer, a Raiser of sedition, a Devil, by whose will they are ruled: that they which refused to hear Christ coming in the name of the Father, might hear Antichrist speaking in the name of his Father the Devil.

Consider 3. The fearful speech of Pilate, (What shall I do with Jesus): the wicked Judge seeketh the allowance of the people. Bend thou thy mind in all thy judgments and actions no to the will or manners of the people, but to the Commandments of God. 

Consider fourthly (For, what evil hath he done) the innocency of Christ, so often repeated: That thou mayst ever remember, that Christ died, not for his own sins, but for thine; this word shall condemn all sinners at the last Judgment. Why (will our Lord say) have yee forsaken me, and fled unto the Devil? For, what evil have I done? What have you found in my manners & Doctrine, that is not pure. And agreeable to reason? What evil have yee had from me, or what good have you found in the service of the Devil? Do thou now meditate upon these things, and preserve in the faith of Christ. Consider lastly, how these clamors did wound the heart of Christ,and how he was more grieved for this so great and heinous a sin of his beloved people, then for the torment of the Cross. Do thou comfort him with thy devote prayer, and forsaking the Devil and his pomps, yield thyself wholly a salve and servant unto Christ.

Fr. Coster