Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. (MRK 15:6-10 ESV)
When the chief priests plotted to kill Jesus, they explained that it was to protect the Jews from the Romans. One said, “it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” They were afraid, so they said, that the Romans would see Jesus as a threat because of the reception he received when coming into Jerusalem riding the donkey. They shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
As reasonable as their argument seems (and I think they convinced themselves), Pilate sees through it. It is envy that drives them. Isn’t this the nature of sin? Pride, envy, idolatry drive is to desires that we jump through hoops to figure out reasons to justify our action. We are masters at rationalization.
Lord, save us from our own cleverness!