At the same time, it is not difficult to surmise that Pilate would have been thinking that this was the first time that he (or another Roman procurator) found himself dealing with a would-be Jewish messiah, with the popular support of a large number of the people, that was not conducting overtly revolutionary activities in support of his aspirations to kingship. As we know from the narrative, as Jesus is said to have pointed out, and as Pilate was likely to have found quite interesting, there was no band of armed men around Jesus. This could only have contributed to Pilate’s dilemma.
No, this Jesus of Nazareth had not taken up arms in his apparent quest. As Pilate would have no doubt discovered, there was no overt or even implied threat of force that was going to be brought against the occupying power. Jesus spoke of no such things, and such certainly did not present itself along with this prisoner. There would not even have been whispers of such things amongst the followers of this Galilean.
It is likely that Pilate would have been made aware of the “triumphal entry” and of Jesus’ activities in the Temple, but it is also just as likely that he would not have understood the significance of those actions. Even if he had grasped the meaning behind those two actions---the coming of Israel’s king and a symbolic action of judgment against the Temple---he would have also grasped that it was not accompanied by any mob action. Of course, if he had investigated further (which is not difficult to imagine), there was also the inescapable fact that this Jesus had directed His words and actions to the Temple and its authorities.
Jesus had not stormed the Roman garrison or the praetorium, nor did he encourage others to do so, as might be expected from somebody that was actively seeking the casting off of the yoke of Roman power. Indeed, as far as Pilate would be able to gather, there were no obvious demands being made against the Roman rulers of Israel. In spite of all of these things, Pilate here had standing before him and under his judgment this Man that was accused of, not denying, and even embracing a claim to be something that He had to know was going to result in His own crucifixion.
Yes, Pilate would hear Jesus being “accused by the chief priests and the elders” (27:12b), while certainly making note of the fact that, to those accusations, Jesus “did not respond” (27:12b). In all this, we find that Pilate “was quite amazed” (27:13b). The amazement is more than understandable, as this would have been a most unique situation. Pilate would not be alone in his amazement. Certainly, the author of the story intended the same type of amazed response from those that would come to hear it.
As we consider the fact that Pilate is reported to have been in this state of amazement, we revert back to the original question with which this study began: “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Who is called the Christ?” Having already made note of the fact that Jesus is not reported to have had an armed band of followers, that no one is there speaking up for Him and pleading on His behalf (which is not surprising, considering the custom of rounding up and killing the followers of other potential messiah figures), and that He was not acting as at least part of the people of Israel were expecting their messianic king to act in His encounter with Rome, the people responded with “Barabbas!” (27:21b).