When they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him… But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.

Gospel of Matthew 27:17-21 (KJV)

Most of the stories from the Gospels don’t happen in all four Gospels — not the birth narrative (only appears in Luke and Matthew), and not even the communion ritual (or Lord’s Supper) (which does not appear in John). One of the few narratives that occur in all four canonical Gospels is the crowd turning against Jesus and choosing Barabbas to be freed, who is either a murderer or a robber. Historians tend to believe aspects of a story if there is multiple corroboration, and so this aspect of the passion narrative is quite likely to be true.

It seems to me that many people miss the lesson of the Give us Barabbas! tale: That is, if you live by public praise, you can die from it just as easily.

Keeping in mind that Jesus is often described in the Gospels as admonishing people not to tell anyone about his miracles, one interpretation is that he knew if he became too famous that he would find the other edge of that two-edged sword.

We are certainly seeing this play out every day in modern media and culture. The more people are played up by the media, the faster everyone turns on them when they (inevitably) disappoint. As Charlie Brown says somewhere: “One minute I’m the hero, the next minute I’m the goat.”

When people start mixing up truth with popularity, we are all doomed.