Mark 15

6 The tradition of setting a prisoner free at the time of Passover was not a Biblical one. It appears to have been a tradition or concession by the Roman occupation. It seems difficult to believe that anyone would want a criminal set free unless the majority of the people felt that an innocent man had been condemned. In a twist of irony, though, the people instead demand a guilty man be released and insist that an innocent man receive capital punishment. On the other hand, it is fitting to recognize that Jesus died in our place, the innocent for the guilty, so that we might be freed from the punishment for sin.
7 Now while Barabbas had "committed murder," this probably meant that he had killed Romans during a failed coup attempt. Since the Jews, as a whole, hated Roman occupation, Barabbas may have seemed more like a freedom fighter than a murderer.

Jesus had also been charged with insurrection, but He had refused to become a military king for the Jews against Rome. The spiritual application here is that people often desire physical freedom, but usually underestimate their need for the spiritual freedom from sin that Jesus offers. If given a choice, most people will choose physical freedom as is seen here.

9 Pilate gave Jesus this title because of charges by the elders (Luke 23:2) and His answer to the question of kingship (Mark 15:2, John 18:33-37).
10 Certainly, Pilate would have heard about the popularity of this man, and probably had heard about the "parade" that was given in His honor just a few days earlier (Mark 11:8-11). Pilate disliked the idea of killing an innocent man so he hoped to play on the popularity of Jesus with the "common" people. Using the title "King of the Jews" was also purposeful since he knew that the Jews very much desired to have their own king and become an autonomous nation again.
11 But people can be fickle and are easily influenced by what may seem to be the majority idea. The elders may have positioned themselves throughout the crowd and began shouting for Barabbas' release. The crowed may have followed along probably not knowing what was really at stake. And again, the contrast between Barabbas, the soldier of action, and Jesus, the prophet of God (who never did say anything against Rome anyway), may have played a role in the people's decision.
12 Now if Jesus had really been guilty of treason against Rome, Pilate would have had Him executed without question. However, since Jesus was not guilty of anything he asked the people what punishment He should be given. Even though these decisions should have been in the hands of Pilate, he allowed the crowd to be both judge and jury. Perhaps he hoped that the people would sentence Jesus lightly or even ask that He be released as well.
13 At this point it is obvious that the people have no idea what Jesus has done. The elders have successfully whipped the crowd into such frenzy that they will repeat anything the elders shouted out.
14 When public opinion has turned against you it no longer matters if you have done anything wrong. The crowd had turned into a lynch mob ready to kill anyone their leaders demanded.
15 Even though Pilate had the authority and responsibility to see that justice was done, he was not about to jepordize his political position for the sake of an innocent man. He felt that placating the crowd was more important that upholding the law.