Note here the irony of the release of Barabbas: Jesus is falsely accused of leading a rebellion against Rome; Barabbas did lead a rebellion against Rome. The guilty one goes free; the innocent man dies. Pilate’s preference for not executing an innocent man is just that – a preference, not a conviction. So when the Jewish authorities convince Pilate not that Jesus is guilty but that it is in his personal interest to execute Jesus, he agrees to do so.
Who is Jesus for Pilate?
An innocent madman. Pilate thinks, “This fellow? The King of the Jews? What idiocy! He’s not in his right mind. Clearly he’s innocent and should be released, but, hey, to do so might cause a riot – and I can’t afford any more riots. I’d be putting my entire career at risk! My position is much more important than any Jewish madman. So let him die. It’s a pity – but he must die.”