About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 15:1-16   ch. 15:17-21    ch. 15:22-33   ch 15:34-42

ch. 15:43-47

Jesus Before Pilate (ch. 15:1-16)


Mark, in verse 1 tells us  that the “whole Sanhedrin” agreed to hand Jesus over to the Romans.  They therefore bound Him and took Him to Pilate. They had to take Jesus to Pilate because they passed the death sentence on Jesus and Jews did not have legal authority to execute anyone.  Only Rome had that authority.  Pilate was the Roman governor of the province of Judea where Jerusalem was located.


For more details on this event you can read John’s account and my commentary on John.


In verse 2 Pilate asks Jesus if He was the King of the Jews.  Of course Pilate was thinking of a political king. Anyone claiming to be king other than Caesar would have been guilty of  treason.   Such a claim would have been just as blasphemous to Rome as it was to the Jews.


Jesus answered by saying, “yes, it is as you say”.  Notice Jesus didn’t say, “yes I am “.  By saying what He said, He’s putting the claim of Kingship in Pilate’s mouth.   Jesus is almost saying that “you Pilate are the one claiming me to be King and your claim is right”. 


We see in verse 3 that the Jews accused Jesus of all sorts of things beyond their number one accusation of being God or their king.  Jesus never responded to these other accusations.  They really meant very little besides the accusation to being their king.  Jesus simply didn’t answer so Pilate asks Him, “aren’t you going to answer”? 


The main accusation that the Jews had against Jesus was that He claimed to be God and to them that was supreme blasphemy. But they couldn’t really come to Pilate with that accusation, so they presented the claim of Jesus’ divinity as the king of the Jews.  This would hold more weight with Pilate since  the Jews had no king but Caesar.  Anyone claiming to be king would be in danger of being tried by a Roman court of treason against Rome.    


In verse 5 we see that Jesus didn’t even answer Pilate’s question whether He would answer or not.  Pilate was thus amazed.  Here is a man who was on death’s door step and He refused to defend Himself.  In Pilate’s eyes, as Jesus stood their, He certainly did not look like the King He claimed to be.


Some commentators translate the word “amazed” as “wondered”.  This suggests that Pilate was maybe curious, intrigued, or wondered that there was more than what met the eye with Jesus.  Pilate might well have thought there was more to Jesus than people understood.


In verse 6 we see Mark mentions a custom that took place every Passover.  When this custom began is not really known but it had been well in existence for many decades prior to this.  The English doesn’t show this as well as the Greek does, but what would take place is that the Jews would beg, for the release of a prisoner.  After hearing the Jews beg the governor would ask what prisoner they wanted released and the governor would set that prisoner free.


Pilate reminds them of this custom maybe with the hope that they’d release Jesus.  Mark tells us that there had been some kind of insurrection, that is to say, some Jews tried to overthrow the Roman authorities.  Barabbas  was one of them and Pilate asked if they’d like him or Jesus released.  I think Pilate was hoping that they’d take Jesus instead of Barabbas.


Verse 8 tells us that the crowd asked Pilate “to do for them what he usually did”, meaning, let a prisoner go free.


In verse 9 we see Pilate asking the Jews if they wanted him to “release the King of the Jews”.  I think by saying it this way instead of asking in such a way that it would give the Jews a choice, Pilate thought they’d take Jesus.  Somehow I think with the use of the words “King of the Jews”, Pilate might have been speaking somewhat sarcastically, or at least rubbing the idea of Jesus being the King of the Jews in the face of the Sanhedrin. 


Mark tells us that “it was out of envy” that the Sanhedrin brought Jesus to him.  This means that the Jewish leaders were envious, or jealous of the fact that Jesus was gaining more attention than they were in the eyes of their people.         


In verse 11 we see that the chief priest stirred up the crowd to release Barabbas instead of Jesus.  The crowd clearly needed to be persuaded to whom they should choose and the Jewish leadership was able to sway their thinking.


In verse 12 Pilate rubs the fact that Jesus claims to be the King of the Jews in the Jews faces.  He asks what he should do with the one “they call” the King of the Jews.  The Sanhedrin was in fact the ones that first called Jesus the King of the Jews when they approached Pilate, although they certainly didn’t believe He was their King. They were simply stating that is who Jesus claimed to be.  But Pilate was twisting things around as a form of mockery towards them.  I think Pilate thought the Sanhedrin was crazy in their request and he was showing this by the way he spoke to them.


At this point in verse 13 the Jewish leaders were infuriated.  They simply yelled back “crucify Him”, or “kill Him”. 


In verse 14 Pilate responds by asking why they’d want Jesus to die since He had committed no crime.  You clearly see that Pilate believed that Jesus was an innocent  man. 


The Jews never really answered Pilate’s question.  They just shouted even louder, “crucify Him”.  By now all rationality was gone from the minds of the Jews. They were so upset.  They just wanted Jesus dead. 


In verse 15 Mark tells us that Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd.  Pilate was in somewhat of a tough position here.  He thought Jesus should have been released because he found no reason to execute Him.  But on the other hand, he had a raging crowd on his hands that he didn’t want to loose control of and cause a major riot.  So to please the crowd, and calm things down, he let them have Barabbas.  He had Jesus flogged and sent Him away to be killed. 


If their were any followers of Jesus in the crowd, and there probably were, they must have been deeply discouraged and overwhelmed with grief to see Jesus taken away like this.


 The Soldiers Mock Jesus (ch. 15:16-21)


In verse 16 we see the soldiers take Jesus away from the courtyard and into the palace.  We need to understand  that these soldiers are Roman soldiers, not Temple guards.  They took him inside the Roman palace where there were more soldiers.


What took place here was a great mockery of Jesus, something that was not normal procedure for Roman courts, but nothing has been normal with the arrest and so-called trial of Jesus.


At the end of the last section we see that Jesus was flogged.  The soldiers would have stripped Jesus naked to whip Him.  Verse 17 tells us that after Jesus was flogged the soldiers put a purple robe on Him.  John says that the robe was purple as well, yet Matthew says it was scarlet. Many scholars suggest that what the soldiers put on Jesus was an old discarded and faded soldiers coat that once was scarlet in colour but because it was old and faded appeared to be purple.  This old coat was meant to be a robe of royalty. They made a crown out of thorns and put that on Jesus’ head as well.  Of course  both the robe and the crown were quick attempts to dress Jesus’ bloody body and make Him out to be some king of a king which was just another form of mockery.


The mockery continued by them yelling out, “hail, King of the Jews”.  What no one there knew was that Jesus was in fact the King of the Jews and even more so, the King of all there is.  


The soldiers began to spit on Jesus and hit Him with a staff.  This is after He’d already been flogged by the soldiers out in the courtyard.  This is also after the Jews spit on Him and punched Him as well. 


The soldiers then fell on their knees and pretended to worship Jesus. What a sight this must have been. Here the King of the universe was being mocked as a pitiful imposter. Yet when Jesus returns to this earth as the King that He is, all these soldier will see Him in a much different light as the Book of Revelation states very clearly.


This section ends with the soldiers talking the robe off Jesus and putting His clothes back on.


The Crucifixion (ch. 15:21-33)


Jesus is now on His way out of the city carrying His own cross that He will hang on as a convicted criminal.  We learn this from the other gospel records.  Mark simply tells us that at some point, which was the city gates according to the other gospels, that Simon was conscripted  to carry the cross for Jesus. 


Thus Simon would have carried the cross from the city gates to the hill where Jesus died.  It is clear that Jesus had no strength left to carry the cross which would have been very heavy.  He had been beaten up so much and most likely kicked and hit on the way carrying the cross that He could no longer hold the cross.


Simon is distinguish here in verse 21 from other Simon’s when Mark says that he is from Cyrene and that he has two sons, Alexander and Rufus.  Many scholars believe this Rufus to be the Rufus that Paul speaks of in Romans 16:13.  Other scholars feel that both of these sons became leaders in the church and that is why Mark mentions them.  The mere mentioning of these two sons for many suggests that the readers would have known who Mark was talking about. 


If these two sons, and perhaps Simon as well, became Christians, it is clear that this experience had a great impact on them.  We don’t know if the sons were with Simon.  We only know that Simon was there and He carried the cross for Jesus.  I doubt is Simon understood the significance of what He was doing at the time, but if he did become a follower of Jesus, he sure would have later. 


Verse 22 says that they brought Jesus to Golgotha , which means, “the place of skills”.  This was a place of skulls because this was a place where executions often took place.  It would have been at a major intersection of two busy roads so everyone could see the spectacle.  This is how the Romans carried out the execution of criminals. These executions were in one sense warning to others, and maybe even a sport for some.  


Verse 23 says that the soldiers gave Jesus a mixture of wine and myrrh.  The myrrh would act as a very bitter tasting drug to stupefy Jesus, that is to say, put him out a bit in order to make it easier for the soldiers to put Him on the cross. They weren’t offering Jesus this mixture to help Him, or to quench His thrust.  They offered this to Him to help themselves by making their job easier. But Jesus refused to accept the mixture of wine and myrrh.


In verse 24 Mark simply states that they “crucified Him”.   Nothing was added. They simply killed Jesus.


Also in verse 24 we see Mark briefly mentioning that the soldiers who put Jesus on the cross drew lots, that is, gambled for the clothes of Jesus.  Mark does not say much about this.  To learn more you can read John’s account and my commentary on the book of John.  The casting of lots for the clothes of the criminal was a common thing in those days.  It was not something particular to the death of Jesus.


In verse 25 Mark tells us that Jesus was put on the cross  at the third hour of the day.  Jews counted hours beginning at  6 AM  our time.  


It is interesting to note that Matthew and Luke state that darkness fell on the earth at noon. This would mean that Jesus was already hanging on the cross for three hours before the darkness came.  We’ll talk about this darkness in a few verses from now.


In verse 26 we see the notice that was attached to the cross saying, “King of the Jews”.  This in fact was the charge against Jesus that sent Him to the cross.  Posting such a sign wasn’t normal procedure.  It might well be possible that Pilate had this sign made to irritate the Jews.  But in the long run, the sign was correct.  Jesus did die for being who He was, and that was King of the Jews.


Verse 28 states that Jesus was killed with two robbers, one on each side of Him.  Thus He was numbered with criminals.  The one and only just person in human history was executed as a common criminal.  But this is the way of God. What seems right in human thinking isn’t necessarily right in the ways of God.


In verse 29 we see many of the by-standers mocking Jesus.  Everything surrounding the death of Jesus was one great mockery.  The trial was a complete mockery of Jesus as well as the Jewish justice system.  All along, individuals mocked Jesus in every step of the way to the cross, and here at the end, they are still mocking Him.


These mockers remember the words of Jesus when He told them that He’d destroy the temple and in three days raise it up again. Now they’re calling Him down from the cross to save Himself.  If Jesus could destroy the Temple and then build it in three days, He should be able to come down from the cross and save Himself.  Ironically speaking, Jesus was destroying the Temple and in three days He would raise it again.  Of course the Temple that Jesus spoke of, and these people didn’t understand was the Temple of His body.  Jesus willingly allowed His body to be destroyed and in three days it would be raised again.


The destruction of the physical Temple in one sense of the word was spiritually destroyed at this point too.  From this moment onward, that Temple would lose its meaning.  It no longer was the House of God.  Jesus Himself was the House of God while He was on earth.  Then once He left, we the church, took the place of Jesus on earth and became the House of God.  Eventually, in 70 AD the physical temple was destroyed as well by the Roman soldiers.


In verse 31 we see the Jewish leaders mocking Jesus as well by saying, “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself”.  On the surface the execution of Jesus looked like a real defeat, but we know that it was just the opposite.  The cross became a major victory in the plan of God.  Once again, what seems to be a defeat in the eyes of the world is a victory in the eyes of God.


The Jews mocked Jesus also by demanding Him to come down from the cross in order for them to believe.  These men weren’t interested in believing.  This again was simply a form of mockery.  Jesus never caved into the Jewish demands for a sign, so He surely wouldn’t cave in now.  Human nature is such that we like to prove ourselves to be right when others say we are wrong.  But human nature was totally defeated in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed through.    Jesus was not ruled by human nature, but by the will of God.


This section ends with Mark telling us that those who were crucified with Jesus also hurled insults at Him.  Mark says that both robbers mocked Jesus. We know that one of these robbers repented of his mockery and turned to Jesus and Jesus accepted him.  Jesus told this man that he’d be with Him in paradise.  The other robber did not repent.  


It is thus quite interesting that the first person saved in New Testament times, if you think of New Testament times beginning at the cross, was a criminal who came to Jesus in the last moments of his life.  It only goes to show, that it is never too late to come to Jesus and be saved and it certainly doesn’t matter what kind of life you have lived.


The Death Of Jesus  (ch. 15:33-42)


Verse 33 tells us that darkness fell upon the face of the earth from noon our time  to 3 PM our time.  At this time of year the moon was almost full.  You cannot have an eclipse of the  sun with a full moon.  Any historical research gathered tell us that there was no eclipse.  Thus this had to be a miracle of God with significance. 


The question is raised, “why did this darkness come and cover the whole earth”?  Darkness and judgment are closely related in Scripture. Sin and darkness are closely related as well.  Jesus took all human sin upon Himself while on that cross and God judged Him for that sin.   The darkness signifies what took place on the cross.  The darkness fell upon mankind, animals and the earth itself, because all were being judged, and all will be redeemed in the end. When I say “all will be redeemed”, concerning all mankind who have given their lives to Jesus will be redeemed.  Beyond this, it is clear that creation itself will be redeemed in the New Earth as seen in Romans 8 and the Book of Revelation.


Some people believe that Jesus died spiritually while on the cross.  By this they mean that He lost His divinity and became an ordinary man.  I don’t believe this to be true.  These people say that God and sin cannot live together in the way it did when Jesus became sin and so God had to leave Jesus.  Jesus had to have lost His divine nature. But this is part of the miracle of the cross.  Jesus,  who is God in human flesh became sin.  This shows us how much God loves us.


The New Testament claims that both God the Father and Jesus Himself participated in raising Jesus from the dead.  If Jesus participated in His being raised, to me, this would suggest that Jesus could not have lost His divine nature.  A mere human being cannot raise himself from the dead.


Also, the idea that God could not defile Himself in a body of sin while Jesus was on the cross makes no  since.  These people believe that Jesus got His divine nature back at some point prior to His resurrection.  Well, the body of Jesus would have been defiled by sin, so if God couldn’t have lived in Jesus while on the cross, how could He return to Jesus in such a defiled body. There’s no logic in this argument.


But the number one reason in my thinking why Jesus could not have died spiritually is because if Jesus had lost His divinity while on the cross, then the real Jesus who walked the face of the earth didn’t die on the cross.  And if the real Jesus didn’t die on the cross then what happened on the cross has no significance.           


In verse 34 Mark tells us that at the ninth hour Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me”?  This would be 3 PM in our time, meaning that after 6 hours of hanging on the cross Jesus was still alive, that is, from 9 AM our time to 3 PM our time.


These words that Jesus spoke at 3 PM were spoken in Hebrew. Although most Jews spoke Aramaic, a language very similar to Hebrew, these words would have been easily understood by the Jews standing by.  I’m sure these words spoke volumes to those who heard them. Even though they may have failed to understand their significance, the Holy Spirit would have carried these words to the hearts of those standing by. Yet even at this, the Jews failed to acknowledge Jesus and continued mocking Him as we will see later. 


During these three hours of darkness God’s judgment fell on Jesus.  Jesus actually became  sin as seen in 2 Cor. 5:21.  He also was cursed by God as seen in Gal. 3:13.  This was the curse of the Law.  This curse actually fulfilled that part of the Law of Moses.  Jesus was thus cursed on our behalf and received the punishment of sin due to us. It is very important to understand that the Law of Moses does not mean the same to us as Christians as it did to the Jews, because it died on the cross with Jesus.  This is very clear from Paul’s writings.


For three long hours Jesus was experiencing the wrath of God, and not His love.  It was in this way that God forsook Jesus.  Jesus did not lose His divine nature on the cross.  This should be understood.  He was still God.  It is just that the Father, one part of the Trinity, turned His back on Jesus in judgment and would not help Him. 


Certain cults like the Jehovah Witnesses use this verse to show that Jesus and the Father were completely separate.  They then conclude that Jesus can’t be God.  But God is far beyond our capabilities of human reasoning.  It makes no sense to me that God can’t be made up of three parts, yet each part distinct and different from the other parts. He is God. He is the creator of all things.  Why can’t He be three yet one.  


It’s also interesting to note that this judgment lasted three hours.  Remember, the number  3 is often seen as the number of completion in the Bible.  It took three hours to complete this judgment. And it also began at the third trimester of the day – 12 noon our time.  The first trimester starts a  6 PM and the second at 9 PM.  Remember, the Jewish day, as in the daylight period, not the 24 hour day, begins about 6 PM our time.


Jesus says “why…”   The word why here means, “for what purpose”.  That means, “for what purpose have you forsaken me”?   Why did Jesus ask this question?  Did He not know why His Father forsook Him for the last three hours?  Or did He know but just had to verbalize His feelings.  Some suggest that while going through the three hours of judgment that He lost the capacity to know such things.  This may well be the case, although I don’t think we can know that for sure. 


When you look at the judgments of God as seen in the Book of Revelation, we can clearly see that God does not hold hack in His judgments.  His judgments are very severe.  We maybe can imagine just a bit of what Jesus went through in these three hours when we read the judgments of Revelation. 


In verse 35 some Jews  after hearing Jesus’ words say that Jesus is in fact calling out for Elijah.  These men had to be Jews.  Roman soldier knew little about Elijah. Also, these Jews knew the Hebrew words spoken by Jesus.  They knew that He said, “God” and not “Elijah”.  This in fact most likely was yet another form of mockery. 


Jews believed that Elijah would return from the dead and announce the coming of the Messiah, and live along side the Messiah.  These Jews were suggesting that Jesus was calling out to Elijah by saying, “where are you Elijah?  I’m waiting for you”.


Mark reports in verse 36 that someone gave Jesus a sponge soaked in wine vinegar.   What Mark doesn’t say but we learn from other gospel accounts is that Jesus called out that He was thirsty.  Only the Roman soldiers would have had access to this bitter wine so the man most likely was a Roman soldier.


Verse 37 says, “with a loud cry Jesus breathed His last”.  “Breathed His last” simply means “breathed out His Spirit” in Greek.  He gave up His Spirit.  He handed His Spirit over to His Father in final submission.  So this is what death is all about.  Death is that time when we hand our spirits over to God.  As we breath out our last breathe, we breathe out our spirit from our bodies. 


In verse 38 Mark tells us that as Jesus cries out His last words, the curtain in the temple rips in half.  That might well signify the death to the Old Covenant as seen in the Temple.  The New Testament era has now taken over where men could come to God on their own through the Holy Spirit.  No manly priest had to be a go between us and God.  We could come to God on our own and this was made so by the death of Jesus.  The sad fact of the matter is that throughout church history church leaders have tried to re-introduce Old Testament thinking by trying to become a middle man between God and the church.  This is the premise of the Catholic church that began to take hold in the second century.  But this thinking is far from New Testament thinking.


We said earlier that the robber on the cross might well have been the first New Testament Christian,  If that is so, verse 39 tells us that the second new Christian was a Roman soldier who acknowledged after seeing all of these things that Jesus was truly the Son of God. How interesting.  A robber and a Roman soldier could well be the first two Christians in New Testament history.  


Verse 40 speaks of some of Jesus’ followers watching from a distance.  Mark mentions two ladies here.  They were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jose and James.  This Mary was the wife of one named  Cleopas, and the sister of the mother of Jesus, and Salome.


Verse 41 tells us that there were other women there as well.  We know from John that Mary the mother of Jesus was there as well.  And it appears that only John out of the Twelve were present at the cross. We learn this from John when Jesus tells John to take care of Mary, His earthly mother.


In verse 42 Mark tells us that these women took care of Jesus’ needs for Him while He was ministering in Galilee and they followed Him to Jerusalem. So we learn here that many women looked after the needs of Jesus during His three year ministry.


The Burial Of Jesus (ch. 15:43-47)


Normally the bodies of executed criminals would be thrown into a pit and burned.  But not so with Jesus.  Isa. 53:9 was fulfilled which said that Jesus would be buried with the rich.


Mark mentions Preparation Day in verse 43 which simply means the day before the Sabbath when Jews prepared for the Sabbath so they would not have to work  on the Sabbath. 


In verse 43 Mark mentions a man named Joseph of Arimethea who was on the Jewish council, meaning the Sanhedrin. It is thus clear that there were some in  Sanhedrin that were  believers.  Joseph was both rich and prominent among the Jews. 

This Joseph came boldly to Pilate and asked to take Jesus down from the cross and give Him a proper burial.  Although Jesus died with and as criminal He was not buried as a criminal which would fulfill prophecy that He was buried with the rich and His body did not suffer decay.  If you read Psa. 22, you will receive much insight into the death of Jesus.  Peter, on the Day of Pentecost quote this Psalm that tells us that Jesus’ body did not suffer decay. 


One thing to note about Joseph and his actions that you don’t really learn from the text is that he would have missed a Jewish ceremonial meal by going to Pilate with his request.  Another thing to note is that he would have made himself unclean by handling a dead body.  So you see Joseph’s resolve and dedication to Jesus here.  He would have been disobeying the very laws he stood for as a leader of the Jews. He most likely did not realize it at the time but those laws didn’t matter any more anyway.  


Mark says that Joseph was “waiting for the Kingdom”. I think that Joseph truly wanted to see the Kingdom of God come.  He understood this kingdom in the true sense of  Jewish thinking.  Yet after meeting Jesus, it appears he understood that Jesus had something to do with this coming kingdom.    


Now as I said earlier, criminals who were  executed were normally thrown into a pit, unless a relative requested the body to bury. So Joseph’s request wasn’t that much out of the norm.  What was surprising, at least to Pilate, was the fact that Jesus was dead already. 


Crucifixion usually caused people to die very slowly. It could have taken up to  four days, but here Jesus was dead in 6 hours.


After Pilate learned from a centurion that Jesus was in fact dead, he gave the body of Jesus to Joseph to bury.


Verse 46 says that Joseph took Jesus’ body down from the cross and wrapped it in fine linen clothes.  These were long strips of cloth.  He would have wrapped each leg and each arm at a time and them the rest of Jesus’ body except for His head which was covered with another special clothe.  There is no mention of anointing Jesus’ body with special ointment that would have normally been the case.  There would not have been time for that because of the Sabbath beginning early Friday evening. 


The tomb that Joseph put Jesus in was his own that no one else had ever used, thus another fulfillment of prophecy. 


The stone that Joseph put in front of the tomb would have been a round flat slab of rock, thus making it somewhat easy to move.  The slab of rock would have been placed into a groove that was dug out in the ground to keep it in place and make for easy moving to either side.  


Mark closes this chapter by saying that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jose, mentioned before saw where Joseph had buried Jesus.  There were other women at the tomb as seen in other gospel accounts but it appears they left while these two women stayed  a while longer.   


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