Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mark 15 - Trials, Crucifixion, and the Big Wow

LINK: Mark 15 


From: The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 84

Friday at Dawn

Religious Trial Three

228. The council of religious leaders condemns Jesus: Matthew 27:1-2, Mark 15:1, Luke 22:66-71

The Luke account of this event gives the most detail. At daybreak (because it was illegal to meet at night), Jesus was led to the third Jewish trial before the Sanhedrin (council of elders). They were the the official judicial body of the Jewish nation. It was also considered the final court of appeals. Jesus said He was the Son of God and would be seated at the right hand of God. Jesus was pronounced GUILTY of blasphemy. Now, Jesus had to be handed over to the civil court of the Romans because the Jews were not allowed to sentence anyone to death. The leaders refused to believe; just as Jesus said. 

Civil (Roman) Trials 

After Dawn

Trial Four (First Roman)

John's account is the most detailed of the four gospel accounts.

Even though the religious leaders had passed judgment on Jesus, only the Romans could exercise capital punishment. So, the case was brought to Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator (governor) of Judea and Samaria from A.D. 26-36 (Luke 3:1), who was in Jerusalem because of the Passover feast. During the great feasts, rioting and insurrection were more common, especially during Passover when the Jews remembered their deliverance from bondage to the Egyptians. 

Pilate and the Jews obviously had a hostile relationship. Pilate refused to do anything with just a charge of blasphemy. The Jews could not execute Him by stoning because prophecy had already said that no bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20). Also, He had foretold that He would be "lifted up" like a "snake in the desert" (John 3:14; Exodus 21:9). Jesus had to die by crucifixion and only the Romans could do that. 

The religious leaders brought Jesus to Pilate with three accusations, but Pilate only concerned himself with the third: Jesus' claim to be king. This was the only one that would be any threat to Rome, but after questioning, Jesus assured Pilate that He was a king, but of a kingdom not of this world (John 18:33-37). Pilate declared Jesus to be guiltless (Luke 23:4); and when he found out He was a Galilean, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod to be tried. 

There is a second Roman trial before Herod Antipas, but it is only recorded in Luke 23:6-12.

232. Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified: Matthew 27:15-26, Mark 15:6-15, Luke 23:13-25, John 18:38-19:16

Trial Six (Third Roman)

Pilate wanted to punish and release this innocent man (Mark 23:16), but the crowd was stirred up by the religious leaders, and he was pressured to release Barabbas, an insurrectionist (John 18:40) and murderer (Mark 15:7) instead. 

John is the only writer that covers the flogging (leather whip with bits of metal at the ends which often killed people), crown of thorns, purple robe, ridicule as King of the Jews, and beating. 

Pilate wanted to release Him but the Jews convinced him that if Jesus claimed to be king He was opposing Caesar. Their cry was for crucifixion, and Pilate took water and washed his hands symbolizing that he wanted to absolve himself of putting an innocent man to death (Deuteronomy 21:6-9). Then he released the murderer and handed the innocent Jesus over to be crucified. 

The events leading up to the crucifixion are more detailed in the Matthew, Mark, and Luke accounts, but the actual crucifixion is more detailed in John's gospel account. 

233. Roman soldiers mock Jesus: Matthew 27:27-31Mark 15:16-20Luke 23:36

A whole Roman cohort of 600 soldiers was gathered for this event. The Praetorium would have been large enough to fit them. It may have been in Pilate's residence at the Castle of Antonio or Herod's palace. 

Roman soldiers were known for their cruelty. So, Jesus was probably beaten badly. This fulfilled Isaiah 52:14 that says that His appearance was marred more than any man. He bore this suffering without a word (1 Peter 2:23).

234. Jesus is led away to be crucified: Matthew 27:32-34Mark 15:21-24Luke 23:26-31John 19:17

Jesus is on His way to Golgatha. Just as Isaac carried his own wood for the sacrifice in Genesis 22:1-6 and the sin offering was taken outside the camp or city (Hebrews 13:11-13), the John account says that He carried His own cross. The other accounts state that Simon of Cyrene carried the cross part way. Here is an interesting perspective on why that happened: 

It was a part of the prisoner’s humiliation that he carry his own cross to the place of execution, so when Jesus left Pilate’s hall, He was carrying either the cross or the crossbeam (John 19:17). 

Apparently, He was unable to go on, for the soldiers had to “draft” Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross for Him. (This was a legal Roman procedure. See Matt. 5:41.) When you consider all that Jesus had endured since His arrest in the Garden, it is not difficult to imagine Him falling under the load. But there is something more involved: carrying the cross was a sign of guilt, and our Lord was not guilty! Thousands of Jews came to Jerusalem from other nations to celebrate the feasts (Acts 2:5–11), and Simon was among them. He had traveled over 800 miles from Africa to celebrate Passover, and now he was being humiliated on a most holy day! What would he say to his family when he got home? 

What looked to Simon like a catastrophe turned out to be a wonderful opportunity, for it brought him in contact with Jesus Christ. (By the way, where was the other Simon—Simon Peter—who had promised Jesus to go with Him to prison and to death?) Simon may have come into the city to attend the 9 a.m. prayer meeting in the temple, but the soldiers rearranged his schedule for him. 

We have good reason to believe that Simon was converted because of this encounter with Jesus. Mark identified him as “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15:21), two men that Mark assumed his Roman readers would know. A Christian named Rufus was greeted by Paul in Romans 16:13, and it is possible that he was the son of Simon of Cyrene. Apparently Simon and his two sons became well-known Christians who were held in honor in the church. 

Before Simon met Jesus, he had religion and devotion; but after he met Jesus, he had reality and salvation. He did both a physical and spiritual “about face” that morning, and it transformed his life. God can still use unexpected and difficult situations, even humiliating situations, to bring people to the Saviour.

(The Bible Exposition Commentary, Lk 23:26)

The Third Hour (between 9 am and noon)

235. Jesus is placed on the cross: Matthew 27:35-44Mark 15:25-32Luke 23:32-43John 19:18-27

Crucifixion was widely practiced by the Phoenicians and Persians but Roman law permitted its use only on slaves and non-Romans. In Israel this shameful and excruciating punishment was inflicted for crimes of robbery and sedition and served as a public reminder of the Jews' servitude to Rome.  (The Daily Walk, October 9, 2008, p. 14)

Mark 15:25 says Jesus was placed on the cross at the third hour that starts at 9 a.m. (Mark 15:25). While John 19:14 says He was handed over by Pilate "about noon." Josh McDowell offers two possible explanations:
The night was divided into four watches, each consisting of three hours (see Mark 13:35), and the day was to some extent likewise divided into periods. In light of this, we can imagine that Mark’s statement about the “third hour” simply meant that Jesus was crucified sometime during the third hour (between nine o’clock and noon), while John’s statement that the trial ended about noon can mean before noon.  
Another possibility is that John is using a different method of reckoning time than Mark. We know for a fact, from Plutarch, Pliny, Aulus Gellius, and Macrobius, that the Romans calculated the civil day from midnight to midnight, just as we do today. 
Thus John’s “sixth hour” would be six o’clock in the morning. This would make 6 a.m. the time of the last of the trials of Jesus, and of His sentencing, giving adequate time for the events leading up to the crucifixion which, in Mark, was at 9 a.m. or afterward. 
There is good evidence that John used this method of computing time. This is not unusual in Scripture to have different authors use different methods of measuring time and determining dates.

He had two criminals on each side (Luke 23:33). He said seven things as He was crucified, and I will summarize them at the end, but His first prayer was that the Father would forgive them for what they were doing (Luke 23:34).

The dividing of His garments fulfilled Psalm 22:18 (John 19:24). Pilate continued the game with the Jews by writing that Jesus was "KING OF THE JEWS" so that all languages could read it (John 19:19-22). As He hung there, He was mocked by people passing by, the religious leaders, soldiers, and even the robbers being crucified with Him (Matthew 27:39-44, Mark 15:29-32, Luke 23:35-39). The Luke account adds that one of the robbers defended Jesus and asked to be remembered in paradise, and Jesus told him this would happen (Luke 23:39-43). Notice that the Luke account was the only one that recorded Jesus asking the Father to forgive them. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, "Luke's purpose . . . was to show that Jesus was the forgiving Messiah even as He died" (Comments on Luke 23:32-43).

John's gospel is the only account that reports about Jesus' conversation regarding His mother's future care (John 19:26-27).  

12-3 pm

236. Jesus dies on the cross: Matthew 27:45-56Mark 15:33-41Luke 23:44-49John 19:28-37

There was darkness from the "sixth to the ninth hour" or noon to 3:00 p.m. (Mark 15:33). How appropriate that Jesus would became the sin-offering for all mankind (John 1:29; Romans 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18) during this time of darkness. Just as there was three days of darkness before the Passover in Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23), this Lamb of God died for our sins so that the righteous wrath of God would "passover" those who put their faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25-26).

He was forsaken by the Father (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34) because He took on the world's sin. The Holy Father could not look upon His Son who had become sin and been made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). 

When Jesus cried, they thought Jesus was calling for Elijah because the Greek word for "Elijah" sounds like "Eloi" (Mark 15:34-35).  

At the end of that time, Jesus cried out to the Father that it was finished (Psalm 31:5), and He gave up His spirit. Papyri tax receipts during that time period had this Greek word for finished written across them, and it meant "paid in full."  He had paid the debt for our sin in full (2 Corinthians 5:21)!

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the curtain of the temple being town in two. This curtain was between the Holy place and the Holy of Holies in the temple (Hebrews 9:2-3). This curtain was 15 by 15 feet with a linen curtain during the time of the Tabernacle but was 20 feet wide by 60 feet long and 4 inches thick in Herod's temple during Jesus' time. Needless to say, it was a very thick curtain and ripped from top to bottom signifying God did it rather than men (who would rip it from the bottom if they even could). If you have been studying in the Bible Book Club, you know that only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies once a year (Leviticus 16:1-35). This event signified that everyone had access into the presence of God all the time (Hebrews 10:14-26) without the aid of temples, priests, altars, or blood sacrifices! It truly was finished! Our debt was "paid in full"! WOOHOO!

Matthew records that there was an earthquake (Matthew 27:51). This was probably for his Jewish audience. This earthquake recorded at the cross was similar to what happened on Mount Sinai when God gave Moses the Law that included all the regulations for the tabernacle and its sacrifices (Exodus 19:16-31:18). Hebrews 12:18-24 implies that the earthquake at the cross signified that Christ met the demands and curse of the Law, and that He, as the mediator of a new covenant, abolished it forever.  WOOHOO!

The New International Version suggests that the bodies of the saints were raised immediately, but the New American Standard Bible (literally interpreting the Greek word for word) directly says they were raised after the resurrection (Matthew 27:51). 

These events (and the fact that Jesus had the energy to cry out at the end of His crucifixion) caused the Roman centurion to exclaim that Jesus was the innocent (righteous) Son of God (Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47) and the multitudes to beat their breasts (Luke 23:48) while the women who followed Jesus looked on from a distance. These women included Mary Magdalene who had been delivered of seven demons (Luke 8:2), Mary the mother of James and Joses who also was at the tomb on Resurrection morning (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1), and Salome, the mother of James and John, who had asked for special thrones for her sons (Matthew 20:20-21). The only disciple recorded as being at the cross was John (John 19:25, 35). 

John's gospel was the last to be recorded, and at that time Gnosticism and Docetism were a problem. Both these ideologies denied the reality of the Incarnation (God coming in the flesh) and His death. The details about His unbroken bones (usually Romans broke bones to speed up the death), blood, and eyewitnesses probably helped with these false ideologies.  In addition, the true Passover Lamb did not have any of its bones broken (Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20), and the piercing of His side by the Roman soldier fulfills Zechariah 12:10. 

Here is a summary of Jesus' sayings on the cross:
1) Prayer of forgiveness (Luke 23:34)
2) Promise to the repentant criminal (Luke 23:43)
3) Provision for His mother (John 19:26-27)
4) Cry of separation from the Father (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)
5) Acknowledgement of thirst (John 19:28)
6) Cry of accomplishment (John 19:30)
7) Cry of resignation (Luke 23:46) 
(The Harmony of the Gospels, p. 242)

3 pm - Sunset

Luke records Joseph of Arimathea (a secret believer, Luke 23:51; John 19:38) asking for Jesus' body, but John is the only one who records the involvement of Nicodemus (John 3). This is significant because bodies of criminals were usually discarded. The linen and spices followed the burial customs of the time.

The preparation and placing of the body in the tomb were probably done quickly since it would have to be completed before the Sabbath at sundown on Friday. It was also the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Note that the women followed Him all the way to burial, but the disciples had all abandoned Him (Matthew 26:56). Let's hear it for the women! :)


I will never forget studying the book of Mark with a group of women from another country who had never heard about the curtain of the temple being torn in two when Jesus died on the cross. We took them to Leviticus and then to Hebrews. When we asked them to explain it, one of the girls summed it up so beautifully. She said something like this:  
"I used to be that the only way we could get to God was through a high priest and sacrifices of blood. When Jesus died, His blood covered all my sins and the curtain was torn in two so that I can go right into God's presence."
The girl next to me said in a hushed voice, "Wow."

I think this woman got it, and it is a big WOW!


Reflect on the big WOW! as you pray through Psalm 22 today.
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