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Mark 15:12

ESV And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?”
NIV What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?' Pilate asked them.
NASB And responding again, Pilate said to them, 'Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?'
CSB Pilate asked them again, "Then what do you want me to do with the one you call the king of the Jews? "
NLT Pilate asked them, 'Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?'
KJV And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?

What does Mark 15:12 mean?

Pontius Pilate is often criticized for being an inept governor and a moral coward. However, he's not someone to be dismissed as a fool, or lacking intellect. The sarcasm and artistry of his words here are exquisite. By repeatedly using the term "King of the Jews" (Marks 15:9), Pilate is deliberately sneering at the people of Israel, mocking them by holding up someone like Jesus as their king. Jesus is a fatherless (Mark 6:3) itinerant teacher from Nazareth, from where nothing good comes (John 1:46).

But the powerful of Jerusalem are so jealous they try to get Jesus killed by claiming He is committing treason against Caesar. The most recent kings of the Jews have been from the line of Herod the Great. Herod was ethnically a descendent of Esau—then called the Idumeans (Mark 3:8)—and only vaguely Jewish in his religion. Herod trained his children in the ways of protecting one's authority through ruthless violence and crafty machinations. His legacy is reflected more in the Jewish leadership than in the humble man they accuse of trying to steal the crown.

It is custom during the Passover to release a prisoner, either a defendant or one who has been convicted. Roman law allows a governor or other magistrate to free someone upon the will of a large crowd. The chief priests have condemned Jesus according to the Mosaic law, and now they whip the crowd into demanding the release of Barabbas, a murdering insurrectionist.

We don't know who comprises this crowd. Scholars suggest it is filled with followers, or at least fans, of Barabbas. Those emphasizing the fickleness of human nature insist it is the exact same people who rejoiced over the return of David's kingdom during the triumphal entry (Mark 11:7–10), and who enjoyed watching Jesus defeat the logic of scribes, priests, and elders on the temple Mount (Mark 12:37). That kind of dramatic, immediate turn-around is not necessary to explain this scene, however. Considering the tens of thousands who have come to Jerusalem for Passover, it would be easy to find a mob that knows very little about Jesus. Even so, the desire to favor an insurrectionist over a peace-maker is a well-documented characteristic of human nature.
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