What does Mark 15 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
After three years of public ministry and a week of successful debates with the Jewish civil and religious leadership (Mark 11:27—12:37), Jesus has allowed Himself to be captured. The Jewish council is triumphant; soon they will see Jesus dead. The disciples are in hiding, convinced their plans to reign in Jesus' kingdom are shattered (Matthew 19:28) and their lives are in danger (John 11:16). Jesus is resolved. This is what He came to earth to do (Matthew 20:17–19).

The Sanhedrin is the Jewish council that presides over Jewish law and minor civil offenses. They have held Jesus' trial for most of the night (Mark 14:53–65) and find Him guilty of blasphemy against God according to the Mosaic law, but they do not have authority to execute anyone (John 18:31; 19:6–7). They need to convince Pilate He has as committed a capital offense against the Roman law (Mark 15:1). They settle on twisting Jesus' claim that He is the Jewish Messiah, saying Jesus claims He is king over the Jews, to the exclusion of Caesar. Considering the long tradition of Jews rebelling against the Romans, it's a good idea. The only problem is that Pilate doesn't believe them (Luke 23:22; Mark 15:10).

Pilate is not afraid that a teacher from Nazareth in Galilee is going to incite a rebellion against the Romans. He sends Jesus to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch over Galilee, who happens to be in town for the Passover (Luke 23:6–12). At the beginning of Jesus' ministry, Antipas had killed John the Baptist, and the self-styled king is anxious to talk to this Jesus whom he had heard so much about. When Jesus refuses to make a defense, Antipas agrees with Pilate that He is not a threat (Luke 23:14–15).

Pilate knows the real issue is the Jewish leaders' jealousy of Jesus' following (Mark 15:10). But the Sanhedrin has sway over the thousands of Jews who have come to Jerusalem for the Passover and can easily incite them to riot. If Pilate loses control, Caesar could fire him and exile him to the edges of the Roman Empire. Still, even Pilate's wife warns him against killing an innocent man (Matthew 27:19).

So Pilate tries to mitigate the situation (Mark 15:2–15). First, he horribly beats Jesus in hopes the Sanhedrin will be satisfied (John 19:1–4). Then he makes the Sanhedrin choose who will be released: Jesus or the murderer Barabbas. The Sanhedrin do what they claim Jesus will do: they incite a crowd to do their will, and the crowd chooses Barabbas to be released. Fearing a riot, Pilate refuses legal responsibility and hands Jesus over to be crucified (Matthew 27:24). The Jews take responsibility for Jesus' death (Matthew 27:25) and declare their allegiance to Caesar alone (John 19:15).

The rest of the story is straightforward (Mark 15:16–32). The Roman soldiers march Jesus through Jerusalem, although He is apparently so weak He can't carry the cross bar. Once they arrive at Golgotha, the soldiers crucify Jesus between two robbers. The soldiers and robbers join the chief priests, scribes, and the mob in mocking Jesus. Jesus refuses the mild sedative they offer Him and the guards divide His clothes among them by casting lots. Jesus' death is filled with drama and symbolism (Mark 15:33–41). From noon to three in the afternoon, the sky goes dark. He cries out, citing Psalm 22's lament as God abandons Him to the sins of the world. As He dies, the temple veil tears from top to bottom, symbolically declaring that Jesus has destroyed the barrier sin erects between us and God. The women who have supported His ministry and remain faithful look on from a distance and the Roman centurion finally realizes Jesus is no ordinary man.

Jesus' closest disciples are in hiding, but other followers rush to bury His body before the Sabbath begins (Mark 15:42–47). While Mary Magdalene and another Mary watch, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, and Nicodemus (John 19:39) hastily wrap Jesus' body in cloth and herbs and place Him in a new tomb (John 19:40–41). The next day, the chief priests and Pharisees remember that Jesus had claimed He will rise again. They ask Pilate to seal the tomb and send soldiers to guard it lest the disciples steal His body and claim He has resurrected (Matthew 27:62–66).

In the interim, the women prepare burial spices (Luke 23:56), the disciples hide (John 20:19), and Jesus welcomes the one repentant thief in paradise (Luke 23:42–43).
Verse Context:
Mark 15:1–5 continues after Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin, which has been ongoing since His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:43–65). They have convicted Him of blasphemy against God, but they do not have authority to execute Him, only Pilate does (John 18:31; 19:7–8). The Sanhedrin must convince Pilate that Jesus has broken a capital Roman law. Luckily for them, ''Jewish Messiah'' is roughly translated into Greek as ''King of the Jews.'' That's high treason against Caesar. Jesus' first trial with Pilate is also in Matthew 27:1–2 and 11–14, Luke 23:1–5 and John 18:28–38.
Mark 15:6–15 describes history's greatest miscarriage of justice. The Sanhedrin has convicted Jesus with blasphemy, a crime in the Mosaic law (Mark 14:61–64). Such a charge won't convince the Roman authorities to execute Jesus, so they present Him to Pilate as an imminent insurrectionist (Luke 23:2, 5). Pilate interrogates Jesus and finds Him harmless (John 18:33–38). Pilate then sends Jesus to Herod Antipas, who also finds the Sanhedrin's charges baseless (Luke 23:6–15). Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate who must decide: risk rebellion by the Jewish leadership or kill an innocent man? Pilate's decision is also found in Matthew 27:15–26, Luke 23:13–25, and John 18:38—19:16.
Mark 15:16–20 is typical of biblical narratives, which often give a short synopsis and then flesh out the details. Mark 15:16–20 may describe the scourging Jesus receives in Mark 15:15, or it may be a second beating after the official death sentence is given. Although victims are traditionally scourged before a crucifixion, Pilate also hopes that torturing Jesus will appease the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:16, 22; John 19:1). But the Jewish leadership will settle for nothing less than Jesus crucified. Matthew 27:26–31 parallels Mark's account while John 19:1–16 gives more detail.
Mark 15:21–32 describes the crucifixion of Jesus. The Romans refined crucifixion to be the most painful and humiliating death imaginable. Victims were usually stripped naked, then tied or nailed to a cross. Executioners were adept at driving nails between bones and arteries, but directly through nerves, extending the victim's agony. Hanging in this position, the condemned could only breathe if they lifted their weight on impaled feet or wrists. Exhaustion would soon lead to suffocation—typically taking a victim two or three days to die. Bodies were usually left to rot in public unless a family member was given special permission to remove them. More painful for Jesus, however, is the total separation from His heavenly Father. Still, though He suffers alone, He suffers with hope (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus' crucifixion is also detailed in Matthew 27:32–44, Luke 23:26–43, and John 19:16–27.
Mark 15:33–41 is a raw and stark account of Jesus' death. Jesus feels separated from God and abandoned by His friends. The land is covered by darkness. The earth shakes and the tombs open (Matthew 27:52–53). Only too late does the centurion get a glimpse of what he and his men have done. Even the women who supported Jesus during His ministry have moved farther away. But when Jesus breaths His last, the temple veil tears, marking the possibility of our reconciliation with God. Jesus' death is also recorded in Matthew 27:45–56, Luke 23:44–49, and John 19:28–37.
Mark 15:42–47 occurs after Jesus has died, after six hours on the cross. His death is confirmed by a soldier who pierces His side with a spear, allowing blood and water to drain out onto the ground (John 19:33–34). Roman tradition would be to leave His body on the cross to be food for the birds, especially since He was technically crucified for treason. But Jewish law states leaving a hanged man overnight is a curse on the land (Deuteronomy 21:22–23), and a secret disciple has an unused tomb nearby. Jesus' burial is also recorded in Matthew 27:57–61, Luke 23:50–56, and John 19:38–42.
Chapter Summary:
After sham trials, Jesus is taken to the local Roman governor, Pilate. This is the only person in Jerusalem with the legal authority to have Jesus executed. Pilate is not fooled, and he attempts to arrange for Jesus' release. But the ruler's ploys fail, in part because Jesus will not defend Himself, and partly because the mob is intent on His death. Pilate offers a prisoner exchange in Barabbas, and even has Jesus brutally beaten in order to pacify the crowd. Eventually, he caves in and Jesus is crucified. Thanks to His prior abuse, Jesus survives only a few hours on the cross before dying. Jesus is then buried in a tomb belonging to a secret follower among the Jerusalem council.
Chapter Context:
After being unfairly judged, Jesus will now be unfairly sentenced and cruelly murdered. It's reasonable to say this chapter provides context for everything else contained in the Bible. From Adam and Eve until the last baby born in the millennial kingdom, every person other than Christ is stained with sin. Conscience, law, Jesus' direct leadership, even the indwelling of the Holy Spirit cannot keep us from sinning. Sinless Jesus had to die on the cross, sacrificing Himself in our place, so our sins could be forgiven and we could be reconciled to God. Beneath the violence, darkness, dishonor, and death is the love of God for all mankind (John 3:16). Jesus' crucifixion is also found in Matthew 27, Luke 23, and John 19. The next chapter describes the miracle of His resurrection.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
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