What does Mark 15:11 mean?
ESV: But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.
NIV: But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
NASB: But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead.
CSB: But the chief priests stirred up the crowd so that he would release Barabbas to them instead.
NLT: But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus.
KJV: But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.
NKJV: But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them.
Verse Commentary:
The chief priests are trying to get the Roman government to execute Jesus. The Jewish leaders have tried to kill Him on their own but failed (John 7:32; 8:59; 10:31–33). This is not an ideal time to attack a popular man (Mark 14:1–2). Jerusalem is bursting at the seams with Jews who have come for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Many of these travelers are from Galilee, where Jesus is from and where He has a strong following.

The chief priests and other members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, have justified their murderous intent to themselves by convicting Jesus of blasphemy against God (Mark 14:61–64). But they need a reason that will resonate with the Roman governor, Pilate. They're apparently unaware that far from seeing it as blasphemous, Pilate fears that Jesus' claim to be the Son of God might have some element of truth, making him even more reluctant to execute Jesus (John 19:6–8).

To convince Pilate that Jesus is a threat to Rome, they claim Jesus is planning an insurrection (Luke 23:2). When both Pilate and Herod Antipas—the tetrarch of Galilee—are skeptical of that accusation (Luke 23:14–15), the chief priests resort to the same thing they accuse Jesus of: they threaten a riot.

Barabbas is described as an insurrectionist and a murderer (Luke 23:19). Ironically, such qualities better represent who the Jews expect the Messiah to be. They look for a warrior-king to lead the people into battle against the Roman oppressors. They don't expect a poor teacher who intends to let Himself be killed for the sins of the world. Barabbas has proven he can fight. Jesus just made fish and bread feed a multitude. That's no longer enough (John 6:11–15, 26). The Jews think that they have chosen to let Barabbas live instead of Jesus. They don't understand Jesus has chosen to die for Barabbas.

We don't know who this crowd is comprised of. It is morning of Passover. The Galileans ate the night before, and the Judeans should be preparing to sacrifice their lambs that afternoon. The people who declared Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was the return of the Kingdom of David were likely a small portion of the travelers from Galilee, Decapolis, and Perea; they most likely weren't residents of Judea. It's very possible that this crowd, one the chief priests have riled up, knew relatively little about Jesus or His ministry.
Verse Context:
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.
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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