pilate_jesus02Mark 15

1.  Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.

This is said to be “in the morning.”  Morning would be 6:00 on the Jewish clock, or just after first light.  The phrase here in Greek could mean any time before first light.  It was about midnight when Pilate said, “Behold the man!” (John 19:14,) so they probably dragged Pilot out of bed for this, seeking to get Jesus condemned to death before the majority of the people were awake and could find out what was going on.  Remember, they feared the crowds, as they knew that the crowds loved Jesus.

2.  Then Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  He answered and said to him, “It is as you say.”

Pilate asks the Lord this question, no doubt in response to the accusation the chief priests were making against Him.  The Lord Jesus confirmed the correctness of Pilot’s statement.  He was the King of the Jews, and the rightful heir to the throne, being descended in direct lineage from the Davidic kings.  He was not yet the King over the whole earth, however, and He is not yet our King today, although He should be our Lord.

3.  And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing.

The chief priests, seeking to have the Lord Jesus condemned by Pilate, bring many urgent accusations against Him.  He refused to answer any of these false accusations leveled against Him, however.  How different from the way most men would respond, seeking immediately to justify themselves!  Here was the only Man Who truly was innocent of any wrong, and He answered not a word to the accusations brought against Him.  Are there times when we likewise should refuse to answer false accusations brought against us, or was this something unique to Christ at this time?  The truth is that our Lord meant to suffer as a wrongdoer, and to do it in our place.

4.  Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing?  See how many things they testify against You!”

Pilate wonders how the Lord can answer nothing to the charges brought against Him.

5.  But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.

In spite of Pilate’s question, the Lord still refuses to answer anything, a fact that left Pilot marveling.  This was a situation far outside of Pilate’s experience, or anything he had ever faced before.

6.  Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested.

This was a custom Pilate had to try to please the people.  At every feast (this should read “a” feast, not “the” feast,) he would release one prisoner to them.  It was probably his hope that this would help ease the perpetual tensions that existed between the Israelites and their Roman occupiers.  Thus, he would release to them not just any prisoner, but the one they asked him for.  It is doubtful that this really helped relations all that much, as the hatred the Jews had for the idolatrous Romans went far deeper than any released prisoner could hope to abate.  Yet this was his policy.

7.  And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion.

Pilate was currently holding as prisoner this man Barabbas, a man who had rebelled against Rome.  Due to the hatred that the Israelites had for Rome, this was a common occurrence in Israel, and was one of the major reasons the Romans finally had enough, and came and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.  At any rate, Barabbas had started a rebellion, and had committed murder with his fellow rebels during the rebellion.

The name “Barabbas” is Aramaic, and means literally, “son of the father.”  It is likely, from this name, that Barabbas was actually a false Christ, claiming that God was his father!  Many such men arose, claiming to be sent from God to free Israel from the yoke of the Romans.

8.  Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them.

Why would there be a multitude gathered at Pilate’s judgment hall in the middle of the night, particularly on Passover night?  It is unlikely that there were many Jews who just hung out at Pilate’s!  All godly Israelites would have been at home finishing their Passover celebrations and going to bed.  Where, then, did this multitude come from?  I believe the answer is there for us to see in this verse.  The last thing the chief priests would have wanted to do would have been to give Pilate a way of releasing the Lord Jesus.  It is highly unlikely that they stirred the multitude up to say this.  Why would this multitude have been here, then, and why would they have been asking for the release of a prisoner?  I believe that the answer is obvious, if we would take the time to think about it.  This multitude was here coincidentally.  They had nothing to do with Christ’s arrest.  All those who knew Christ, and who would have cared that He was arrested, were home in bed.  Yet it was common knowledge, both that Barabbas was in custody, and that there was a chance he could be released this day.  Who, then, would have been gathered at Pilate’s judgment hall, if not the followers of the man Barabbas?  Barabbas, although a violent rebel, had a loyal following.  These were not the same people who had shouted, “Hosanna” a few days before at the triumphal entry, as many like to claim.  These were not people who followed the Lord, or who had anything to do with Him.  Rather, this crowd was made up of the followers of Barabbas, gathered here in hopes of securing his release.  Thus, naturally, when they see Pilate in the judgment hall, they start crying out for him to release someone to them at their request, as he always did.  The chief priests would not have put them up to this…they did it on their own, being the followers of Barabbas.

9.  But Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

Pilate, rather than asking them to tell him who they want released, asks them if they will accept him releasing to them the “King of the Jews,” Jesus Christ.  Pilate was no doubt hoping that this would be a way out of this difficulty for him.  This was the last thing that the chief priests wanted, however.

10.  For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.

Pilate was starting to realize that the chief priests had handed the Lord over because of their envy of Him, for the people loved Him greatly.  Seeing a crowd of people at the judgment hall, therefore, Pilate perhaps hoped that these people would respond as most of the people of Israel would have, and would ask for the Lord to be delivered to them.  This is exactly what the vast majority of Israelites would have done.  It is totally unfair and slander to them to claim otherwise.  Yet what Pilate perhaps did not realize is that this multitude was not a random sample of average Israelites.  Rather, they were a crowd of Barabbas’ supporters who were prepared to wait all night in front of the judgment hall in hopes of having their hero released in the morning.  Thus, his appeal to them would not have the effect that he desired.

11.  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them.

If the crowd asks for the Lord, then their plans are doomed, and the chief priests know it.  Thus, they lead the charge in denying Pilate’s request.  It is unlikely that this crowd took much stirring up, because, as I said, they were already there in hopes of getting their favorite prisoner released, and the idea that someone else might be released instead would have been their worst fear.  Thus, the chief priests are easily able to work them into a frenzy, so that they would not only ask for Barabbas’, their hero’s, release, but also cry out for the death of the One Who Pilate wanted to release instead, the Lord Jesus Christ.  This was why the chief priests stirred them up.  They would not have need stirring up to ask for Barabbas’ release, since that was why they were there.  It took the chief priests, however, to provoke them into asking for the blood of the Man Pilate wanted to release instead.

The word here in Greek for “stirred up” is related to the word for an earthquake, and shows us how violently these men were stirred up.  The chief priests, indeed, were masters of stirring up men’s emotions, and they had little trouble playing on the feelings of this loyal crowd of Barabbas’ followers when it seemed to them that their master might not be released.

12.  Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”

Perhaps Pilate is still hoping to get help from the crowd, or else he asks this question almost out of frustration at having his plan for an easy way out stymied.  What does this crowd want him to do with the King of the Jews?

13.  So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!”

The chief priests influenced the crowd to ask for this punishment because of the Biblical principle that anyone who was hung on a tree was considered cursed by God.  By having Jesus killed in this manner, they no doubt believed that they could forever remove the impression that the Lord Jesus was sent from God by pointing to the fact that God had allowed Him to be cursed in His death.  Since this was the Roman punishment for treason, it is the fate that Barabbas would have faced had the crowd not secured his release.  Thus, it would have been easy for the chief priests to stir the crowd up to ask for this punishment for the Lord in substitution for Barabbas.

The Biblical punishment for blasphemy, which is what the chief priests were really condemning the Lord for, was stoning.  Thus, they once again failed to comply with their own law, and showed how hypocritical they really were and what a joke the Lord’s “trial” really was.

14.  Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”  But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!”

Pilate tries to reason with the crowd, asking them to tell him what evil the Lord had done that would justify crucifixion.  Yet this crowd is beyond reasoning, having become nothing more than a bloodthirsty mob.  Pilate’s reasonable question, then, meets only with an emotional and hate-filled response.

15.  So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.

Some would try to excuse Pilate for this, pointing out how reluctant he was to do this, and saying that the crowd forced him into it.  Yet this crowd was nothing more than an unruly mob, and certainly nothing from which true justice could be gleaned.  Pilot was the one in charge of administering justice, and it was his responsibility to do so.  He was more concerned, however, with pacifying the situation than with doing what was right.  Pilate certainly is not without blame in this.

16.  Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison.

This is further mistreatment of the Lord after the scourging mentioned in the last verse.  These soldiers first lead him into the court of the Praetorium and gather together their whole garrison.  Apparently, they wanted everyone to be in on the fun.

17.  And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head,

Purple was the color of royalty at the time.  Purple dye was very difficult to make, and thus was very rare.  For this reason, only the extremely rich could afford it, and thus it came to be known as the royal color.  A crown, of course, was also a symbol of kingship.

18.  And began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

Of course, this was not truly said out of honor, but sarcastically, and out of cruel mockery.

19.  Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him.

They strike Him and spit on Him, and then mockingly pretend to worship Him.  These rough Roman soldiers were so trained to do violence that this sort of behavior towards prisoners must have been common.  Moreover, they had heard that the Lord was accused because He was a king.  Because of their loyalty to Caesar, they no doubt despised anyone who claimed to be a king without his approval, and thus felt that their mocking of the Lord Jesus was an expression of loyalty towards their ruler.  We can hardly blame them for this, and they certainly fall under the words of Christ when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

20.  And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.

Finishing with their game, they take the purple garment off Him, dress Him back in His Own clothes, and lead Him away to be crucified.  Fun time is over, and now they must do their job.

21.  Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.

The Lord’s mistreatment was far beyond what this account in Mark has set forth.  No doubt the physical trials He had been through were taxing Christ beyond what even His strength could endure.  Usually the criminals who were to be crucified were compelled to carry their own crosses to the execution site, as an additional psychological torture.  Yet now it became clear to the soldiers that the Lord would not be able to do this Himself.

Notice that there is no mention of the Lord stumbling here before they compel another to carry His cross.  In fact, there is no mention of Him stumbling in any of the gospels.  The idea that He stumbled is just tradition.  It might be likely that He did stumble, however, since otherwise why would they have compelled someone else to carry His cross?  Unless, of course, He was so beat up that they just assumed He would not be able to carry the cross Himself without even having Him try it.

We do not know much else about this Simon other than what we learn here.  There is a “Rufus” saluted in Romans 16:13, and some would identify this Rufus with Rufus Simon’s son here.  It is unlikely that there was only one man named Rufus following the Lord, however, so it is only a guess to imagine that this was the same man.

22.  And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull.

The Israelites, in accordance with God’s law, would consider anywhere where a dead body or any part of one had been found an unclean place.  Since a skull had been found at this location it was from thenceforth considered unclean.  For this reason, perhaps, and because it was along the road to Jerusalem where all could see, the Romans had converted it to an execution site.  Remember, crucifixion was like an advertisement to all who saw it that it was not a good idea to commit treason against Rome!

23.  Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.

Myrrh, remember, was one of the spices offered to the Lord by the wise men as a gift when he was a child.  It had a strong odor, and was used as a perfume to honor the bodies of the wealthy dead.  When drunk, however, myrrh would have an intoxicating quality, and could have eased one’s pain.  The Lord, however, refused to drink it.  He did not want to in any way dull the pain of dying for our sins.

24.  And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take.

If they were dividing His garments, then the Lord was obviously no longer wearing them.  Thus, He was naked on the cross.  Public humiliation was another part of the both physical and psychological torture that was crucifixion.  We don’t like to show Him naked on the cross in our pictures and movies, putting instead a nice little pair of underpants on Him.  Of course, this is because we do not want to view an “X-rated” version of the cross.  The reality is, however, that He was naked on the cross.

As we read in Matthew, this casting lots to divide His garments was a fulfillment of prophecy.  All this happened as a part of God’s divine plan!