In continuity with Mark 14, Jesus is turned over to Pilate, who is amazed at his silence. Pilate delivers him to be crucified. Jesus is beaten and mocked. He is crucified. He dies, by giving up his spirit. A centurion says that Jesus truly was the Son of God. Joseph of Arimathea asks permission from Pilate to bury Jesus, and Pilate is amazed that the crucified one is dead already. Mary Magdalene and Mary (the mother of James and Joses [Joseph]) and Salome are following and observe from a distance. See the table of events during Passion Week at the end of this post.
As I write in the introduction to every chapter:
This translation and commentary is offered for free, gratis, across the worldwide web to Christians in oppressive (persecuting) or developing countries, who cannot afford printed commentaries or Study Bibles, though everyone can use the commentary and entire website, of course.
The translation is mine. I add yet another translation for one purpose: to learn. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalness and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
I ask Growth Application (GrowApp) questions after each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
I add some Greek word studies, in a nontechnical way. The Greek terms with brief definitions can also be looked up at biblehub.com.
Links are provided for further study.
Jesus Is Handed over to Pilate (Mark 15:1-5)
1 Next, early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders and teachers of the law and the entire council, made the decision. They bound Jesus and brought and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” In reply, Jesus said to him, “You are saying so.” 3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Again Pilate asked him, saying, “You don’t reply to anything?” Look how they accuse you of many things!” 5 But Jesus still gave no reply, with the result that Pilate was amazed.
This scene carries on from the previous chapter. The main reason the trial was held at night in the Sanhedrin is that Roman trials were held early in the morning (Lane, in his comment on v. 1).
Jesus was accused of blasphemy by the Jews, but they had no more authority to execute. So they have to accuse Jesus of the political crime of sedition or fomenting rebellion. Luke 23:2 says that the Jewish authorities brought three charges before Pilate: (1) Jesus’s subversive movement; (2) his opposition to paying taxes to Rome; (3) he claimed to be Christ the king.
The Jewish leaders bound Jesus and led him through the city from the quarters of Caiaphas to the fortified palaces of the Herods (Lane’s comment on v. 1), to turn over to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. The chief priests and elders go with him too. The council is the Sanhedrin.
Please see this post for more information on these characters:
And now let’s introduce Pilate for the first time.
The Christian creeds remember him as the governor under whom Jesus Christ suffered (1 Tim. 6:13) (see the Apostles Creed). The NT calls him governor while other sources call him prefect (his official title). Pontius was his nomen (tribal name) and Pilate was his cognomen (family name). His praenomen (personal name) is nowhere recorded. He came to power in A.D. 26. He was an anti-Semite. He brought into Jerusalem the insignia of the Roman military bearing the image of Caesar. He planted armed Roman soldiers, disguised as civilians, among the populace. This may have been the historical occasion for Luke 13:1, which says that Pilate mingled Galilean blood with their sacrifices. It is surprising then that he felt pressure from the Jewish authorities to put Jesus to death. However, he could have believed his position in the empire was precarious; John 19:12 says that if he released Jesus he would be no friend of Caesar. The NT writers were eager to show that he was innocent in regards to Roman law. Yet the only way the Jewish Council could convict Jesus was to accuse him of claiming to be king. Pilate’s name does not appear in Judea after A.D. 36/37, and this indicates he was removed shortly after he slaughtered Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim (Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary).
“Are you the king of the Jews?” I decided, after reading Decker, to make this emphatic. Is Pilate being skeptical? Is he mocking? From the context, maybe a little of both. It must have been difficult for him to believe that an eccentric Galilean commoner would claim a kingship for himself.
In any case, Pilate asked a fair question, but Jesus was ambiguous. Why? He wanted to allow the falsehoods to pile up. When people cannot spot the truth but are arrogant and powerful, they are often victims of divine irony. Irony is this: you think you know, but you do not; you are actually ignorant. When you add a religious component to it, it become “divine irony.”
Evidently, Jesus intended (1) to let the false accusations fly, so the religious establishment would sink deeper into guilt before God and justly incur his judgment; and (2) the divine plan had to be fulfilled; Pilate had to condemn him to death.
Pilate asked him whether Jesus was the king of the Jews, and he answered honestly, without making a big issue of it: “You are saying so.” This is an oblique answer that says, “Yes,” but Pilate was too dull to understand it. So Jesus is playing with the ambiguity in the word king: (a) A Caesar-like king who conquers the world with the military and compels allegiance with bodily threats; (b) a heavenly king who conquers humanity’s heart with the gospel who persuades humanity to have allegiance with love. Jesus fits the second definition. He really was the king of the Jews, but in a spiritual sense, in the new kingdom that God was ushering in. This new kingdom has links to the kingdom God set up over Israel, but now it was entering a new phase, with King Jesus at its head. But the Roman governor and his accusers did not see it. Spiritual and moral blindness.
As to Jesus’s silence, let’s quote these verses. Peter summarizes Jesus’s demeanor before the authorities:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet. 2:21-23, ESV)
Now let’s turn to the remarkable verse in Isaiah’s accurate prophecy.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. (Is. 53:7, ESV)
However, he did make a confession before the high priests, chief priests and the elders of the people, quoting Ps. 110:1 and Dan. 7:13 (Matt. 26:64). So let’s not overinterpret the silence here.
But Pilate did “exceedingly” marvel at it, because no doubt he had heard many trials when the courtroom erupted in words.
Jesus was in fact about to become king of the whole world, at his resurrection and ascension.
GrowApp for Mark 15:1-5
A.. Jesus was falsely accused. Have you been false accused? How did you respond? Do you know someone who was? How did they respond? Can you learn any lessons from their situation?
Jesus Is Sentenced to Die (Mark 15:6-15)
6 At the feast, Pilate would customarily release to the crowd one prisoner whom they requested. 7 There was man named Barabbas, imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder during the riot. 8 The crowd came up and began to request just what he would do for them by custom. 9 But in reply Pilate said, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” 10 (For he knew that the chief priests out of envy handed him over.) 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, that he would instead release Barabbas to them. 12 Then, in reply, Pilate again said, “What then do you want me to do with the one you call ‘the king of the Jews’?” 13 And they shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate said to them, “What crime has he committed?” But they cried even louder: “Crucify him!” 15 Then Pilate, wanting to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and handed Jesus over to be flogged, so that he would be crucified.
The question is—historically, who was responsible for the death of Jesus? Part of the crowd, the Jewish leaders and the Romans through Pilate? The best answer is what Strauss says: it was his enemies who were responsible, and they come from all three groups (p. 682). Theologically, we are all responsible because our sins put him there.
This scene is tragic and awful, full of injustice and bitterness and blindness against the most just man who ever lived. It was a wrong decision based on a shouting match. Pilate was weak, but the Father was behind the scenes, orchestrating the push for his Son to die. But none of this exonerates the foolish mob (or Pilate). Their hearts had been hard and filled with injustice and moral blindness. God simply allowed their hearts to drink the full cup of their preconditioned unrighteousness. In other words, they were unrighteous before the trial began and were part of the opponents. For all we know, they may have been part of the temple complex, including the families of the money-changers whose tables he had overturned.
The crowd was mixed with the people of Jerusalem and Judea in the south and the people of Galilee in the north. Generally, the southerners did not like the Galileans. This explains why some of the crowd turned against Jesus—they were likely from the south.
This leads us to the question: How many were shouting in favor of crucifixion? It was not the whole city, for the people liked Jesus, but it was enough of a crowd to shout so loudly that they prevailed or dominated the outcome.
By the way, a clever TV interpreter has noted that the name Barabbas literally means “son of the Father.” The interpreter connects the contrast between Jesus, who is the true son of the Father, and Barabbas, to the Day of Atonement. Recall that there were two goats during this most holy day: one was sacrificed, and the other was released. Evidently, the interpreter wants us to draw the inference that Jesus was sacrificed, while the scapegoat was released out into the wilderness, with the sins of the nation still on him. This interpretation is clever, and you can decide what to do with it. (I don’t emphasize it myself.)
If you don’t like the connection, then just realize that the guilty man (Barabbas) goes free, while the innocent one (Jesus) suffers for the guilty one. This is a perfect picture of penal substitution of the atonement.
“riot”: this riot is not known to us, but the environment around Jerusalem and Judea was tense, so it could have happened recently before Jesus arrived in the city.
“to satisfy the crowd”: Decker points out that this may be a Latin idiom: satisfacere alicui, which indicates, once again, that Mark is writing for a Roman audience.
Why did the crowd want Barabbas? Insurrectionists were viewed as Robin Hood and were popular among the people. Barabbas must have been like a folk hero of sorts. Lane says that in the eyes of the public he was a “freedom fighter” (comment on v. 11). Also, Strauss (and Wessel) speculate that since Barabbas means “son of a father,” and sometimes Rabbis were called “father” (also see Lane; cf. Matt. 23:8-9), he may have been the son of a teacher of the law or another religious leader, and this possibility would also account for his popularity.
Lane’s comment on v. 10:
It did not require any peculiar sagacity on Pilate’s part to realize that the spokesmen for the Sanhedrin were not acting out of loyalty to Rome. They clearly wanted to be rid of someone troublesome to them and they intended to use the Roman magistrate as their henchman. Seen in this light, Pilate’s reluctance to accede to the priests’ demand is understandable and inevitable. His determination to evade their scheme was undoubtedly strengthened when in the course of his examination of the accused it became clear he was anything but a political agitator.
Matt. 27:26 and v. 15 here say that Pilate did have Jesus scourged or flogged. Jesus predicted this in Mark 10:33. The whip was called a flagellum, which was made of several pieces of leather with pieces of bone and lead embedded near the ends. Two men, one on either side, flogged the victim. The Jews limited the number to forty minus one, but the Romans had no such limit on the number (Wessel and Strauss).
A medical doctor describes the scene:
The heaven whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back and legs. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from the vessels in the underlying muscles .… Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. (qtd. in Wessel and Strauss, pp. 967-68)
To wrap up this section, Pilate had a superior named Sejanus who had died recently. Apparently Sejanus had been anti-Jewish, and so Pilate had been treating the Jews insensitively. Now he was intending to please them by having Jesus flogged and crucified.
GrowApp for Mark 15:6-15
A.. Barabbas the guilty one went free, while Jesus the innocent one paid the penalty. Study 2 Cor. 5:21. How does this speak of the Great Exchange?
The Soldiers Mock and Beat Jesus (Mark 15:16-20)
16 The soldiers led him out into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the entire cohort. 17 They put on him a purple robe, and weaving a crown of thorns, they placed it on him. 18 Then they began to greet him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 They beat his head with a reed and, kneeling, they paid him homage. 20 Then they ridiculed him. They stripped the robe from him and put his own clothes on him. They led him out to crucify him.
France writes insightfully about the awful scene, which still offers a glimmer of hope, in vv. 16-47:
Yet within this harrowing scene there are gleams of light, pointers to what the Christian reader of course already knows, that this is not the story of the final defeat of God’s Messiah, but the moment of his paradoxical victory. A few minor characters pass across the stage, each giving the reader some grounds for hope: Simon, Rufus and Alexander, the Roman centurion with his pregnant exclamation, Joseph of Arimathea, and especially the faithful women who stay around when all the men have gone, and who in the final scene of Mark’s story will have the privilege of being the first to witness the dawning of the new age. And within the story line itself there are strong hints that in these terrible events in which God’s enemies seem triumphant it is in fact the purpose of God that is being worked out.
Then France reminds us of the many quotations from Ps. 22, indicating that prophecy was being fulfilled (see vv. 31-44, below).
That link has a long table of verses from the OT and the corresponding ones from the NT. But Jesus also fulfills the types and shadows and themes of the OT, like the sacrificial system and even Israel itself, which had failed to complete its mission of being a light to the Gentiles, but now Jesus is carrying out this mission, and God is about to vindicate him.
Praetorium: It is a Latin loanword. In this context, it is the official residence of the Roman governor. Mark explains what “palace” means in this verse, which again may show that he is writing for a Roman audience.
“cohort”: usually 600 soldiers or a manipulus, about one-third of that number. Mark is probably using the term loosely, not precisely (Strauss on v. 16). The soldiers are not the temple guard, as they were at the arrest. They are Pilate’s occupation army (France in his comments on v. 16). They are not at all friendly to Jews generally.
“Hail, King of the Jews”: this is a phrase that parodies the greeting one gives the emperor: Ave Caesar, imperator! (Strauss on vv. 17-19). The irony is that the soldiers cannot see that he was the king of not only the Jews, but also of the whole world.
Jesus had predicted the mockery or ridicule in Mark 10:34.
“reed”: some translate it as a “stick.” When they beat him on the head, as he was wearing the crown of thorns, the thorns were driven into his head, even more.
Crown of thorns: it was probably a palm leaf with spikes sticking outward (think of the crown on the Statue of Liberty), designed to mock the king of the Jews. Or it may have been the traditional plaited crown we see in the paintings.
This whole scene, yes, was animalistic, but it was also satanic. There is just something too deep and unnecessary about this abuse. Only several demons, believing that they had won the victory over the Son of God, would inspire this much cruelty. For all we know, Satan himself may be there, invisible. However, the text does not say this openly, so we should not press this invisible demonic presence too far.
To forestall any criticism that this abuse was unnecessary, please see my post
No, God did not cause this abuse; evil humans did this. But I really like this verse, to clarify matters. Jesus had to suffer, in order to relate to humanity. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Heb. 5:7-8, NIV)
As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance. (Is. 52:14, ESV)
The Roman soldiers had their turn in striking him. No wonder Isaiah prophesied that his appearance would be marred, beyond human semblance. Beating his head with a reed, while the thorny crown was on it, added to the disfigurement.
Jesus’s “kingship” here is seen as a joke. However, their mock homage with cheap substitutes like the purple robe and reed or stick for a scepter will be replaced and smacked down with the real enthronement in Mark 16:19 (if you accept the longer ending).
GrowApp for Mark 15:16-20
A.. What does it mean to you that Jesus suffered, taking your place and dying a criminal’s death, though innocent, just for you?
The Crucifixion of Jesus (Mark 15:21-32)
21 Then they compelled a passerby, a certain Simon of Cyrene, coming from the field, the father of Alexander and Rufus, so that he would take up his cross. 22 They brought him to the place, Golgotha, which is translated as Place of the Skull. 23 They gave him wine flavored with myrrh, which he did not take. 24 They crucified him,
Dividing his clothes,
Casting lots for them, each would pick one up. [Ps. 22:18]
25 It was the third hour and they crucified him. 26 There was an inscription of the charge against him being written: “King of the Jews.”
27 Two insurrectionists were crucified with him, one on the right and one on his left. 28 And the Scripture was fulfilled, saying, ‘He was numbered with the lawless’ [Is. 53:12] 29 Those passing by insulted him, shaking their heads and saying, “Ha! The one who destroys the temple and rebuilds it in three days— 30 save yourself, coming down from the cross!” 31 Likewise, the priests, mocking him to each other, with the teachers of the law, said, “He saved others; he is not able to save himself! 32 Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross right now, so that we may see and believe!” And those who were crucified with him heaped insults on him.
Jesus is now ratifying the New Covenant, as he promised during the Last Supper:
22 While they were eating, he, taking the bread and blessing it, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 Taking the cup, giving thanks, he gave it to them, and everyone drank from it. 24 Then he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which has been poured out for many. (Mark 14:22-24)
Three groups mock him: (1) the passersby (indicating his cross was by a thoroughfare where people were coming and going); (2) the priests; and (3) the two bandits or insurrectionists.
Simon the Cyrenian is a better translation. He was coming from the agricultural field where he was working. Cyrene is in N. Africa, where Tripoli is. In his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, Keener says that archaeologists have uncovered a grave of an “Alexander son of Simon,” a Cyrenian Jew, near Jerusalem (p. 677). But identifying him with this Simon is not nailed down. It does make one think, however.
Paul wrote: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well” (Rom. 16:13, ESV). How did Mark know who Rufus was? No doubt he met him in the Christian community in Rome. (This is one more piece of evidence that Mark writes from Rome.) Recall that Peter arrived there, and Mark assisted Peter in putting together Peter’s preaching. I can easily imagine that Rufus liked to say, “My dad carried the beam for Jesus! That’s right!” However, all this is no more than a possibility, because Rufus was a popular name among Jews who wanted to Latinize their Hebrew name Reuben.
This was probably the crosspiece or crossbeam (patibulum) and the upright stake (palus) was put into the ground. The palus and patibulum may have looked like capital T (crux commissa) or a lower-case t (crux immissa). Simon was probably carrying the patibulum (Strauss, comment on v. 21). The soldiers made him carry the cross beam. The upright or vertical beam was already there at the place of crucifixion.
They have reached the place outside of Jerusalem called “the Skull Place.” Once again, Mark translates for his Roman audience.
“they crucified him”: Wessel and Strauss say that Mark writes simply and with incredible restraint. No embellishments.
Casting lots for the clothes fulfills Ps. 22:18: “They divide up my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
The soldiers offered him cheap wine, which evidently lessened the pain. It refers to Ps. 69:21: “And for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink” (ESV). He tasted it but did not drink it. John 19:30, Mark 15:23, and Luke 23:36 agree that he did not drink it, but he did fulfill Bible prophecy when it was offered and put to his mouth. He did not receive it. Strauss says that this offer was done in mockery, just to continue the game (comment on 23). Jesus did not want play along. He had already received the cup of suffering from his Father (10:38-39; 14:36).
Romans normally crucified victims naked, but because of Jewish sensibilities, they may have provided Jesus with a loincloth (Strauss on v. 24).
Further verses in this Psalm perfectly summarize the blindness of the religious leaders and the Roman soldiers:
Let their own table before them become a snare;
and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.
23 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, (Ps. 69:22-23, ESV)
For they persecute him whom you have struck down,
and they recount the pain of those you have wounded. (Ps. 69:26, ESV)
This section of Ps. 69 speaks of God punishing those who persecute the righteous. It may make the soft-hearted squeamish but look at this idea more theologically. God is the God of justice (not irrational vengeance), and he cannot deny who he is. Yes, he will forgive those who repent, but there is no evidence that these men repented, except one soldier and those with him (v. 39. God was going to visit on Jerusalem and the temple judgment, which happened in A.D. 70.
Dividing up the clothes by lots speaks of putting them in a pile and then casting lots for them. Jesus was about to be crucified naked, for his clothes were gambled away by lot.
Third hour: nine o’clock in the morning (9:00h).
These verses move us along to another angle. The guards sat down to keep watch over him. But before then, they had placed the written charge or cause against him over his head.
Mark’s careful chronology apparently conflicts with John’s chronology, which says that the trial was not quite over before Pilate by the sixth hour (noon). After reviewing the attempts at harmonizing the two accounts (e.g. scribal errors in either Mark 15:25 or in John 19:14), Strauss says that the best one is that in the ancient world they approximated the time and referred to blocks of time. However, the personal picture for you is that your faith must STOP being so brittle about such small inconsistencies, as if it snaps in two at the slightest touch. The essential message and the main fact are infallible. The main fact is that he was crucified on Friday. If one tiny sequence is placed an hour or two later or earlier—so what? Your faith should not collapse, because if it does, it needs to be strengthened on weightier matters, like the fact of the crucifixion and resurrection and the salvation that flows from both events.
The inscription is sound evidence that Jesus was finally condemned to die because they believed he was the king of the Jews, so the verdict was sedition. As noted, the Jews condemned him for blasphemy, which deserved the death penalty, but the Roman governor condemned him for a political reason.
Now we learn of two more (unnamed) criminals. Matt. 27:38 and v. 27 here call them lēstēs (pronounced layss-tayss) and means, depending on the context: “robber, highwayman, bandit … revolutionary insurrectionist.” Barabbas was called a lēstēs (John 18:40). Verse 7 says that Barabbas participated in an insurrection. For all we know, Barabbas knew these two men, and they knew him. Strauss says the three men probably did know each other.
One on the right and one on his left: remember the request of James and John. They wanted the seats on either side of Jesus when he comes in power (Mark 10:37). More irony.
Most modern translation don’t have this verse. It goes back to another prophecy of Jesus: “For I tell you that it is necessary that what was written be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the lawless’” (Luke 22:37, referring to Is. 53:12).
The priests and the teachers of the law and the two insurrectionists sneer because they expected the Messiah would storm Jerusalem and blow every enemy away. But here he is on the cross. “What a loser!” they thought. But they could not put two-and-two together. Is. 53 talks about the suffering Messiah.
Shaking their heads indicates derision and contempt. It refers to Ps. 22:7, where the enemies of the righteous sufferer “hurl insults, shaking their heads.”
This pericope is one of the greatest scenes of irony written in the entire Bible. Recall that irony means you think you know something, but in reality you do not.
Comic irony: In the 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, Col. Klink brags that there has never been a successful escape from Stalag Thirteen. The truth: there are all kinds of escapes and they successfully accomplish their missions. Stalag Thirteen is like “Mole City” under his feet.
Tragic irony: King Oedipus believes he is wise, and he will investigate why a plague is attacking Thebes. But he is ignorant of the fact that he is the cause, until later on in the play. He learns the truth too late. It is tragic.
A biblical example is Job and his friends. They were trying to figure out why Job met with disasters, and though they had a small level of understanding—and the poetry is beautiful—they really did not know as much as their confidence allowed. God showed up on the scene and told them so.
Divine irony of the wise and powerful: In the same way, these religious rulers don’t understand Scripture, like Is. 53 and the Suffering Servant. They don’t know that he is about to be resurrected, which is his vindication. They are ignorant, and sneeringly ignorant. This is worse than comedic boasts and ignorance! So these religious leaders were swimming around in irony. God endorsed his Son, already. They were ignorant of the truth that by staying on the cross Jesus was saving all of humanity. He was destroying the sacrificial system performed in the temple everyday. However, they thought they understood the mind of God in getting rid of Jesus—but not for long. Vindication is coming.
GrowApp for Mark 15:21-32
A.. Study Col. 2:14-15. The cross accomplished at least two things. What are they? How do they apply to you?
The Death of Jesus (Mark 15:33-41)
33 When the sixth hour came, darkness fell on the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 Then at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani?” That is, when it is translated, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” [Ps. 22:1] 35 And some of those standing there heard him and said, “Listen! He is calling for Elijah!” 36 But someone ran and filled a sponge with cheap wine, put it around a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down!” 37 But Jesus, giving a loud cry, breathed his last.
38 Then the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
39 When the centurion, standing in front of him and seeing that he breathed out his last in this way, said, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!”
40 There were some women watching from a distance, among whom was Mary Magdalene, Mary (mother of James the younger and of Joses), and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they had followed him and ministered to him. Many other women were there, who came up with him to Jerusalem.
The sixth hour was noon (12:00h), and the ninth hour was 3:00 p.m. (15:00h). This careful chronology seems to conflict with John’s version, but see vv. 25-26 for a possible harmonization.
This pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or section or unit of Scripture is divided into three aspects: Jesus, the people, and supernatural phenomena, like the curtain tearing in two. At the death of Jesus, people, living or dead, react, and so do nature and the curtain in the temple.
Let’s take them one at a time.
France provides a short table of the quotations from Ps. 22:
The following echoes are clear:
Mark 15:24: Psalm 22:18
Mark 15:29: Psalm 22:7
Mark 15:34: Psalm 22:1
and further echoes are likely both in the general theme of scorn (cf. Ps. 22:6) and in the words of mockery in vv. 30–31 concerning being ‘saved’ (cf. Ps. 22:8) ….
Jewish and Roman Writers on the Death of Jesus
|1||Mara bar Serapion (c. AD 73): “For what advantage did … the Jews [gain] by the death of their wise king, because from that time their kingdom was taken away?”|
|2||Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.3: “Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified.”|
|3||Agapius Book of Titles (summarizing Josephus): “Pilate condemned him to be crucified.”|
|4||Tacitus, Annals 15.44 (c. AD 110-20): This name [i.e. Christian] originates from ‘Christus’ who was sentenced to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.”|
|5||Babylonian Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin 43a: “On the eve of the Passover they hanged Jesus the Nazarene. And a herald went out in front of him, for forty days, saying: ‘He is going to be stoned, because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead on his behalf.’ But not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover.”|
|Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996), p. 1843. Bock wrote these summaries before the web was up and running, so now you can find them everywhere, in reputable videos and websites. But let’s give the “print guys” credit, first.|
Most scholars I have read about the reference in Josephus (no. 2) conclude that the core of his record is authentic, though later Christians embellished it. Bock preserves the core. It is obvious that these writers differ greatly in the details, which is natural enough since they wrote at different times and in different places; the Talmudic record seems hostile and dishonest, which gives it a sort of credibility, an admission against its own interest. However, they all agree that Jesus lived and died. And I don’t discount the four Gospels on the basics, either.
4. Did Jesus Even Exist? (part four in my series on the reliability of the Gospels)
Let’s go into the theological significance of Jesus’s death.
“Why have you abandoned me?” It could be translated as “forsaken.” He is quoting Ps. 22:1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (ESV).
This is a stark version. In Luke 23:34, Jesus forgives his accusers, mockers and executioners. In John 19:26-27 he expressed concern for his mother. Luke 23:43 says that he offered salvation to the repentant criminal. Luke 23:46 says that Jesus offered paradise to himself and the repentant criminal. And in John 19:30 he cried out triumphantly, “It is finished!” Here in Mark’s version, he issues forth one heartfelt cry of abandonment.
Why did Jesus feel abandoned? Some Bible teachers say that he was feeling the sin of humanity imputed or credited to him in a vicarious or substitutionary or representative way. Jesus took the penalty of our sin, and the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Jesus died in our place. He was our substitute. I believe that this reason is strong enough. However, a teaching circulated about a decade ago that said that the Father really didn’t abandon him, but Jesus simply felt abandoned. Maybe. But I prefer the idea that the Father poured out on him the penalty and judgment for our sin, so the penalty and judgment we deserved was imputed over to him. Now we do not have to be punished for our sin, at judgment. In fact we now have free access to the throne of grace, because of Jesus (Heb. 4:16). We are right now benefited by his sacrificial and substitutionary act on the cross. We don’t have to get the benefit only at judgment.
In the cry of abandonment, Jesus said “my God, my God.” In Gethsemane, he had said “Father.” Jesus really did feel abandoned and was temporarily abandoned by his Father.
Here is Lane on the real sense of abandonment:
His cry expresses the profound horror of separation from God. … and in the manner of his death Jesus was cut off from the Father (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13; II Cor. 5:21). The darkness declared the same truth. The cry of dereliction expressed the unfathomable pain of real abandonment by the Father. The sinless Son of God died the sinner’s death and experienced the bitterness of desolation. The was the cost of providing “a ransom for many” (Ch. 10:45). The cry was a ruthless authenticity which provides the assurance that the price of sin has been paid in full. Yet Jesus did not die renouncing God. Even in the inferno of his abandonment he did not surrender his faith in God but expressed his anguished prayer in a cry of affirmation, “My God, My God.”
Now a little more theology. If Jesus dies on the cross, did his divine nature die? No. His divine nature lived on, but his body and humanity died. We can understand this if we look at our lives. When we die, our spirits live on, but our bodies die. So only a part of us dies. When Jesus died his divine nature lived on, and incidentally, so did his own spirit.
Let’s look more deeply at the atonement, which is connected with Jesus’s death on the cross.
Atonement literally means in English at-one-ment or being one with God or being reconciled to him (the -ment suffix means “the result of”).
It is the extensive and costly process of reconciling sinners to God.
The Hebrew verb is kapar (used 102 times) and is generally translated as “to atone,” “to wipe clean,” and “to appease.” In Gen. 32:20, Jacob sent gifts ahead of him to “wipe” (atone) the anger off his brother Esau’s face. As it turned out, Esau was not angry because time healed his wounds, and he was prosperous. The main point, however, is that sacrifice and gifts atone for or wipe away just wrath. The sacrifice of an animal during the sin offering (Lev. 4:1-5:13), for example, was to atone for the worshiper’s own sins, by blood manipulation primarily. Then God’s judicial wrath would be lifted and he would smile on his people again. Jacob and Esau were reconciled, and God and his people were reconciled.
The NT Greek nouns are hilasmos (used twice and pronounced hih-lahs-moss) and hilastērion (also used twice and pronounced he-lah-stay-ree-own). The first noun appears in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 and means “an atoning sacrifice, propitiation.” Propitiation means “satisfaction” or “appeasement.” Jesus is the sacrifice that atones for sins. Our sins destroyed and separated us from God, but the sacrifice of Jesus reconciles us to God (1 John 1:6-7).
For more information, please click on this post:
Once again, to forestall objections that falsely accuse God of being primitive or petty, please see this post:
Is. 6 is a wonderful passage that describes a holy man—Isaiah—in the very presence of God, and he saw himself as undone and ruined, because he was an unclean man living among an unclean people. God reached out to him and put a coal on his lips to speak with power and anointing. God cleansed him.
Is. 27:9 talks about the extreme need of Israel’s sins to be removed, and one way to do this was to cut down fertility poles and crush altars to false gods. But this would not bring about reconciliation for all of humanity, forever, but the need for it is clear.
Dan. 9:24 speaks of Israel living in exile seventy years to finish transgression and atone for their wickedness. The verb “atone” means to “wipe away” or appease or placate God’s righteous demands.
John 1:29 shows John the Baptist proclaiming to the people about Jesus, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”
Source Atonement: Bible Basics
Why was the blood of Jesus necessary, and what does it accomplish?
Personally, I like how the blood of Jesus cleanses, by faith, our guilty consciences from past sins. And I like that last point about the blood of the Lamb tramples underfoot the accusation of Satan. The thing is—when he accuses us, he knows which sins we have committed. But in Christ we realize that Satan’s accusations are lies, because God already wiped clean and forgave and released our sins. They no longer apply.
Source: Why the Blood of Jesus?
What did the cross accomplish for us?
First, the cross put to death the curse of the old law. Paul wrote to the Galatians that according to the old law, everyone who hanged on a pole was cursed (Deut. 21:23), so Christ became that curse in our place (Gal. 3:13). Now the curse of the law is broken over us, so God does not judge us in his justice-wrath-judgment. We are in Christ and are spared his wrath.
Second, the cross took away our sins. The power that the law and regulations was broken and canceled over our lives, by the cross. Those things used to condemn us but now through the cross we have forgiveness of sins (Col. 2:13-14). 1 Peter 2:24 says that Christ himself bore our sins in his body, which happened at the cross (Is. 53:5).
Third, the cross reconciled us to God. Paul writes that humanity used to be divided by ethnic and cultural differences, but through the cross, all humans are made into one new human, united in Christ (Eph. 2:16). The fullness of deity lived in bodily form in Christ, and now God reconciled all things to himself by his cross and the blood that was shed there.
Fourth, the cross brought us eternal life. Jesus taught that when he was lifted up on the cross, so that everyone who sees him and believes can have eternal life.
Fifth, the cross triumphed over our enemies. As noted, Col. 2:15 says all the decrees issued against us were canceled, and Christ dragged behind him all of his enemies like a roman emperor led captive people in his victory parade.
Source: Why the Cross?
What is reconciliation, and how does Christ’s death on the cross accomplish it? Reconciliation is when God calls us to surrender fighting him and become his friend. He doesn’t have to move, but we do. He did act, however, by sending his Son to die.
First, God’s law and holiness required payment for human degradation and sin, if redemption is to be done. God cannot ignore or overlook sin. So how can humankind be reconciled or brought near to God, with such a wide gulf? Christ willingly became a sin offering in our place (substitute) and paid the penalty of sin that engulfed humankind. Now reconciliation between God and humans can take place because Christ is the mediator between the two. God can be just and the justifier of humanity (Rom. 3:26).
Then, second, there is another point of view. Redemption is a gift. Out of his love God gave his all through his Son and his Spirit. Humanity that was plunged into sin and darkness and the devil’s kingdom overcomes by Jesus atoning life and work. God maintains his justice, expresses his love and triumphs over darkness and Satan.
Source: What Is Redemption in the Bible?
That last link has tables, comparing the different accounts of Jesus’s death.
Earlier studies said that the crucified victim was unable to lift the diaphragm and died of asphyxiation. Maybe all these causes contributed to his death. But truthfully, Jesus died earlier than expected (15:44; John 19:33), so he gave up his spirit, voluntarily (v. 37). He gave up or entrusted or commended his spirit to his Father. Jesus didn’t allow himself to be a victim of natural causes, like suffocation. He had complete control over his death. He declared when it was over.
When we die, our spirit is entrusted to our Father. It is not a ghost or goes into a soul sleep. If we are converted, saved or redeemed, then our spirit goes to heaven. If we are not saved, converted or redeemed, our spirit goes to hell waiting the final resurrection when our transformed bodies are reunited with our soul / spirit and go through final judgment. But there is some unclarity about what this hell is. Is it outer darkness? Fire? How can fire and outer darkness coexist? Whatever it is, it is separation from God.
Sleeping in all NT passages that speak of death is simply a metaphor for death. It’s a great image, because when we die, we appear to sleep as our body lies in the coffin, but our spirit or soul is very much alive and not sleeping. We are awake, even though our body is dead.
The focus shifts over to the onlookers.
First, the centurion concluded that this man really was the Son of God. That is a profession of faith. Lane: “The fact that the truth of Jesus’ person was publicly declared, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by a Roman was undoubtedly important to the Christians in Rome. In contemporary practice the designation “Son of God” had been arrogated for the Roman ruler, who was worshipped in the state cult. More effectively, therefore, Mark reports that the centurion proclaimed that the crucified Jesus (and not the emperor) is the Son of God. His words provide a discerning Gentile response to the death of Jesus” (comment on v. 39).
However, the centurion and company did not see all of the events in one moment, since they happened over a (short) time. But he did see the sky darken. The soldier’s confession of faith in God’s Son is supposed to trigger the same reaction. God twice declared that Jesus was his Son (1:11; 9:7); demons declared his Sonship (3:11 5:7). Two parables implied he was the Son (12:6; 12:37). The chief priest asked whether Jesus was the Son of the Blessed One (14:61). Here this Roman soldier answered the chief priest’s question.
Now we are to declare his Sonship for our salvation (Gal. 2:20).
Incidentally, Mark used the loanword centurion in Greek instead of the “commander of a hundred,” which Matthew and Luke always use. So once again, this is another tiny piece of evidence that Mark is writing in Rome.
I really, really like how Mark mentions the women. This honorable mention sets the stage of the beginning of the next section when they spy out the place where his body was laid. It refers to Ps. 38:11, which will become true in the near future: “My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away” (Ps. 38:11, NIV). It takes a deep commitment from the women to see him crucified. It must have broken their hearts. But I wonder if they remembered his words that he would rise from the dead. They are about to get the burial spices and perfumes ready, so their commitment to him goes even farther.
Luke 8:2 says that Jesus expelled seven demons out of her. Her name here is Maria in Greek, so Mark did not feel the requirement to keep the Hebrew name Miriam. He intended his Gospel to go out to the provinces in a language the people could understand. That’s the way it should be when the Bible is translated into various languages around the globe today. Use names and words that people understand. There is nothing “extra-pure” about Hebrew roots, as if Gentile believers around the world are unfulfilled if they do not have these Hebrew names and fulfilled if they do have them in their translations. Slow down, Hebrew Roots Movement!
In any case, she was from Magdala, a fishing village on the western short of the Lake of Galilee.
Seven is the number of completion, so you can interpret the seven demons as a deep need for deliverance or there really were seven demons. I take the number literally. It is good to see her restored and still following Jesus.
Mary, the mother of James and Joses:
Her name is also Maria in Greek. James is identified as James the Younger (Mark 15:40). (His name could also mean “the shorter” or “lesser known.”) Matt. 27:56 identifies Joses as Joseph. Therefore, she is possibly the wife of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:3). Apart from these small hints, scholars don’t know who she was. In any case, they were “ministering” to the Lord. This ministry means that they probably helped him financially (Like 8:2-3) and assisted him as he helped people in healing and demon expulsion and teaching. Many women listened to Jesus up in Galilee, and it is easy to imagine that these specific women who took it on themselves to assist Jesus focused on the other female disciples in the large crowds. These named women represent many others, as v. 41 clearly states.
Some say she was the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Here are the two sons and their father:
21 Then he went ahead from there and saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, repairing their net, and he called them. 22 And instantly they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matt. 4:21-22)
And here she is demanding or requesting (you choose) that her two sons get special privileges and status in the Messiah’s kingdom:
20 At that time the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached him with her sons, bowing before him and asking something from him. 21 And he said to her, “What do you wish for?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine would sit, one on your right and one on your left, in your kingdom. (Matt. 20:20-21)
James and John (and Peter) formed the inner circle of Jesus. He must have seen something stable in them, in the end.
Some believe that she is Salome (Mark 15:40), as France seems to say (p. 1087). That is, Matt. 27:55 says that an unnamed woman, the mother of James and John, was watching the crucifixion from a distance. Mark 15:40 says that Salome was there. Then John 19:25 says that an unnamed woman was the sister of Mary (Jesus’s mother). If this unnamed woman is Salome, this would make James and John Jesus’s cousins. This would explain, in part, why he chose Capernaum as his adopted hometown and ministry base up north in Galilee. Zebedee and his two sons had their fishing business there. And if the beloved disciple was John, and he likely was, then this explains why he handed his mother to him (John 19:27). (Jesus’s brothers may have been indifferent to him and his mother who believed in her Son.) However, Matt. 27:55, Mark 15:40 and Luke 23:49 say any number of Galilean women were watching the crucifixion from a distance. So the unnamed woman could be one of them. For Mark, the woman named Salome may simply be a well-known witness in his community or to him. In contrast, Matthew dropped her name (or never knew it) because for him she was not a well-known witness (Bauckham p. 50).
Therefore, I am skeptical, but who knows? It could be true. You decide.
In any case, the apostles deserted him, but not the women! (The beloved disciple, who was probably John, was at the cross, in John 19:27).
Nature and the Curtain
You have two (or three) options in interpreting these events: literally or symbolically or both in part.
“cheap wine”: BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it says of this wine: “It relieved thirst more effectively than water and being cheaper than regular wine, it was a favorite beverage of the lower ranks of society and of those in moderate circumstances.” The editors go on to say that the offer was done out of malice from some Judeans. Maybe so. Or maybe it was a genuine offer to help. France, in his comments on v. 23, says it was a kind gesture, offered by a bystander, not a Roman soldier. Commentator Lane believes that the offer was to keep him alive long enough to see if Elijah would come and rescue him (comment on v. 36). So maybe the offer was a kindness of sorts.
Let’s take the curtain in the temple first.
A small local earthquake happens, and apparently it is strong enough to tear the curtain in two. In his comment on Matt. 27:50, Keener writes:
But some rabbinic sources may report a garbled account of a similar tradition, though the evidence is not clear. Josephus may know a related tradition about a heavy gate to the inner court opening by itself presaging Jerusalem’s destruction, though he or his source place it closer to the latter event (Jos. War 6:293-96); likewise, the priestly aristocracy would certainly not have publicized a rending of the inner veil at Jesus’s death (which they might regard as a coincidence … but early “leaks” to the Christians unconfirmed by the hierarchy would be possible (Acts 6:7). (A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, [Eerdmans, 1999], p. 687)
The tearing of the curtain happened around the time of the evening sacrifice of the evening sacrifice (vv. 45-46), so it would be obvious to attending priests (p. 686). “The rending [tearing] could symbolize the departure of God’s presence that preceded God’s judgment against the temple. Perhaps the old veil was ‘rent’ because the new order would not fit it (p. 696).
It for sure the curtain or veil tearing relates to this teaching in Hebrews, which says that Christ entered the holy place in the heavenly tabernacle.
23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Heb. 9:23-28, ESV)
In line with the above passage, this tearing symbolized that the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place was now accessible for Jesus’s followers, spiritually speaking. Jesus entered the heavenly tabernacle by means of his once-and-for-all sacrifice. Old Judaism was ending.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:19-22, ESV)
When Jesus ascended into heaven, he opened the curtain, so that we can have complete access to God. We can enter the Most Holy Place. We enter through the curtain, that is, through his body.
Strauss says that the verb for “torn in two” is found in Mark 1:10, where it says the sky was split open and the Father’s voice validates that Jesus is the Son of God. He takes the statement that the curtain was torn in the temple to be symbolic.
Nature was bowing in reverence. The sixth hour was noon (12:00), and the ninth hour was at three in the afternoon (15:00). Some identify the darkness with a solar eclipse in A.D. 33 (BTSB), yet Jesus was crucified, more likely, in A.D. 30. So this event was a supernatural occurrence. On the other hand, you can interpret the sign in the sky as symbolic—the sky darkened when the Son of God was just about to expire. (Strauss interprets it symbolically, as eschatological judgment, p. 712). In the OT, when a major eschatological change happens, like the judgment on nations, the cosmos or creation reacts apocalyptically. They do not react literally. For a list of the Scriptures, click on this link:
Here are some:
“And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.” (Amos 8:9, ESV)
The mountains quake before him;
the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
the world and all who dwell in it.
6 Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. (Nahum 1:5-6, ESV)
11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, (1 Kings 19:11, ESV)
Here is Lane’s comment on v. 33, about the region becoming dark:
Amos prophesied darkness at noon in the eschatological context of the Day of the Lord, where the darkness expresses “the mourning for an only son” (Amos 8:9f). Philo [Jewish philosopher of first century] spoke of a supernatural eclipse of the sun or the moon as signifying “either the death of kings or the destruction of cities” …. The darkening of the sun marks a critical moment in history and emphasizes the eschatological and cosmic dimensions of Jesus’ suffering upon the cross. They symbolic significance is already apparent in the Marcan time scheme: the darkness fills the interval between the crucifixion and the moment of Jesus’ death. There is, however, another, more ominous aspect to the darkening. In the plague of darkness which preceded the first Passover, darkness over the land was the token that the curse of God rested upon it (Exod. 10:21f.). The darkness that envelops Jesus in his death thus makes visible what the cry of dereliction declares and throws into sharp relief the breadth and depth of the passion (cf. Gal. 3:13).
Whichever way you take the cosmic sign and the curtain tearing, whether symbolic or literal, the significance is the same as just described. A massive eschatological shift just happened. The world would never be the same—it would get better, but only when people hear and receive the gospel.
And whatever you do, don’t make the literal or symbolic belief in these phenomena a test of orthodoxy. Keep the main thing the main thing, and these verses are not the main thing. The crucifixion is and the resurrection will be.
GrowApp for Mar 15:33-41
A.. Study 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. Look up what atonement means. What does Jesus’s death mean theologically?
For a definition of the terms, look at the commentary under “Jesus.”
B.. Now what does his atoning death mean to you personally?
Joseph of Arimathea Buries Jesus (Mark 15:42-47)
42 Then as evening came, since it was the preparation day, which is before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the council, who was himself expecting the kingdom of God, came and boldly entered Pilate’s palace, and he asked for the body of Jesus. 44 But Pilate was amazed that he had already died. He summoned the centurion and asked whether he had died for some time. 45 And when he had learned this from the centurion, he gave the corpse to Joseph. 46 He had bought a linen cloth. He took him down and wrapped him with linen cloth and placed him in the tomb, which had been cut out from the rock, and rolled a stone over the entrance to the tomb.
47 Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses, were observing where he was placed.
Arimathea: the exact location remains unknown (BTSB on Luke 23:51), but the best guess is Ramathaim, also known as Ramah (1 Sam. 1:19; 2:11), the birthplace of the prophet Samuel. It is located in the hill country of Ephraim, twenty miles [32 km] northwest of Jerusalem and east of Joppa (Strauss). You can google these locations.
Joseph was a prominent member of the Jewish council and court (Sanhedrin). He did not consent to the condemnation of Jesus (Luke 23:51). John 19:38 says that he was a disciple of Jesus, but only in secret, because he feared the Jewish leadership. Luke 23:50 says that Joseph was a good and righteous man. One way we can know he was good and righteous is that he did not agree with the Sanhedrin’s plot and action to execute Jesus. And he showed kindness to Jesus’s body. Who knows? Maybe Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection and thanked him for his kindness.
Joseph was expecting or waiting for the kingdom of God. This expands the definition of why he was considered a good and righteous man. He probably did not know what the kingdom really was, but he sensed that Jesus was the main source of it. Now what would happen to his kingdom expectation? He may have not considered the resurrection, so his hopes must have crashed and burned. Yet, he had the courage to get the body.
Speaking of courage, he approached Pilate and asked for the body. Pilate must have thought about it. Did the governor shake his head in disappointment that he got involved in the whole sorry “trial”? Or did he just say yes and told Joseph to go? His heart was softened, because he was surprised that Jesus had died so quickly. Mark includes this datum to signal us that Jesus surrendered his life by breathing his last. No one really took it from in, in the final analysis. Usually it took two or three days for a crucified man to die (Lane’s comment on vv. 42-43)
No doubt, since Joseph was rich and it took more than one man to physically move the body, he had his servants take down the cross and level it on the ground, the lifeless body moving, the head bobbing with the descent of the cross. Then Joseph ordered his servants to unfasten the body by pulling out the spikes. Mark omits the fact that Joseph probably washed the body first and covered it with cloth and added spices to hide the stench.
The rock-hewn tomb was probably specially chosen for Joseph. It would have included a stone bench. In any case, no other body was lain there before (Luke 23:53), not even Joseph’s family (Matt. 27:60). This act of generosity showed extra kindness and respect.
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses (Joseph) were devoted followers of Jesus. They wanted to be sure that they knew where he was buried. Evidently, they planned to visit the tomb immediately after the Sabbath (16:1).
GrowApp for Mark 15:42-47
A.. Joseph boldly or courageously asked Pilate for the body. Can you see yourself asking for the body of a condemned and executed man in this story? Where does courage come from?
Summary and Conclusion
Let’s look at a table that lays out the events of Passion Week:
|Friday||Arrival in Bethany (Jn 12:1)|
|Saturday||Mary’s anointing of Jesus (Jn 12:2-8; Mt 26:6-13 // Mk 14:3-9)|
|Sunday||Triumphal Entry (Mt 21:1-11 // Mk 11:1-10 // Lk 19:28-38); surveying temple (Mk 11:11), return to Bethany (Mt 21:17 // Mk 11:11)|
|Monday||Clearing temple (Mt 21:12-17 // Mk 11:15-19 // Lk 19:45-48); cursing fig tree (Mt 21:18-22; // Mk 11:12-14); miracles and challenge temple (Mt 21:14-16); return to Bethany (Mk 11:19)|
|Tuesday||Disciples’ question about fig tree (Mk 11:20-21); debates with leaders of temple (Mt 21:23-22:46 // Mk 11:27-12:40 // Lk 20:1-44); Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25; Mk 13; Lk 21:1-36); return to Bethany, but Lk 21:37 says he lodged on Mount of Olives|
|Wednesday||Little recorded in Gospel—Jesus and disciples apparently remain in Bethany; Judas arranges for Jesus’ betrayal (Mt. 26:14-16 // Mk 14:10-11 // Lk 22:3-6); I say he could be teaching in the temple or praying privately.|
|Thursday||Preparation for Passover (Mt 26:17-19 // Mk 14:12-16 // Lk 22:7-13); after sundown, Passover meal and Last Supper (Mt 26:20-35 // Mk 14:17-25 // Lk 22:14, 21-23, 15-20); Farewell Discourse (Jn 13-17); Gethsemane (Mt 26:30-46 // Mk 13:32-42 // Lk 22:40-46)|
|Friday||After midnight, betrayal and arrest (Mt 26:47-56 // Mk 14:43-52 // Lk 22:47-53);
Jewish trials—Annas (Jn 18:13-14); Caiaphas and partial Sanhedrin (Mt 26:52-75 // Mk 14:53-72 // Lk 22:54-71); full Sanhedrin (Mt 27:1-2);
Roman trials—Pilate (Mt 27:2-14 // Mk 15:2-5 // Lk 23:2-5); Herod Antipas (Lk 23:6-12); Pilate (Mt 27:15-26 // Mk 15:6-15 // Lk 23:17-27);
Mocked by soldiers (Mt 27:27-31 // Mk 15:16-20);
Road to Golgotha (Mt 27:32 // Mk 15:21 // Lk 23:26-32);
Crucifixion 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. / 15:00h (Mt 27:27-56 // Mk 15:22-41 // Lk 23:33-49);
Burial (Mt 27:57-61 // Mk 15:42-47 // Lk 23:5-56)
|Grant R. Osborne, Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010), who got it from Michael J. Wilkens, Matthew: NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 2004). I modified it.|
Mark 1 to 8:3 shows Jesus is the mighty Messiah and Son of God, as he heals people and expels demons and teaches with authority. Mark 8:31 to 15:47 show him to be the Suffering Servant (Strauss, p. 681). There are no better chapters for viewing his suffering than 14 and 15.
Pilate is amazed that Jesus did not reply to the accusations of sedition against him. The governor’s question: “Are you the king of the Jews?” He replied “You have said so,” which means “Not in the sense that you mean. Our ideas of kingship are far apart.”
Pilate finally caved in. He was ruthless, but also pragmatic. He could see that the accusers did not care about Rome but merely intended to eliminate a troublemaker who challenged their system. The accusations were “many,” which can also mean “severe.” In other words, they were accusing him nonstop. The crowd, stirred up by the chief priests, shouted to release Barabbas. His name literally means “son of father,” and Rabbis and teachers of the law were called by the title “father.” And so Barabbas may have been the son of a prominent Rabbi or teacher of the law and was also a “freedom fighter” against Rome, a Zealot. What should Pilate do? Let an eccentric Galilean go free and displease the Jerusalem establishment who might complain to Rome? Or should he sacrifice one Galilean eccentric to please the establishment? The choice was obvious. He turned Jesus over to be crucified.
The guards mocked and ridiculed him. They gave him a mock crown of thorns and a scepter of sorts, after hitting him with it on the head, which drove in the thorns more deeply. They gave him a robe of scarlet-purple, which was a mockup of royal colors. Now they have their king standing before him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” They took him out to be flogged. Jews had a law that said thirty-nine, but the Romans had no limits. But Jesus survived the flogging. He was in shape, after all.
Then he was crucified. His simple and stark cry was “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In the garden of Gethsemane, he said, “Father,” but now he said “My God.” He really did feel abandoned. It usually took two or three days to die, but Jesus determined the time of his death. He breathed his last. Even Pilate was surprised that Jesus had died so soon.
Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body, so he could take it down from the cross and wash it (the four Gospel do not record the washing, but this was the custom), clothe it in new linen cloth, and put spices on it—or the women were going to do this.
The women followed and observed from a distance. The men abandoned Jesus—but not the women. They remained true to the end.
No one had it in his or her mind that Jesus was going to be raised from the dead, even though he told them at least three times that he would rise. What a lack of faith!
Now we turn to the final chapter of victory, vindication and joy.
As a life-long learner, I refer to a community of Bible teachers. They are excellent, but often technical. I trust that I have simplified things. I also write from a Renewal perspective.
Decker, Rodney J. Mark 9-16: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor UP, 2014).
France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Eerdmans, 2002).
Garland, David E. Mark: The NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 1996).
Lane, William L. Mark: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Eerdmans, 1974).
Strauss, Mark L. Mark: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2014).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 1993).
Wessel, Walter W. and Mark L. Strauss. Mark: The Bible’s Expositor’s Commentary vol. 9, Rev. ed. (Zondervan 2010).