From the Courts to the Cross – Mark 15

named,Perhaps the fastest trial in the history of the Roman government, as the unprecedented nature of events left the Jewish rulthe Roman government and the followers of Jesus in utter disbelief. Early in the morning, the entire body of the Sanhedrin gathered and made plans to kill Jesus. They bound Him up and took Him to Pilate to accuse Him of crimes worthy of execution. They accused Him of many things taken out of context but Jesus replied to none of them. Pilate was left amazed seeing a prisoner on death row not even fighting for His life.

Jesus Barabbas

It was customary for the ruling Roman governor in Judea to release a prisoner during the annual festival of Passover. Pilate wanted to remind the Jews of this concession and to take back the accused Jesus, as he could not charge Him with any crime. However, the crowd overruled him and wanted to utilise this ceremonial release of a prisoner for an insurrectionist named Barabbas who was guilty of murder.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
“Crucify him!” they shouted.
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Mark 15:9-15 (NIV)

Jerusalem was going through a morphosis where they were fed up with being ruled by one foreign regime after another. Insurrectionists and zealots were fighting for the freedom of the nation through violence. To an average citizen, paying taxes to the government is the most burdensome task. Throughout Israel’s history, they were made to suffer under these foreign rulers. It is at this time that Jesus came to the world proclaiming the seemingly ‘new’ gospel but was only reintroducing Israel to their creator.

The Jewish leaders could not afford to have people like Jesus who questioned their authority and took shots at their manmade traditions. They would have been happy when John the Baptist was killed by Herod and were plotting a similar fate for Jesus at the hands of Pilate. They were hypocrites who claimed that their laws did not allow them to murder a man but were ignoring the same laws through their hollow traditions and meaningless rituals.

Crucifixion of Jesus

The soldiers led Jesus away and put a purple robe on Him, as he claimed to be the King of the Jews. They even twisted together a crown of thorns and placed it on His head. They mocked Him and repeatedly struck Him with a staff and spat on Him. After torturing Him, they finally led Him out to Golgotha to be crucified.

Seeing that Jesus was struggling to carry the cross, the soldiers caught hold of a passerby, a man from Cyrene named Simon and forced him to carry the cross to the spot of the crucifixion. At Golgotha, the soldiers offered Jesus some wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not drink it. They even stripped Him and divided His clothes amongst them.

It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Mark 15:25-26 (NIV)

Crucifixions were the way to execute a prisoner during the Roman empire and the sign placed on the top of the cross would convey to the onlookers the crime that the prisoner had been charged with. Pilate sarcastically instructed that Jesus’s plaque would read, “The King of the Jews”. However, the Jewish leaders were incensed at the inscription and did not share the satire that Pilate was going for, as they did not consider Jesus to be their leader even when He was dying for their sins on the cross.

Along with Jesus, the Roman government had crucified two common thieves as well. The passersby hurled insults at them. mostly aimed at Jesus. They mocked Him saying how can the man who is helplessly dying on the cross, save the nation. They even challenged Him to reveal himself as the Messiah and come down from the cross. But Jesus ignored all of them and went ahead with God’s plan for the redemption of the world.

It is Finished

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

Mark 15:33-34 (NIV)

People even misunderstood Jesus’s last words, thinking that He was calling on the name of the Prophet Elijah. It seems that the Israelites held Elijah at a higher pedestal than even God, as they could not understand when Jesus was not calling out the name of some dead Prophet but was shouting in agony and calling out His father. They even offered Him wine mixed with vinegar, in hopes of giving Him temporary reprieval so that He can call out the Prophet Elijah again. The people gathered there were hoping for a grand gesture that would sway their opinion and believe what Jesus had been claiming all along. But they got no such sign as Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed His last.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Mark 15:38-39 (NIV)

The Curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place that was in use from the days of Moses when he built the tabernacle. The tearing of the curtain meant that the great chasm that divided us from the inner sanctuary of God has been bridged by Christ’s death on the cross. The price for our sins has been paid in full and Jesus has taken us back to the Garden where we can commune with God again without any mediators or precautions.

The Rich Man’s Tomb

Since it was the day before the Sabbath, the Jews returned home to blindly follow their rituals and ceremonies. But among them was a prominent member of the Council named Joseph, who belonged to the region of Arimathea. He had the influence and the courage to go up to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus so that he can give Him a proper Jewish burial.

So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

Mark 15:46-47 (NIV)

No matter how bad the relationship between two individuals is, people still make it a point to attend the funeral of even their worst enemy. The disciples’ conspicuous absence at the burial site of Jesus begs the question that why were they not with Him when He was at the cross or when Joseph and Nicodemus were preparing His body for burial.

The men who claimed to be the most loyal followers of the man they referred to as the Messiah, had gone into hiding. They knew that after crucifying Jesus, the elders of the Jews will be after their blood, in their attempts to irradicate the radical message of Christ. Even when they knew that the crowds had retreated to their homes on account of the preparations for the Sabbath, they chose to remain hidden rather than come to bury their Rabbi.

We often talk a big game about our faith but when it comes to putting our words into action, we take two steps back and let others take the lead. When our faith is being tested we would much rather conform to the norms of this world than stand out for the truth and risk harm to our reputation.

The disciples took a back seat that day and let Joseph and Nicodemus have the honour of burying Jesus. They missed out on an opportunity to stand out for Jesus and spent the day hiding for satan. Let us not miss our opportunities to stand for Jesus and boldly proclaim to this world what He has done for us by dying on the cross that day.

Discussion Questions

  • Why would the Jewish crowds want the release of a murderer over Jesus who most of them at least considered to be a prophet?
  • At the cross, when Jesus was dying, why did the people expect Elijah to show up?
  • What is the significance of mentioning that the curtain of the temple was torn in two?
  • Why were the disciples of Jesus not present to bury their Rabbi?

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