with Alan Bailey
Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.
We are now at the point in Mark's Gospel where Jesus is facing His accusers alone, hearing their mocking voices and suffering their lies and deceit. The leaders of the Jews are intent on gaining His execution but need to persuade the Roman rulers to carry it out. In our last study, Jesus had been interrogated by the Jewish Sanhedrin. Now we will see Him standing before Pilate the Roman governor.
Chapter 15, Verse 1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate.
The arrest of Jesus took place in the night and was followed by the questioning of the Jews in the early morning hours. Now the whole group of accusers felt that they had enough evidence to bring Him to the Roman authorities. So while it was still early in the day, they take Him to Pilate. Already Pilate knew that they were a group of schemers who had caused unrest over many years.
Verses 2-5 "Are you the King of the Jews?" asked Pilate. "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. The chief priests accused Him of many things. So again Pilate asked Him, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of. " But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
It appears that the first charge the Jews referred to Pilate was that He claimed to be a king. They would then infer that He was a threat to Pilate's position as governor. What followed we can guess would be the accusation that He broke the Sabbath, undermined Moses' law and encouraged resistance against the Roman occupation. We may ask, why did Jesus remain silent? He understood the shallowness, pettiness and outright lies that were being expressed and did not wish to lower himself with defensiveness and denials. It was simply hate and jealousy that motivated His accusers.
Verses 6-8 Now it was a custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
This was the time of the annual Feast, the Passover. Each year, the people could ask for the release of a prisoner as a kind of celebration. It would be a prisoner who was popular for some reason, perhaps his zeal for Jewish independence. Barabbas was such a man.
Verses 9-11 "Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?" asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate to release Barabbas instead.
Apparently, Pilate saw this custom of setting a prisoner free, as an opportunity to free Jesus. Pilate was far from convinced that Jesus was guilty of anything. In Matthew and Luke we see that the trial went much longer than it seems in Mark's account. Pilate even had Jesus sent to Herod for trial. That was inconclusive and Pilate became a very agitated and indecisive when Jesus was brought back to him. He said on three occasions "I find no fault in Him." Adding to his dilemma, his wife said she had dreamed about Jesus and that Pilate should have nothing to do with His condemnation.
Verses 12-15 "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.
These happenings are of huge significance. On the one hand we see the evil of human nature. The Jewish leaders in their hatred of a perfect man; the crowd in their foolish plunge into opposition with inexcusable ignorance; Pilate in giving in to the pressure of a crowd when his conscience told him otherwise. We can only surmise that Pilate would have lived to bear heavy remorse knowing that he had surrendered to the will of a mob of prejudiced people who had no concern for the right administration of justice. Human nature shows up badly when we consider who it was they rejected. The eternal Son of God. Perfect, holy in every way. Yet lashed with a cruel whip which took the flesh from off His back.
On the other hand we see divine love and patience; Jesus, not defending himself; the Father witnessing all this evil; yet the means of mankind's salvation is unfolding. The cross is in the plan of God. Jesus came into the world to save the lost.
Verses 16-20 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and they called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on Him, then wove a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to Him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" Again and again they struck Him on the head with a staff and spat on Him. Falling on their knees, they worshipped Him. And when they had mocked Him, they took off the purple robe and put His own clothes on Him. Then they led Him out to crucify Him.
These soldiers were obviously a heartless bunch of ruffians who saw the opportunity to have what they would think of as sport. This is lowest level humiliation, utterly repulsive to Jesus who allows it without a murmur. We can only begin to imagine what all this was causing in the body, mind and spirit of this sinless, holy man.
Verses 21-24 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means, The Place of the Skull). Then they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take it. And they crucified Him. Dividing up His clothes, they cast lots to see what each one would get.
We are not told why a bystander was forced to carry the cross. It could be that it proved too heavy for one who had been so badly beaten. He may have stumbled under the load. The mixture they offered Him was meant to have a drugging effect but Jesus didn't want it. He was willing to suffer all that crucifixion meant.
This method of execution was practiced by Rome yet was seen even by them as the lowest means of taking another's life. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst cases, full of shame and disgrace. As the soldiers gambled for His clothes, we remember that He was hanging there naked and in full view of the crowd. We must bow our heads and worship such a Saviour.
We have been reading the account of the central part of God's plan for the salvation of mankind. Would that the Spirit of God stirs our hearts to wonder at the grace of God and the willingness of Jesus to suffer. If as readers and observers, we are not moved to open our hearts to Jesus and receive Him as our own Saviour and Lord, we must realise that we are aligning ourselves with those who mocked and crucified Him. There is no middle ground. Either we are with Him or we are against Him.
Perhaps we should spend some time thinking about Jesus' death, realising it was done for us. He took our place. The sinless one died for sinners. Now, the way is open for us to have forgiveness as a gift along with eternal life. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. •
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