Mark 15

Early in the morning, the trial ends. The accusers of Jesus before Pilate are the chief priests, the elders, the teachers of the law, and the whole Sanhedrin. They accuse Him of “many things,” but Jesus refuses to answer these accusations. Pilate’s first question to Jesus is whether He is the king of the Jews, to which Jesus agrees. To accord with custom at the Feast, Pilate offers to release either Jesus or Barrabas, who is said to have been “in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising,” a sketchy charge. At the instigation of the chief priests (not the elders, the teachers of the law, or the Sanhedrin), the crowd asks for Barrabas to be released and Jesus to be crucified.

Pilate is said to have known that the chief priests asked for Barrabas to be released out of envy for Jesus. Pilate also asks the crowd to name Jesus’s crime, which they decline to do. But Pilate obligingly hands Jesus over to be flogged and crucified. The soldiers take Jesus to the Praetorium and, before the whole company of soldiers, dress Jesus in purple, crown Him with thorns, and call out “Hail, king of the Jews.” They strike him on the head with a staff and spit on Him. They kneel before Him. Then they remove the purple robe, dress Him in His own clothes, and lead Him to be crucified.

A random traveler to Jerusalem, Simon the Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, is forced to carry Jesus’s cross. Arriving at The Place of the Skull, Golgotha, the soldiers strip Jesus and draw lots for His clothes, offer Him wine mixed with myrrh as an anesthetic, which He declines, and then crucify Him in the Third Hour [9 AM]. The official charge against Him is written as “The King of the Jews,” and He is crucified between two robbers. Passersby accuse Him of claiming to plan to “destroy the temple and build it in three days,” and tell Him to come down off the cross. The chief priests and teachers of the law (but not the elders or the Sanhedrin) similarly mock His helplessness, saying that He cannot save Himself, though He claimed to save others. Watching from a distance are Jesus’s mother, Salome, and Mary Magdalene.

In the sixth hour [noon], darkness falls across the land. In the ninth hour [3PM], Jesus cries out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”, the Aramaic of Psalm 22 in which David asks God why He has forsaken him. For reasons that are completely unclear, people think that Jesus is calling Elijah. One offers Him wine vinegar. Just before Jesus dies, that man wonders whether Elijah will come to remove Him from the cross. At Jesus’s death cry, the curtain in the Temple splits and a watching centurion is sure that Jesus is the Son of God.

Since this was a Friday and the restrictions of the Sabbath would descend, Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate for Jesus’s body. Joseph bought linen, wrapped the body with it, placed the body in a tomb cut from rock, and rolled a stone before the entrance. The chapter closes with, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.”


1.  Matthew Henry notes that Jesus is bound as an animal sacrifice would be bound.

2.  Jesus’s precise answer to Pilate’s question as to whether He is king of the Jews is “su lego,” literally “Thou sayest.”   When it says Pilate is “amazed,” the Greek is “thaumazo,” and is often translated “marvelled at.” Presumably, Pilate expected prisoners to be frightened and attempting to talk their way out of punishment, and so Jesus’s refusal to challenge the accusations against Himself and His polite but indifferent answer to Pilate’s question was amazing.

3. The Praetorium is translated various as “palace” or “hall of judgment.” This is the place Paul is held in Acts 23, and it is the “palace” where Paul says his bond to Christ shines clearly in Philippians 1: 13.

4. In Mark, Jesus is dressed by the soldiers in a purple (porphura, probably Heb. tekhelet, a dye extracted from the purpura mollusc and hence not unclean) robe, then stripped and placed in his own clothes. In Matthew, they dressed Him in a scarlet (kokkinos; Heb. shaniy, cochineal or carmine, extracted from a beetle and therefore unclean) robe. Purple and scarlet are mentioned in Rev. 18:11 as the precious cargoes of Babylon. Scarlet is also the color of the thread of sacrifice (Lev. 14:4, Heb. 9:19). 

5. In other accounts, Joseph of Arimathea is assisted in preparing the body. 

6. Joseph of Arimathea, though a secret follower of Jesus, was also a member of the Sanhedrin. He might therefore might have been involved in the condemnation of Jesus or in avoiding the meeting in which Jesus was condemned. Yet he did not seem to be afraid to ask Pilate for the body.

7.  Notice that Joseph of Arimathea rolled the stone before the tomb. This conflicts with our mental image of the stone as too large for a man to have moved it.

8.  One Mary is specified to be the mother of Joses (i.e., Joseph) and, separately as the mother of James the younger and Joses. Salome is the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John. Joses only appears five times in the gospels and is distinct from Joses Barnabas, mentioned in Acts 4:36.

9. The chapter says that a multitude of women who had come up with Jesus to Jerusalem watched His crucifixion. This is notable because women were generally regarded as property and were not permitted to travel without an escort from the family. So, the women traveling with Jesus probably included many who had been cast off. Mary of Magdala (the Magdalene) is elsewhere described as having been demon-possessed. She is often associated with Mary of Bethany and with the two nameless women who anointed Jesus’s head and, separately, feet. More can be learned about the traditions surrounding Mary Magdalene here.

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