Mark 15:1-20: Jesus on Trial Before Pilate
Please read each section in your Bible as you study the lesson. Although the Jewish leaders had tried Jesus and convicted Him of blasphemy, they led Him to the Roman governor, Pilate, for yet another trial. The Jews did not have authority to carry out sentences of capital punishment that were determined by their own courts; capital crimes had to be tried by Roman officials. Thus, very early the next morning, they brought Jesus to Pilate, hoping that he would concur with their decision. They accused Jesus of many things, but He remained silent. Pilate was amazed that He did not try to defend Himself. The governor perceived that this was not really a question of criminal action, but that the Jews were jealous of Jesus. Therefore, he made several attempts to release Him. He was eager to appease the Jews; however, and was unable to persuade them that Jesus should be released. Though he did not believe Jesus was guilty, he ended up sentencing Him to death because he feared the start of a riot. Roman soldiers scourged Jesus, mocked Him and led Him out to be crucified.
Note the physical suffering of Jesus. Jesus suffered intensely in this last few hours. After being up all night, subjected to the stress of six different trials (if we compare the accounts in Matthew, Luke and John also), He was scourged. Scourging was accomplished by tying bits of bone, metal and glass to a whip and then striking the victim’s back. This procedure produced excruciating pain,much loss of blood and sometimes even death. The victim’s back became a bloody mass. After scourging Him, they took thorns, wove them into a crown, put it on Jesus’ head and began to beat on it, causing intense pain. They put a scarlet robe on Him, only to later rip it off, undoubtedly tearing open the blood-dried wounds on His back in the process. Then came the crucifixion. In an execution of this type, they would literally nail the “criminal’s” hands and feet onto a piece of wood and then set it upright into a hole. To breathe, the victim had to continually raise himself so that his lung cavity could expand. Pain and fatigue would begin to diminish the effectiveness of this effort and the lungs would begin to fill with fluid. As exhaustion took hold, the victim would be slowly asphyxiated because of lack of oxygen and finally die.
Mark 15:22-41: Jesus’ Crucifixion
It was a standard act of mercy to give a narcotic to condemned criminals when they were crucified. The drug would dull the pain a bit and allow the victim to pass away more comfortably. Jesus refused this tranquilizer. He was determined to suffer in full consciousness.
The ridicule grew. The soldiers who guarded the cross gambled for Jesus’ clothes. Bystanders laughed at the idea that He could rebuild the temple when He could not even save Himself. Come down from the cross, they taunted, and we will believe in You! Some Jewish officials standing nearby smirked that He had been able to save others, but was powerless to save Himself. Even the two thieves who were executed on either side of the Lord ridiculed Him. From noon until 3:00 p.m. the sky was dark. Shortly thereafter, Jesus cried out in anguish,using the very words of Psalms 22:1, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” Then, after a few more minutes, He cried out again and died. At that moment, the temple veil split in two and a centurion who was observing exclaimed, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”
Look at the majesty of Jesus’ death. There were multiplied ironies in the events of those final hours. As they ridiculed Jesus saying He had saved others, but now could not save Himself, they were unaware that He was fully capable of saving Himself, but if He had, He would not have saved others. He died voluntarily. He had at this disposition thousands of angels that could have rescued Him, but He deliberately chose to lay down His life because He loved us. Jesus had the power to do anything He wanted against His tormentors, but He subdued all desire for revenge and actually prayed for God to forgive those who were treating Him so cruelly (Luke 23:34). By dying as He did, Christ provided the sacrifice that would forgive men’s sins. Therefore, the temple veil was torn in two, from top to bottom. The veil had blocked access to God’s presence, it was a symbol of man’s sin. Since Jesus’ death atoned for sin, the veil was severed, demonstrating that with sin removed men could once again enter into fellowship with God. Truly, this man was the Son of God!
Mark 15:42-47: Jesus’ Burial
Joseph, a prominent Jewish official, and secret disciple of Christ (see John 19:38), asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus’ body. He had to act quickly since according to Jewish law, he could not bury the body on the Sabbath day, which officially began at sundown. He gathered the corpse up in a sheet and put it in a hole chiseled into the wall of a cave, which served as a typical grave in that era. He closed off the cave by rolling a large rock over the entrance.
Mark 16:1-8: Body is Missing!
A few loyal women had prepared spices and went out to Jesus’ tomb early on Sunday morning. They were planning to embalm His body in order to give it a more honorable burial than had been possible in the few minutes that had been available on Friday afternoon. As they walked down to the cave, they thought about how hard it was going to be for them to roll that large rock away from the entrance of the burial cave. When they arrived; however, they saw that the rock had already been removed and the cave was open. Inside, an angel told them that Jesus had arisen and was on His way to Galilee. He asked them to tell the disciples and Peter. The women fled away, very frightened.
Note the angel told the women to invite the disciples “and Peter” to meet Jesus in Galilee. Since Peter himself was a disciple, it seems unusual that he would be singled out and receive a special invitation. Perhaps it was because the Lord knew that Peter would no longer feel himself worthy to be counted as a disciple after having denied Him; and; therefore, Jesus gave him a special invitation to the meeting. What tenderness the Lord showed!
Mark 16:9-20: Jesus Commissions the Disciples
The disciples had never expected to see Jesus again. They watched Him die and knew about His burial. They were very sad. Because of this, the news of the empty tomb and Jesus’ appearances seemed to be too good to be true. They refused to get their hopes up. Later, when He did appear to them, He rebuked them for being so slow to believe. Then He gave orders for their future work, telling them to go everywhere and preach the gospel to all. He told them what to preach: The one who believes and is baptized will be saved. He gave them signs to confirm their message.
Note that he who believes and is baptized shall be saved. Jesus set forth the conditions of salvation. He requires faith and baptism. Unfortunately men of our day have tried to eliminate one or the other of these two requirements. Some try to eliminate faith. They teach that infants, who are too young to believe, should be baptized. But Jesus’ order was belief first, then baptism. Throughout Scripture only those who believed and repented were considered qualified for baptism (study Acts 2:38; Acts 2:41; Acts 18:8; John 6:44-45). Others teach salvation by faith only, without baptism. But Jesus clearly said that baptism was a requirement to receive salvation (see John 3:5). In accordance with this command of Jesus, the apostles insisted that water baptism was a prerequisite to receiving forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4, I Peter 3:21).
The gospel of Mark closes with a note about the results of the great mission Jesus entrusted to the apostles. After He had ascended back to heaven, they went out and began to preach everywhere, just like Jesus told them. The Lord blessed their revelation of the gospel message with signs to confirm it, just as He said he would.