The Gospel of Mark

Mark - Lesson 15A

Chapter 15:1-5

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  • Last week we encountered a shift in the mockery trials. What began as a farce trial against Jesus by the high Priest shifted to an internal and personal trial for Peter.

    • Peter came up against the common enemy of us all and that is the sin of pride.

      • Pride is the path that leads all to total and utter destruction.

      • And that collapse of self-confidence will either lead one to look up and see what truth is, better yet Who truth is, or it will lead to further chaos.

    • We saw that Peter’s three denials of the Lord Jesus left him broken, full of shame, and bitterly weeping.

      • Where Peter began in self-reliance and a sense of over-confidence, now ended with him being crushed in heart.

      • However, we were reminded of the hope that is found in “being in Christ” and that despite the greatest failure of Peter’s life, Jesus was in the darkest of nights with him.

    • This serves as a great reminder for us all that truth, in every obstacle of life, provides the hope one needs to see truth and respond positively to it.

      • In other words, failure does not define the believer because in Christ there is no failure.

    • Tonight, we pick up where we left off and that is verse one of Chapter 15.

      • After Peter leaves depleted and defeated and Jesus has been beaten and spat on, he now heads into the mockery trial before the Roman Procurator, Pontus Pilate.

      • It will be the beginning of this trial which we will witness the grave misuse and abuse of power and justice.

      • But most especially the darkened brokenness of humanity against the only hope for true life to be experienced found in Christ.

      • The reality is that although Jesus may be sent to trial before Pilate, it will not be Jesus on trial per se, but rather Pilate and humanity at large, on trial.

    • Truth is being questioned and what will be witnessed through it all is that truth needs not to respond to defend itself because truth always prevails.

      • We have no bullet points for tonight’s teaching as I believe it will be quite clear what is to be seen here and that is a Farce Trial and Truth on full display.

    • If I were to put a tag on tonight’s text it would simply be: A Miscarriage of Justice: Jesus Delivered to Pilate

      • With that being said, I invite you to open your bibles and meet me in Mark 15:2-5.

Mark 15:2  Pilate questioned Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He *answered him, “It is as you say.” 
Mark 15:3 The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly. 
Mark 15:4 Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!” 
Mark 15:5 But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.
  • There’s an interesting song written by Randy Newman from his 2017 album Dark Matter entitled: It’s a Jungle Out There.

    • I want to read just a few stanzas for us as I feel it is quite relevant to the scene of these trials.

      • The lyrics go as follows:

It's a jungle out there
Disorder and confusion everywhere
No one seems to care
Well, I do
Hey, who's in charge here?
It's a jungle out there
Poison in the very air we breathe
You know what's in the water that you drink?
Well I do, and it's amazing
People think I'm crazy, 'cause I worry all the time
If you paid attention, you'd be worried too
You better pay attention
Or this world you love so much might just kill you
I could be wrong now, but I don't think so
'Cause it's a jungle out there
It's a jungle out there
  • A Jungle indeed is the world that we live in today.

    • Chaos and disorder are cousins of the evil which exists in our culture and most especially is what persisted in these trials set before Jesus in chains.

      • Jesus has gone through 3 Religious trials by which brought against Him trumped-up charges.

      • Which, according to Jewish Jurisprudence could not, on its own, stand up in a court of law.

    • Jesus is found, surrounded by a group of envious and wicked religious men, convicted of a crime that He did not commit.

      • He is forced to go before Pontus Pilate who is expected to settle the score and provide the concluding verdict.

      • All of this is to be accomplished in favor of the Sanhedrin council and their petty, false charges.

    • What would begin as a charge of blasphemy would now take on another form, all in an attempt to kill Jesus, the only innocent one among all.

      • Last week, toward the end of our time together, I mentioned in Chapter 15:1 that Jesus was to be delivered over to Pontus Pilate for final sentencing.

    • This mockery trial persisted into the wee hours of the morning.

      • No time for deliberation of evidence or proper witnesses for Jesus has been assessed because the High Priest had already made up his mind that Jesus was guilty.

      • This verdict was encouraged through means of manipulation of the highest level, being that it was initiated by the tearing of the high priest’s robe which could only be done if blasphemy was committed.

      • However, this was not the case and was therefore committed only to rouse the council for the purposes of a unanimous decision to bring before Pilate.

    • So, Mark, in verse 1 of Chapter 15, tells us the early morning had arrived.

      • This puts us at the light portion of Thursday.

      • The whole council, which likely would have included those who were not there at night proceedings, now gathered to hold a final tally.

    • It would be that through the consensus of these 70 men, including that of the High Priest, making it 71 men, that their recommendation of guilt would now be sent to Pilate at the Praetorium for his approval.

      • Notice that Mark’s gospel jumps right into Pilate’s line of questioning, whereas John’s gospel provides us with pertinent details.

      • Mark excludes this due to his focus on brevity and general summary.

    • It’s in John 18:28 that we see the religious leaders escort Jesus to the Praetorium, however, the text says that “they did not enter into the Praetorium” in order to not defile themselves for the sake of the Passover Feast of Unleavened bread.

      • The Praetorium was the official residence of the Roman Governor during Pilate’s visits to Jerusalem, more specifically high holy festivals such as that of the Passover.

      • Normally, Pilate lived in Caesarea.

    • So, it’s here that we find, yet again, more blatant hypocrisy from the Jewish religious leaders.

      • The religious leaders seem to have more caution for their sense of external ritual cleanliness by not entering a Gentile home.

      • While all in the same breath, aiding and colluding together to find an innocent man guilty.

    • Herein lies the reality of the human condition: All are blinded by our own sense of relative justice and truth all the while rejecting and denying absolute truth to His face.

      • Proverbs 1:16 speaks to the reality of this point. Check out the text.

Proverbs 1:16 For their feet run to evil
And they hasten to shed blood.
  • So as the religious leaders bring Jesus before Pilate, we see that Pilate acquiesced to their request by coming out to them to hear their accusations against Jesus.

    • And Pilate asks the question: “What accusation do you bring against this Man?”.

    • This line of questioning was both a form of inquiry and antagonism. We will first respond to the inquiry.

    • The question might arise for some: “What were the means of Pilate’s line of questioning regarding the accusations against Jesus?”

    • Keep in mind that Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea from AD26-36.

      • And the role of the Governor was to uphold the rule in the land, but most especially, in this immediate context, to execute a person convicted of a capital crime.

      • For Pilate was the only person who had the right to execute being that the Jews were under Gentile rule.

    • It was the demand of the religious leaders that Jesus be killed based upon their bogus claim of blasphemy, however, their hands were tied.

      • Furthermore, under Jewish Law, the result of blasphemy for Jews was being stoned to death.

      • However, this means of death, according to the Father’s plan, was not by stoning but rather by crucifixion as Jesus mentioned in John 12:32.

      • That “If He be lifted up from the earth, He would draw men unto himself”.

    • This “lifting” indicated the type of death He was going to die, speaking to the crucifixion, but also His resurrection and ascension.

      • In other words, this means of death for Jesus, although being executed by broken and wicked men, required human action, was Sovereignly orchestrated by the Father for the purpose of salvation.

      • We will see later this point made by Jesus to Pilate regarding Jesus’ control sovereignly, even though, situationally, the circumstances, physically, looked different.

    • Secondly, I mentioned that Pilate’s response to the religious leaders was antagonistic.

      • I bring this up because of the reality that the Jews were under Gentile rule and could not, in and of their own volition, put Jesus, or any individual for that matter, to death.

      • Therefore, because the council was legally obligated to submit any civil case before the Roman governor, there was a sense of a Power play that Pilate pulled.

      • And we see that power play at work in the sarcastic tone of the religious leaders’ remarks in John 18:30. Check out the text:

John 18:30 They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.”
  • So, within the grand scheme of things, the religious leaders are strapped because they don’t have the authority to get rid of Jesus themselves by their own law which means that they must establish legal evidence as to why Jesus deserved to die.

    • Secondly, the religious leaders recognized that Pilate did not want to be involved in purely religious crimes, therefore they would have to accuse Jesus of a crime that would somehow compel Pilate to act on their behalf.

    • The reason was that blasphemy as a crime in Rome meant nothing – they had hundreds of gods, so if one wasn’t to your liking, you had a plethora to choose from.

      • So, according to Luke 23:2, they brought up to Pilate what they knew would stick. Check out this list:

Luke 23:2 And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”
  • It’s the mentioning of Jesus being “a King”, they put before Pilate to demonstrate why Jesus needed to die.

    • That the thought of any ruler potentially coming up against Caesar was a threat to the security of Rome and their control of Israel.

    • So it is from this point that we now pick up at verses 2-3 of Mark 15.

Mark 15:2  Pilate questioned Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He *answered him, “It is as you say.” 
Mark 15:3 The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly. 
  • So, we find that the third accusation from the Sanhedrin Council is the accusation that seemed to have stuck – clearly, the council thought through all means by which they could falsely condemn Jesus to death.

    • It is this statement of Jesus being a King in which Pilate moves from the council’s accusations to the inside of the Praetorium with Jesus for needed confirmation.

      • Pilate asks the question, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

      • To which Jesus responds in a cryptic way by saying “It is as you say.”

    • This statement from Jesus holds much significance because Jesus is neither affirming nor denying Pilate’s statement, but rather, Jesus is providing Pilate with a statement of consideration.

      • In other words, Jesus tells Pilate in a few short words, “These are your words… this is what you have gathered.”

      • The emphasis is put on Pilate as if to say, “Is this what you have come to understand?”

    • This is why I mentioned that Jesus’ response was not a denial of His Deity or Personhood, but rather Pilate’s understanding of His title was different that Jesus’.

      • In other words, Jesus’ response could be seen as such: “Yes, I am King of the Jews, but your concept of king and mine are polar opposites.”

    • This statement from Jesus becomes the reality for all individuals who come across Him: “How do you see Jesus?”

      • Is He simply just a good guy, or maybe just the ruler of some but not all?

      • The reality is, this question will be answered in its fullness at the end of time.

      • All will come to not only see Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but they will also see Jesus as both Judge and Executioner.

      • For Jesus’ Kingship will not be cornered to just some sections of the earth, but He will reign in dominion over all the earth and its nations. (Genesis 49:10)

    • The question on the table is: Who is Jesus to you?

      • My prayer for you is that you know Jesus to be Savior, Lord, and soon coming King!

    • Jesus presses Pilate further in John 18:34, based on Pilate’s original line of questioning, almost as if Pilate is on trial rather than Jesus himself.

      • He asks Pilate the question: “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about me?”

      • This simply confirms our earlier point. The reality is one day every man and woman will be on trial before a Holy and Just God.

      • And how they respond to who Jesus is will matter!

    • Their eternal destiny as to where they will dwell hangs in the balance of this very question. Will they respond to truth or will they reject truth?

      • As I have stated time and again, Truth is found in a Person, and you will either respond positively to the Provision from God or not.

    • As we look at the gospel accounts, we see that this open dialogue with Jesus goes back and forth even as Pilate goes back and forth to the Sanhedrin council struggling to find guilt in Him.

      • From the readings of the Gospels, it becomes clear that Pilate saw no threat from Jesus and no possibility of political insurrection given the very condition in which Pilate received Jesus in his home.

      • This furthermore speaks to Jesus’ responses to Pilate as it pertained to Pilate’s questions regarding Jesus’ kingship.

    • It’s clear that the Jewish leaders are hell-bent on the fact that Jesus is a threat to their religious system.

      • Friends, this trial brought before Pilate is a trial of power and authority! (Worldview question)

      • That where the religious leaders seek to use their religious power and piety to overthrow the Son of God, they fail to realize that it is the meekness and humility of the Son of God that true Power is found.

    • How often do we find in our world today power and influence wielded in a way to oppress the lowly and the needy all for the sake of more influence?

      • However here is Jesus, a carpenter from no-man’s-land, Nazareth, where it’s said nothing good came from, yet He holds the influence of large crowds and presents truth in a way that has never been heard before.

        • He alone demonstrates power in meekness and humility.

        • He alone demonstrates strength in taking on our shame.

        • He alone demonstrates influence, in leading in suffering well for the sake of others.

    • This is why Pilate couldn’t find fault in Him because, to the world, leadership is completely opposite of what Jesus demonstrated.

      • Pilate, in his very nature, was a violent man and wielded his power in a negative way for the sake of control.

      • I believe the Roman readers of Mark’s gospel were able to see a clear contrast between the leadership of Pilate and the Jewish leadership versus that of Jesus’ leadership.

    • Friends, what we are seeing on display in the first Civil court case is that Truth is on trial.

      • Who defines truth?

      • Who establishes truth?

      • Is truth relative or is it absolute and transcendent? That is what’s on the table – even today!

    • The religious leaders believed they were the beholders of truth.

      • Pilate in John 18:38 asked the question: “What is Truth?”,

      • Yet in John 14, the resolve of who the beholder and definer of truth is was already made known by Jesus in John 14:6.

      • This is where Jesus said “I am the Way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

    • In other words, the very authority by which man operates on earth is solely accomplished on borrowed time under the Sovereign hand of God.

      • Plainly put, nothing can occur without God allowing or permitting it to happen.

    • It becomes clear from Jesus’ correspondence in John’s gospel that Pilate is constantly faced with the reality that there is no guilt in Jesus.

      • However, as Luke 23:5 mentions, the religious leaders continually insisted on trying to find fault in Jesus, yet nothing could stick.

      • What becomes such a beautiful witness in this moment of such a miscarriage of injustice is that Jesus gives no response to the accusations that the religious leaders continue to herald. He remains silent.

      • Check out verses 4-5 of Mark 15.

Mark 15:4 Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!” 
Mark 15:5 But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.
  • Jesus, after being questioned again and again by Pilate, on behalf of the Sanhedrin council, is questioned one last time by Pilate regarding Jesus’ answer to the accusations about Him.

    • At this point, Pilate is expecting a “protestation of innocence” from Jesus.

      • In any situation like the one Jesus finds himself in before Pilate, any one of us would be speaking up in an outcry over the falsities and lies that have been brought against us.

      • Every individual who is innocent in a situation by which others claim them to be guilty would speak out and protest their innocence.

      • However, this reality seems to not be the case for the Lord Jesus regarding this “kangaroo trial”.

    • Ultimately, it becomes evident to Pilate that the religious leaders have no grounds to kill Jesus.

      • As a matter of fact, Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 27:18) tells us that Pilate identified the true reason behind the religious leader’s accusations of Jesus and why they handed Him over in the first place.

      • The context here is the exchange of Jesus for Barabbas.

Matthew 27:18 For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over.
    • The Jewish leaders were envious of Jesus because his leadership and influence threatened the kingdom they were building in and of themselves, in their own image.

    • It’s like when an individual gets into positions of leadership in which their character and integrity can’t handle the responsibility, their true nature begins to show.

      • This is why Jesus’ leadership to the world and worldly leaders makes no sense – it is completely antithetical to what is done in this life.

      • This is why Pilate’s wife tells Pilate later in a message, “Have nothing to do with this righteous man”.

      • In other words, you don’t want this innocent blood on your hands!

    • So, what do you do when you have been placed in a position of authority, yet you seek to abdicate your responsibilities rather than stand up righteously for truth?

      • Well, according to Pilate’s leadership, you cowardly shove the responsibility to someone else!

      • And that is exactly what He did to finagle his way out of a decision.

    • It wasn’t until the religious leaders had mentioned Jesus’ teaching within Galilee stirring up the people, that Pilate saw a way out.

      • Hearing this accusation occurring in the region of Galilee would soon prompt Pilate to send Jesus next door to the ruler over that jurisdiction which was none other than Herod Antipas.

      • For more information on Herod Antipas, go and check out the Mark 6C teaching where we go into great length on Herod Antipas.

    • Lastly, one detail that I would add is that the cowardly confrontation and dismissal of truth is something that both Pilate and Herod Antipas shared.

      • That where Herod respected, and to some extent was moved by what John the Baptist preached, he lacked follow through regarding truth of his affair with Herodias needing to cease.

      • In the same way, we find that Pilate, handing Jesus over to Herod, was yet another weak move of leadership instead of standing for truth despite potential pushback.

    • Notice within verses 4-5, Mark does not feel the need to include Herod Antipas’ trial before Jesus. However, the question becomes, Why?

      • Well, considering the authorship of this book and the significance of Pilates’ role in the crucifixion of Jesus, Pilate becomes a character of focus as he wields the power to either execute or exonerate Jesus.

      • Additionally, I find it important to mention that even within the many Catechisms and Creeds of Orthodox Christianity, we find the mention of Pontus Pilate in the majority of them.

    • Catechisms are a summary of principles within the Christian faith established in the form of questions as means of instruction to the Christian.

      • And Creeds are statements of the orthodox faith in early Christian churches in opposition to heresies.

      • Therefore, the Creeds and Catechisms allow Christians to universally affirm and stand on the truths found in scripture.

    • For example, in the Nicene Creed we see the mention of Pontus Pilate:

For us and for our salvation
          he came down from heaven;
          he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
          and was made human.
          He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
          he suffered and was buried.
          The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
          He ascended to heaven
          and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
          He will come again with glory
          to judge the living and the dead.
          His kingdom will never end.
  • Additionally, the Heidelberg Catechism: Question 38 mentions the following:

    • Why did he suffer “under Pontius Pilate, as judge”?

    • The response is: That he, being innocent, and yet condemned by a temporal judge, might thereby free us from the severe judgement of God to which we were exposed.

    • In other words, establishing Pontus Pilate as a political historical figure in scripture allows the believer to see that the life of Jesus is real history.

      • That our Lord and Savior was not some mystical figure who claimed things yet in an imaginative sense, but rather, the claims of truth from His lips are verifiable, historical, significant, and irrefutable.

    • So here it is, in verse 5, Mark mentions that after Pilate provides a question to Jesus regarding these accusations, Jesus responds with silence.

      • Mark tells us that the silence of Jesus amazed Pilate.

      • The word for “amazed” in Greek is thaumazo which means to be astonished or in wonder.

    • Again, the fact that Jesus is not speaking against the accusations is something that Pilate was not used to.

      • He is used to the proclamation of innocence from the accused, yet like a lamb to the slaughter, Jesus was silent (Isaiah 53:7)

      • What joy is there in knowing that Truth needs not anyone to speak for it? Why, because Truth stands on its own!

    • Friends, this lends us to recognize that Jesus was not helplessly caught in a frivolous trial as if some miserable pawn, No!

      • Jesus willingly placed Himself in this position of vulnerability and captivity for the sake of providing spiritual liberty for humanity.

      • That the greatest of all would become the least of all so that all who would believe in the Lord Jesus could be saved!

    • If there were ever a model for true leadership, it is found in the meekness of our Savior.

      • True leadership takes the hit, even when no one around is willing to.

      • Jesus knew the cost and He did it because only He could!

    • Friends, at best we walk away seeing the full scope of God’s Sovereignty at work despite man’s outward workings.

      • To the Jewish leadership, it seemed as if they handed him over forcibly, but in reality, Jesus gave Himself up willingly.

    • Next week, we will witness another unfair exchange. And it will be through this exchange that a picture is shown as to the true exchange of what would take place on the cross as Jesus became our substitutionary atonement.

      • I pray you will join us next week.

      • Let’s Pray.