The Gospel of Mark

Mark - Lesson 15B

Chapter 15:6-15

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  • We are now beginning to move towards the final scenes of Jesus’ life, which we know as the Passion of Christ.

    • Chapter 15 of Mark’s Gospel is dedicated to the backdrop of information leading to the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

      • Before we leave this chapter simply to imagination or visualization of the well-known movie, the Passion of the Christ, I caution us to begin our assessment, not with Hollywood’s rendition, but rather with the revelation of God’s word.

      • As we fix our eyes upon tonight’s text, I encourage us to read the text with fresh eyes and by the leading of the Holy Spirit so that we are led into right understanding.

    • Last week, we began with Jesus’ civil trial before Pilate.

      • The religious leader’s charge against Jesus which began with blasphemy would soon transition to acts of sedition.

    • We read between the gospel accounts, that there was a back-and-forth between the religious leaders and Pilate’s verdict regarding Jesus’ innocence.

      • That where the religious leaders lay before Pilate trumped up charges and false allegations, Pilate walks away finding no guilt in Jesus.

      • You may recall, I mentioned that within this trial truth was in question and as we saw in the end, truth remained silent.

      • Jesus uttered no words to the allegations brought against Him as Isaiah prophesied, “…like a lamb being sent to the slaughter He did not utter a word”. (Isaiah 53:7)

    • Ultimately, this evil outworking of human engagement was divinely orchestrated by the Father for the purpose of Jesus being the sacrificial lamb for Israel and the world.

      • Jesus would take on the weight of the world’s sin upon Himself, willingly, for the joy that was set before Him.

      • In other words, it would be through Christ’s humiliation and shame that peace would be made between God and man for all who place faith in Christ alone.

    • Tonight, we are going to see that this trial moves to the third trial before Pilate.

      • As a reminder, Mark’s gospel does not include Jesus being brought before Herod Antipas.

      • Mark’s emphasis will focus on the injustice committed under the leadership of Rome, by way of Pilate’s cowardice.

    • It will be this trial in which we see a picture of what Jesus’ actions on the cross would do for all who place faith in Him.

      • That a great exchange of one’s life for another would take place.

      • And we will see how powerfully clear God makes this message known.

    • If I were to outline our flow through the text tonight, we will see the following things:

      • 1. An Unfair Request (v.6-11)

      • 2. A Cowardly Cede (v.12-15)

    • If I were to put a tag on tonight’s text, it would be: The Savior Scourged: A Passive Appeal for Mercy

      • With that being said, I invite you to open up your bibles and turn with me to Mark 15:6-15.

Mark 15:6 Now at the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. 
Mark 15:7 The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. 
Mark 15:8 The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. 
Mark 15:9 Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 
Mark 15:10 For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. 
Mark 15:11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. 
Mark 15:12 Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” 
Mark 15:13 They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” 
Mark 15:14 But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” 
Mark 15:15 Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
  • As Mark opens the scene, he mentions that a tradition had begun during the time of Roman control of Judea which was to release a Jewish Prisoner to the crowd for Passover.

    • This tradition is not mentioned in history outside of the Gospel records; however, it could be understood how this goodwill gesture became Pilate’s custom, nonetheless.

      • At best, in an effort to keep peace and refrain from civil unrest during a time of high religious festivities, the release of a Jewish prisoner would serve as a sort of peace offering in order to please the crowd.

    • According to Mark’s gospel, it seems that as the trial proceedings progressed, a sizeable crowd began to gather at the palace demanding that Pilate would implement this tradition that they were accustomed to every Passover.

      • It would seem as if this inciting of the crowd was being spurred on by the religious leaders to gain a swift guilty verdict from Pilate to put Jesus to death.

      • So, in an effort to pacify the crowd, and in hopes of releasing Jesus with an innocent verdict, Pilate saw this as an opportunity to get from under the pressure of these religious leaders by playing into the crowd’s request.

      • And to ensure Jesus’ release, Pilate arranges for an obviously guilty prisoner whom he assumed the crowd would most definitely reject, therefore releasing Jesus.

    • Pilate’s choice of prisoner this year was the notorious insurrectionist named Barabbas.

      • Mark wastes no details in describing to the reader who Barabbas was as a well-known criminal, but also a murderer.

      • Matthew’s gospel mentions Barabbas was a notorious prisoner.

      • And John’s gospel mentions Barabbas was a robber.

    • So, when you summarize the character and totality of this individual, this is someone that, without question, you would choose for them to remain in prison for good. The choice was clear within Pilate’s mind.

      • Most assuredly, the people will choose Jesus to be freed and not this well-known habitual criminal.

      • As best as he could, Pilate tries to make the innocent choice obvious.

    • So, Pilate, in response to the crowd’s demands says: “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”

      • The language is obvious in Mark’s gospel that Pilate, by way of introducing the innocent prisoner for release in good faith, is wanting to make it plain who the crowd should choose.

      • The contrast between Jesus and Barabbas couldn’t be any clearer.

    • However, from the crowd chanting and pushback of Jesus standing before them, it became evident that the religious leaders were doing some crowd control of their own.

      • We know this because both verses 9 and 11 are in opposition to one another.

      • Notice that as Pilate sees the religious leaders’ envy of Jesus in verse 9, that the religious leaders are stirring up the crowd to request the release of Barabbas instead.

    • We have two groups of leaders seeking to use this tradition to their own advantage.

      • Pilate, in a strange way, seeks to stand up for what is right by using this tradition to free Jesus, yet he is confronted with the jealousy and envy that the religious leaders have against Jesus.

      • Remember, throughout the entirety of Jesus’ ministry, the religious leaders have all been threatened by His presence because of His influence and teaching.

    • The religious leaders, on the other hand, are using this Passover custom to stir up and instigate within the crowds to have Jesus killed in exchange for a notorious and seditious murderer.

      • The word for “stirred” in verse 11 is the Greek word anaseio (an-a-see-o) which means to disturb, incite, or instigate a matter to one’s own benefit.

    • Pilate at least got this right. He saw the religious leaders for who they were, opportunists, and ultimately envious of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      • And isn’t that the reality of the human heart: That we seek to take advantage of what we can, how we can, if it profits our own bottom line.

      • This is a picture of the human heart.

      • It’s almost as if there is a tale of two hearts at play here. Both leaders, seemingly moving in different directions or so we think.

    • Remember, as I mentioned last week, there is a question that every person has to ask themselves and that question is, “What do we do about Jesus?” Better yet, “Who is Jesus?” How do we see Him?”

      • Is He the Savior, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords or is the truth of who He is in conflict with who we are?

      • Let’s keep moving, check out verses 12-15.

Mark 15:12 Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” 
Mark 15:13 They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” 
Mark 15:14 But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” 
Mark 15:15 Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
  • While all this chaos in the crowd continues, Matthew’s account documents that the trial was temporarily interrupted by Pilate’s wife who sent him a message.

    • Church tradition tells us that her name was Procla or Claudia Procula

      • And it was a dream in which she was given by which she warned her husband to have nothing to do with this righteous Man – Jesus.

      • It’s clear from the text that this dream was quite disturbing because Claudia mentioned that she suffered greatly.

    • It seems to be that this dream was something that she could not shake and required that she speak to her husband about it immediately.

      • However, it becomes clear from this “potential opportunity” of freeing Jesus that it is missed by Pilate, more than likely because of his failure to heed the words of his wife.

    • Furthermore, Mark’s account does not seem to be interested in the mentioning of this brief pause of the proceedings with Claudia.

      • Perhaps because the conclusion of Jesus’ end is written, therefore Mark is more concerned with the suffering results of the servant.

    • Well, it’s after this brief pause that Pilate responds to the instigated response of the religious leaders to the crowd, to free Barabbas.

      • Pilate says: “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”

    • In other words: “If you want me to release Barabbas, a man guilty of the crimes he has committed, then what do you want me to do with this Jesus whom is said to be the “King of the Jews?”

      • Pilate is faced with the dilemma of truth confronted by injustice. The question becomes: “What will Pilate do?”

    • Mark’s gospel paints a clear picture that the crowd has become fully convinced of Jesus’ false guilty verdict which has been planned by the religious leaders.

      • And now, in a unanimous voice, the entire crowd calls to have Jesus crucified.

      • Pilate is at his wits end to the point that he states, “Why, what evil has He done?”

    • Pilate is seeking to challenge the crowd as to what crime Jesus has been found guilty of.

      • Here it is, that Pilate has placed before them a well-known guilty criminal who has caused much destruction within the region, and yet the crowd is persistently crying out for the Innocent One, Jesus Christ to be put to death.

      • If this shows us anything, it shows us how dark and evil the human heart is, and at the same time it shows us the purity, holiness, and innocence of our Savior.

    • The crowd had defaulted to the general response of what the religious leaders said.

      • And as I’ve mentioned before throughout our teaching of Mark’s Gospel, it was common that what the religious leaders said/did, the people did without question.

      • And without fail the people have subjected themselves to it once again, only now of their own volition.

      • But need I remind us of the reality that all of this is being orchestrated Sovereignly by the Lord?

    • The reality is that God is in control of every detail of our lives and all things occur, both good and bad, according to His will and for His good pleasure.

      • We see this truth within the Old Testament in Isaiah 45:6-7.

Isaiah 45:6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
Isaiah 45:7 The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the Lord who does all these.
  • As tension rises for the crowd’s demand for Jesus to be crucified, Pilate found himself in quite a precarious situation because his opposition to Jesus being crucified was beginning to cause a riot.

    • And according to John’s gospel (John 19:12), there were threats to report Pilate to Caesar. Check out the text.

John 19:12 As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.”
  • On top of those threats, Pilate’s stance with Caesar was not the greatest.

    • If word got to Caesar that Pilate allowed a “rival King” to live and stand in opposition to Rome, not only would that be Pilate’s job, but Pilate’s head on a platter.

    • On top of that, Pilate and the Jewish people had a difficult relationship to say the least.

    • So, Pilate now feels the urgent need to act quickly not for the sake of justice but for the sake of his career and life.

      • In response to that reality, we see in Matthew’s gospel that Pilate washes his hands in front of the crowd, symbolizing his desire to absolve himself from this injustice.

      • And at the same time, as a last attempt, solidifies their request, in a way, in the hopes that they would change their minds.

      • So as a final attempt, Pilate sends Jesus to be scourged. (We will dive deeper into this a bit later tonight and a bit more next week.)

    • The reality was no matter how many times Pilate washed his hands, his abdication from this matter did not dissolve him from the injustice that also fell upon him alongside the religious leaders.

      • So here it was that Jesus the Son of God and Barabbas the insurrectionist and murderer are standing before the crowd who is crying out for the release of an unjust man.

    • There is a picture here that tells of the reality of what Jesus has done for all who place faith in Him through the Sovereign work and provision of God.

      • On one side of Pilate stood Yeshua (Jesus), the Son of the Living God.

      • That through and in whom all who were dead would be made alive in Him upon the belief that Jesus was who He said He was.

    • And on the other side of Pilate stood Barabbas, a murderer and robber.

      • Interestingly enough, Barabbas was not his actual name.

      • Barabbas is a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic words “bar” meaning “son of” and “Abba”, which means “his father’s name”, ultimately making him the “son of Abba”.

      • Origen, a Christian Theologian and early Church leader, refers to ancient manuscripts that Barabbas’ real name was Yeshua, which was a common Jewish name in that day.

    • In other words, before the crowd and Pilate stood two men named Yeshua, son of the Father. Both stood representing their respective spiritual families.

      • It was Barabbas who was the son of his father, the devil, and reflected the very nature and condition of Satan.

      • We see throughout scripture the bible identifies Satan as a thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

    • On the other hand, we have Jesus , the Son of The Living God, the one in whom there is no darkness or deceit.

      • The one in whom, men and women are born again through belief in Him and in Him alone.

      • Check out what John writes in 1 John 1:4-5.

1 John 1:4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 
    • In the Greek language, there is an emphasis that there is absolutely no darkness found in God.

      • For those who are in Christ are Children of light.

    • Both men represented two types of people in this world. Barabbas represents every unbeliever, dead in their sins and trespasses, in constant rebellion against a Holy and Just God, and in whom rightfully deserves death.

      • While Jesus represents all who have been and will be born again, by faith, and justified through the finished work of Christ on the cross.

    • Here is the point that I have been making over the past few weeks: Everyone will be faced with the choice or confronted with the question: “Who is Jesus?”

      • Because the only thing that we have left, apart from Christ, is remaining spiritually dead and in sin, doomed for the rightful judgment of God that is inevitably coming!

      • You either accept the only provision that God has made which is belief in His Son who is our Substitute who justified us and made us right with God.

      • Or you reject the provision in an effort to try and appease God in your own failed strength which doesn’t meet the standard.

    • The world and the culture will tell you what they deem is acceptable and right and good, but as Paul writes in Romans, all men suppress the truth within their conciseness. (Romans 1:18)

Romans 1:18  The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 
    • Truth has been revealed both verbally and visually and truth is found in the Person of Christ! Truth is a Person!

    • What becomes such a surreal moment in all of this is how Pilate assumed that washing his hands of this situation allowed him to walk away unscathed.

      • Not only did Pilate not escape his guilt of killing an innocent man, but he lost the very thing in which he was seeking to preserve – his job/career.

    • According to Josephus, Pilate lost his job a few years later when Vitellius, the Prefect of Syria sent Marcellus to temporarily take over Judaea and sent Pilate to stand before the emperor in Rome to answer the accusations from the Jews.

      • However, nothing is documented about Pilate after his arrival in Rome except for the fact that he was eventually banished to France.

      • Eusebius recorded that Pilate committed suicide after the trial of Jesus, however there is no evidence to confirm this.

    • In any case, we see a similar end with two characters.

      • That the demise of both Judas and Pilate is centered on their betrayal of Jesus at the cost of their own comfort.

      • For Judas it was money and for Pilate, it was his career. (Earthly possessions)

    • Both men came to the realization at one point or another that what they had done in their own human volition was wrong.

      • This is the crushing reality of our choices as human beings, and that is all of our choices will lead us somewhere.

      • But the ultimate choice that can be made, by means of the Spirit’s illumination, is placing faith in Jesus Christ.

    • It’s in verse 15 that after several attempts at freeing Jesus, Pilate gives in and hands Jesus over for scourging.

      • To be scourged was to be beaten or flogged with multiple lashes attached to a whip.

    • In the case of a Jewish scourging, there were limits as it related to how many times someone would be whipped.

      • For instance, the number of stripes given in a Jewish context would be “forty– save one” according to the Mosaic Law in Deuteronomy 25:3. Check out what the text says.

Deut.25:3  but the judge must not impose more than forty lashes. If the guilty party is flogged more than that, your fellow Israelite will be degraded in your eyes.
    • It was against Jewish Law to be lashed more than 40 times.

    • However, Jesus’ scourging was taking place by Romans which meant there were completely different procedures.

      • According to Roman Law, there were no limits to how many lashes an individual could receive.

    • The Roman whip had long leather lashes which could wrap around the entire body and at the end of each lash contained either a piece of metal, nail, glass or a sharp lamb bone.

      • So imagine, after a few slashes of this Roman lashing, not only would large chunks of skin and muscle be pulled away, but muscle would be fully exposed.

      • We must also keep in mind that we do not know the direction of the swing of the whip itself, meaning that part of the lashes impacted Jesus’ face.

    • The reality is the pictures we see of Jesus on the cross are a complete downplay of how His body and face truly looked after He was scourged.

      • All of this Sovereignly planned to fulfill what the Lord spoke in Isaiah 52:14 by the Spirit.

Isaiah 52:14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
    his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
    and his form marred beyond human likeness—
  • According to John’s gospel, it would have been after this scourging that Jesus was presented to the people one last time, marred beyond recognition, as their choice for death over Barabbas. (John 19:1-15, v.13)

    • After looking upon His beaten face, to the point that He was unrecognizable, the crowd’s verdict was in, and Pilate was left with no choice.

    • Jesus was considered guilty and sentenced to death.

      • The beatings which Jesus would take on were for us!

      • We must learn to stop and recognize the reality and weight of what Jesus had to endure to attain for us eternal security in Him.

      • Most especially we see the suffering servant in full picture!

    • We oftentimes take for granted the grace we have in Christ that abounds even more because we fail to truly understand what He had to endure for us.

      • Next week we will pick back up on a few significant aspects of Jesus’ Passion leading up to the moment He would hang on the cross.

      • For it will be in these gruesome details that we will see the length that our Savior went to save us.

    • Most especially we will be faced with a question of, Why? Why did Christ have to suffer these many things?

      • And beyond that, what does Jesus’ example in His suffering teach us as believers?

    • In the end, we will come to realize that it was not the physical cruelty that caused Jesus the greatest agony, but rather it would be the wrath poured upon Him as He would become sin for us.

      • The wrath that was rightfully aimed at you and I.

      • I pray you join us next week.

      • Let’s Pray.