The Gospel of Mark

Mark - Lesson 15C

Chapter 15:16-21

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  • Last week we were faced with observing the cruel and gruesome event of Jesus being scourged by the Roman soldiers.

    • As we read, this method of scourging was unlike that of the Jewish lashings which was known as “forty save one”.

      • We came to understand that the Roman scourging and flogging had no limits as to how many lashes could be executed.

    • Therefore, the results of those Roman lashings concluded with a physically disfigured and innocent Jesus.

      • From there, as John’s chronology indicates, the scourging event would have occurred before the scene in which we will find Jesus in tonight regarding the royal mocking.

      • In other words, it seems that Mark has chosen to separate the event of mocking by itself to focus on some key aspects of Jesus’ suffering.

    • The trials that Christ has endured, up to this point, have been under the auspice of a kangaroo trial, to say the least.

      • The rules of law had been skewed under the Jewish proceedings for the sake of finding some sort of fault in Him, which they could not.

      • What began as a charge of blasphemy now became acts of sedition, in which both charges fail to be seen in the eyes of Pilate.

    • Unfortunately, through the manipulation and evil of the religious leaders, they have managed to not only stir up the crowd but have pinned Pilate between a rock and a hard place.

      • It is either Jesus’ freedom based on His innocence before the temporary judge and executioner, or Pilate’s job and life in jeopardy before the emperor.

      • For the crowd, it is either choose Jesus or Barabbas – both representing two different eternal ends.

    • Jesus (Yeshua), the Son of the Living God who leads to eternal life or Yeshua, son of his father, Satan, which leads to eternal damnation and hell.

      • So, in an attempt to subdue the riot and please the crowd, Pilate gives in to the demands of the people for the sake of preserving his life.

    • Tonight, we will observe a moment of the suffering and mocking of Jesus.

      • In doing so, we will see how through Jesus’ sufferings and obedience to the will of the Father on the cross, Jesus accomplished this divine purpose:

    • And Jesus will accomplish these things in three ways:

      • 1. Vicariously

      • 2. Voluntarily

      • 3. Victoriously

    • And how this would be accomplished begins with the pattern which Jesus sets for all believers to suffer well for the Glory that will be revealed in the end.

      • If I were to put a tag on tonight’s text, it would simply be: A Crown, A Robe, and a Reed: The Parody of a Royal Ceremony.

      • With that being said, I invite you to open your bibles and meet me in Mark 15:16-21.

Mark 15:16 The soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they *called together the whole Roman cohort. 
Mark 15:17 They *dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; 
Mark 15:18 and they began to acclaim Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 
Mark 15:19 They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. 
Mark 15:20  After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they *led Him out to crucify Him.
Mark 15:21 They *pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.
  • As we prepare to dive into tonight’s verses, I believe the best approach is to begin with the reality that the sufferings which Jesus is undertaking are not surprising to Jesus, nor should it be to the readers.

    • In carefully examining these events leading up to Jesus being placed on the cross, we have witnessed the grave mistreatment of our Lord both politically and ethically.

      • That where His innocence and truth have shown to be authentic, it is the hearts of men that have shown to be darkened and spiritually dead.

      • However, this reality has not gotten past Jesus for this is why He has come to suffer and die.

      • For all who would place faith in Him would gain eternal life – moving from spiritual death to spiritual life.

    • For those who were following Jesus, especially His disciples, when discussions of suffering and death were mentioned by Jesus, they did not compute.

      • I have mentioned throughout our Mark study that the only way in which the Kingdom could come would first require that a people respond to their king and be made ready to enter into the Kingdom.

      • However, due to the Jewish leadership blaspheming the Holy Spirit, the offer of the Kingdom was rescinded.

    • It was the rescinding of the offer of the Kingdom that would lead to a postponement of the literal, physical Kingdom on earth in which Jesus would rule as King.

      • To put it plainly, the Messiah had made known through His profound teachings and Messianic deeds that He was the Promised One of old,

      • However, the people struggled to recognize who He was due to failed expectations.

      • They were expecting a military leader to conquer and take over but instead received a compassionate, healing, and forgiving Jesus. (First Coming)

      • Even John the Baptist had to send a few of His disciples to ask if he needed to look for another Messiah.

    • Rather than a man from the inconspicuous land of Nazareth, the religious leaders and the people were anticipating a man of noteworthy upbringing and prominence.

      • Time and time again, Jesus had made known, through His teachings and His actions, who He was.

      • However, when expectations don’t meet the mark, man seeks to find the solution in their own way rather than submitting to the truth.

    • Within both the religious and civil trials, it is Truth that seems to be under the microscope and when man is faced with absolute truth, it is oftentimes rejected, confronted with confrontation, or sought to be eliminated.

    • Among failed expectations was the lack of understanding of what Jesus, as Messiah, came to accomplish in His first coming.

      • Three times Jesus had mentioned to His disciples that He would soon die.

      • He mentioned it in Mark 8:31, Mark 9:30-31, and Mark 10:33-34.

      • And each time the weight of Jesus’ words was overlooked for the sake of pride by the disciples.

    • And it would be Jesus’ third time mentioning His death that would be the most unique because not only did He foretell His death, but He would mention the way in which He would die.

      • Let’s examine Mark 10:33-34 again.

Mark 10:33 saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. 
Mark 10:34  They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”
  • It is here that Jesus mentioned the coming suffering which He would endure but more specifically, in the context of Mark 10:33-34, He is addressing the disciples’ misunderstanding of Him as a king.

    • Jesus, speaking to James and John lets them know that His purpose was not to come to be served, in the sense of royalty, but rather in the sense of service.

    • And with that service would require great sacrifice.

    • Jesus uses the word “ransom”. The Greek word is lytron (loo-tron) which means a price paid or atonement.

      • The Hebrew word for this term is koper (ko-fer) which is a ransom.

      • That is what is given in exchange as payment to avoid impending punishment. (covering, pitch)

      • In other words, Jesus’ life and death would become the payment paid to prevent the rightful party from taking on the full weight and punishment of the wrath of God.

      • It’s this meaning of redemption or release!

      • Substitutionary atonement is in full view here! Jesus would be the Perfect One to suffer for the many!

    • One question that we will discover tonight is, “Why did Christ have to suffer the way He did before taking on the cross?”

      • Prayerfully, we will come to see that Jesus’ suffering for the many would become a sample or template by which all who place faith in Him would come to know how to suffer well to and for the Glory of God.

      • With that being said let’s dive into tonight’s text beginning with verse 16.

Mark 15:16 The soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they *called together the whole Roman cohort. 
  • It is after the rioting scene of the crowd demanding Barabbas to be freed, while chanting for the death of Christ, that Mark paints the picture of the behind the scenes event held within the walls of the Praetorium.

    • Pilate has done all that he could to free Jesus, all the while protecting himself.

      • Yet in an effort to preserve his life and career, he gives in to the demands of the crowd and the religious leaders and hands Jesus over to be crucified.

    • The way in which Mark transitions to verse 16 can be a bit misleading because the scourging is taking place between the second and third plea from Pilate as to who will be released.

      • Therefore Mark takes the time to describe for us the events that occur after the scourging, before Jesus is led to be crucified.

      • And the text tells us that “the whole Roman cohort” was called together to Jesus before His final appearance to the crowd. (For the third time)

    • A Roman cohort consisted of approximately 600 men, which was 1/10th of a Roman legion which was 6,000 men.

      • So here we see that Jesus, after a Roman scourging, is led back to the Praetorium a final time, only this time to be mocked and abused.

      • Check out verses 17-20.

Mark 15:17 They *dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; 
Mark 15:18 and they began to acclaim Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 
Mark 15:19 They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. 
Mark 15:20  After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they *led Him out to crucify Him.
  • Mark mentions that the Roman soldiers have begun to mock Jesus in an absurd imitation of a king.

    • They dressed him in a makeshift regal robe, placed a crown made of thorns on His head, and put a reed in His hand to serve as a mock scepter – all the while shouting in a joking manner, “Hail, King of the Jews”.

      • We will take some time to expound upon each item to discuss its significance despite its sham of a demonstration.

      • Let’s begin with the robe.

    • Mark mentions that the Roman soldiers dressed him in a purple robe.

      • John’s gospel (John 19:2) mentions the same color of purple whereas Matthew’s gospel mentions that the color was scarlet.

    • There may be some that read the difference in color from these separate accounts and question the inerrancy of scripture, however, both are true.

      • The reality was that in that environment, the soldiers would not have had access to royal regalia such as a kingly robe, so they would have to make do with what was available.

    • At best, they would have on the ready a faded military cloak, which after wear and tear alongside the beating of the sun, would cause a royal color such as scarlet to begin to fade.

      • So, it would be this faded sense of symbolic splendor, suggesting royalty, that these soldiers would use as a mocking prompt to cover Jesus with.

    • However, we must keep in mind that putting on these garments meant that they would have to remove Jesus’ own garments at the onset (verse 20).

      • If we keep in mind John’s chronology, the removal of Jesus’ own garments would have taken place after He was scourged.

      • In other words, wounds that had begun to balm a bit and the blood that may have begun to dry in certain areas would now be reopened.

    • It’s like having a fresh cut on your arm that you have applied a Band-Aid to with no antiseptic, and then a few moments later you take the Band-Aid off becoming fully exposed to the elements.

      • The pain that Jesus had to have experienced in that moment was most certainly painful and given the physical condition of Jesus, He would not have come across as royal in the least bit.

      • This is the point that the Roman soldiers are making, they have no care for Jesus as a king, but more than that no care for the Jewish people.

    • After the robe, Mark mentions that the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns as a makeshift royal crown, once again suggesting Jesus as a king.

      • Although the text does not provide us with the plant type, we can surmise that whatever bush this came from, it contained spiky branches that provided some “give” to create a circular shape to place upon Jesus’ head.

      • Being that this crown was made of thorny branches, as they are placing it upon his head we know that pressing it down upon His skull would have caused further bleeding and pain.

    • From there the soldiers began shouting and chanting in a sarcastic manner, “Hail, King of the Jews”.

      • This mocking taunt was being repeated by close to 600 men all at once surrounding Jesus in His condition.

    • Lastly, Matthew’s gospel provides us with information that Mark and John do not and that is the Roman soldiers gave Jesus a reed in His right hand to hold as if it were a scepter.

      • Obviously, Matthew’s gospel is providing a picture for the Jewish reader to see the reality of Jesus’ true position as Messiah-King.

    • A scepter was an ornate staff carried by a ruler on ceremonial occasions as a symbol of Sovereign authority.

      • What becomes so telling in this mocking event is that although these men are addressing Jesus in a sarcastic manner, they fail to realize that they are proclaiming the truth of who He truly is.

    • According to Mark’s gospel, it is the same scepter (reed) that Matthew mentions in which the soldiers seem to take out of his hand and begin to beat Him over the head with.

      • The phrase “they kept beating Him” is in the imperfect active indicative which means this is a continual beating, spitting, and false adorning of His Person.

      • So, imagine nearly 600 men taking turns to beat Jesus over the head with this reed.

      • This would ultimately cause the crown of thorns to be further pressed into His skull causing more injury to insult.

    • Secondly, spitting was an offense that even in today’s context is the ultimate expression of disrespect, and here it is these soldiers casting upon Him the greatest shame in that day.

      • Lastly, they kneel before Jesus as if to pay honor and respect.

      • Yet all of this is done to downplay both the Jewish people and Jesus’ claim as the Jewish Messiah.

    • Finally, we see in verse 20, after the mocking, beating, and dishonor has taken place, the text mentions that they remove the purple robe off Jesus and place His own garments back on.

      • Again, His body and open wounds must endure more disruption as His garments are removed again.

      • And from there the text says that Jesus was led out to be crucified.

      • We now arrive to verse 21. Check out the text.

Mark 15:21 They *pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.
  • Jesus is led by the Roman soldiers out from the Praetorium and towards the location of the crucifixion, Golgotha, which is translated Place of a Skull. We will explore this detail further, next week.

    • Mark’s account seems to describe the reality of physical distress that Jesus had endured because verse 21 states that the soldiers recruited a passer-by to help carry Jesus’ cross to the destination.

      • Normally, every condemned individual would be required to carry their own cross to be crucified, according to Plutarch, a Greek Philosopher.

    • It seems that for a good portion of the journey, Jesus was able to carry it on His own.

      • However, Jesus seems to not be able to bear the weight of this beam on His own up to a certain point.

      • And by divine providence, it leads to the soldiers recruiting a man by the name Simon of Cyrene to aid Him.

      • Mark becomes incredibly detailed with this Simon character because he takes the time to mention that Simon is the father of Alexander and Rufus.

    • Simon was from Cyrene which is located on the north coast of Africa and Simon was indeed a Jew who had traveled back to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

      • And while on his way to some location, he is stopped and recruited to carry Jesus’ cross.

    • One detail that comes to mind is: Why does Mark feel the need to mention in parenthesis, “the father of Alexander and Rufus?”.

      • Well perhaps because Mark’s immediate audience would have known who these two men were.

      • In fact, Romans 16:13 confirms for us that this Rufus is the same Rufus who was a member of the Church in Rome in the mid AD 50s.

Romans 16:13  Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.
  • Therefore, this clarifies for them that Simon, whom you might not know, is the Simon who is the father of Rufus and Alexander in whom you do know.

    • It’s like when we try to explain a person that we think someone may know or should know, so we go through an entire directory of people’s names by way of association in order for them to know the person you’re describing.

      • This is what Mark is doing, in a sense.

    • What becomes a matter of Divine providence is how through Simon of Cyrene’s interaction with carrying the cross of Christ, that it would soon translate to his two sons coming to faith in Jesus at a later time.

      • Furthermore, it would be through Mark’s description of this event in which would ring true into the hearts of his readers, a striking illustration of what it looks like to identify with the suffering Messiah.

      • That following Jesus comes with a great cost that is to be counted!

      • And that true discipleship is to endure through the sufferings of life knowing that Christ is in the suffering with us!

    • The Apostle Peter addresses this means of Christ as our example in 1 Peter 2:20-23.

1 Peter 2:20  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
1 Peter 2:21   For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 
1 Peter 2:22   who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 
1 Peter 2:23   and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
  • This helps in answering a part of the question I posed earlier which was: Why did Christ have to suffer the way He did before taking on the cross?

    • Because in one way, His suffering and obedience to the Father’s plan served as an example by which each believer today should live.

    • That as followers of Christ our suffering should bring about great Glory to God and in that suffering, we are able to depend upon the Father all the more!

    • To put it plainly, through suffering comes Glory!

    • I don’t mean suffering for the sake of suffering, but biblical suffering in the fact that the Lord has purposefully brought you through trials to see Him gloriously at work in your life.

    • For Jesus, the Glory was not only in being raised from the dead, sitting at the right hand of the Father in His session, but it would include a future day in Jesus’ Second Coming when the Kingdom would be consummated.

      • And in that consummation, there would be a coronation with praise, worship, and adoration of King Jesus!

    • The other half of that question of “Why suffering” is because it was always planned this way according to the Father’s plan to fulfill Prophecy.

      • This would be the primary reason!

    • We have discussed such scriptures as Isaiah 52, 53, and Psalm 22 which was written 200 years before Isaiah 53.

      • These are just a few scriptures that speak to the foretelling of the Messiah’s sufferings.

    • Jesus’ suffering was indeed vicarious meaning that He took our place as our “ransom” (Mark 10:45) .

      • His suffering was voluntary in that He willingly submitted Himself to the will of the Father’s plan and in that willingness, the Father glorified Him through the resurrection and session of Christ. (John 17:1)

      • And lastly, we know that because Christ was raised, there is a promise of a future Coming Kingdom.

      • That through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus comes the victory in which those who are in Christ freely possess.

    • What a gift we have in knowing that Christ has come to fulfill the Father’s plan and all the while set the example for us on how to live well to the Glory of God!

      • Know that discipleship is costly but it is worth it because as we obey the word of God we will witness the fruit that comes from it.

      • This is why Jesus’ upper room discourse in John’s gospel was so essential. (John Chapters 13–17)

    • It provided the framework by which the disciples would work from as they proclaimed the gospel to the world.

      • That they would soon come to understand the full weight of Jesus’ need to suffer as well as their future sufferings in which they would join in.

      • Check out what John states in John 15:18-26.

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 
John 15:19  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 
John 15:20  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 
John 15:21  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 
John 15:22  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 
John 15:23  He who hates Me hates My Father also. 
John 15:24  If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 
John 15:25  But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’
John 15:26  “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,
  • May we learn that our sufferings in this life help us to truly identify with Christ as we rest in Him.

    • And as we submit ourselves to His teaching, in obedience to His will, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, we too will bear much fruit and become more like Jesus.

    • Let’s Pray.