Mark 15:1-15

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 18, 2005


Late on Thursday night Jesus had been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. The rest of the night He stood on trial before the chief priests and the Sanhedrin. As the morning approaches, the council has rendered their verdict and are ready to hand Jesus off to the Roman authorities to ask for an execution.

:1-5 Jesus before Pilate

:1 Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.

in the morningproi – it’s early, somewhere before 6:00 a.m.  Roman officials only met with the public from sunrise until noon.

bounddeo – to bind, fasten with chains

Apparently Jesus had not been bound while He stood trial before the high priest. The council knew Jesus wasn’t a violent man, but perhaps they want to give Pilate the impression that they think Jesus was dangerous.

Pilate – Pilate was the governor of Palestine from AD 26-36. He was a harsh man who did not like the Jews. Pilate did not normally live in Jerusalem. His main residence was in the Roman city of Caesarea. He is probably in town to keep an eye on things during the Passover, and he’s probably staying at Herod’s palace.

:2 Then Pilate asked Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" He answered and said to him, "It is as you say."

askedeperotao – to accost one with an enquiry. Pilate isn’t making casual conversation. He’s interrogating the prisoner.

Are you the King of the Jews?

Why does Pilate ask Jesus this question?

Even though the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus for blasphemy, claiming to be God, the charge they are presenting to Pilate was treason – they’re making Jesus out to be a threat to Rome.

It is as you say – This is a Greek way of saying, “Yes” or “You said it!”.

:3 And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing.

Luke elaborates a little more on the arguments presented to Pilate by the Jewish leaders:

(Luke 23:2 NKJV) And they began to accuse Him, saying, "We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King."

:4 Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, "Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!"

:5 But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.

marveledthaumazo – to wonder, marvel; to be had in admiration



Why didn’t Jesus say anything? Why didn’t He defend Himself?
1. He was the Lamb
(Isa 53:7 NKJV) He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.

He was painting a picture, a picture of a lamb being led to the slaughter. There aren’t many things that seem more innocent than a little lamb. And as a lamb is being led to be slaughtered, whether as a dinner or as a sacrifice, the lamb doesn’t complain. It doesn’t argue. It doesn’t defend itself.

John the Baptist said an interesting thing on the day he baptized Jesus in the Jordan River:

(John 1:29 NKJV) The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

The innocent One. The gentle One. The sacrifice for our sins. He opened not His mouth.

2. He was setting an example. Peter would write,
(1 Pet 2:18-25 NKJV) Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. {19} For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.

Peter is going to teach us a lesson about learning to be submissive to your masters, your bosses.

It’s not just the good bosses that we should submit to, but even the ones that are jerks, the ones that are harsh.


A large company, feeling it was time for a shakeup, hired a new CEO. This new boss was determined to rid the company of all slackers. On a tour of the facilities, the CEO noticed a guy leaning on a wall. The room was full of workers and he wanted to let them know that he meant business! The new CEO walked up to the guy leaning against the wall and asked, “How much money do you make a week?” A little surprised, the young fellow looked at him and replied, “I make $300 a week. Why?” The CEO then handed the guy $1,200 in cash and screamed, “Here’s four weeks’ pay, now GET OUT and don’t come back.” Feeling pretty good about himself, the CEO looked around the room and asked, “Does anyone want to tell me what that goof-off did here?” From across the room came a voice, “Pizza delivery guy from Domino’s.”

It’s commendable before God, you win points in heaven, when you endure grief from your boss, even when he’s a jerk.

{20} For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.

Peter isn’t saying that it’s good if you goof up and are punished for it. Like …


An ambitious, young executive is working late at corporate headquarters one evening. As he comes out of his office about 8:00 PM he sees the Big Boss standing by the shredder in the hallway, a piece of paper in his hand. “Do you know how to work this thing?” the older man asks “My secretary’s gone home and I don’t know how to run it.” “Yes, sir,” says the young executive, who efficiently turns on the machine, takes the paper from the other man, and feeds it in. “Great,” says his boss, “I just need the one copy...”

… It’s when you do what’s right and still suffer that you earn points with God.

{21} For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: {22} "Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth"; {23} who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; {24} who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed. {25} For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Jesus’ example for us was one of keeping His mouth shut. He didn’t play “tit-for-tat”. He didn’t give threats, but He trusted God to take care of Him.


Amy Carmichael in expressing her desire to become like the Lord Jesus said this:  “If in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and slip from under the burden, then I know nothing of Calvary Love.  If I have not the patience of my Savior with souls who grow slowly; if I know little of travail till Christ be fully formed in them, then I know nothing of Calvary Love.  If I avoid being ‘ploughed under’ with all that such ploughing entails of rough handling, isolation, uncongenial situations, strange test, then I know nothing of Calvary Love.”

Calvary love is learning to be patient.  Sometimes it suffers in silence.  It is loving others with a costly, sacrificial love, a love that can transform others.

:6-15 Barabbas

Mark does not have all the details of the various trials that Jesus faced. It seems apparent that Pilate really didn’t want to have Jesus killed.  Luke (Luke 23) tells us that Pilate had Jesus sent next door to Herod to see if Herod could take over, but Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate, which is where Mark picks the story back up …

:6 Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested.

the feast – the Passover

:7 And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion.

Barabbas Barabbas – “son of a father”

He was apparently under arrest for having committed murder during an act of political terrorism, the rebellion against the Roman occupation.

Matthew (Mat. 27:16) tells us he had quite a reputation (“notorious”).

John tells us that he was simply a thief (John 18:40).

:8 Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them.

:9 But Pilate answered them, saying, "Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?"

Pilate would rather release Jesus than Barabbas.

:10 For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.

he knew – the sense is that Pilate had been increasingly suspicious that the real issue here was one of envy. He understood that the priests weren’t really concerned about Rome losing its influence over the people, he knew that they were more worried that they were losing their influence over the people.


Envy and Criticism

The issue is about being critical or judgmental about others and the reasons why we are.  Often it can be from a sense of envy
The priests had been aware of the crowds that followed after Jesus. They had heard of the wonderful miracles He had been performing. They had seen the crowds hang on every word Jesus spoke as He taught in the Temple.
They were envious.  Their envy drove them to have Jesus killed.
What’s amazing is that Jesus was the very fulfillment of their religion. He was the one that the ancient texts had been predicting. But rather than welcome Him, they rejected Him.
We can see envy among churches. Our hearts are supposed to be aimed at reaching a lost world for Jesus. But when somebody’s church down the street starts growing and people start getting saved, instead of throwing a party and rejoicing for the work of God, we criticize and find fault with the other church.
What’s your motive in criticizing others?
Motives are difficult things to judge.  You really can’t judge another person’s motives, but you can examine your own.

On the outside, it looked as if the chief priests were simply protecting the purity of Judaism, having this blasphemer put to death.

But on the inside, they were jealous that Jesus drew the crowds that they didn’t.

Here’s some pretty good advice (edited) given to graduates, written by a Chicago newspaper columnist:
Wear sunscreen.  If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.
Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.
Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.
But trust me on the sunscreen.
When it comes to motives and judging others, we tend to look around at others and start guessing their motives and why they are so critical of us.  But in the end, the only person whose motive you can examine is yourself.
The Psalmist wrote,
(Psa 139:23-24 NKJV)  Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; {24} And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.

What are my motives?  Say it to yourself, “What are my motives?”

For these religious leaders, their motive was envy.

:11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them.

I find it significant that the chief priests were involved in the release of Barabbas in exchange for the death Jesus.

There’s more than what seems to be an injustice here.

There is a sense in which the chief priests are performing their actual job, being priests.

It happened about a week earlier, after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead:
(John 11:47-52 NKJV) Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, "What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. {48} "If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation." {49} And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, {50} "nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." {51} Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, {52} and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.

Caiaphas’ own words might sound very cold and evil. But John had the insight that God was making sure that Caiaphas’ words were recorded, because they contained truth on a whole different level.

It WAS expedient for Jesus to die. The entire nation needed Jesus to die and pay for their sins. If He didn’t die, we would all perish, but not at the hands of the Romans, we would perish in hell for our sins.

And now the chief priests are doing it again – doing something they don’t realize – something that contains truth on a whole different level.

The priests were the ones to oversee the sacrifices in the Temple. They were the ones who performed the rituals by which an animal would die and atone for the sins of a guilty man.
And here they are encouraging Pilate to see that Jesus dies in the place of a guilty man.

:12 Pilate answered and said to them again, "What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?"

:13 So they cried out again, "Crucify Him!"

:14 Then Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they cried out all the more, "Crucify Him!"

It’s hard to know how many of the people in this crowd were in the crowd on Sunday morning. But the crowd treated Jesus differently.

(John 12:12-13 NKJV) The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, {13} took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: "Hosanna! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' The King of Israel!"

And now, not even a week later, the crowd is crying out, “Crucify Him”.

Crowds can be a fickle thing – just ask any baseball player.  When the Angels are winning, the crowd goes wild!!!  But if they’re having a hitting slump, or they make an error, the best ball players are going to find themselves being “booed”.  Even the baseball writers in the paper are pretty fickle – the day after an Angel win, they are pretty complimentary.  But the day after a loss, all the talk is about what a bunch of bums those Angels are.

Be careful about living your life for the cheers of the crowd.  You’re going to get some boos from time to time as well.

:15 So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.

scourgedphragelloo – to scourge; the Latin equivalent is flagellum.

This was typically done with a “cat-o-nine-tails”, which consisted of leather straps with bits and pieces of wood, stone, or metal embedded into the straps. It was designed to inflict pain and tear off your skin.

From John’s account (John 19), we get the idea that after having Jesus scourged, Pilate presents Jesus one last time before the crowd, perhaps hoping that they will have pity on Jesus and ask for His release. But instead the chief priests continue to push the crowd to cry out for Jesus’ death and the release of Barabbas.


He took our place

In a way, Barabbas is a picture of each one of us.
Some see in Barabbas’ name, our own name. We’re all just “a son of a father”.
Each one of us has the condemnation of death on our lives. Each one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Each one of us is separated from God for our sins.
Jesus on the other hand was totally guiltless. He did not deserve to die.
Yet Jesus died, like the Lamb led to slaughter, and we were set free.
(2 Cor 5:21 NLT)  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
If you were Barabbas, would you have agreed to the exchange?  Would you have argued and said, “No, I don’t need anyone to take my place, I’d rather die for my own sins!”
Today, God offers to you a chance at a pardon. Will you take it?