Study Notes

Mark 15:1-39

15:1-5 Delivered Up To Pilate

Again we see Jesus silent before His accusers. Both times, He says who He is, but makes no attempt to defend Himself from these false accusations.

Jesus' motivation for keeping quiet was because He loved the elders, chief priests, and even Pilate. Christ has given us an example in this:

1Pet. 2:21-24 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, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 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; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

In the same way, if we remain silent and trust the Lord, if we are reviled and don't revile in return, if when suffering we don't utter threats, then by our wounds, others will be healed. Don't prepare a defense: make prayer your defense!

15:6-15 Barabbas

If the Jews felt good about the Romans, then there would be less of a chance that they would rebel during the holidays when everyone was in Jerusalem. So they had established this tradition by which they would release a prisoner at the holiday.

Barabbas was a notorious prisoner (Matt 27:16). The Scriptures tell us that he was thrown into prison for a certain insurrection made in the city (Luke 23:19). He'd committed murder in the insurrection (Mark 15:7), and was also a robber (John 18:40).

Interestingly, the name "Barabbas" means "son of the father". I see that the people had a choice. They had to choose between Barabbas - the son of the Father, and Jesus - the only begotten Son of the heavenly Father.

Barabbas was a prisoner. Jesus came to set the captives free. Barabbas was a robber. Jesus came to give Himself. Barabbas was a murderer. Jesus came to allow Himself to be murdered that we would live.

You have the same choice today. Who do you want to give freedom to in your life? Will you choose the way of Barabbas, or the way of Jesus?

15:16-20 The Crown Of Thorns

When He had been before the high priest, we read,

Mark 14:65 And some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, "Prophesy!" And the officers received Him with slaps {in the face.}

By the Jews, He had been spit upon and punched in the face with while blindfolded. When He was brought to the Romans, He was scourged. In scourging, prisoners were bent over and their arms tied around a large post. The whip the Romans used was called a flagellum. The flagellum was made of many leather thongs. To the thongs they tied lead balls for weight and sharp pieces of bone and metal to grab and tear the prisoner's flesh. By the time it was over with, the prisoner's back was laid bare - no skin left, only torn muscle exposing bones and internal organs.

Now the Roman soldiers mock Jesus, physically abusing Him even more. They lay a purple robe on the exposed, bleeding flesh of His back.

Isaiah also tells us through prophecy that they plucked out His beard:

Isa. 50:6 I gave My back to those who strike {Me,} And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.

They also wove a crown of thorns - estimated to be between 2 to 3 1/2 inches long. They shoved it down on His head and put a reed in His right hand. Then they kneeled down before Him and mocked Him; and they began to acclaim Him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and give Him blows in the face. And they took the reed and were beating His head with it, and spitting at Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. And after they had mocked Him, they tore the purple robe off His back, and put His garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him.

15:21 Simon of Cyrene

By law, the Romans were allowed to compel the Jews into service. If a soldier laid his weapon upon your shoulder, you were chosen. You did what they said or you were thrown into prison. They found Simon of Cyrene.

Simon's cross-bearing is mentioned in 3 of the 4 gospels (Matt 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). Simon was an out-of-towner, having come in from the country that today we call Libya to celebrate the Passover. Little did he know that he would end up carrying the Messiah's cross!

How did this affect his life? Did he go on about his business and push it out of his mind? We can't know for sure, but Mark gives us a clue, when he calls him...

Mark 15:21 ...Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus)...

In writing to the church, Mark is assuming that they know who Alexander and Rufus are. Rufus could very likely be the same Rufus mentioned in the book of Romans:

Rom. 16:13 Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.

There was also an Alexander in the church, whom Paul mentioned to Timothy as having fallen into blasphemy and apostasy. Could these be Simon's sons?

15:22-25 They Crucified Him

Crucifixion is a combination of tortures. The prisoner was laid down on the cross and one hand was nailed to it. Not through the palm, but through the strong ligaments in the carpal area where the wrist flexes. Then the other hand was stretched tight so that the arms were straight across. The knees were bent and the feet nailed flat to the cross.

Structural mechanics tells us that when the cross was elevated, literally tons of pressure were put on the arms. It was then dropped into a hole several feet deep. At that thumping impact with the ground, both shoulders and elbows dislocated and each arm became about 6 inches longer.

Now suffocation begins. with that pressure on the arms, He cannot breathe unless He lifts Himself up. Using the nail in his feet as leverage, He lifts Himself up to take a breath. The pain in His feet is excruciating, and the strange angle of His legs overlapping and bent at the knees compounds the problem.

Lack of oxygen brings carbon dioxide levels in the blood way up, which makes the prisoner struggle to breathe more and the heart begins to beat as fast as possible to oxygenate the blood. Instead of its usual 5 liters per minute, it is now pumping out 20 liters per minute. At this rate it will become fatigued and the person will die of high output failure.

The blood pressure becomes so high that plasma is actually forced out the walls of the blood vessels into the area between the thorax and the lung. This fluid lost from the blood and filling this area can amount to a gallon. The only way for the body to replace it is to drink liquids. Thus the Lord says, "I thirst".

After hearing all of this, it is interesting to note that Jesus knew what this would be like. 800 years before, He had put this in the Bible:

Ps. 22:1 MY God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.

Ps. 22:6-8 But I am a worm, and not a man, A reproach of men, and despised by the people. All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, {saying,} "Commit {yourself} to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him."

Ps. 22:14-18 I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And Thou dost lay me in the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.

This Psalm was written in about 1000 B.C. The Romans invented crucifixion about 900 years later, around 90 B.C.

15:26 The Inscription

Mark abbreviates the inscription, but John tells us exactly what was written:

John 19:19-22 And Pilate wrote an inscription also, and put it on the cross. And it was written, "JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS." Therefore this inscription many of the Jews read, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, {and} in Greek. And so the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews'; but that He said, 'I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."

Why did the chief priests get so bent out of shape at the sign? Why did they want him to change it? In Hebrew, the sign read, "Y'Shua HaNazarei vMelech HaYehudim" - "Jesus the Nazarei and King of the Jews". This statement formed an acrostic, "YHWH" - the holy name of God. Here was God being put to death!

15:27-28 Numbered With The Transgressors

Mark points out that his crucifixion between the two robbers was a fulfillment of prophecy:

Isa. 53:12 ...He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

People like those two robbers were exactly who Jesus was dying for.

15:29-32 Hurling Abuse At Him

He was being verbally abused, mocked, and insulted. By the Jews, the chief priests, the scribes, and even the two others being crucified. At that point, I would have definitely had enough. I would have called the whole thing off and smoked every human on earth with lightning bolts.

This is real evidence of just how deep Jesus' love for mankind really is.

Again, these things were also fulfillments of prophecy:

Ps. 22:6-8 But I am a worm, and not a man, A reproach of men, and despised by the people. All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, "Commit {yourself} to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him."

The crowd fulfilled the prophecy exactly.

15:33 Darkness Fell

In looking at the killing of the Passover Lamb, there is only one detail that doesn't coincide with Jesus Christ. And that is the fact that the Passover Lamb was to be killed at twilight.

Exod. 12:6 'And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.

The Lord even went to the trouble of making this event happen supernaturally! Jesus wouldn't be able to be on the cross at twilight on this day, for...

John 19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high {day} ), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and {that} they might be taken away.

So the Lord made it supernaturally twilight at 12 noon!

15:34-37 A Loud Cry

Jesus let out a loud cry - the last words of a dying man. What were they? John tells us.

John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.

"It is finished." In Greek, it is, "te tel-EH-o stai," which literally means, "paid in full." When He died, Jesus paid the FULL price of your sins.

15:38 Veil Torn In Two

This veil was the curtain in the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. It was massive: 60' high by 30' wide. Historians believe that it was about a foot to a foot and a half thick!

On the other side was supposed to by the ark of the covenant. But that had disappeared in the days when the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and the people were taken into the Babylonian captivity.

When Jesus died, that veil was torn in two - revealing that the ark was gone - revealing the absence of the glory of God.

It also symbolized something - that the only way to enter the throne room of God was through the torn flesh of Jesus Christ:

Hebr. 10:19-22 Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

There is only one way to enter in - the torn flesh of Jesus Christ.

15:39 The Centurion

This centurion was also a fulfillment of prophecy. In Leviticus 16, we read of the scapegoat. This was a goat upon which all of the iniquity and transgressions of of the people was placed. It is written of Jesus,

Isa. 53:6 ...The LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

Isa. 53:12 ...And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

Once their iniquities and transgressions were symbolically put upon him, the goat was sent away into the wilderness, to a solitary land. It symbolically carried the sins of the people away from them. In other words, it was lost, never to be seen again. The same is true for what Jesus Christ did for our sin:

Ps. 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Jer. 31:34 ..."I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

Jesus is our scapegoat that carried away our sins, never to be brought back. So how does the centurion fit into all of this?I believe we see him typified in Leviticus 16:

Lev. 16:21 "Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send {it} away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who {stands} in readiness.

After the goat is sent away, we see that man appear again:

Lev. 16:26 "And the one who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water; then afterward he shall come into the camp.

I believe that this is a prophecy pointing to the fact that the centurion would, after watching the death of Jesus, be washed in the water of the Word, and come into the camp - becoming a Christian.

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