Review and Reflect on Mark 15:1-15

Jesus was condemned to death in a falsely held trial. Rather than worshipping him as the Divine King of the Jews, they condemned him for claiming this. The council that pronounced this judgment lacked the authority to carry out the death penalty officially, so they have to take Jesus to the Romans procurator for a his sentencing. In Mark 15:1-15, Jesus goes before the Roman Procurator or Governor, Pilate. Outside of the Bible, there are historical documents that tell us that Pontius Pilate was not the type of ruler who could be easily influenced or swayed. Jerusalem was not exactly a desirable post for a Roman Governor during this time period because uprisings and small rebellions were breaking out all the time. Pilate was known to have operated on a principal of crushing rebellions quickly rather than diplomacy. The trial of Jesus is seen to be a bit out of character for Pilate from what we know of him elsewhere. So, I think what we see is Pilate responding in this situation in such a way as to avoid another uprising. Pilate was not one to be swayed by the Jewish leaders or by a crowd. But, when he sees rebellion unfolding, he crucifies Jesus as a means of avoiding this rebellion by the crowd.

Pilate asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews and Jesus answers him, saying it is so. From there, verse 3 says the chief priests accused Jesus of many things. When Jesus doesn’t answer, Pilate is amazed that Jesus doesn’t respond to the accusations. Verses 6 and following describe a tradition that Pilate observed where he would release a prisoner during a time of Celebration. Another man named Barabbas was imprisoned for murder he committed during one of the many uprising of the Jews against the Romans. He thought for sure that this man was worse that Jesus, so he asks the crowd to consider whether he should release Jesus or Barabbas. Pilate knew that the chief priests really had no case against Jesus and just wanted him killed because he opposed them. So he tries to find a way out of the mess without making either the crowd or the leaders angry. Well, his plan backfires.

The religious leaders are able to sway the crowd that was there that day, and Barabbas, a murderer, is released. So Pilate, asks what to do with Jesus then, and they cry out, “Crucify him!” In verse 14, it is clear that Pilate sees no reason to do so, yet the crowd calls out, “Crucify him!” So, in verse 15, Pilate bows to the will of the crowd, presumable, to avoid creating the motivation for an uprising by the crowd. The crowd is influenced by the Jewish leaders and Pilate carries out this death sentence. We have seen in other places how Jesus is bringing together Jew and Non-Jew (or Gentile) into the Kingdom of God, and here in verse 1 we see again Jew and Gentile are brought together. This time, though, Jew and Gentile are brought together to show how they’ve rejected the Messiah. Soon, Jesus is going to die for the sins of the whole world, but first, he is rejected by the world, Jew and Gentile alike, and sentenced to his death.

At points in history, some have twisted scripture to show the Jews alone as responsible for Jesus’ death. But in this story, it is clear that all are responsible. The next part of the story illustrates this even more.

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