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Bible Commentaries
Mark 15

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Verse 1

See the principal events in this chapter explained in the notes at Matthew 27:0.

Verse 16

Called Praetorium - The hall of the “praetor,” or Roman governor, where he sat to administer justice.

Whole band - See the notes at Matthew 27:27.

Verse 17

With purple - Matthew says scarlet. See the notes at Matthew 27:28.

About his head - In the form of a garland or diadem. The whole head was not covered, but it was placed in a circle round the temples.

Verse 19

Worshipped him - Mocked him with the “appearance” of homage. The word “worship” here denotes only the respect and honor shown to princes and kings. It does not refer to any “religious” homage. They regarded him as foolishly and madly claiming to be a king - not as claiming to be divine.

Verse 23

Wine mingled ... - Matthew says “vinegar.” It was probably “wine soured,” so that it might be called either. This was the common drink of the Roman soldiers.

Myrrh - See the notes at Matthew 27:34.

Verse 25

And it was the third hour ... - In John 19:14 it is said, “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour, etc. Much difficulty has been felt in reconciling these passages, and infidels have usually adduced them to prove that the evangelists have contradicted themselves. In reconciling them the following remarks may perhaps make the matter clear:

(1) The Jews divided both the night and the day into four equal parts of three hours each. See the notes at Matthew 14:25. The first division of the day commenced at six o’clock in the morning, and ended at nine; the second commenced at nine and ended at twelve, etc. “The third” hour mentioned by Mark would therefore correspond with our nine o’clock; the “sixth” hour mentioned by John would correspond with our twelve, or noon.

(2) Mark professes to give the time accurately; John does not. He says “it was about the sixth hour,” without affirming that this was exactly the time.

(3) A mistake in “numbers” is easily made; and if it should he admitted that such an error had crept into the text here, it would be nothing more than has occurred in many ancient writings. It has been proved, moreover, that it was common not to write the “words” indicating numbers at “length,” but to use “letters.” The Greeks designated numbers by the letters of the alphabet, and this mode of computation is found in ancient manuscripts. For example, the Cambridge manuscript of the New Testament has in this very place in Mark, not the word “third” written at length, but the Greek letter gamma (γ), the usual notation for third. Now it is well known that it would be easy to mistake this for the Greek letter sigma (ς), the mark denoting “six.” An error of this kind in an early manuscript might be extensively propagated, and might have led to the present reading of the text. Such an error is actually known to exist in the “Chronicon” of Paschal, where Otho is said to have reigned ς, (six) months, whereas it is known that he reigned but three, and in this place, therefore, the γ, three, was mistaken for ς, six.

(4) There is some external authority for reading “third” in John 19:14. The Cambridge manuscript has this reading. Nonnus, who lived in the fifth century, says that this was the true reading (Wetstein). Peter of Alexandria, in a fragment concerning the Passover, as quoted by Usher, says, “It was the preparation of the Passover, and about the “third” hour, as,” he adds, “the most accurate copies of the Bible have it; and this was the handwriting of the evangelist (John), which is kept, by the grace of God, in his most holy church at Ephesus” (Mill). It is to be admitted, however, that no great reliance is to be placed on this account. That a mistake “might” have occurred in the early manuscripts is not improbable. No man can “prove” that it did “not” so occur, and so long as this cannot be proved, the passages should not be adduced as conclusive proof of contradiction.

After all, perhaps, without the supposition that there is any error in the text, the whole difficulty may be removed by the following statements:

(1) Calvary was “without” the walls of Jerusalem. It was a considerable distance from the place where Jesus was tried and condemned. Some time, more or less, would be occupied in going there, and in the preparatory measures for crucifying him.

(2) It is not necessary to understand “Mark” as saying that it was precisely nine o’clock, according to our expression. With the Jews it was six until seven; it was the third hour until the fourth commenced; it was the ninth until it was the tenth. They “included” in the “third” hour the whole time from the third to the fourth. The same mode they adopted in regard to their days. See the notes at Matthew 12:40.

(3) It is not unduly pressing the matter to suppose that Mark spoke of the time when the process for crucifixion commenced - that is, when he was condemned - when they entered upon it - when they made the preparation. Between that and the time when he was taken “out” of Jerusalem to Mount Calvary, and when he was actually nailed to the tree, there is no improbability in supposing that there might have been an interval of more than an hour. Indeed, the presumption is that considerably more time than that would elapse.

(4) John does not profess, as has been remarked, to be strictly accurate. He says “it was about the sixth hour,” etc.

(5) Now suppose that John meant to indicate the time when he was “actually” suspended on the cross - that he spoke of the “crucifixion” denoting the “act of suspension,” as it struck “him” - and there is no difficulty. Any other two men - any witnesses - might give just such an account now. One man would speak of the time when the process for an execution commenced; another, perhaps, of the very “act” of the execution and would “both” speak of it in general terms, and say that a man was executed at such a time; and the circumstantial variation would “prove” that there was no collusion, no agreement to “impose” on a court - that they were honest witnesses. That is “proved” here.

(6) That this is the true account of the matter is clear from the evangelists themselves, and “especially from Mark.” The three first evangelists concur in stating that there was a remarkable “darkness” over the whole land from the “sixth” to the “ninth” hour, Matthew 27:45; “Mark 15:33;” Luke 23:44. This fact - in which Mark concurs - would seem to indicate that “the actual crucifixion” continued only during that time - that he was, in fact, suspended at about the sixth hour, though the preparations for crucifying him had been going on (Mark) for two hours before. The fact that Mark Mark 15:33 mentions this darkness as commencing at the “sixth” and not at the “third” hour, is one of the circumstances undesignedly occurring that seems to signify that the crucifixion then had “actually” taken place, though the various arrangements for it Mark 15:25 had been going on from the “third” hour.

One thing is conclusively proved by this - that the evangelists did not “conspire together” to impose on the world. They are independent witnesses, and they were honest men; and the circumstance adverted to here is one that is allowed to be of great value in testimony in courts of justice - “circumstantial variation with essential agreement.”

Verse 26

The superscription - The writing over his head upon the cross.

The King of the Jews - See the notes at Matthew 27:37.

Verse 28

And the scripture was fulfilled ... - This passage of Scripture is found in Isaiah 53:12. This does not mean that he “was” a transgressor, but simply that in dying he “had a place” with transgressors. Nor does it mean that God regarded him as a sinner; but that at his death, in popular estimation. or by the sentence of the judge, he was “regarded as” a transgressor, and was treated in the same manner as the others who were put to death for their transgressions. Jesus died, the “just” for the “unjust,” and in his death, as well as in his life, he was “holy, harmless, undefiled.”

Verse 42

The even - The time after three o’clock in the afternoon.

The Preparation ... - The following day was to be a day of special solemnity, called the “great day” of the feast. More than ordinary preparation was therefore made for “that” Sabbath on the day before. Hence, the day was known as a day of preparation. This consisted in the preparation of food, etc., to be used on the Sabbath.

Verse 43

Joseph, an honorable counselor - A distinguished man, who probably held a high office among the Jews, as one of their great council, or a Jewish senator. The word “honorable,” here, is not a mere title of “office,” but is given in reference to his personal character, as being a man of integrity and blameless life.

Waited for the kingdom of God - Waited for, or expected, the coming of the Messiah. But this expression means more than an “indefinite” expectation that the Messiah “would” come, for all the Jews expected that. It implies that he believed “Jesus” to be the Messiah, and that he had “waited” for Him to build up the kingdom of God; and this agrees with what John says John 19:38, that he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews. He had retained his “secret” belief, in the hope that Jesus would be proclaimed and treated as the Messiah, and then he probably proposed openly to acknowledge his attachment to him. But God called him to a public profession of attachment in a different manner, and gave this distinguished man grace to evince it. So men often delay a profession of attachment to Christ. They cherish a secret love, they indulge a hope in the mercy of God, but they conceal it for fear of man; whereas God requires that the attachment should be made known. “Whosoever is ashamed of me,” said the Saviour, “and of my words, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his Father and with the holy angels,” Mark 8:38. Those who love the Saviour have no right to hide their light under a bushel. As soon as they have evidence satisfactory to their own mind that they are Christians, or have a “prevalent” belief, after faithful examination, that they truly love God, and that they depend on the Lord Jesus for salvation, so soon are they bound to profess Christ before men. This is the command of God, and this is the way of peace. None have the prospect of “comfort” in religion who do not have respect to all of the commandments of God.

Went in boldly unto Pilate - God had raised up this distinguished counselor and secret disciple for a special and most important occasion. The disciples of Jesus had fled, and if they had not, they had no influence with Pilate. Unless there had been a special application to Pilate in behalf of Jesus, his body would have been buried “that night” in the same grave with the malefactors, for it was a law of the Jews that the body of an executed man should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath. At this critical juncture God called forward this secret disciple - this friend of Jesus, though unknown as such to the world - and gave him confidence. He dared to express sympathy for the Saviour; he went in boldly and begged the body of Jesus. It needed no small measure of courage to do this. Jesus had just been condemned, mocked, spit on, crucified - the death of a slave or of the most guilty wretch. To avow attachment for him now was proof of sincere affection; and the Holy Spirit has thought this worthy of special notice, and has set down this bold attachment of a senator for Jesus for our imitation.

Craved the body - Begged, or asked.

Verse 44

And Pilate marveled if - Wondered if he was dead, or wondered that he was so soon dead. It was not common for persons crucified to expire under two or three days, sometimes not until the sixth or seventh. Joseph had asked for the “body,” implying that he was dead. That he was, had been ascertained by the soldiers. See John 19:33.

Verse 45

When he knew it of the centurion - Being informed by the centurion of the fact that he was dead. The centurion had charge of the soldiers who watched him, and could therefore give correct information.

Verse 47

Beheld where he was laid - The affection of these pious females never forsook them, in all the trials and sufferings of their Lord. With true love they followed him to the cross; they came as near to him as they were permitted to come in his last moments; they followed him when taken down and laid in the tomb. The strong, the mighty, the youthful, had fled; but female love never forsook him, even in his deepest humiliation. This is the nature of true love; it is strongest in such scenes. While “professed” attachment will abound in prosperity and live most in sunshine, it is only genuine love that will go into the dark shades of adversity and flourish there. In scenes of poverty, want, affliction, and death, it shows its genuineness. That which lives there is genuine. That which turns away from such scenes is spurious.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Mark 15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/mark-15.html. 1870.
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