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Delivered to Pilate
The trial, verdict, and abuse of the Accused took place in the night. When the night is over and the first daylight begins to show, and the interrogators have mocked the Lord Jesus enough, the prosecutors and judges deliberate. They themselves do not have the right of execution. They must go with Him to Pilate for the official trial. They need Pilate’s permission to kill him. His death will then take place in a Roman manner, that is, by crucifixion.
For transport to Pilate, they bind the Lord Jesus. What foolishness to think they can bind the Almighty God. But the Almighty God allows Himself to be bound in Christ. What a foolishness to bind Him Who has spread so much blessing, saying, ‘You may not bless again.’ With this, man establishes his own judgement. He who gave Samson the strength to get rid of his ropes (Judges 16:12), willingly allows himself to be bound, led away and delivered to Pilate.
When He stands before Pilate, Pilate interrogates Him. The high priest had asked Him if He was the Christ. That question was important to him as a religious leader. The high priests know they can’t come to Pilate with that. That’s why they accuse him before Pilate of proclaiming himself King and thus a threat to the emperor. This is clear from Pilate’s question.
For him as ruler the question is important whether Jesus is “the King of the Jews”. He asks that question. Like the high priest, the Lord also answers this question because it is a question about His Person. He answers only when it concerns the truth; He does not answer when it concerns the injustice done to Him. His answer is not ‘it is me’, but a more vague “[It is as] you say” by which He binds His answer to Pilate’s conscience. Mark does not describe the statements of the Jews before Pilate. He focuses his gaze entirely on the devoted Servant Who performs His service with complete dedication.
The chief priests do their utmost to shovel as much dirt on Him as possible, so that Pilate must condemn Him. How deeply man has sunk when he tries to gather as much incriminating material as possible against Him Who God has revealed in the flesh and Who has come to save people from eternal judgment. They allow themselves to be led by nothing but hatred.
Pilate is a totally indifferent man who thinks only of himself and his position. He also knows the reasons for the Jews to have Christ condemned, while he also knows and has even pronounced that Christ is innocent. Yet he has finally condemned Him.
He sees a Prisoner in front of him like he has never had before. Here stands a Man before him Who does not respond to any accusation and does not do anything to defend Himself. He knows the savage scenes and insults between prosecutors and defendants that have taken place before him. This Prisoner is a great exception. The Jews want to present Him as a riot-maker, while He is the perfect Quiet One.
“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Pilate marvels at this attitude. Such surrender is totally incomprehensible to the unbeliever and unfortunately for many believers as well. For believers, the Lord Jesus is an example that they should follow (1 Peter 2:21-Isaiah :).
Jesus or Barabbas
Pilate seeks a compromise. He wants to please the Jews and yet not condemn an innocent one. By seeking this compromise, he proves his injustice and condemns himself, for he should have released the Innocent without bargaining.
Pilate does, in his opinion, have an acceptable candidate to place next to Jesus. It is Barabbas. Mark describes this man in more detail than the other evangelists. Barabbas means ‘son of the father’. So is the Lord Jesus. But what a world of difference. Barabbas has the devil as his father. This has been proven by his actions.
He is an insurrectionist, like his ‘father’, and a murderer, like that same ‘father’ from the beginning (John 8:44). At the same time, he is a representative of the people who also rebel against God and are about to kill the Son of God in that insurrection. By placing Barabbas next to Jesus, Pilate lets the people choose between a murderer, someone who takes the life of another, and Someone Who will give His own life and give life to others.
The crowd insists that he will do to them, as he used to do. That gave amusement and discussion. They’ re ready for this game now, too. In this Gospel, the initiative for this comes from the Jews.
Pilate tries to influence the choice of the people by proposing to them to release Christ Whom he calls “the King of the Jews”. God controls things so that the Jews must choose between the murderer and the one who gives life, between the riot maker and the perfect servant of God. Today the choice is between the same people and every day the same choice is made massively for Barabbas.
Pilate is aware of the envy of the chief priests of the Lord Jesus. He knows that they hate Him because He does not submit to their authority and because He has great influence on the people. Envy is one of the worst and most common sins among believers. It is the origin of all sins. It is the first sin in creation, both among the angels – the devil – and among men – Adam and Eve.
The chief priests do their pernicious work and stir up the crowds to ask for the release of Barabbas. In this Gospel it is especially the priests in whom hatred and enmity against Christ are found. We see how fickle the popular favor is when there is no faith in Christ. Masses of people took advantage of Him when He was among them while blessing them. Now that it seems His blessing role has been played out and they can no longer benefit from Him, they are open to the suggestions of the chief priests. So they call for the release of Barabbas. They choose death instead of life. That is the state of man.
Pilate tries again and now with another question. If they choose Barabbas, what do they want him to do to their King? With all his diplomacy, Pilate is working more and more to help the enemies of the Lord. He thinks he’s clever, but he’s just an instrument of satan. He seeks only his own interests, while trying to keep all parties happy. He is a weak and corrupt man, someone who loves the people’s favor more than the law. A judge who asks the people what should happen to a prisoner for fear of rebellion and, as a result, quarrels with his superiors, is a corrupt and characterless judge.
With his question Pilate puts the decision in the hands of the crowd. In doing so, he loses his grip on the people and on the exercise of justice. With his question he puts the demand in their mouths to crucify him. That is what they want and nothing else!
Pilate makes one last attempt to bring the people to reason. He asks them what evil He would have done. He wants a reason to condemn Him. But the crowd is frantic. They want to see blood, His blood. Every attempt to release Jesus is answered with an even more determined cry for His death.
Man’s anger and depravity are revealed in all their terrible facets in what is happening here. In expressions of hatred and corruption, the Lord Jesus is spared nothing. This whole spectacle is about Him. The behavior of each person involved is determined by Who He is. He sheds light on every person (John 1:9).
Then Pilate gives in to the will of the people and releases Barabbas for them. The man convicted of murder is allowed to go free. Thus even at this event - the trial against Him - the Lord delivers another at the expense of Himself. Never has He saved Himself, always delivered, blessed, and saved others at the expense of Himself.
All of Pilate’s expressions and every act testify to the inertia of this man who is the representative of the authority of Rome. Here he is concerned only with and for himself and does not concern himself with truth and justice according to God’s standards. Pilate hands over the Lord because it suits him best. He even scourges Him. Even if it is literally done by soldiers, he is responsible, because he gives the order.
Pilate gives his soldiers a free hand to do whatever they please with the Lord. This helps to take their minds off things. The whole cohort is summoned, all are gathered to have fun with Him.
They mock Him by dressing Him up as a king. They also crown Him, but with a crown of thorns. They make them with their own hands. Without them realizing it, placing this crown of thorns on His head suggests that He is the cause of the curse that came into and over creation through sin. After the Fall, the earth produced thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18).
What a wonderful game! The soldiers are having a great time. And the Lord Jesus allows it, as does His God. The soldiers immerse themselves in their game and mockingly greet Him as “the King of the Jews”. What a shock it will be for them to stand before this King when He sits on His throne.
He has endured every torment that could be inflicted on Him. After the scourging, which He has felt intensely and in which His back has become a bloody mass (Ps. 129:3), they beat the thorns of the crown deep into His head with a reed. The reed with which they beat is not a reed, but a real stick. Again He is spit on, the sign of the deepest contempt. They kneel down in so-called tribute to Him. Every defamation that He could feel has been done to Him. For Him, no contempt is too crude. Yet there comes no sighing at God or any word of curse upon them over His lips. He endures everything in His soul with His God. This is the way He must go, and which He goes without complaining.
When they are calmed down, they take off His mocking garment and put His own clothes back on. Then they lead Him out to crucify Him. Now comes the way to the cross, the way the Lord leads for all who want to follow Him. He has spoken about this to His disciples. The world has nothing else for us either if we want to follow the Lord. Every day He asks us to take up the cross voluntarily and to follow Him in His rejection (Luke 9:23).
The Lord Jesus is so weakened by all the abuses that bearing the cross is a tremendous burden to Him. He who bears the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3) is so truly Man that His powers are exhausted because of the suffering that has been endured. Yet He does not attribute this suffering to those who do this to Him, but to His God (Ps 102:24).
The soldiers think that He may succumb to the burden before they have crucified Him. That is why they press into service a passer-by - for them coincidental - to bear His cross in His stead. It is symbolic that Simon was “coming from the country”. His task was done, he was finished. By taking up the cross of the Lord Jesus he is made one with the contempt that is the part of the Lord. Of Simon it is mentioned that he is the father of Alexander and Rufus. Rufus is later called by Paul “a choice man in the Lord” (Romans 16:13). God blesses what the father does in his children.
The soldiers take their Prisoner to the place of execution. Golgotha is a hill just outside Jerusalem, outside the camp (Hebrews 13:13). Because of the shape of the hill that looks like a skull from a distance, this place is probably called so. It is also a symbolic name for the many executed.
The crucifixion is the most gruesome martyrdom imaginable. To this end, convicts were given a mixture of wine and myrrh to drink that had the effect of anesthetizing them. That remedy is also given to the Lord, but He refuses to take it (Psalms 69:21). He wants to undergo the suffering in full awareness.
Then the Lord is crucified. Mark and the other evangelists describe this act in austere terms. However, the suffering is terrible. The Lord is nailed to the cross, nails go through His hands that have always done only good. After they had bound His hands, they are now dug through. In this way man ‘appreciates’ Him Who has revealed God to them in grace and blessing.
His clothes, which speak of His whole revelation among them, is the only thing that can be divided. He has no other possessions. He leaves no fortune. Only His clothes are worth anything. They cast lots for them to decide what each man should take. Who would later walk in a garment in which the Lord Jesus has walked?
The time of the crucifixion is clearly indicated. The Lord hung on the cross for six hours. All six hours He was the burnt offering, i.e. an offering completely dedicated to God and in which God is completely pleased (Leviticus 1:1-Esther :). There are two time periods of three hours each. The first three-hour period is from the third hour to the sixth hour, according to our timekeeping from 9 a.m. to noon in the morning. In those three hours He was the burnt offering, but not yet the sin and guilt offering.
Mark also mentions the inscription above the cross. That inscription indicates the accusation and the reason for His death on the cross. He hangs there because He said He is the King of the Jews. To increase His defamation and make His humiliation complete He is placed in the middle of two robbers, as if He were the greatest robber. According to the Scriptures, He is numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). In the same way they had come to take Him prisoner. As if against a robber, they had come out against Him (Mark 14:48).
Mocked on the Cross
The passers-by blaspheme the Lord, while at the same time telling the truth. When people are passers-by and do not pause at the cross to understand its reality, they become slanderers (Lamentations 1:12). They slander Him because out of themselves – and not instigated now by the chief priests – they call the Lord a liar. For them, the statements He has made are untrue. By quoting those statements, they unconsciously make His glory and perfection known. At the same time, they help to make that statement come true. They are demolishing the temple of His body, which He will rebuild after a few days.
The challenge of saving Himself and coming down from the cross proves their blindness to God’s plan. If Christ had saved Himself, there would have been no salvation for anyone. If He had come down from the cross, every man would have to bear God’s judgment himself. The power of His love for His God and also for the church and for each individual believer kept Him on the cross.
The mockery of the chief priests among themselves with the scribes is unintentionally also a contribution to His glory. They speak a deep truth. Never did He save Himself, always thinking only of others. He has indeed redeemed others, and He could not save Himself because bonds of love kept Him on the cross.
They have seen so much of the Lord Jesus and persist in their unbelief despite that. Their unbelief has proved so persistent that even if He were to come down from the cross, they would not believe. To believe requires a humble and broken spirit.
Even those who have been crucified with him, insult Him. The humiliation of the Lord and man’s hatred are so great that man finds time even in his own agony to make the suffering of the Son of God even greater. And why is that? He hadn’t hurt them, had he? Man’s hatred of Him becomes manifest in all its facets. Everything is against Him. But the worst is yet to come.
The Death of the Lord Jesus
Then the sixth hour comes. It is the middle of the day. When the sun is at its highest point in the heavens, all of a sudden total darkness comes over the whole land. So far, all the Lord’s sufferings have been perceived by everyone. The suffering for sin that now follows takes place in darkness, without a human eye being able to perceive it. This darkness lasts for three hours.
In these three hours of darkness, the Son of God is burdened with the sins of all who believe in Him, and He is made sin by God and God judges Him. He does not spare Him. The judgment that God executes on His own beloved Son is withdrawn from human eyes. The reckoning takes place between God and His Son alone. In these hours, the Lord Jesus is not only the burnt offering but also the sin and trespass offering (Leviticus 4-5).
When the three hours of darkness are over, we hear the Lord’s complaint that His God has forsaken Him. This is His greatest suffering. In those hours God, Who was always with Him, is against Him. The sword of God’s righteousness is awakened against the Man Who has always been His Associate (Zechariah 13:7).
During the first three hours, the Lord suffered from the side of man. In the second three hours He suffered from the side of God. The result of the first three hours is that man increased his guilt toward God and brought it to a climax. God’s response to this is His judgment of man. The result of the second three hours is the atonement that God can offer to even the greatest slanderer.
The Lord’s complaint is the question to God – Whom He calls “My God” – why He has forsaken Him. He knew, but He expressed this complaint so that we might understand how great His suffering was because of being forsaken by God. He had gone through everything with His God, while all had left Him, but now He had also been left alone by God.
This loneliness is the loneliness that every man will know forever who dies in unbelief, but without that question of why. Every person who is in hell will know why. At the same time, his loneliness will be experienced by him in a completely different way. He, Whose deepest joy it was to be in God’s presence and always has been, has uniquely experienced the lack. No unbeliever who will be lost will ever experience it that way. He is the One and Only in this.
When the three hours of darkness have passed, the mockery continues. The explanation of His words as if He were calling for Elijah is proof of this. It may also be that someone makes this remark that does not understand the language and hears Elijah, while the Lord says Eloi
The Lord is thirsty. Someone gives Him a drink so that He may live a little longer and His call for Elijah may be heard. Thus man mocks Him. But His life and His death are not in the hands of men. He dies at the time God has determined. Fully in accordance with this, at that moment the Lord voluntarily commits His spirit into the hands of the Father.
He does not die of exhaustion, but lays down His life Himself (John 10:17-Job :). What else does He have to do in a world in which He lived only to fulfill the will of God? Everything is finished, and He must necessarily die because He has been rejected by the world. As a result, there is no more room in this world for His mercy toward it.
He breathes His last, obedient to the end, to begin a life in another world – either for His soul separated from the body, or in glory – where evil can never enter and where the new man will be perfectly happy in the presence of God.
The Veil Tears
Now that death is nullified, and the only just foundation is laid for life and salvation, the Jewish system is condemned with it. The verdict is carried out on that which was its characteristic and central feature: the veil. This veil indicated that God was inside and man was outside.
The great miracle is that through the death of Christ, at the same time God comes out to man, man can approach God. The direct result of His death is free access to God. It is an act of God: He tears the veil down from top to bottom. The access to God is free. Man can enter into the presence of God through the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:19).
The Centurion and the Women
His people rejected Him and gladly observed His death. There is also a Roman centurion who has observed His death, but who thereby comes to the confession that He was the Son of God. This pagan confesses as truth what the chief priests took as a reason for His condemnation and death (Mark 14:61-3 John :).
Of the disciples, no one is to be found near the cross, but there are women. These women show greater dedication and follow the Lord Jesus further than the disciples who fled. Certainly, they are at a great distance from Him, but they have not lost sight of Him. Death did not separate the hearts of these weak women from the Lord because they loved Him.
Women are found in great numbers in the company of the Lord Jesus. They show a greater sympathy than men. They are also generally more likely to repent than men because they have a greater sense of the misery and sorrow that sin has brought into the world. As a result, in their weakness they seek help and support from the true Boaz (Ruth 2:1). Boaz means “in Him is strength”. Men are less sensitive to misery and sorrow and therefore less inclined to seek help from Another.
This day is coming to an end, a day which will be eternally remembered because a work has been done on it, the consequences of which will be seen for all eternity. It is also a special day for the Jews because it is the day before the Sabbath on which, in this case, the preparation for the Passover also takes place. For faith, the great preparation for the true Passover has been accomplished, for the Lamb of the Passover has died (1 Corinthians 5:7). Unbelief continues to follow religious customs that God abhors.
The death of the Lord Jesus is the reason for a hidden disciple to come forward. Joseph takes the courage to go to Pilate to ask “for the body of Jesus”. He is a prominent member of the Council with whom Pilate may have consulted more often on administrative matters. The humble Servant is served in His death by a prominent member of the Council. Inwardly Joseph was a disciple of the Lord and looked forward to His reign. Now he openly identifies himself with a rejected and deceased King.
Pilate wonders that the Lord has already died. Normally the crucifixion is a slow death where sometimes death only occurs after days of the most terrible suffering. With the Lord Jesus it only took a few hours. He had nothing more to do. There was therefore no point in living any longer. He was the only One Who could lay down His life at the moment that had come.
Pilate wants certainty about the death of this particular Condemned. If he has the centurion’s confirmation of Jesus’ death, he granted His body to Joseph. Joseph may have it. While no member of the Lord’s family comes forward to take care of Him when He has died, God has someone to take care of His Son.
The tabernacle of the Son of God that He has just left does not remain without this tribute that belongs to Him from the side of men. God takes care of it. Joseph wraps Him in a piece of linen. The Lord is buried in cloths. He was also wrapped in cloths when He was born (Luke 2:7). The clean linen suits the clean servant, as well as a clean grave, which has never been in touch with death.
Also in these acts the women are spectators. They remain with their Lord, being attached as they are to Him. Where He is, they want to be. This is the company present at His burial. The Lord died in the greatest poverty and loneliness. Now that He is buried, there is no crowd of people present.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Mark 15". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany