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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Mark 15

Verses 1-47

For explanation of this chapter, we refer generally to the notes on Matthew 27:0.

Verse 6

6. He released unto them one prisoner John says it was a custom. No traces of this custom appear in history, classical or Jewish. It may have been first adopted as a custom by Pilate himself, to ingratiate himself with the people. But the custom had become so fixed that, though not established by law, it is styled by Luke a necessity.

Verse 7

7. Barabbas Styled by Matthew a robber, who was guilty of sedition and slaughter. In many ancient copies he is called Jesus also; and Pilate’s question reads, “Whom will ye that I deliver unto you, Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?” The reading, though adopted by some scholars, is not well sustained.

Verse 13

13. Crucify him The cross, as we have remarked in Matthew, was in the form of a †, corresponding to the human form with the arms spread. It was early adopted by the Romans and other nations as a means of inflicting torture and death upon the human body. It was among the striking occurrences of this great transaction, that this mode of death extended him upon a representation of a human form, and presents him to our view with his outspread arms as if to embrace the human race.

Verse 16

16. Pretorium The word Pretorium is derived from the Latin word Pretor, signifying leader, a word applied to very different officers civil, judicial, and military in different periods of Roman history. The Pretorium signified the place of the Pretor, and in military service it was the general’s tent. But in this present passage it seems to refer to the court, or part of the tower of Antonia, where the Procurator’s guard were stationed.

Verse 21

21. Simon a Cyrenian Cyrene was a distinguished city in northern Africa, in which, though consisting mostly of Greeks, a Jewish colony was located. Having much intercourse with Jerusalem, they maintained a regular synagogue at that city. Simon appears at this time to have been a resident, at any rate temporarily, either of Jerusalem or its adjacent country, inasmuch as it is from the country he is coming when he is so sadly met by the procession of our Lord’s executioners. Very probably he was known to be a favourer of Jesus, and for that reason was pressed into this cruel service. This probability is corroborated by the facts which we learn from the Acts of the Apostles, that a number of the early converts to Christianity were members of the Cyrenian synagogue. (Compare Acts 2:10; Acts 6:9; Acts 11:19-20.) Mark says that he was father of Alexander and Rufus, names which appear to be favourably familiar to his Christian readers. Impressive to their hearts must have been the thought that their own father had borne the Saviour’s cross. If the tradition be true, that Mark wrote his Gospel at Rome, it is highly probable that the Rufus mentioned in Romans 16:13 was one of the sons here named. Bear his cross Probably the Saviour had fainted under the burden of the cross, and Simon was made to bear it entirely in his room or to share a part of its weight. Indeed, when we consider how large and heavy the beam of a cross must be to support at a height the body of a man, it seems impossible that the entire cross could have here been borne. Some have thought, with apparent truth, that it was but the cross-beam that was carried through the streets, as the indication and the token of shame.

Verse 43

43. Joseph of Arimathea… craved the body of Jesus The cruelty of Roman law allowed the malefactor to hang until putrefaction had dissolved his body, or the beasts and birds had torn it in pieces. But the humaner law of Moses directed that the malefactor hanged on a tree should be taken down before nightfall. Roman policy usually yielded to such peculiarities in their conquered provinces. Accordingly the crucified bodies are taken down, and the process of death is hastened, or at least the impossibility of escape ensured, in the case of the thieves, by breaking their legs. But the special divine provision in order to secure the fulfilment of the prophetic type of the paschal victim, of which not a bone was to be broken, the earlier death of Jesus, prevented the execution of the same violence upon his body. When thus taken down and found fully deceased, the moment arrived when it should be rescued from desecration by the interposition of Joseph. Otherwise he would have been consigned forthwith to the shameful burial of ordinary malefactors.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Mark 15". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.