Mark 15: 1 – 15 Jesus before Pilate

Mark 15: 1 – 15 Jesus before Pilate

Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate.

‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

‘Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate, knowing that it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to get Pilate to release Barabbas instead.

‘What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them.

‘Crucify him!’ they shouted.

‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

*       *       *

Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans.

This sentence makes it completely clear that Jesus’ death was planned by the leaders of the Jews.

So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

Jesus bound – and helpless? Let’s look at Matthew’s gospel. During the arrest of Jesus, one of his disciples drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the group taking Jesus captive. Jesus said to him, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26: 53 – 54) Jesus was deliberately not seeking to avoid his suffering and death; he was consciously accepting it in obedience to the Father’s will.

‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate.

‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied.

What sort of reply is this? In human terms, Pilate had total power over Jesus. He could set him free, or have him crucified. It hardly mattered to Pilate which he did; he had the authority. You might have expected Jesus to have spoken more diplomatically.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Pilate surely expected Jesus to try to rebut the charges; instead, Jesus remains silent. Wouldn’t someone in Jesus’ position try almost any means to avoid being crucified? Pilate’s amazement emphasizes the enormity of Jesus’ choice.

Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

‘Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate, knowing that it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to get Pilate to release Barabbas instead.

Pilate had been amazed by Jesus’ behaviour and manner. I don’t think he had any particular qualms about an unjust execution, but it would seem he preferred Jesus to the chief priests. He tried to use the custom of releasing an imprisoned man at the festival to foil the Jewish leaders’ plans.

‘What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them.

‘Crucify him!’ they shouted.

‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’

The crowd called for Jesus’ death. Had any of them spread palm branches before him a scant week earlier? Were they disappointed at Jesus’ failure to lead an armed insurrection against the Romans?

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The secular power joined with the religious authorities and passed judgment on God’s Son.

That is what human power does when confronted by those who challenge its legitimacy. Jesus committed no sin; he took no violent actions; he did not make personal attacks on those who tried to prevent him from doing the Father’s will. Rather, he healed the sick and preached the good news of the kingdom of God to all who would listen. And yet God the Father allowed him to be tortured, disgraced and killed.

This slams us right into the mystery of suffering.

Why did God allow Jesus to suffer like this?

Why did he create a world in which suffering is unavoidable?

I can only answer these questions by pointing to the book of Job. This basically says that God permits suffering for his own purposes, and our human perspective is too limited to understand the reasons for it.

However, today’s passage from Mark’s gospel assures us of one thing; whatever we suffer as individual humans, Jesus has suffered too. Betrayal, abandonment, interrogation, false conviction, torture and death; he’s been there, and he knows from the inside what it’s like. He surrendered willingly to all this so that God’s will would be done.

This was the culmination of his human ministry. He had healed, taught, raised the dead, lived an exemplary life, and showed us what God’s love meant. His death on the cross is all of a piece with the rest of his life. It is the supreme statement that God loves us.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the love that you showed by submitting to God’s will.

*       *       *

Prayer

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who enables Jesus to live in my heart.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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