“The Injustice Suffered by the King of the Jews Gives Eternal Access to God”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Mark 15.1-41
Mark chapter 15. Last week, we began the trials of Jesus. Today, we will finish Jesus’ trials as well as the crucifixion. Our last week will be on the burial and resurrection of Jesus. So we have, after today, one more message in the book of Mark.
Like we said last week, Jesus must endure six total trials. The first trial of Jesus is before Annas, the former high priest, who, because of the Jewish and Roman political structure, still exerted much influence. This trial is recorded in John 18:13-23.
The second Jewish trial was before Caiaphas, the present ruling high priest. We saw this last week in Mark 14:53-65.
We also saw the third Jewish trial, which was merely a formality. Mark 15:1 tells us about this trial. To condemn someone to death required a trial during the day and so they did this to satisfy their Jewish law. Mark 15:1 says they had the trial early in the morning, which was likely at sunrise between 5 and 6 AM.
This was somewhat hypocritical because of all the illegal proceedings of the previous trials, which we looked at last week.
Now, beginning in Mark 15:2, we have the beginning of the three Roman trials. The first Roman trial is before Pilate and it runs through verse five. What is not recorded here is that when Pilate learned that Jesus is from Galilee, Pilate sends Jesus to that district for a second Roman trial. That trial is before Herod Antipas and is not recorded here. This is that Herod who beheaded John the Baptist. It’s recorded in Luke 23:8-12.
The third Roman trial begins in Mark 15:6, with Pilate again. Herod, after examining and mistreating Him, he releases Jesus back Pilate. This trial runs from verse six down to verse 15.
So, in Mark 15, the responsibility for prosecuting Jesus has shifted from the Jewish Council, or the Sanhedrin, to Pontius Pilate.
And afterwards, of course, Jesus will be crucified. In the accounts of the crucifixion, the gospel writers are very careful to exercise restraint. They do not depict the crucifixion as an act of savagery. And we can understand this. If you’re beloved Lord was cruelly killed,
you would not so much focus on that cruel death. However, you might focus on the cruel enemies. And this is exactly what we have in the Gospels.
What we have in the recounting of the crucifixion, is not a focus on the savagery of the crucifixion but more of focus on the mockery and injustice from the enemies. Let’s recall that injustice now. In verses 16-20, the soldiers cruelly mock our Lord. In verse 27, Jesus is actually crucified with thieves. At the scene of the cross, bystanders and the chief priests rail upon Jesus.
And you say as a reader of this gospel, “what is the point?” And Mark answers that question from verses 33 to 41, for we have Mark’s theology of the cross. The theology will be a focus of payment for sin and receiving eternal access.
So, I’d like to preach to you on “The Injustice Suffered by the King of the Jews Gives Eternal Access to God.”
The Injustice to the King of the Jews (15:1-32)
First, we have the injustice suffered by the King of the Jews in verses 1-15.
The injustice at the trial of Pilate (15:1-15)
Mark 15:1-15 1 Early in the morning …[about 5 or 6AM]… the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation […again, this is that last Jewish trial to satisfy their law …]; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate.
2 Pilate questioned Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” […literally there, “You are the King of the Jews?] And He *answered him, “It is as you say.”
So in the mouth of one of Jesus’ enemies is a testimony about Him. This was the same wording in Mark 14:61 …when the high priest asked …, “You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” So the high priest gave his testimony to the person of Jesus and now Pilate gives his testimony. This is all meant to be portrayed as ironic. You expect Peter and the disciples to be confessing at this most important our Lord’s life, but it is now the enemy confessing.
And this question by Pilate is not a mockery, but is in keeping with Roman law. The trial can now commence on the accusation. And so what is the issue? The issue here is, is Jesus a King? If He is the King, He is in competition with Caesar, the king of Rome. Rome is not friendly to competition for the throne!
Jesus’ answer is very interesting. “It is as you say” or literally, “You say” with the emphasis on the ‘you.’ Jesus seems not to directly affirm. “You say.” If it was a direct, Pilate could have executed him based on that alone. …Jesus is saying, “Consider your own question!…You are saying!”
Now verse 3 …
3 The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly. 4 Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!” 5 But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.
At this point, Pilate’s political instincts are telling him that Jesus is someone to watch out for, but not necessarily to be done away with. Pilate is not only dealing with Jesus, but also the Jews. Pilate has had many run-ins with the Jews up to this point. By the way, Pilate is the Roman governor over the land of Israel during this time. In fact, he ruled for quite some time, from 26-37 A.D.
Pilate doesn’t exactly have a good relationship with the Jews. History records how Pilate had set up idols in the land of Israel and how the Jews harassed him for this. Pilate responded to this harassment by threatening to slaughter them en masse, but the Jews would not back down.
On another occasion, Pilate actually took money out of the Temple treasury in order to use it for an aqueduct. The people rioted! And Pilate responded by massacring them.
Luke 13 describes how Pilate even killed the Jews while they were worshiping in their own Temple. Pilate is not exactly the most beloved figure in all of Judaism. The Jews know how to riot to get their way with him. Governors don’t exactly like riots!
And Pilate naturally has to answer to the higher-ups within the Roman Empire. He doesn’t want to get on their bad side with poor governing. So, Pilate finds out Jesus is from Galilee and sends Him to Herod. That sounds like an easy way out …
But then He comes back to Pilate, in verse 6…this is the 3rd and final Roman trial…
6 Now at the feast […this is the Passover feast, Pilate …] he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested.[… This no doubt would have scored political points with the Jews …]
So how can Pilate turn this situation with Jesus in his own favor? Pilate has a dilemma. If you condemn Jesus, it’s not righteous. Pilate believes Jesus is innocent. But, if you release Jesus, you’re not winning needed political points with the Jewish leaders. What does Pilate do to get out of the dilemma? Well, surely if given the choice, they will not release someone like described in verse seven, will they?
7 The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. 8 The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. […i.e., they were asking Pilate to release a prisoner.]
We really know nothing of that insurrection with Barabbas. There were plenty of insurrections in the empire. An insurrection is a violent uprising against the government. However, any violent uprising against the Roman government would have to be dealt with properly. And the Jews surely knew that. And so Pilate thought he could post the obvious question: Verse 9 …
9 Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”
That would seem to be the obvious choice, anyway: innocent Jesus or murderous Barabbas. Barabbas’ name literally means “Son of Abba.” “Bar” means “Son” and “Abbas” means a father … So Pilate is asking who do you want me to release to you, Jesus or Barabbas … the son of a father? The Son of God, or the son of a father?
ILL: What’s the point? It kind of makes you wonder if Barabbas is not an analogy of all of us. We are all children of a dad …a Barabbas if you will…and our sin is an expression of our divine political homicide…our insurrection against God’s divine government. Just like Barabbas is an insurrectionist to human government, so is every sinner an insurrectionists in the divine government. Every sinner is rebelling against His maker.
And instead of releasing the true King of the Jews, Barabbas is released. So, Jesus dies in the place of Barabbas, an insurrectionist. And Jesus dies in the place sinners like us.
But, verse 10, we are told why Pilate is attempting to release Barabbas. Pilate is well aware of the motivation behind the chief priests. Pilate asked the crowd if they wanted him to release to them Jesus, the king of the Jews.
Jesus being the King of the Jews is obviously in focus in Mark 15. That phrase occurs in verses 2, 9, 12, 14, and 18. And the reason is because Jesus’ role as a King is what the Romans don’t like. No competition to Caesar allowed! Verse 10 …
10 For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.
The chief priests were jealous of Jesus’ teachings, popularity, powerful miracles, and they didn’t want him to have those things and they wanted him dead. But Pilate was not finding anything wrong with Jesus.
So when Pilate had asked that question in verse 9 …verse 11…
11 … the chief priests [had…] stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”
Barabbas is the murderous insurrectionist but they are accusing Jesus of insurrection too, calling him the King of the Jews. But there is no king but Caesar! And so …verse 13 …
13 They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” 14 But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!”
Pilate knows Jesus is innocent … “what evil has He done?” Even though Pilate knows that Jesus is innocent, but… verse 15 …
15 Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
You see, Pilate was torn. “Should I satisfy the crowd or satisfy Rome and the righteous justice system.” Pilate knows what happened in past Jewish riots and wasn’t about to sacrifice peace again. Instead, he chooses to respect the crowd on the verge of riot.
So Pilate had Jesus scourged. That means in that time period, that Jesus was whipped with shreds of leather and at the end of those leather pieces was sharp bone or stones or iron pieces.
TRANS: So verses 1-15 it is Jesus experiencing the injustice from a the trial of Pilate. Jesus
is no insurrectionist. He hasn’t done anything wrong, and Pilate himself knows it. Yet, it’s Jesus who was handed over to be crucified. This is a grave injustice, but this injustice is not yet what takes away our sin. Next, is Jesus suffering injustice and mockery at the hands of the soldiers.
The injustice from the soldiers (15:16-21)
Mark 15:16-21 16 The soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium …. That’s the place where elite soldiers were held …), and they *called together the whole Roman cohort.” …that’s like, 600 soldiers.
These 600 soldiers mock Jesus in 6 different ways…
17 They *dressed Him up in purple (…a kingly colour…), and  after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; 18 and they  began to acclaim Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” […again, you can see Jesus as King of the Jews is at issue here…]
19 They  kept beating His head with a reed, and  spitting on Him, and  kneeling and bowing before Him. 20 After they had mocked Him […Mark calls all this a mockery…], they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they *led Him out to crucify Him.
Now, verse 21 most assume that, by this point, Jesus was weakened to the point that He was unable to carry his own cross. See, the condemned were required to bear the crossbar …the horizontal part….of the cross on their shoulders and walk with it up to the place of execution. And Jesus having been weakened from the beatings, is unable to bear His own cross.
Now, that is assumed. The text never states that for us. It could also be part of the mockery, I suppose. A King would have his own slaves, right … Verse 21 …
21 They *pressed into service […that’s a word for what you do to slaves] a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.
You could picture the soldiers mocking Jesus further by assigning him his own slave…
Now, Cyrene is in North Africa, and so Simon likely would have been of African descent. Mark even tells us his sons. The sons were Alexander and Rufus. Rufus was a member of the church in Rome, during in the mid-fifties when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. We know that because Paul actually writes about Rufus in Rom 16:13. Romans 16:13 Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord….
Thus those in Rome would have known Rufus, saying that the Romans were to greet him on behalf of Paul. And this personal warm note makes a lot of sense given that Mark is writing his gospel to these very Christians in the city of Rome. Simon in Mark 15:21 we could picture coming to Christ for salvation and leading his sons to Christ, too. Simon is one who took up his cross, literally!
TRANS: So we have the injustice at the trial of Pilate, the injustice of these Roman soldiers, and now the injustice at the crucifixion itself.
The injustice at the crucifixion (15:22-32)
Like the injustices from the soldiers, there are again, six points of injustice, apart from the cross itself. First, the roman soldiers who divide up Jesus garments.
Roman soldiers: The dividing up of garments (15:22-25)
Mark 15 22 Then they *brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. […now, we can’t be certain as to the exact location, but from archaeology, it’s likely the very site of Church of the Holy Sepulchre] 23 They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh [that would help deaden the pain of crucifixion]… ; but He did not take it. 24 And they *crucified Him, and *divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take.
This fulfilled Psalm 22:18. Psalms 22:18 They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots. And that psalm is a description of a righteous man suffering. This is, therefore, an injustice
25 It was the third hour when they crucified Him. That’s 9 o’clock in the morning. Second injustice, is the charge above Jesus’ head on the cross… verse 26…
Pilate: The inscription with the charge (15:26)
26 The inscription of the charge against Him read, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.” That too is the charge against Him. An unjust reason for executing Him, given it’s true!
The third injustice is that Jesus is crucified with robbers.
With robbers (15:27-28)
27 They *crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. 28 [And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with transgressors.”] Jesus the righteous one, crucified with common criminals. That is an injustice. But 4th, even those passing by are …verse 29 …
Injustice from passerbys (15:29-30)
29 Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads (…these are signs of scorn and disgust), and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” …5th, we’d expect the chief priests to continue their abuse of Jesus….verse 31 …
Chief priests/scribes (15:31-32)
31 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. 32 “Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!”
And… 6th …you would think that the thieves on the 2 crosses on either side of Him would be merciful but no … last part of verse 32 …
Even the ones crucified with Him (15:32b)
Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.
TRANS: What does this mean? Surely this is not the end! Surely there is hope in a dying Messiah!
The Eternal Access to God (15:33-41)
The injustices suffered by the King of the Jews is not in vain. The injustice suffered by the King of the Jews actually secures eternal access to God. The suffering of Jesus, Mark is going to teach us now, secures our eternal access to God.
Jesus’ Death Satisfies the Penalty of Sin: Eternal Separation (15:33-34)
In verses 33-34, Jesus death satisfies the penalty of our sin. Jesus death satisfies the penalty of sin. What is that penalty? It is eternal separation. Verse 33 …
Jesus suffers God’s wrath in the darkness (15:33)
Mark 15:33 When the sixth hour came [that’s noon], darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour [that’s 3pm].
For 3 hours in the middle of the day … what a mysterious darkness! A miraculous darkness! Now, the moon is full at this Passover and solar eclipses do not occur when the moon is full, so this is clearly a miraculous darkness.
And there is a theological reason behind the darkness. Darkness symbolizes God’s judgment in Scripture, especially in light of the day of the Lord. What is the Day of the Lord? The Day of the Lord is God’s intervention in history to judge the nations, discipline Israel, and establish the messianic kingdom. The cross is a means through which this will all happen.
Amos 8:9, “It will come about in that day [that’s the day of the Lord…], declares the Lord God, that I will make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight.” In the day of God’s judgment … ‘in that day’ … darkness falls. A clear sign of divine judgment. Zephaniah 1:14 and Joel 2:31 are other examples of darkness, the judgment of God, and the day of the Lord.
So, clearly then there is judgment at the cross as symbolized by the miraculous darkness. God is pouring out the fullness of His eternal punishment on the Son of God. Because Jesus, as the Son of God is eternal, infinite person, He is able to receive and extinguish God’s eternal and infinite wrath. An infinite and eternal being can pay for the sins of mankind in a moment, but for a finite human being to pay for God’s wrath against him, it would take an eternity to pay.
TRANS: So Jesus in verse 33 suffers the penalty of sin, which is God’s wrath. And now, in verse 34, Jesus will suffer the penalty of sin which is eternal separation from God.
Jesus suffers eternal separation from God (15:34)
At the cross, Jesus is suffering eternal separation from God.
Mark 15:34 At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” which is translated, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
Here, at this moment, Jesus is paying the penalty of our sin when God the Father forsakes God the Son on the cross. Jesus cries out “Why have you forsaken me?” What does He mean by this? We discussed this last week.
At this moment, God the Father forsakes Jesus, God the Son. Why does the Father forsake Jesus? Because at this moment right before Jesus’ death, Jesus has actually become sin and God the Father is pouring out His wrath upon Jesus. God the Father cannot look upon sin. And so Jesus is suffering the separation from God … the forsaking from God that we deserve.
2 Corinthians 5:21 teaches that Christ was not a sinner, but that God made Christ to be sin for us, so that we might [actually] become the righteousness of God in Him.
So, at the cross, Christ suffered the penalty of our separation from God the Father. God the Father forsook God the Son.
TRANS: So, Jesus paid the penalty of our sin on the cross. First, He suffered the eternal wrath of God for us. 2nd, He also suffered the penalty of our separation from God the father for ever. Now, a confused response to what has transpired …the darkness and Jesus crying out to God … Verse 35 …
Confused response (15:35-36)
Mark 15:35-36 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.” Why did they think that? That’s probably because the name Elijah and what Jesus said Eloi sounds very similar. In the original language that this was spoken in, in Aramaic actually, it’s only 1 letter off. It was written in Greek, originally spoken in Aramaic.
Now, Elijah of course worked miracles and, along with Elisha, was the most recent miracle worker before Jesus’ time. Verse 36 …
36 Someone [… Who was hoping to see a miracle….] ran and filled a sponge with sour wine […used as sort of a stimulant used by soldiers for strength…], put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.”
TRANS: So, Jesus’ Death Satisfies the Penalty of Sin: God’s wrath and eternal separation from God.
Jesus’ Death Secures the Reward of Salvation: Eternal Access (15:37-39)
But Jesus’ death also secures the reward of our salvation. Jesus’ death satisfies the penalty of sin and it also secures the reward of salvation. The reward of salvation is eternal access to God… Eternal access to God.
Mark 15:37 … And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.
This is odd in crucifixion, that someone could utter a loud cry and then die. Those who die by crucifixion die by suffocating. If you suffocate and die, you cannot utter a loud cry. That’s impossible Therefore clearly, Jesus is giving up His spirit, no man has taken it from Him. This is what the centurion observes in verse 39…
39 When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw […what? saw …] the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” The centurion is observing the miraculous darkness and he observes yet another crucifixion. And who knows how many times he has seen a crucifixion, and the centurion knows this one is clearly unique. And this centurion confesses … not just that Jesus is the King of the Jews, but that the centurion confesses Jesus as the Son of God. And here is another confession of the person of Jesus in the mouth of an enemy.
But backing up of verse, in verse 38 … As the centurion was confessing Jesus as the Son of
God,…verse 38 …38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
To get the teaching from verse 38, let’s quickly turn over to Hebrews 10:19. Starting in Hebrews 10:19, the writer to the Hebrews has reached a major turning point in his letter and he draws his major point.
In this passage, the writer to the Hebrews argues that Jesus inaugurated a new and living way to God through His flesh or through His death on the cross. And the writer to the Hebrews will compare … And here’s the point… We have a comparison between Jesus’ death on the cross and the veil of the Temple.
Hebrews 10:19-22 19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
You can see from verse 20, that Jesus has inaugurated …He has started … a new and living way to God. We actually can, verse 19 enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus. And we can have confidence to enter this holy place. We have access, …that’s his point…we have access into the very presence of God.
This all happened … end of verse 20, the writer says…. through the veil, that is, His flesh. He equates the veil of the temple with Jesus’ flesh or His death on the cross.
Now, the veil was before the Most Holy Place and it was 60 feet tall, and 30 feet wide. It’s thickness may have been about the thickness of the palm of a man’s hand. The most holy place was God’s special dwelling place where the high priest would enter annually on the Day of Atonement to make atonement for the sins of the people.
Thus, [***one hand****] when Jesus’ flesh was torn, as it were, at the cross, his death secured our access to God. [***the other hand ***] The tearing of the veil is a picture of that. The veil separated the people of God from God’s presence. But now it has been torn down. Just like that, because Jesus flesh has been “torn,” we now can enter into God’s presence. We have eternal access to God! That’s the writer to the Hebrews’ point. Now, back to Mark 15 …
TRANS: …but again, the disciples don’t get it! The centurion does in v. 39, but these women in verse 40 who were closest to Jesus, don’t get it.
40 There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. 41 When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.
These are the women who used to follow Jesus and minister to him. But Mark says in verse 40 that they were “looking on from a distance.” This phrase gives us the indication that they were detached …they were in a situation looking on as if off into the distance. This is not a close observation of Jesus like the centurion, who was standing right in front of him …. No, these women were at a distance mournfully dejected in spirit, in spite of the miracles that just happened! Nevertheless, these women will be the very women, who, in three days will be the first eye witnesses of the second part of the greatest event in human history: the resurrection of Jesus.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Mark 15.1-41
So Jesus’ death paid the penalty of our sin. He paid the eternal wrath of God against our sin, as seen in the miraculous darkness. And He paid for our eternal separation from God, as voiced by Jesus himself on the cross “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
That’s negatively. Jesus paid the price for us. But positively, Jesus secures our eternal access to God! With this marvelous work of God on the cross, we should ask ourselves as Pilate did back up in verse 12…. Mark 15:12 …“…what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” As we go and make disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be calling upon them to make the right choice concerning the King of the Jews!
Will you will please the crowds and please the world like Pilate did that day and thus give up Jesus and send him out of your life, or you will be like the centurion and observe right in front of you the glory of the cross and pronounce Him of a truth “certainly this man is the Son of God! … This man is God!” Will you say that?
Will you trust him for this eternal access to God and will you call upon others to respond and make a decision for Christ?
Praise the Lord for the cross! Let’s sing about that now … 79 Hallelujah for the cross! Ladies on ….men join in on. “IT WAS HERE THAT THE DEBT WAS PAID!”