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The Gospel According to Mark: Chapter 15

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1As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 3Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

6Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do a Gk he with the man you call b Other ancient authorities add or tell anyone in the village the King of the Jews?” 13They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

16Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters a Or the Christ ); and they called together the whole cohort. 17And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

21They compelled a passer‐by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22Then they brought Jesus b Other ancient authorities read lose their life for the sake of the gospel to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. c Other ancient authorities read and of mine 29Those who passed by derided d Or in him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32Let the Messiah, e Gk no fuller the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

33When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land f Or tents until three in the afternoon. 34At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” g Or my beloved Son 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he a Gk him breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God's Son!” b Gk him

40There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

42When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46Then Joseph c Gk He bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, d Other ancient authorities add with tears wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body d Other ancient authorities add with tears was laid.


b Gk he

c Other ancient authorities add or tell anyone in the village

d Or the Christ

e Other ancient authorities read lose their life for the sake of the gospel

f Other ancient authorities read and of mine

a Or in

b Gk no fuller

c Or tents

d Or my beloved Son

e Gk him

a Gk him

b Gk He

c Other ancient authorities add with tears

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

14.1–15.47 : Jesus' death as martyr‐messiah

(Mt 26.1–27.66; Lk 22.1–23.56; Jn 18.1–19.42 ).

1–2 :

Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread, in March/April, celebrated Israel's deliverance from foreign rule in ancient Egypt. Repressive actions by rulers repeatedly touched off massive protest demonstrations at Passover.

15.1–15 : Jesus condemned by Pilate

(Mt 27.1–2,11–26; Lk 23.1–5,18–25; Jn 18.28–40; 19.4–16 ). The second trial, before the Roman governor Pilate (26–37 CE).

1 :

This further consultation suggests that the specific charge(s) against Jesus were still not clear, and that this continued in the hearing before Pilate (v. 3 ).

2 :

It is the Roman governor who defines the charge as one of indigenous kingship in potential insurrection against the Roman order. The formulation of the question is that of outsiders to Israel, who viewed Galileans and others subject to Herodian rulers as “Judeans.” It is surely significant also that the title King of the Jews (i.e., Judeans) occurs only in speech by Pilate or the Roman soldiers and the inscription on the cross presumably placed there by Pilate's order, in vv. 2,9,12,18,26 , in contrast with “the Messiah, the King of Israel,” used by the chief priests and scribes in v. 32 . Thus Jesus’ answer: “That is what you say.”

4–5 :

As in 14.60–61 , Jesus is just “above it all,” or is deliberately refusing to cooperate in his own interrogation.

6–15 :

There is no evidence outside the New Testament of such a custom by Roman governors of Judea generally. Mark does not in any way suggest that “the Jews” demanded Jesus’ death. The crowd is stirred up by the chief priests. Infamous in sources outside the New Testament for his tough stance, provocations, and violence as Roman governor, Pilate is portrayed as an experienced imperial official who understands both that Jesus is politically more dangerous to the Roman order than an anti‐imperial assassin and how to mollify the crowd while manipulating them into a choice. On crucifixion as the intensely cruel Roman form of torture and execution for provincial rebels, see 8.34n. Beating was standard treatment of political prisoners, whether they were to be executed or not.

15.16–38 : The crucifixion

(Mt 27.27–48; Lk 23.18–43 ).

16–20 :

Along with the purple cloak symbolizing royalty, the mockery, by the whole cohort, of Jesus as “King of the Judeans,” includes several allusions to worship of the Roman emperor whom Jesus has the audacity to challenge: The crown of thorns suggests the laurel wreath crowning the emperor's head, the hailing suggests the acclamation of the emperor, and kneeling in homage suggests the prostration to the emperor. The mutual hostility between Mark's Jesus and the imperial army is unmistakably intense.

21 :

Simon of Cyrene, a peasantcoming in from the country, had perhaps moved back to Judea from the Diaspora Jewish community in Cyrene, west of Egypt; his sons apparently later joined the movement. This Simon in effect replaces Peter, whose original name was Simon, and who had just proven incapable of “taking up his cross” by denying Jesus instead of himself ( 8.34; 14.66–72 ). Perhaps they “compel” Simon to carry the cross because Jesus is already too weak from repeated beatings, 14.65; 15.15,19 . Once hung on the cross he died more quickly than expected (vv. 44–45 ).

23 :

Jesus declines the offer of a sedative to mitigate the pain.

24 :

Casting lots, see Ps 22.18 ; the first of three allusions to this psalm.

26 :

The inscription indicates the crime: As “King of the Judeans” Jesus threatened to bring about a rebellion against the law and order of the empire, which was maintained by such gruesome, terrorizing violence against subject peoples.

27 :

Two bandits, perhaps actually ancient “Robin Hoods”; but the Romans used the term contemptuously to demean rebels against Roman rule. On his right … on his left, cf. 10.37–40 ; not James and John, but the two “bandits” undergo the baptism of death with Jesus.

29–30 :

Shaking their heads, cf. Ps 22.7–8 . The mocking passers‐by would appear to be hostile, using the same terms as the false witnesses in 14.56–58 .

31 :

He saved others; he cannot save himself. Double meaning: cf. 8.34; 10.45 .

33–38 :

Mt 27.45–53; Lk 23.44–48 .

33 :

Darkness came over the whole land, crisis in the natural order indicating God coming in judgment (cf. Joel 2.2; Am 5.18–20; Zeph 1.15 ).

34 :

“Eloi, Eloi,” Jesus crying out in abandonment in the words of Ps 22.1 in Aramaic (see 5.41n.).

35–36 :

Voyeurs, misinterpreting the word “Eloi,” suggest that he is calling for Elijah, and want to revive him, prolonging the ordeal, to see if Elijah comes.

37–38 :

As Jesus dies, the curtain of the Temple (see Ex 26.33 ), separating but also protecting the people from the presence of God, is torn in two, in judgment on the Temple's mediation of the Holy but also opening access to God for the people; see also 1.10 .

15.39–47 : Jesus’ burial

(Mt 27.54–61; Lk 23.49–56 ). Three interrelated responses to Jesus’ death: by a military representative of the Roman rulers, by a representative of the Jerusalem religious establishment, and by loyal women followers.

39 :

Just as Jesus’ other opponents earlier in the Gospel know who he is, so the Roman centurion (the equivalent of a company commander) presiding at his crucifixion recognizes that he was truly “a son of God.” While neither a confession of faith (the centurion continues his duties in 15.44–45 ) nor the final resolution of the messianic secret, contrary to previous interpretations, Mark ironically has the officer who presides at Jesus’ execution recognize his true identity. He also confirms to Pilate that Jesus is dead in 15.44–45 .

40–41 :

As the disciples, commissioned as the leaders of the movement, consistently misunderstood, women were healed by Jesus as symbolic of the renewal of Israel. Now, after the disciples had betrayed, denied, and abandoned Jesus, some of the many women who had followed him and provided for him stood by him, at a distance, throughout the ordeal. Neither of the two women named here has been mentioned earlier. Both will witness the burial site (v. 47 ) and the empty tomb ( 16.1 ).

42–46 :

Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council that had condemned Jesus (see 14.64 ), but like the scribe in 12.28–34 , interested in the kingdom of God, asked for the body. Apparently eager to dispose of it before the sabbath, he wrapped it, and secured it in a rock tomb sealed with a heavy stone (cf. 16.3 ), without even a gesture of proper burial rites.

47 :

Although the disciples, having completely disappeared, make no effort to afford Jesus proper burial (contrast John's disciples in 6.22 ), the two Marys witness where the body was laid.

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