59. Mark 15:1-15




Jesus Before Pilate (15:1-5)

Brought before Pilate Jesus refuses to answer the prefect’s question not the charges the chief priests brought against him, apart from a non-committal “You say so” to Pilate’s question whether he was the “king of the Jews” (v.2). The change of venue from the Sanhedrin to Pilate’s court accounts for Jesus’ reticence here when he has just robustly affirmed Messiahship to the Jewish leadership. Pilate had no interest in Messiahs; but he had a keen interest in putative “kings”! Even at the 11th hour here Jesus wants to avoid a dangerous misunderstanding.  

“The governor could have cared less as long as matters religious did not become matters political. Thus, the high priests reformulate the charge against Jesus in a way that the Roman governor will understand and have to take seriously. Since Pilate’s first question is, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (15: 2), presumably this is the official charge against Jesus (cf. also 15: 12, “the one you call the king of the Jews”). If Jesus claims to be a king, he is guilty of a crime against the sovereign power of Rome. Sending him to Pilate in tethers also insinuates that he is a threat to public order” (Garland, Mark, 577).

Jesus’ silence (Isa.53:7) places the onus on Pilate to make a decision and entrusts his fate to God in a most radical way!

Barrabas (15:6-15)

“And therefore, within Mark’s story, we find also the deeply personal meaning.  The story of Barabbas invites us to see Jesus’ crucifixion in terms of a stark personal exchange. Barabbas deserves to die; Jesus dies instead, and he goes free.  Barabbas was the archetypal Jewish rebel: quite probably what we today would call a fanatical right-wing zealot, determined to stop at nothing to bring in a version of God’s kingdom which consisted of defeating Roman power by Roman means – in other words, repaying pagan violence with holy violence. No doubt many Christians in Mark’s community, and others who would read his book, had at one stage at least flirted with such revolutionary movements. Reading the story of the guilty man freed and the innocent man crucified, it would not be hard for them to identify with Barabbas, and to view the rest of the story with the awestruck gaze of people who think, ‘There but for God’s grace go I.’  Just so, Mark is saying. God’s grace, God’s sovereign and saving presence, is exactly what we are witnessing in this story. When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves – that insight produces, again and again, the sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience” (Wright, Mark, 257-258).   

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