Gospel of Mark: Chapter 15

Gospel of Mark:

Commentary on Chapter 15.

  • v. 1 – These groups together – the priests, the elders, and the scribes, made up the “council” – a ruling religious body in Jerusalem – known as the Sanhedrin.
    • Roman trials usually occurred early in the morning.
    • Pontius Pilate was the Roman appointed ruler over Judea. He usually lived at Caesara (along the coast) but during the Passover came into Jerusalem – probably to discourage rebellion by the Jews as nationalistic fervor would reach a high-point with this celebration of God’s deliverance of the Jews from enemies in the past.
  • v. 2 – Jesus replies in an or cryptic manner. He has already acknowledged Himself as King of the Jews in the past – but here refuses to say so. It seems that Jesus was in effect communicating that while He was King of the Jews, it was not in the sense the religious leaders were suggesting (as a rebel).
  • v. 6 – This was a common occurrence at ancient holidays.
  • v. 7 – Barabbas’ exact legacy is a bit confused. He seems to have been a criminal but also a revolutionary.
  • v. 11 – Many have wondered how the crowd could so quickly turn against Jesus after welcoming Him into Jerusalem so eagerly such a short time before. William Barclay suggests that these were two different crowds – that likely Jesus’ disciples were still scattered and that Barabbas’ friends had come out with plans to secure Barabbas’ release.
  • v. 14 – Pilate acknowledges Jesus’ innocence even while proceeding with his condemnation of Jesus.
  • v. 15 – The process of scourging was brutal. It involved a whip made of leather with rocks and bones tied into it which was thrust across the bare back of the one being scourged. It was not unusual for an individual to die during the process of scourging.
  • v. 16 – This unit consisted of around six hundred men.
  • v. 17 – Purple cloth was expensive and utilized by the rich and royal.[1]
  • v. 20 – This process of dressing, undressing, and redressing was brutally painful. The cloth would have become stuck to his bloodied skin only to be ripped away again, setting the wounds to bleeding afresh.
  • v. 21 – Prisoners were required to carry the cross beam to the place of crucifixion. They were usually marched via the longest routes to the crucifixion spot in order to be a public warning to others who might choose to follow in their footsteps. It seems that Jesus, due to loss of blood and length of travel, collapsed and was unable to carry the cross further – thus Simon was drafted.
    • Cyrene is in Africa. His sons Alexander and Rufus apparently became Christians – perhaps in part due to this event – and where well-known in the ancient church.
  • v. 22 – Golgotha is Aramaic and means “Place of the Skull.” In an ancient Latin translation[2] the word used for “skull” is “calvariae” – from whence we derive our word “Calvary.”
  • v. 23 – This was a drink offered to condemned men by merciful individuals at crucifixions, it would dampen the mind and ease the pain.[3]
  • v. 28 – This verse is not in the best manuscripts.
  • v. 29 – Literally, they were “blaspheming” Him.
  • v. 34 – Here, as at key points earlier in the text, Mark provides his readers with the Aramaic words Jesus would have actually spoken, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani” while at the same time providing a translation into Greek, which is rendered in English in our Bibles, “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?”
    • This is a quote from Psalm 22:1. Some suggest that Jesus was praying Psalm 22 as He was dying.
  • v. 35 – The Aramaic Eloi (“My God”) is close in sound to “Elijah” – more so when one is perhaps slurring speech and gasping for breath.
  • v. 38 – There are two curtains in the Temple which could be meant here – perhaps it was one or both of them that were torn. The first separated the courtyard from the sanctuary[4] and its rending apart would have been visible to the common people in the Temple at that time.[5] The second separated the sanctuary from the Holy of Holies – an area shut off to all – but the high priest – who only entered once a year. This latter curtain was extremely heavy and thick and its rending apart would represent God’s opening of communications between Himself and mankind in a new way through Jesus.
  • v. 43 – The “council” is the Sanhedrin. Barclay aptly points out that while Joseph did what was right in Jesus’ death, he is not recorded as having said or done anything in Jesus’ life to defend Jesus against the accusations the Sanhedrin made.
    • While many criminals were never buried, anyone who cared about Jesus would have wanted him buried – as to the Jews hanging upon a tree was a sign of being cursed by God.[6]
  • v. 44 – Many times an individual would live for days on the cross. The birds and the dogs would begin to feed upon them while they were yet living.

Author: David Mackey

Version: 1.0 May 25th, 2013.


[1] See Luke 16:19; 1 Maccabees 10:20, 52; 11:58.

[2] The Latin Vulgate, made by an early church father (Jerome) and widely utilized by the Roman Catholic Church.

[3] See Proverbs 31:6.

[4] It was eighty feet tall!

[5] The NLTSB suggests that if this was the curtain torn it would have represented the impending destruction of the Temple which Jesus had prophesied and which occurred in AD 70.

[6] See Deuteronomy 21:22-23.