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Mark 15


Jesus Before Pilate Jesus Faces Pilate Jesus Before Pilate Jesus Before Pilate Jesus Before Pilate
15:1-5 15:1-5 15:1-5 15:1-2a 15:1
      15:2b 15:2-5
Jesus Sentenced to Die Taking the Place of Barabbas   Jesus is Sentenced to Death  
15:6-15 15:6-15 15:6-15 15:6-10 15:6-15
The Soldiers Mock Jesus The Soldiers Mock Jesus The Crucifixion The Soldiers Make Fun of Jesus Jesus Crowned with Thorns
15:16-20 15:16-20 15:16-20 15:16-20 15:16-20a
The Crucifixion of Jesus The King on a Cross   Jesus is Crucified The Way of the Cross
15:21-32 15:21-32 15:21-24 15:21-28 The Crucifixion
      15:29-30 The Crucified Jesus is Mocked
      15:31-32a 15:29-32
The Death of Jesus Jesus Dies on the Cross   The Death of Jesus The Death of Jesus
15:33-41 15:33-41 15:33-41 15:33-34 15:33-39
      15:38-39 The Women on Calvary
      15:40-41 15:40-41
The Burial of Jesus Jesus Buried in Joseph's Tomb   The Burial of Jesus The Burial
15:42-47 15:42-47 15:42-47 15:42-47 15:42-47

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1 Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate. 2Pilate questioned Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" And He answered him, "It is as you say." 3The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly. 4Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, "Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!" 5But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.

15:1 "Early in the morning" Mark, like all Jewish writings, does not focus on specific times. It is probable that the Jews of Jesus' day divided the night and day into twelve hours each (cf. John 11:9), with three four-hour segments. The twenty-four hour day comes from Babylon. The Greeks and Jews borrowed it from them. The sundial was divided into twelve segments.

In chapter 15 Mark has several time markers;

1. sunrise, Mark 15:1 (around 6 a.m. depending on the time of the year)

2. third hour, Mark 15:25 (around 9 a.m.)

3. sixth hour, Mark 15:33 (around noon)

4. ninth hour, Mark 15:34 (around 3 p.m.)

5. evening, Mark 15:42 (sunset, around 6 p.m.)

Luke 22:66-71 gives the details of this meeting. This early meeting was held in an attempt to give some legality to their illegal night trial (cf. A. N Sherwin-White, Roman

Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, pp. 24-47). The chronology of Jesus' trial before Pilate and His crucifixion is:

  Matthew Mark Luke John
Pilate's Verdict       6th Hour
Crucifixion   3rd Hour
Darkness Fell 6th-9th Hour
6th-9th Hour
6th-9th Hour
Jesus Cried Out 9th Hour
9th Hour

When these time designations are compared, two interpretive options arise: (1) they are the same. John used Roman time, counting from 12:00 a.m. (cf. Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 364), and the Synoptics used Jewish time, counting from 6:00 a.m. (2) John is asserting a later time for Jesus' crucifixion which would be another example of the differences between the Synoptics and John. However, it seems from John 1:39 and 4:6 that John sometimes uses Jewish time and sometimes Roman time (cf. M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, Vol. 1, p. 403).

The time designations may be symbolic in all the Gospels for they relate to (1) time of daily sacrifices (i.e., the continual) in the Temple (9 a.m. and 3 p.m., cf. Acts 2:15; 3:1) and (2) just after noon was the traditional time to kill the Passover Lamb on Nisan 14. The Bible, being an ancient eastern book, does not focus on strict chronology as do modern western historical accounts.

"the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council" See Special Topic: Sanhedrin at Mark 12:13.

"immediately" Mark's gospel is characterized by action ( "then," "and," "immediately"). Jesus is revealed primarily through His actions. The pace of the narrative moves forward through these action words. See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "and binding Jesus" This may have been a common procedure with criminals or subconsciously it showed their fear of Jesus. Many were afraid He was a magician or sorcerer and that His power was in His hands.

▣ "delivered Him to Pilate" Exactly where this was done is uncertain. Most scholars think Pilate stayed at Herod's palace when in Jerusalem. His normal residence was Caesarea by the sea, where He used another of Herod's palaces as the praetorium. Others feel he stayed in the military headquarters, which was the fortress Antionia, next to the temple. The time would be at daybreak, following Roman customs of early court (probably because of the heat). Pilate ruled Palestine as a representative of the Emperor from a.d. 25/26-36/37 and then was removed because of repeated accusations by Vitellius, Legate of Syria.


15:2 "Pilate questioned Him" In what language? The chances of Pilate speaking Aramaic are less than that Jesus could speak Koine Greek. For a good discussion of this see

1.  "Did Jesus Speak Greek" by Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, chapter 21, pp. 253-264 in Approaches to the Bible: the Best of Bible Review

2.  "The Languages of the New Testament" by J. Howard Greenlee in Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 410-411


▣ "'Are You the King of the Jews'" "You" is emphatic and sarcastic. Luke 23:1-2 lists the charges of the Sanhedrin. John 19:8-19, adds great detail to the conversation between Jesus and Pilate. Pilate was not concerned with the religious aspect of the charge, but the political aspect.

NASB, NKJV"'It is as you say'"
NRSV, TEV"'You say so'"
NJB"'It is you who say it'"

This is literally "you say that I Am," which may be a Hebraic idiom of affirmation (cf. Matt. 26:25,64; Luke 22:70; 23:3) or a cryptic way of answering, implying, "You say so, but implying I am a different kind of king." This seems to have been a private consultation (cf. John 18:33-38) within the Praetorium. Jesus must have told the disciples about it or John was present. The Jews would not have entered because it would have made them ceremonially unclean to eat Passover.

The account of Jesus' interrogation by Herod Antipas is left out of Mark's Gospel, but is found in Luke 23:6-12.


NASB"began to accuse Him harshly"
NKJV, NRSV"accused Him of many things"
TEV"were accusing Jesus of many things"
NJB"brought many accusations against him"

This is imperfect tense meaning they accused Him again and again. This must have occurred after Pilate had spoken to Jesus privately (cf. Mark 15:4). A list of some of the accusations is found in Luke 23:2.

15:5 "Jesus made no further answer" This may be a fulfillment of Isa. 53:7 (cf. Mark 14:61; Matt. 26:63; 27:12; John 19:9).

"so Pilate was amazed" Why was Pilate amazed?

1. Jesus spoke in private to him, but would not speak in the presence of His accusers.

2. The High Priest made so many charges against Him and they were so vehement.

3. Jesus did not act like most prisoners who vigorously defended themselves.


 6Now at the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. 7The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. 8The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. 9Pilate answered them, saying, "Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" 10For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. 12Answering again, Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?" 13They shouted back, "Crucify Him!" 14But Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they shouted all the more, "Crucify Him!" 15Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.

15:6 "the feast" This refers to the Passover. Scholars have often debated the length of Jesus' public ministry. The only reason church tradition affirms a three-year public ministry is because of the three Passovers mentioned in John's Gospel. However, in John there is a mention of "the feast," as here, which implies another Passover. I think Jesus may have had a four-year or possibly five or six-year public ministry. It is obvious the Gospel writers were not concerned with chronology per se, but theology. The Gospels are not western histories, but eastern theological accounts. They are neither biographies or autobiographies. They are a genre to themselves. Gospel writers, under inspiration, had the freedom to select, adapt, and rearrange the words and actions of Jesus to present Him to their target audiences. I do not believe they had the freedom to put words in His mouth; however, eyewitness material written down at a much later time, along with the theological purposes and differing target audiences, answers the questions about why the four Gospels differ.

▣ "he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested" This seems to have become an annual Roman tradition in Palestine of Jesus' day. There is no historical corroboration for this except Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20:9:3. Pilate was trying to get the crowd to feel sympathy for Jesus so that he could let Him go free (cf. Mark. 15:14; Luke 23:14-16; John 18:38-39; 19:4).

15:7 "Barabbas" This name is a combination of Bar = "son of" and Abbas = "father." The non-canonical Gospel of Hebrews has Bar Rabbas, "son of Rabbi." Several Greek MSS of Matt. 27:16-17 have "Jesus Barabbas," which is an attempt at irony based on both being called "Jesus," who was truly "the Son of the Father."

▣ "with the insurrectionists" The man the crowd wanted released was the very type of person they were accusing Jesus of being. What irony!

15:8 "The crowd" Some think Barabbas' friends were waiting for this annual opportunity. Others feel the crowd was made up not of pilgrims, but of the false witnesses and others involved in the night trials. These had nothing in common except that they both wanted Barabbas released, but for very different reasons.

The city was full of pilgrims, many from Galilee, but they would not have been up this early, nor at Pilate's court.

NASB, NJB"went up"
NKJV"crying aloud"

The Greek words "go up" (anabainō) and "cry aloud" (anaboaō) are spelled and pronounced similarly, which means they were easily confused by the ancient method or making copies of the NT by one scribe reading the text aloud and several others making copies. The Greek manuscript tradition is split:

1.  "went up" aorist active participle in MSS א*, B, and the Vulgate.

2.  "cried aloud" aorist active participle in MSS אi2, A, C, W, and the Peshitta.

"Cried aloud" is not found in Mark in any other place, but "went up" is found nine times for:

1. things growing (4:7)

2. boarding a ship (6:51)

3. going up (15:8)

Probably NASB and NJB are correct.

15:9 Mark, like Luke (i.e., in both his Gospel and Acts), writes to show that Christianity was no threat to the Roman authorities.

15:10 "because of envy" Pilate understood the motives of the Sanhedrin (cf. Matt. 27:18), but refused to act in justice!

Jealousy is surely a possible motive of the Jewish leadership, but I am surprised that their theological and political motives were not also obvious to Pilate (i.e., Luke 23:2). It is also possible that Pilate had heard of Jesus through spies or informants (or even his wife, cf. Matt. 27:19).

15:12 "'Him whom you call the King of the Jews'" John 19:15 records that this mob of Jews (i.e., insurrectionists and Jewish leaders) said "We have no King but Caesar." What irony!


TEV, NJB"they shouted back"
NKJV"they cried out again"

The Greek term palin is interpreted as "back" by modern translations. Both "again" and "back" are standard translation options in Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 606. The context here demands "back."

15:14 "'what evil has He done'" John's Gospel parallels this statement of Pilate three times in Mark 18:38; 19:4,6. Pilate tried to gain sympathy for Jesus and release Him (cf. John 18:38; 19:6,12), but this biased crowd would not have it!


NASB, NRSV"wishing to satisfy the crowd"
NKJV"wanting to gratify the crowd"
TEV"wanted to please the crowd"
NJB"anxious to placate the crowd"

For Pilate civil order was more important than justice. These Jewish leaders had succeeded in intimidating Pilate (cf. John 19:12). Pilate had been accused of many things to the authorities in Syria and Rome. He could not afford more charges. They knew this and used it!

Several modern linguists note that the Greek words hikanon poiēsai are a Latin idiom (i.e., Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, p. 374; Moulton and Milligan, p. 302; C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom Book of the New Testament Greek, p. 192). This is significant because Mark has so many Latin words, phrases, and idioms, probably because it was written to witness to Romans.

▣ "scourged" This is a fulfillment of Isa. 53:5. Flogging was the standard Roman preliminary procedure for those being crucified. It was a horrible beating. A man was bent over and his hands tied to a low stake. Then two soldiers, one on each side, beat him with whips made out of nine leather straps with some hard objects attached to each of the strap's ends. Often prisoners died just from this beating.

 16The soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they called together the whole Roman cohort. 17They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him 18and they began to acclaim Him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 19They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. 20After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him.

15:16 "The soldiers took Him away" These Roman soldiers (cf. Matt. 27:27) hated the Jews because of their exclusive attitudes toward Gentiles and they took their animosity out on Jesus. Luke 23:11 implies that Herod the Tetrarch's soldiers also mocked Him as king.

NASB"into the palace (that is, the Praetorium)"
NKJV"into the hall called Praetorium"
NRSV"into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters)"
TEV"inside to the courtyard of the governor's palace"
NJB"to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium"

This referred to the Roman officials' residence when they were in Jerusalem. This may have been the fortress Antonio, which was next to the Temple or more probably Herod the Great's palace in Jerusalem.

NASB"the whole Roman cohort"
NKJV"the whole garrison"
NRSV, NJB"the whole cohort"
TEV"the rest of the company"

The Greek term speiran (i.e., cohort) originally referred to something twisted together, like a strand or rope. It came to be used figuratively for a band of men working together for a purpose. Cohort is another Latin term. It was used of one-tenth of a legion, normally 600 men. But it could refer to many less (cf. John 18:3). The Roman military was structured by (1) legions, 6,000; (2) cohorts, 600; (3) maniples, 200; and (4) centuries, 100.

15:17 "dressed Him up in purple" Matthew 27:28 has a "scarlet robe" of a Roman cavalry officer. Purple was the symbol of royalty. Originally a Roman officer's robe would have been scarlet, but in time it faded to a shade of purple. They were mocking Jesus as the supposed King of the Jews (cf. Mark 15:18,20; John 19:2).

Luke 23:11 records that the Jewish soldiers of Herod the Tetrarch or Herod Antipas also mocked Jesus as King/Messiah by placing a kingly robe on Him.

▣ "crown of thorns" Traditionally this has been thought of as a mode of torture whereby the thorns were pressed into Jesus' brow. However, it is quite possible that it was a radiant crown made of palm leaves, which was another way of mocking Jesus as a king (cf. Matt. 27:27-31; Mark 15:15-20). The Greek term "crown" (stephanos) was used of an athletic victory garland or a laurel wreath worn by the Emperor.

15:19 This verse describes the mockery of the Roman soldiers.

1.  "hail," specialized greeting to a leader (Mark 15:18)

2.  "beating His head with a reed," this probably was first put in Jesus' hand as a mock scepter

3.  "spitting on Him," a cultural sign of contempt or mimicking a kiss (i.e., a type of salute)

4.  "kneeling and bowing before Him," another mock symbol of His kingship

5. a purple robe placed on His shoulders, symbolizing kingship

Numbers two through four are imperfect tenses, which mean repeated action in past time. Many of the soldiers did these actions again and again or possibly each soldier present did it.

15:20 "they led Him out" Jesus, as all condemned prisoners, had to carry His own cross beam to the place of crucifixion outside the city walls. They took the long way through the streets of Jerusalem so that all would see and fear Roman justice.

This leading of criminals outside the walls of Jerusalem to be killed may have been done out of respect for Jewish law (cf. Lev. 24:14 and Num. 15:35-36). The Romans did not want a riot during these crowded feast days.

▣ "to crucify Him" The Phoenicians invented crucifixion. Alexander the Great crucified 2,000 after the fall of Tyre. The Romans perfected the technique so that condemned criminals suffered several days before their death. This cruel torture was meant as a deterrent to crime. It could not be performed on a Roman citizen.

 21They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.

15:21 "pressed into service" This is a Persian loan word used of official confiscation of property or conscription of workers for governmental use.

NASB"a passer-by coming from the country"
NKJV"as he was coming out of the country"
NRSV"a passer-by, who was coming in from the country"
TEV"who was coming into the city from the country"
NJB"a passer-by. . .who was coming from the country"

Does this imply a person now living in Palestine or a visitor to the Passover? I think it refers to a pilgrim who was housed in the suburbs of Jerusalem who just happened to be walking by at the time. However, there were many from Cyrenaica (i.e., North Africa) who lived in Jerusalem. There was even a special synagogue for them (cf. Acts 6:9). His children are mentioned who apparently were known by the early church (not in Jerusalem, but in Rome).

▣ "Simon of Cyrene" Cyrenaica was a province of North Africa. Cyrene was its capital. However, the name Simon is a Jewish name. We learn from Acts that there were many Jews from this area (cf. Acts 2:10; 6:9; 11:20; 13:1). His racial identity is uncertain. There were black Jews from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba's day (i.e., Ethiopia).

▣ "the father of Alexander and Rufus" Obviously this specific description implies that Simon and/or his children became well known in the early church. Since Mark is written to Romans possibly the Rufus in Rom. 16:13 is the same man.

▣ "cross" There are several possible shapes used by the Romans, T, X, t, or a scaffold holding several vertical beams. All of these shapes have been found by archaeological research as being used in first century Palestine.

 22Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. 23They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it. 24And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take. 25It was the third hour when they crucified Him. 26The inscription of the charge against Him read, "THE KING OF THE JEWS."

15:22 "Golgotha" This is an Aramaic term. The term "calvary" is Latin for "skull." The terms do not refer to the full skull, but the forehead. The location is uncertain, but it was outside the old walls of Jerusalem, probably on a low, bald hill on a major thoroughfare into the holy city (cf. Lev. 24:14; Num. 15:35-36; John 19:20).

15:23 "They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh" This is imperfect tense meaning they tried several times. Talmudic tradition says that the women of Jerusalem did this as a ministry to condemned prisoners. It was in effect a strong drug to ease the pain and dull the mind.

▣ "but He did not take it" The reason is unknown.

15:24 "crucified Him" The Romans did not nail through the palms of the hand but through the wrists with the body supported mostly by ropes around the arms. The legs were slightly bent with the feet nailed to a small triangular box. This was done to cause a person to continually lift themselves up in order to breathe. There was also a small piece of wood, called the saddle, on which the person could sit and briefly rest their weight. Most crucified people died from asphyxiation. The person was suspended off the ground only high enough to get their feet about one foot above the ground.

▣ "divided up His garments" The Roman soldiers who crucified criminals got to keep their possessions as part of their pay.

▣ "casting lots" This was predicted in Ps. 22:18. This psalm describes Jesus' crucifixion (Christological typology). Jesus quotes the first line of this Psalm in Mark 15:34. Also Ps. 22:7-8 foreshadows the comments of those who passed by and mocked Jesus (cf. Mark 15:29).

15:25 "the third hour" In John 19:14 it says "the sixth hour." The Synoptic Gospels consistently use Jewish time, while John, often, but not exclusively, uses Roman time.

"they crucified Him" The Gospel writers do not play on our emotions describing the gruesome physical steps that were involved. The theological issue is not how (although Deut. 21:23 is significant, cf. Gal. 3:13) He died, but who He is and why He died!


NJB"the inscription. . .read"
NKJV"the inscription. . .written above"
TEV"the notice of the accusation against him said"

The information that this inscription was in three languages comes from John 19:20. The information that it was nailed over Jesus' head comes from Matt. 22:37.

The KJV and NKJV translate Mark 15:26 in such a way as to imply it clearly states "above," but the term "inscription" is repeated in the verb, which means to engrave, inscribe, imprint, write on, but not "above."

▣ "the charge read" This small sign was called the Titulus by the Romans. It was usually black letters on a white background. This official charge was either (1) carried before the condemned or (2) hung around the neck of the condemned. At the place of crucifixion it was placed above Jesus' head on the cross (cf. Matt. 27:37). See Manners and Customs of the Bible by James M. Freeman, pp. 395-6.

▣ "'THE KING OF THE JEWS'" It is interesting to note the variety among the Gospels as to the exact wording of the charge placed over Jesus' head on the cross.

1. Matt. 27:37 – "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews"

2. Mark 15:26 – "The King of the Jews"

3. Luke 23:38 – "This is the King of the Jews"

4. John 19:19 – "Jesus, the Nazarene, the King of the Jews"

Each one is different, but basically the same. This is true of most of the variety of historical details among the Gospels. Each writer recorded his memories (and sources) in slightly different ways, but they are still the same eyewitness account.

Pilate meant to irritate the Jewish leaders by putting the very title they feared on Jesus' cross (cf. Mark 15:21-22).

 27They 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."] 29Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, "Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30save Yourself, and come down from the cross!" 31In 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!" Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.

15:27 "two robbers with Him" This term meant "robbers" or "insurrectionists." This is a specific fulfillment of Isa. 53:12.

Psalm 22 and Isa. 52:13-53:12 are specific in some of their details, but not all! Reading these types of Messianic prophecies is very difficult because only some of the details apply to Jesus' situation. Others must have been (1) symbolic; (2) poetic; or (3) concerned only the original historical situation. It is only through the inspiration of NT authors that this type of Christological typology is valid. Modern believers are led by the Spirit when they read the Bible (i.e., illumination), but we disagree on the details, which shows that inspiration is superior to illumination.

Typology has been so abused by post-NT writers that I refuse to accept this type of biblical interpretation except when recorded by NT authors. We cannot reproduce the hermeneutical procedures of inspired biblical writers. We must rely on understanding what those original, inspired authors were saying to their day (see Introductory Article, "Good Bible Reading"). We must then apply these truths to our cultural situation.

15:28 This verse is omitted by the ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א, A, B, C, and D. It is left out of the NRSV, TEV, NJB, and NIV translations. It was apparently added as a marginal note by an ancient scribe from Luke 22:37. It is not part of the original text of Mark. It is uncharacteristic for Mark, writing to Gentiles, to include an OT quote (i.e., Mark 15:28 is an allusion to Isa. 53:12). The UBS4 gives the omission an "A" rating (certain).

15:29 "Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him" Probably in keeping with the purpose and procedures of Roman crucifixion, the site of execution was located on a major road entering Jerusalem.

These passers by may have been fulfilling the prophecy of Ps. 22:6-8,12-13,16-17.

▣ "'Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple'" These mockers may be those false accusers who were at the night trial of the Sanhedrin (cf. Mark 14:58).

15:30 This comment is a continuing mockery (cf. Mark 15:31-32) of Jesus' powers. They still wanted a miraculous sign, even at this late date. They claimed they would yet believe in Him (cf. Mark 15:32).

15:31 "He saved others" The term "saved" is used in its OT sense of physical deliverance. These leaders could not deny Jesus' miracles, but attributed His power to Satan (cf. Mark 3:22). The people of Jerusalem were well aware that Jesus had raised Lazarus (cf. John 11).

15:32 "Christ, the King of Israel" This is the chief priests' mockery of Pilate's title, "King of the Jews," which was nailed above Jesus' head. This is sarcasm, not affirmation!

This surely fits into the ridicule foreshadowed in Ps. 22:6-8,12-13,16.

▣ "Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him" It is only in Luke 23:35-43 that the account of the repentant criminal is recorded.

 33When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34At 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?" 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, "Behold, He is calling for Elijah." 36Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, "Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down." 37And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. 38And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"

15:33 "the sixth hour" If Jewish time is used, this would be twelve o'clock noon. See note at Mark 15:1.

▣ "darkness fell over the whole land" This is one of the OT judgment signs, either in a covenantal sense (i.e., one of the Egyptian plagues, cf. Exod. 10:21; Deut. 28:28-29) or an apocalyptic sense (cf. Joel 2:2; Amos 8:9-10; Zeph. 1:15). This was a symbol of God the Father taking His presence away from His Son, who bore the sin of all humanity. This is what Jesus feared most in Gethsemane (symbolized by "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?" in Mark 15:34). Jesus became a sin offering and bore the sin of all the world (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). He experienced personal separation from the Father. Darkness was a physical symbol of God the Father turning away from His Son.

15:34 "at the ninth hour" If Jewish time is used, this was three o'clock in the afternoon.

"'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me'" This is a quote from Ps. 22:1. Since the Jewish scrolls had no chapter and verse divisions (all of which were added to Bible texts in the middle ages), it seems that by quoting the first verse, Jesus wanted to highlight the entire Psalm.

There is a difference of scholarly opinion on how this phrase should be translated

1. The Septuagint has "O God, My God, attend to me" (which happens in the Psalms)

2. The Peshitta (translated by George M. Lamsa) has

a. Ps. 22:1, "My God, my God, why hast thou let me live?"

b. Mark 15:34, "My God, my God, for this I was spared!"

3. The Jewish Publication Society of America has, Ps. 22:1 as "My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?"

4. Codex Bezae (fifth century) has "My God, my God, why have you reviled me?" For a full discussion of the Gnostic problems connected to this verse see Bart D. Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Affect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament, pp. 143-145.

Jesus was experiencing the last full measure of human sin—separation from fellowship with the Father (cf. Isa. 54:2). Humans were created for fellowship with God; without it we can never be whole!

15:34,35 "He is calling for Elijah" Jesus and the Apostles (and all Jews in Palestine of the first century) spoke Aramaic. Mark, writing to Romans, always translates these Aramaic phrases, which Peter remembered so well. In Aramaic Elijah is Elia. The Aramaic phrase is also recorded in Matt. 27:46. This is the most startling phrase Jesus cried from the cross. He felt alienated from the Father. Elijah was traditionally the prophet who would come in times of trouble and before the Messiah (cf. Mal. 3:1-6; 4:4-6), therefore, the bystanders thought Jesus was praying for him to come help Him.

One of my favorite authors is F. F. Bruce. In his book Answers to Questions, p. 65, he mentions an article in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly, Jan. - April, 1951, by Alfred Guillaume, which notes that the suffix "my" is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls as iya. When Jesus said, "My God," the form would be Eliya, which is pronounced very close to Elijah's name. This may explain why the bystanders misunderstood Jesus' words.

15:36 "with sour wine" This was the cheap wine that the populace and soldiers drank. This may relate to Ps. 22:15. Jesus was so dry that He needed a drink to help Him speak the last few words from the cross (cf. John 19:28-30).

▣ "put it on a reed" The reed was used to reach His mouth. Giving a drink to crucified persons was not an act of compassion, but a way to prolong life and agony.

▣ "'Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down'" This was not from compassion, but the desire to see a sign (cf. Matt. 27:47-48).

15:37 "a loud cry" John 19:30 tells us He said, "It is finished!" This word has been found written across business documents in the Koine Greek papyri from Egypt. It apparently was a commercial term that meant "paid in full" (i.e., Isaiah 53).

15:38 "the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" There were two curtains to the inner shrine of the Temple, one in the Holy Place and a second before the Holy of Holies. If the second was ripped no one would have seen it except the priests, unless the first one was regularly pulled back and tied to the sides. These curtains are described in Exod. 26:31-37. In Jesus' day, in Herod's remodeled Temple, this curtain was 60' by 30' and about 4" thick! If the outer one was ripped all worshipers in the different outer courts would have seen it. This seems to show that the way to intimate fellowship with God has been reestablished by God at Christ's death (cf. Gen. 3:15; Exod. 26:31-35). In Matt. 27:51-53 other miracles are recorded as attesting signs.

15:39 "a centurion" This was the rank of a low-level Roman military officer. It literally means "a leader of one hundred." These men were the backbone of the Roman army. Cornelius in Acts 10 is also a centurion. Mark is written to evangelize Romans!

▣ "Truly this man was the Son of God" This is literally "this man was a son of God." However the absence of the article does not automatically mean it is not definite (cf. Matt. 4:3,6; 14:33; 27:43; and Luke 4:3,9). This was a hardened Roman soldier. He had seen many men die (cf. Matt. 27:54). This may be "the focal passage" of Mark because this Gospel was specifically written to Romans. It has many Latin words and very few OT quotes. Also Jewish customs and Aramaic phrases are translated and explained. Here is a Roman centurion professing faith in a crucified Jewish insurrectionist!

It is possibly theologically purposeful that passers by, chief priests, and even fellow prisoners mock Jesus, but the Roman centurion responds in affirmation and awe!

 40There 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. 41When 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.

15:40 "There were also some women looking on from a distance" The apostolic group was ministered to both financially and physically by several women (i.e., cooking, washing, etc., cf. Mark 15:41; Matt. 27:55; Luke 8:3).


▣ "Mary Magdalene" Magdala was a small city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, three miles north of Tiberias. Mary followed Jesus from Galilee after He had delivered her from several demons (cf. Luke 8:2). She has unfairly been labeled as a prostitute but there is no NT evidence of this. See Special Topic at Mark 16:1.

▣ "Mary, the mother of James the Less and Joses" In Matt. 27:56 she is called "the mother of James and Joseph." In Matt. 28:1 she is called "the other Mary." The real question is, to whom was she married? In John 19:25 possibly she was married to Clopas, yet her son James, was said to be the "son of Alphaeus" (cf. Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15). See Special Topic at Mark 16:1.

▣ "Salome" This was the mother of James and John, who were part of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples, and the wife of Zebedee (cf. Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1-2). See Special Topic: The Women Who Followed Jesus at Mark 16:1.

 42When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. 44Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.

15:42 "When evening had already come" Mark is the only Gospel that mentions this. Exodus 12:6 has "evenings" as if there were two: (1) 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. and (2) 6:00 p.m. and later. Context implies it must have been after 3:00 p.m. (the time of the evening sacrifice), but before 6:00 p.m. (the start of the Passover Sabbath).

▣ "the preparation day" This refers to the day everything had to be made ready for the high holy Sabbath of Passover week (i.e., Passover and Unleavened Bread was an eight-day feast, therefore, it had two Sabbaths), not the Passover meal itself.

15:43 "Joseph of Arimathea" He seems to have been a secret disciple, along with Nicodemus (cf. Matt. 27:57; John 12:42). However, after Jesus' death he went publicly to ask Pilate for Jesus' body (cf. John 19:38). It was dangerous to be identified as a friend of a crucified insurrectionist.

As an orthodox Jew of his day Joseph would have made himself ceremonially unclean to observe the Passover Sabbath by:

1. going into a Gentile house

2. touching a dead body

However, he may have been attempting to remove the curse of Deut. 21:22-23. Usually the Romans let the bodies of the crucified remain unburied at the place of death, but because the Jews were so squeamish about unburied bodies, the Romans allowed them to bury their dead, but usually not immediately.

The term Arimathea means "height" and apparently is another name for the city of Ramah, which was five miles northeast of Jerusalem.

▣ "prominent member of the Council" Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, as was Nicodemus. See Special Topic: Sanhedrin at Mark 12:13.

▣ "waiting for the kingdom of God" Joseph was a religious man (cf. Matt. 27:58). The Kingdom of God was a common Jewish expectation among Pharisees and the common people. Jesus often preached on this subject. It was the subject of His first and last sermons and the focus of His parables. See Special Topic at Mark 1:15.

In what sense Joseph was waiting for the kingdom is uncertain. How could he be a disciple and not know the kingdom had come? Perhaps he was still expecting an earthly kingdom (like the disciples, cf. Acts 1:6).

▣ "went in before Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus" This would have made him ceremonially unclean to participate in the high Sabbath of Passover week. This would also have identified him with Jesus, a crucified insurrectionist. This was a bold and decisive act.

"asked for the body" Normally the Romans left the bodies on the cross to decay, as a deterrent to rebellion. These bodies were the property of Rome. They were usually not given back to the families for proper burial, which was especially important to Jews. This was a special, unusual request. It was granted because of the Jewish sensibilities about dead bodies ceremonially polluting the land especially during the Passover season.

15:44 "Pilate wondered if He was dead at this time" Crucifixion was a very slow painful death. Often it took several days. The Roman soldiers gave the victims water or wine from time to time, not out of mercy, but to prolong their death. However, this time the condemned had to die quickly because of the upcoming Passover Sabbath, so the soldiers broke the two criminals' legs (cf. John 19:31ff). This was so that they could not push up on their legs to breathe properly. They would have died quickly after this. Jesus, however, was already dead, so His legs were not broken. This fulfills prophecy (cf. John 19:36, quoting from Exod. 12:46. See hermeneutical comment at Mark 15:27).

"If" is not a marker for a conditional sentence, but an indirect question. Pilate was amazed Jesus had died so quickly, therefore, he asked his attendants this indirect question.

15:45 "body" The Greek word is not soma, but ptōma, which means corpse. Jesus was dead!

15:46 "Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth" Nicodemus was also there (cf. John 19:39-40). They quickly prepared Jesus' body (i.e., because of the rapid approach of the Sabbath at  6 p.m.) according to Jewish tradition. The Jews did not practice embalming as the Egyptians did, but they had a set procedure involving linen wraps and spices.

▣ "laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock" This fulfills the specific prophecy of Isa. 53:9. Matt. 27:57-60 tells us it was Joseph's personal tomb.

"hewn out in the rock" Jesus was not buried in the ground, but in Joseph's family crypt. It was hollowed out of a rock cliff and would have included several burial slabs. There were many of these in the Jerusalem area.

▣ "stone" This large hewn round slab of rock was shaped like a grinding stone. These graves were regularly robbed so they were sealed with a heavy stone. The size of the stone showed it was a rich man's grave.

15:47 "were looking on to see where He was laid" This term means "to view with interest and attention." They wanted to make sure that Jesus was properly prepared for burial. However, this also provided the needed two witnesses (i.e., Deut. 17:6; 19:15) to confirm a legal testimony. Jesus was dead and they did not go to the wrong tomb!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1.  Who arrested Jesus? (i.e., the make-up of the crowd)

2. How was the trial of Jesus improper, even by Jewish standards?

3. Were there one or two servant girls in verses 66-69?

4. Why was Peter so nervous in the courtyard?

5. Read the accounts of the trials in all four Gospels and make your own chronological list.

6. Describe if possible, Pilate's motivation in all this?

7. How can we explain the crowd's behavior?

8. Why did the soldiers make sport of Jesus? How many different groups made fun of Him?

9. List the different ways they mocked Jesus.

10. Where was Jesus crucified?

11. Why did Jesus feel abandoned by the Father (cf. Mark 15:34)?

12. Why is Mark 15:39 one of the key verses in Mark's Gospel?

13. Why did Joseph want Jesus buried quickly?


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