The entire book of Mark is leading up to this moment. So many people missed what Jesus was doing. Everyone thought the Messiah would come to establish an earthly kingdom, but Jesus willingly laid down His life, so that we could be a part of His eternal heavenly Kingdom. The cross is the commitment point for every person. We have all sinned, and Jesus paid the price for us. Will you accept God’s grace and His love through the cross of Jesus today? And, if you are a Christ-follower, then will you live your life every day for His Name and Glory?
You Have Said So, Pilate
Pontius Pilate was a Roman official who was tasked with governing over Judea, during Roman occupation. In Jesus’ day, the Romans allowed the Jews to keep their own law, have their own leaders, and practice their own religion. The Sanhedrin were the ruling body of Jews in Judea, and they included Pharisees and Sadducces led by the high priest. As you might recall from earlier chapters in The Gospel of Mark, these religious elites hated Jesus and His threat to their power, and constantly searched for cause to arrest Him.
While the Jews had their own justice system, they were not allowed to enforce capital punishment without the permission of Roman authorities (see John 18:31). This is why, in Mark 15, the Sanhedrin brought Jesus before Pilate, a leader from a pagan empire, to ask for Jesus’ crucifixion.
“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “You have said so,” Jesus replied. The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.” But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed. – Mark 15:2-5
Jesus’ response to Pilate confirmed that He was indeed the king of the Jews, and even drew attention to the fact that the words have now come from Pilate himself. This conversation occurred around the time Pilate received a message from his wife about a prophetic dream, and warned Pilate to have nothing to do with His death (Matthew 27:19). Plus, Pilate saw the true motives of the Sanhedrin as he presided over Jesus’ case: knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him (Mark 15:10).
Jesus must have known that Pilate saw Him as innocent, and maybe that’s why Jesus said nothing more. Jesus’ words and actions all throughout His life testified to Him being the blameless, perfect Son of God. He did not need to defend Himself before a governor who knew the truth but would not act upon it.
Jesus or Barabbas?
It was customary for the governor to release a prisoner of the people’s choosing during the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and Pilate may have seen this as his chance to passively avoid putting Jesus to death. Pilate offered a choice: should he release a man named Barabbas, who was a murderer, or Jesus of Nazareth? Mark 15 tells us that the chief priests persuaded the crowd against Jesus. Within a week, a crowd which shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” had come to shout “Crucify him!”
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. – Mark 15:15
We’ve all been in moments where we’ve wanted to satisfy the crowd. Maybe it’s been peer pressure that’s caused us to drink too much. Or maybe it’s failing to stick up for someone who should be offered forgiveness. We’ve wanted to be liked, respected, and honored so much that we’ve chosen this esteem over speaking the truth and doing what is right.
Today, we reckon with the so-called cancel culture. We are pressured to apologize for parts of the Word of God which clash with the ways of the world. We’ve been wrongly conditioned to believe that accepting and enabling sin is somehow loving others. We’re asked to change our vocabulary and definitions, not out of love for the truth and for the glory of God, but to fall in line with social trends to protect our social standing. We compromise so much to be impressive to the world, at the expense of our Father in heaven.
Here’s the good news: although we are like Pilate because of ourselves, we are like Barabbas because of Jesus. We are set free from the sentence we deserve because of the innocent man who voluntarily took our place. And because of Jesus, we are justified — when it comes to our relationship with God, we can say it’s just as if I’d never sinned.
The Cross is Not The End
Have you ever thought about how incredible it is that the most prominent symbol of Christianity is the cross? This is the method of an excruciating and unjust execution of Jesus, The Son of God, and yet it is synonymous with hope, love, and everlasting life. A subversion like this could only be possible through the power of Jesus, who has conquered death itself!
But Mark 15:16-41 describes Jesus’ painful last moments before death for a reason. Be encouraged to read about the suffering of Jesus for yourself so you can feel the weight of His sacrifice.
While it was our sins (past, present, and future) which brought Jesus to the cross, it was His love for us that kept Him there. He could have called angels to bring Him down and prove to all that He was Lord, and not suffered more than a moment. But instead, He bore the full weight of our sins for our sake. Thank you, Jesus!