For an introduction to this series, click here.
Feb. 6, 2007
This chapter has the second half of Christ's Crucifixion. Pilate is the central figure here. The Sanhedrin had delivered a political prisoner (I'm describing this from Pilate's perspective) to him, called Jesus of Nazareth. Though Mark does not mention it, Pilate first tried to pass Him off to Herod since Jesus was a Galilean, but Herod sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate is "amazed" that Jesus does not respond to the accusations of the Jews. Pilate knows "that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up." (15:10) So he comes up with a brilliant plan. He offers Jesus or Barabbas, a notorious murderer, in a traditional prisoner release. The priests, furious at what Pilate had done, stirred up the crowd to ask for Barabbas. It's sad that as much as they surely not want a murderer on the streets, they would rather have him than Jesus. It shows their irrational thinking. When the crowd demands that Jesus be crucified, Pilate turns Him over, in order to "satisfy the crowd." (15:15) Pilate seems to be weary of dealing with these unruly and unpredictable Jews, and was ready to do anything just to get them to leave him alone.
Now here is an irrelevant pet peeve of mine: Golgotha or Calvary, is not a hill or a mountain. It is always described in the Gospels as a "place." The point of crucifixion is terror - this is what happens to people who don't obey Rome. You don't inspire fear by crucifying someone "on a hill far away." All Roman records and documents about crucifixion show that it was done in plain view of the people. All the Gospels record that Jesus' crucifixion was a very public event, with many people present, from Pharisees who mocked Him to John and Mary to the Roman soldier who proclaimed, "Truly this man was the Son of God."(15:39) Jesus was most likely killed at a notorious place for crucifixions very close to one of the main roads out of Jerusalem.
Interestingly, Mark is the only Gospel to record that Pilate was surprised that Jesus was dead early in the evening, since Jesus was put on the cross that morning. Mark records that when Joseph asked for Jesus' body, "Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph." (15:44-45, ESV) This was not the normal way crucifixions were done, but of course Jesus' execution was not normal in any sense of the word.