Reflections on the Death and Resurrection of Jesus of
Lesson Passage: Mark 15:1-16:8 (Matthew 27:1-28:15 and Luke 23:1-12)
The Gospel of Mark provides a somewhat less detailed account of the passion of Jesus, as compared to Matthew and Luke. In this lesson material, I hope to provide a general summary and reflection on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, as viewed from all three synoptic Gospels. This story, as I see it, is the centerpiece of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the heart of Christian hope in Christ.
Jesus’ Trial Before Pontius Pilate (Mark 15:1-15)
After a makeshift trial before the Sanhedrin, the
authorities took Jesus to stand before Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, who ruled
Judea, 25 or 26 to 35 A.D (Tacitus. Annals).
The Roman procurator suffered a poor relationship with the Jews due to his
heavy-handed rule of the region. Shortly
after taking power, for instance, he relocated the imperial forces from
Caesarea to the holy city of
Pilate’s role in the execution of Jesus did not escape the
careful attention of the early church.
The Sanhedrin brought Jesus to Pilate because the Jewish leaders had no
authority to execute prisoners. Pilate
Matthew and Luke reveal the spurious accusations brought
against Jesus, but Mark merely implies that the Sanhedrin accused the Lord of
insurrection, rebellion aimed at deposing Roman rule in
The Gospel of Mark does not mention Jesus’ appearance before
Herod Antipas, but Luke describes the unseemly behavior of the king as he
conversed with the Savior. The Romans
allowed a certain degree of self-governance in the provinces, and Herod ruled
At the time of Jesus’ incarceration, Pilate’s prison held a notorious criminal named Barabbas, a nickname meaning “Son of Abba.” We know little about this brigand, but the Bible says he was a murderer and insurrectionist. Clearly, Pilate believed the people would chose Jesus over this disreputable felon, but the crowd, spurred by the accusations of the chief priests, called for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of the Nazarene. The governor, of course, knew of Jesus innocence, but, in an effort to appease the violent crowd, Pilate determined to crucify Jesus, and, after a severe whipping, Pilate delivered Jesus to the execution squad.
The Gospels of Mark and Matthew record the cruel brutality
and mockery of the praetorian soldiers —mockery with a regal robe, the crown of
thorns, a reed in his hand (a mock scepter), and they spit upon him. Scourging
was a horrific punishment that often led to the death of the recipient.
Typically, the soldiers stripped the criminal and lashed him to a post. Several guards struck the man’s back, from
different angles, ensuring the most injury.
A flagellum consisted of
leather straps fitted with lead weights. The Gospels give no indication of the
motives for the Roman soldiers to mistreat Jesus, but, perhaps the story
intends to reflect the utter abandonment of the Lord, by both Jews and
Gentiles. Whatever the case, Jesus suffered
greatly, even before the atrocities on
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, and he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.
The Journey to
The Gospel of Mark devotes only one verse to the arduous
journey from Pilate’s palace to
Luke mentions a group of women who wept for Jesus as the
ghastly procession made its way to
The Crucifixion (Mark 15:23-39)
The Romans routinely crucified men accused of serious crimes, especially insurrection. When the execution party arrived at the crucifixion site, the soldiers affixed the crossbeam to a stake secured in the ground. The wrists and ankles were nailed to the beams, in many cases; however, in some situations, the soldiers would simply tie the criminal to the cross. Men crucified with nails tended, of course, to die more quickly. Often, it took days for the criminals to die, and, under normal circumstances, the Romans would not allow the burial of their victims. In some cases, the Romans would hasten death by breaking the legs of the criminals. The prisoners were crucified naked, but, in some situations, the Romans allowed for loincloths, in the case of Jewish executions.
The soldiers stripped Jesus of his clothing and offered him,
to no avail, a wine concoction to dull the agony. Mark’s designation of the “third hour” proves
problematic in light of John 19:14.
Mary Magdalene came from a Galilean fishing village on the
western shore of the
The Burial of Jesus (Mark 42-47)
Passover began at sunset, on the day the Romans crucified
Jesus; therefore, the corpse had to be buried hurriedly. Joseph of Arimathea (a village in
Ramathaim-Zophim, about twenty miles northwest of
The Resurrection of Jesus (Mark 16:1-8)
Mark devoted only one paragraph to the resurrection story (vv. 1-8). Some commentators conclude that a longer ending did not survive, thus we have only this abbreviated account. As an important sidelight, even very conservative Bible scholars freely acknowledge that the last portion of Chapter Sixteen, verses nine through twenty, do not constitute a part of the original text of Mark’s Gospel. Most modern translations and Study Bibles make note of this, while including the questionable verses. From my limited expertise, I believe the Gospel of Mark ends with verse eight.
Mark focused attention on the three women mentioned in
Chapter Fifteen, the two Marys and Salome.
They came to the tomb to complete the burial process abbreviated by the
approaching Sabbath, on the previous Friday.
The women fretted about the heavy stone that blocked the entrance to the
tomb, but, when they arrived in the cemetery, the worrisome rock was already
removed. Inside the sepulcher the women
met a white-robed man who told them Jesus had arisen Matthew identifies the man
as an angel, and Luke says two men appeared to the women. To avoid any misunderstanding, the man
identified the risen person as “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.” The women, startled and trembling, ran
dumbfounded to tell the disciples and Peter. The women’s message included
instructions for the disciples to meet Jesus in