Jesus the Great King: The Sacrifice for Sinners


Jesus the Great King: The Sacrifice for Sinners


Jesus the Great King: The Sacrifice for Sinners

Mark 15:1-20

Main Idea: Jesus suffered in our place as the sacrifice for sinners.

  1. Our Great King’s Silence: The Accusations and Amazement (15:1-5)
  2. Our Great King’s Substitution: The Injustice and Insult (15:6-14)
  3. Our Great King’s Suffering: The Pain and Shame (15:15-20)

When you consider the passion of the Christ, the suffering and death of Jesus, what do you see? What do you think? Is He simply a martyr dying for what He believed in like a Socrates, Savanorola, Michael and Margaretha Sattler, Mahatma Ghandi, or Martin Luther King Jr.? Was He a fool who believed He was actually the Son of God and was put to death amid His delusions of grandeur? Was He a blasphemer and false Messiah who was a threat to the well-being of Israel? Was He a political revolutionary that Rome wisely extinguished before His flame blazed out of control? Did He simply suffer the misfortune of irritating the religious leaders, who out of envy (15:10) appealed to the political pragmatism of Pilate to get rid of Him?

Or was He actually the sinless Son of God (1:1; 15:39), the God Man, who suffered in our place, took the beating we deserved, and died the death we should have died? Is He indeed the great King, the sacrifice for sinners? It is early Friday morning. Our Lord has been betrayed, abandoned, interrogated, beaten, spit on, and denied throughout the night with no rest. He will soon be beaten nearly to death by Roman scourging (15:15) and crucified. He will die around 3:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon (15:33-37). What sinful man did to the Son of God can only make us weep. What the sinless Son of God did for man can only make us shout with joy for a “Savior King” who would suffer everything He suffered for you and for me.

Our Great King’s Silence: The Accusations and Amazement

Mark 15:1-5

The Sanhedrin needs to move quickly to get the “Jesus case” before Pilate. They want Him executed before the Sabbath begins on Friday evening at sundown.

345Pilate was the Roman procurator (imperial magistrate or governor) of Judea from ad 26-36. This information is helpful in dating Jesus’ public ministry and is further confirmation of the Bible’s historical accuracy. Pilate was a cruel and harsh governor who despised the Jews and enjoyed antagonizing them. He was also an expedient ruler who would gladly make compromises to keep the peace and stay in the good graces of Rome. Apparently Pilate held Jesus’ fate in his hands.

Only one accusation concerned Pilate, so he asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (v. 2). This title has obvious political overtones for Pilate and Rome. Pilate, like the high priest (14:61), is an accurate, though ignorant, confessor of the Christ.

Jesus responds in a cryptic fashion to his question: “You have said so.” This is neither a direct affirmation nor a denial. I think Jesus’ intention is something like, “Yes, I am a king, but not the kind of king you are thinking of.” As Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

At this point the chief priests “began to accuse Him of many things” (Mark 15:3). Luke 23:2 provides the specifics: “We found this man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is the Messiah, a King.”

Pilate again turned to Jesus: “Are you not answering anything? Look how many things they are accusing you of!” (Mark 15:4). To his amazement, “Jesus still did not answer anything” (v. 5). Pilate would try to wash his hands of Jesus and send Him to Herod Antipas (Luke 23:6-12). Jesus would not say a single word to this evil murderer of John the Baptist. He does not toss His pearls before pigs (Matt 7:6). Once more the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7 is being fulfilled: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth.” Here is the great King’s silence in the face of His accusers. Sinful men can only watch in amazement. No defense. Not a word. He will see to it that He goes to the cross.

Our Great King’s Substitution: The Injustice and Insult

Mark 15:6-14

The true Son of the Father, sinless and innocent, will be beaten and crucified. The other “son of the Father,” Barabbas, sinful and guilty, will be set free because Jesus became his substitute! The sovereign providence and plan of God could not be more clearly on display.

At Passover, Pilate was in the habit of releasing a prisoner, a condemned man, to gain the support and goodwill of the people. He apparently let them “make the call.” Incarcerated was a notorious rebel, a “freedom346 fighter” and murderer named Barabbas. His name actually means “son of the father”! He was awaiting his execution. He might be a national hero to the common people, but he was a revolutionary that Rome and Pilate would gladly put to death.

The people began to petition Pilate for his annual Passover amnesty gift (v. 8). Pilate saw this as a way out of a tough situation. He had already told the Jewish leaders concerning Jesus, “I find no grounds for charging Him” (John 18:38). Further, his wife had warned him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for today I’ve suffered terribly in a dream because of Him!” (Matt 27:19). He also knew the chief priests had only arrested Jesus out of envy (Mark 15:10). So Pilate asked the crowd, “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews for you?” (v. 9). If the people went with his option, he could release an innocent man and stick it to the Sanhedrin as well.

Things did not go as he hoped, though we know God’s plan is proceeding exactly as He intended. It is easy to suspect that the religious leaders thought Pilate might pull such a stunt. They were ready. They “stirred up the crowd so that he would release Barabbas to them instead” (v. 11). Pilate then asked what he should do with Jesus (v. 12). He may have thought they would ask for him to release both Barabbas and Jesus. Again they shouted their wishes: “Crucify Him!” Pilate made one last overture: “Why? What has He done wrong?” (v. 14). The crowd became even more boisterous: “Crucify Him!”

Pilate has had enough. He publicly washes his hands, while the crowd accepts responsibility for executing the King (Matt 27:24-25). Jesus was innocent but declared to be guilty. Barabbas was guilty but was treated as though he were innocent. Jesus died in his place. He also died in our place, that in an amazing reversal we might truly become sons and daughters of the heavenly Father. Sinclair Ferguson says,

Without knowing it, the religious leaders and Pilate and Barabbas were all part of a tapestry of grace which God was weaving for sinners. Their actions spoke louder than their words, louder than the cries of the crowds for Jesus’ blood. Jesus was not dying for His own crimes, but for the crimes of others; not for His own sins, but the sins of others. He did not die for Himself, he died for us!

Ferguson then asks a most important question: “Have you ever seen what they were all too blind to notice?” (Mark, 257).

Our Great King’s Suffering: The Pain and Shame


Mark 15:15-20

In the Gospel’s record of the passion of the Christ, the emphasis does not fall on the physical suffering of Jesus—as great as it was. Mocking is clearly highlighted, but the focus is much more on the spiritual and psychological agony. Still, we would be negligent if we passed over too quickly the scourging and physical abuse He suffered.

In verse 15, Mark simply says, “And after having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified.” William Lane details what being “flogged” entailed:

A Roman scourging was a terrifying punishment. The delinquent was stripped, bound to a post or a pillar, or sometimes simply thrown to [the] ground, and was beaten by a number of guards until his flesh hung in bleeding shreds. The instrument indicated by the Marcan text, the dreaded flagellum, was a scourge consisting of leather thongs plaited with several pieces of bone or lead so as to form a chain. No maximum number of strokes was prescribed by Roman law, and men condemned to flagellation frequently collapsed and died from the flogging. Josephus records that he himself had some of his opponents in Galilee scourged until their entrails were visible (War II. xxi. 5), while the procurator Albinus had the prophet Jesus bar Hanan scourged until his bones lay visible (War VI. v. 3). (Lane, Mark, 557)

Following this life-threatening beating, “they called the whole company together.” This would number about six hundred hardened Roman soldiers. (1) They clothed Him in a purple cloak, probably a faded military garment serving the purpose of a mock robe of royalty (v. 17). (2) They twisted together a mock crown, one made of thorns, and pressed it down on His head. The crown of thorns pictured God’s curse on sinful humanity now being put on Jesus (Gen 3:17-18). (3) They began to mock Him again, this time with derisive salutes: “Hail, King of the Jews!” (v. 18). As the Romans would hail Caesar, so these soldiers sarcastically hailed King Jesus. (4) They hit Him again with a stick, a mock scepter (v. 19; cf. Matt 27:29-30). (5) They continued spitting on and insulting Him in this manner. (6) They knelt down in mock worship. (7) When they had finished ridiculing Him, they “led Him out to crucify Him.”

Completely alone, humiliated, naked, and beaten nearly to death, our Savior endured yet again ridicule, shame, and pain at the hands of sinful men, at the hands of those He came to save. Oh, how heaven must have looked on in disbelief! Perhaps the angels wept. The Father sent His beloved348 Son to rescue and redeem a rebel race. Look at what they have done to our Lord! But look, and never forget, what our Lord has done for us!


One of the majestic hymns of the faith begins, “Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne” (Thring and Bridges, “Crown Him, ” 1851). This song rightly looks to heaven. However, here we see the Lamb on a different throne, the throne of His cross. He is crowned with a “crown of thorns” (15:17), a reminder of the curse from which He has redeemed us (Gen 3:15-18).

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed” (Gal 3:13; see Deut 21:23). Jesus suffered the injustice and insult I should have suffered. Jesus experienced the shame and pain I should have experienced. Jesus bore the guilt and curse I should have borne. The shepherd was struck that the sheep might be saved. The great King was tortured and killed that His people might live.

I truly “stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned unclean! He bore my sin and my sorrow and made them His very own. He bore my burden to Calvary and suffered and died alone” (Gabriel, “Amazed,” 1905). Jesus is the great King, the sacrifice for sinners!

Reflect and Discuss

  1. Name some martyrs from history. What did they accomplish by their deaths? How does Jesus’ death compare with that of these martyrs?
  2. If Jesus had been primarily interested in avoiding execution, what defense might He have offered before Pilate? Why did He remain silent?
  3. What were Pilate’s concerns regarding Jesus’ trial?
  4. What did the Sanhedrin hope to accomplish at Jesus’ trial?
  5. What role did the Sanhedrin’s instigation of the crowds play? Have you ever been in a situation where a group did something the individuals in it later regretted? How did this get started? How could it be avoided?
  6. “Substitutionary atonement” sounds complicated. How would you explain it to a children’s Sunday school class? What would you call it?
  7. Jesus was (1) psychologically ridiculed, (2) physically beaten, (3) spiritually abandoned by God, and (4) mortally executed. How do these torments compare?
  8. As a sinner for whom Christ suffered and died, what is your complicity in each of His torments?
  9. 349What is the value in contemplating the appalling enormity of Jesus’ suffering? Did the movie The Passion of the Christ (2004) go too far in its depiction of His physical suffering? Explain.
  10. What does your church currently do to commemorate the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Christ? How should it be commemorated?