VII. Betrayal, Suffering, Death, and Resurrection (Mark 14:1–16:20)

14:1-2 The Jewish leaders were determined to destroy Jesus, but they didn’t want to do anything during the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. They feared a riot among the people because of Jesus’s notoriety. They wanted things to proceed according to their timetable, but they were naïve. Jesus had predicted that he would be crucified and rise from the dead in Jerusalem (8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34). God is sovereign; everything proceeds according to his timetable.

14:66-72 Meanwhile, outside in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s maidservants recognized Peter as a companion of Jesus (14:66-67). Immediately, he denied it, and a rooster crowed (14:68). Though Peter didn’t realize it, Jesus’s prediction was coming to pass (see 14:29-31). When the maidservant told others, Peter again denied it, probably fearing for his life (14:69-70). After being accused a third time, Peter resorted to cursing and swearing in order to convince everyone that he had nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth (14:70-71). That’s when the rooster crowed again, and Peter remembered. Filled with grief and guilt, the once-bold disciple broke down and wept (14:72).

Peter had brashly vowed to stand with Jesus, even if everyone else ran away. But he had placed his confidence in himself. Our flesh, no matter how sincere, cannot achieve righteousness apart from yielding to and depending on the Lord.

15:1 In the morning, the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council over which the high priest presided, met and determined to hand Jesus over to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea (from AD 26–36). Since the Jews were under Roman rule, they couldn’t carry out the death penalty (see John 18:31); they would need the Roman governor’s help. Pilate was a cruel man who was more than willing to execute enemies of Rome. Normally he would’ve been in Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean Sea, but given the number of Jewish pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem for Passover, he was present in the holy city to maintain order.

15:2 In order for Pilate to be willing to execute Jesus, he would need to be guilty of a crime against Rome—like sedition. Since he claimed to be the Messiah, a Jewish King, this was the charge the Sanhedrin brought against him. The Jews were to have no king but Caesar. So Pilate asked, Are you the King of the Jews? Jesus’s answer, You say so, is an affirmation. After all, this was the basis for his crucifixion (15:18, 26, 32). But Jesus didn’t share Pilate’s conception about what it meant to be the King of the Jews (see John 18:36).

15:3-14 As the chief priests leveled many accusations at Jesus, he refused to respond, and his silence annoyed and amazed Pilate (15:3-5). But Pilate knew how to deal with the situation. Each year during the Passover festival, he had a custom of releasing a prisoner that the Jews requested as a way of placating them (15:6, 8). He was aware that the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus killed simply because they were jealous of him (15:10).

So Pilate asked the crowd if they wanted him to release the popular teacher, the King of the Jews (15:9). However, the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask instead for Barabbas, a murderer who had been part of a rebellion against Roman rule (15:7, 11). When Pilate asked what they wanted him to do with Jesus, the people demanded that he be crucified (15:12-13). Pilate was no kindhearted man, but he recognized that their demand made no sense. What has he done wrong? Yet the people had been worked into a frenzy and wanted blood (15:14). Incited by their religious leaders, the very ones who had been celebrating Jesus’s teaching and miracles only a few days before were now calling for his death.

15:15 In the end, Pilate wasn’t concerned about justice. He simply wanted to avoid a riot. In order to satisfy the crowd, he released a murderer and handed over the sinless Son of God to be crucified. Before that, Jesus was flogged. This was a brutal means of punishment in which a whip, with pieces of bone or metal tied into its ends, was applied to the back of a person until his flesh was ripped to shreds.

15:16-20 Soldiers led Jesus away for his execution, but not before mocking him in front of the whole company (15:16). They faked homage to him by putting a purple robe on him, pressing a crown of thorns into his head, crying out, Hail, King of the Jews, and bowing before him (15:17-19). They also beat him with a stick and spat on him (15:19). Then they took him away to crucify him (15:20). Hear the words of the author of Hebrews, fellow Christian: “Consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up” (Heb 12:3).

15:21-22 After intense suffering in prayer, enduring an all-night trial, and being ruthlessly beaten, Jesus was too weak to carry his cross. So the soldiers had it carried by a passerby: Simon, a man from Cyrene, which was the capital city of the Roman district of Cyrenaica in northern Africa (15:21). The place of crucifixion was called Golgotha, an Aramaic name meaning Place of the Skull (15:22). Our English word Calvary is derived from the Latin translation, Calvaria. Scripture does not tell us why it had this name. Maybe people called it this because it was a customary place for executions, or perhaps it was because the place actually looked like a skull. What we do know is that it was near Jerusalem, outside the city walls (see John 19:20; Heb 13:12).

15:23-27 They offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to help dull the intense pain he was experiencing, but he refused it (15:23). He was determined not to lessen the suffering that he had voluntarily submitted to. Once they had crucified him between two criminals, the soldiers cast lots (a practice like rolling dice) for his clothes—all in fulfillment of Psalm 22:16-18 (15:24, 27). The charge against him was posted on his cross: The King of the Jews (15:26). Ironically, the charge was true. Below it hung the divine King, atoning for the sins of the world.

15:29-32 A few days prior, Jesus was praised as the coming King (11:1-10). Now everyone who passed by hurled insults at him (15:29). This included the chief priests and the scribes (15:31). Seeing Jesus put to death wasn’t enough for them; they also wanted to mock him in his agony. They challenged him to come down . . . from the cross if he was truly the Messiah, the King of Israel (15:32). But remaining on the cross until death was exactly what the Messiah had to do.

15:33-34 At noon an unnatural darkness came over the whole land (15:33), signifying God’s judgment on sin. Then Jesus cried out, My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (15:34)—once again fulfilling the words of Psalm 22 (Ps 22:1). Though the Trinitarian nature of God remained unbroken, yet the Son experienced a judicial separation from the Father as he suffered for the sins of the world.

15:35-38 Some misunderstood Jesus’s cry and thought he was calling for Elijah (15:35). In jest they mocked him, offered him a drink of sour wine, and said, Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down (15:36). Finally, Jesus cried in a loud voice and breathed his last (15:37). His willing sacrificial death had been accomplished. And at that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (15:38). This symbolized that he had achieved what he came to do—granting human beings access to God. Indeed, by atoning for sin, Jesus made it possible for people to come into God’s presence. We have no need for a mere human high priest to offer sacrifices repeatedly so that we can be right with God. Jesus Christ, the God-Man, is our great high priest who offered himself for sin once and for all (see Heb 4:14; 7:27; 10:10, 12).

15:39-41 When Jesus died, the centurion standing at the cross said, Truly this man was the Son of God! (15:39). In the midst of judgment on sin, then, salvation came to a Gentile centurion who confessed the truth. Jesus’s disciples were nowhere to be seen, but the women who’d followed him and took care of him were there (15:40-41). Whereas the men had fled, these women stood faithfully by Jesus in his dying moments.

15:42-47 It was the day before the Sabbath, so Jesus would need to be buried before sunset (15:42). Therefore, Joseph of Arimathea . . . went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body (15:43). This took great courage because Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, which had condemned Jesus. However, he “had not agreed with their plan and action” (Luke 23:50-51) but was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God (15:43). He identified with Jesus’s kingdom message and wanted to honor him. Once Pilate had obtained verification from the centurion that Jesus was indeed dead, he allowed Joseph the corpse. Then Joseph buried him in his own tomb (15:44-46; see Matt 27:59-60). Two of the women who’d followed Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses, saw where he was buried (15:47), planning to visit the tomb after the Sabbath.

16:1-4 On the first of the week—Sunday—the women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’s body (16:1-2). They were discussing the fact that they needed someone to roll away the stone that covered the entrance to the tomb (16:3). But when they arrived, they saw that the large stone had already been moved (16:4). What had happened? Who rolled the stone away?

16:5-6 As the women stepped into the tomb, they expected to see a dead body—not a live one. A young man dressed in a white robe was sitting inside. Entering a dark tomb to find someone speaking to you is enough to alarm anyone, but this man immediately told them, Don’t be alarmed. We know from Matthew’s Gospel that the man was actually an angel (Matt 28:5), so his words come with divine authority: You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! (Mark 16:6). Jesus had told his disciples in advance, again and again, that it would happen (8:31; 9:31; 10:34). Now it had come to pass. Jesus Christ had risen from the dead.

16:7-8 The divine messenger told the women that they themselves were to be messengers, informing the disciples and Peter that he would meet them in Galilee (16:7). Peter, the one who had denied Jesus, was perhaps singled out to reassure him of the Lord’s forgiveness. The women were so initially overwhelmed at what they had seen that they ran in fear and delayed carrying out the instructions (16:8), but they soon obeyed the angel and told the disciples the good news (see Matt 28:8; Luke 24:9-10).

16:9-20 Some of the earliest existing ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark do not contain this section. Therefore, many scholars believe that Mark originally concluded at 16:8 and that these verses were added later by someone other than the author. Most of what appears in these verses is reported in the other Gospels.

Mary Magdalene was the first person who saw the risen Lord Jesus and informed the disciples (16:9-11; see Matt 28:1, 8-10; Luke 24:10-11; John 20:1-3, 11-18). The two to whom Jesus appeared while they were walking seem to be the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus (16:12-13; see Luke 24:13-35). Later, Jesus appeared to all of the disciples and commissioned them to preach the gospel of the kingdom throughout the world (16:14-16; see Matt 28:16-20; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-22). Those who believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life will be delivered in eternity. Those who are baptized will be delivered (i.e., “saved”) in history through their public identification with Christ (i.e., discipleship). He also promised them that they would perform miraculous signs as apostolic confirmation of the truth of their message (16:17-18; see esp. Heb 2:3-4; also Acts 2:1-13; 3:1-10; 5:12-16; 20:7-12; 28:1-6). Then the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven to the right hand of God the Father, and the disciples began their ministry (16:19-20; see Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9).

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