15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Mark 15

1. Jesus’ Jewish trial 14:53-15:1

Mark omitted reference to Jesus’ preliminary hearing before Annas (John 18:12-14; John 18:19-24).

B. The Servant’s endurance of suffering 14:53-15:47

Jesus’ sufferings until now had been anticipatory and psychological. Now He began to experience physical pain resulting from His trials and crucifixion. As the faithful Servant of the Lord who came to do His Father’s will, His sufferings continued to increase.

Jesus underwent two trials, a religious one before the Jewish leaders and a civil one before the Roman authorities. This was necessary because under Roman sovereignty the Sanhedrin did not have the authority to crucify. The Sanhedrin wanted Jesus to suffer crucifixion (John 18:31). Each trial had three parts.

Jesus’ Religious Trial
Before AnnasJohn 18:12-14; John 18:19-24
Before CaiaphasMatthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54; Luke 22:63-65
Before the SanhedrinMatthew 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71
Jesus’ Civil Trial
Before PilateMatthew 27:2; Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38
Before Herod AntipasLuke 23:6-12
Before PilateMatthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; Joh_18:39 to Joh_19:16

Verse 1

The verdict of the Sanhedrin 15:1 (cf. Matthew 27:1-2; Luke 22:66-71)

Matthew and Mark described this meeting as though it was separate from the earlier one (Mark 14:53-65). They probably did so to bring the reader back from the courtyard to the upper room in Caiaphas’ house. Yet the decision seems to have been a separate one from the conviction for blasphemy. The Roman authorities would not have prosecuted Jesus as a blasphemer. Consequently the Sanhedrin, evidently now at full strength or close to it, decided to charge Jesus with treason against the Roman government. This verse does not explain that decision, but Pilate’s examination of Jesus that follows shows that was the charge the Sanhedrin had made against Him.

"Jesus, who is, indeed, king of the Jews in a deeply spiritual sense, has refused to lead a political uprising. Yet now, condemned for blasphemy by the Jews because of his spiritual claims, he is accused by them also before Pilate by [sic] being precisely what he had disappointed the crowds for failing to be-a political insurgent." [Note: Moule, p. 124.]

Mark did not explain who Pilate was, as Matthew did, evidently because his Roman readers knew about Pilate.

"Pilate belonged to a special group of imperial administrators, consisting of men beneath the rank of senator, the so-called equestrian class or Roman ’knights.’ These magistrates, who owned a moderate minimum of property, were used to govern relatively small areas that required careful supervision. Their official title in the period prior to Claudius was not procurator but prefect (praefectus). . . . Pilate came to Judea in the year A.D. 26 as the fifth of the provincial prefects and remained in office ten years. He showed himself a harsh administrator who despised the Jewish people and their particular sensitivities." [Note: Lane, pp. 548-49.]

When Pilate visited Jerusalem from his provincial capital of Caesarea, he normally stayed in Herod’s palace on the northwest corner of the city or in the Fortress of Antonia just northwest of the temple. [Note: Hiebert, p. 379.] It was apparently to one of these places that the guards led Jesus in the early morning hours of Friday, the fifteenth of Nisan (April 3). Christian tradition favors the Fortress of Antonia, but modern commentators usually favor Herod’s palace.

"As Friday morning arrives and the death of Jesus approaches, Mark will slow time from days to hours. Such slowing of time is yet another way of calling attention to the pivotal importance of Jesus’ death." [Note: Kingsbury, p. 49.]

The Sanhedrin involved the Romans in Jesus’ trial because the Romans did not allow the Jews to execute anyone without their permission, though the Sanhedrin could pass a death sentence. The Jews probably bound Jesus to make Him look like a dangerous criminal. He would not have tried to escape.

Verse 2

Pilate had absolute authority over Jesus’ fate under Roman law. Customarily trials such as this one took place in public. [Note: Grassmick, p. 185.] They also took place "as soon after dawn as possible because the working day of a Roman official began at the earliest hour of daylight." [Note: Lane, p. 549.] First, the plaintiffs or accusers made their charges against the defendant. Then the prosecutor, in this case Pilate, examined the defendant who could speak in his own defense, and he heard the testimony of any witnesses. Next, the prosecutor consulted with his legal advisers and finally pronounced his verdict. The execution of the sentence followed immediately. [Note: Grassmick, p. 185.]

Pilate’s question shows that the Jews had charged Jesus with claiming to be a king. Claiming to be a king was tantamount to treason against Caesar and was a capital offense. Jesus admitted that He was the King of the Jews, but He implied that He was a different kind of king than Pilate thought (cf. Matthew 27:11). John wrote that Pilate discussed the nature of Jesus’ kingship with Him further and concluded that Jesus was not guilty of treason (John 18:34-38).

Verses 2-5

Jesus’ first appearance before Pilate 15:2-5 (cf. Matthew 27:11-14; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38)

Verses 2-20

2. Jesus’ Roman trial 15:2-20

During the Jewish trial Jesus had affirmed His messiahship and the Sanhedrin had condemned Him for blasphemy. During His Roman trial He affirmed His kingship and Pilate condemned Him for treason. The Roman trial, like the Jewish trial, had three stages: an interrogation before Pilate, an attempted interrogation before Herod, and an arraignment and sentencing before Pilate. [Note: For helpful insights into Roman law as it affected Jesus’ trial, see R. Larry Overstreet, "Roman Law and the Trial of Christ," Bibliotheca Sacra 135:540 (October-December 1978):323-32.]

Verses 3-5

The chief priests, speaking for the Sanhedrin, brought many other charges against Jesus, some of which Luke mentioned (cf. Luke 23:2). Jesus’ failure to defend Himself against so many accusations amazed Pilate (cf. Isaiah 53:7).

Ironically Pilate himself declared who Jesus was with his inscription over His cross: the king of the Jews (Mark 15:28). Jesus did not need to tell Pilate who he was. Pilate was going to give Him His proper title anyway. This is another indication of Jesus’ authority in the political realm. [Note: Edwards, p. 224.]

Mark used a double negative in the Greek text (ouketi ouden) to describe Jesus’ absolute silence. In English two negatives make a positive, but in Greek two negatives strengthen the force of the negative. Mark recorded Jesus replying only briefly to Caiaphas (Mark 14:62) and to Pilate. This is consistent with Mark’s emphasis on Jesus as the Servant of the Lord.

Only Luke recorded that Pilate now sent Jesus to Herod Antipas, who was also in Jerusalem for the feast, since Jesus was a Galilean and Herod ruled over Galilee (Luke 23:6-12). Herod then sent Jesus back to Pilate.

Verse 6

Evidently this custom served to improve relations between the Roman ruler and his subjects. Dictatorial governments such as Rome sometimes imprison popular rebel leaders. The Roman governor of Egypt practiced a similar custom. [Note: Taylor, p. 580.]

"Amnesties at festival times are known in many parts of the world and in various periods." [Note: S. E. Johnson, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Mark, p. 249.]

"Two forms of amnesty existed in Roman law, the abolitio or acquittal of a prisoner not yet condemned, and the indulgentia, or pardoning of one already condemned. What Pilate intended in the case of Jesus, who at this stage of the proceedings had not yet been sentenced by the court, was clearly the first form." [Note: Lane, p. 552.]

"The historicity of the paschal amnesty has been disputed often, primarily because Josephus offers no evidence that such a custom ever existed. There is, however, a parallel in Roman law which indicates that an imperial magistrate could pardon and acquit individual prisoners in response to the shouts of the populace." [Note: Ibid., pp. 552-53.]

Verses 6-15

Jesus’ second appearance before Pilate 15:6-15 (cf. Matthew 27:15-26; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-19:16)

Mark’s brief account of Jesus’ arraignment and sentencing concentrates on Pilate’s offer to release Jesus or Barabbas.

Verse 7

This verse and the next provide more background information. Barabbas was one of the popular Jewish freedom fighters whom the Romans had imprisoned for participating in an uprising against Rome. Later a large number of these revolutionaries organized and became known as the Zealots. Barabbas had also committed robbery, probably as part of his insurrection (John 18:40). Mark’s use of the definite article before his name implies that his original readers had heard of Barabbas.

Verse 8

Evidently a large crowd of Jews had come to request the customary amnesty from Pilate. There is no indication in the text that they had come because they knew of Jesus’ arrest or because they wanted to observe the outcome of His trial. They appear to have been there for reasons unrelated to Jesus. [Note: Swete, p. 371.]

Verses 9-10

Pilate responded to this crowd’s request by asking if they wanted him to release Jesus, whom he contemptuously called "the King of the Jews" (cf. Mark 15:2). He recognized the chief priests’ motives in arresting Jesus as being self-seeking rather than loyalty to Rome. He hoped to frustrate the chief priests by getting the people to request the release of someone Pilate viewed as innocent. He could thereby retain real criminals such as Barabbas. Matthew wrote that Pilate gave the people the choice of Jesus or Barabbas (Matthew 27:17). He evidently believed that Jesus had the greater popular following and would be the people’s choice.

Verse 11

Many of the people in the crowd were residents of Jerusalem and many were pilgrims from far away. The chief priests were able to persuade them to ask for Barabbas’ release. The people may have accepted the advice of their leaders because Barabbas had already tried to lead a rebellion, but Jesus had only hinted at an overthrow. Moreover it would have been very unusual for the crowd to side with Pilate and oppose their leaders.

"In Judea it was customary to confront the Roman authorities with as large and boisterous a delegation as could be mustered (cf. Acts 24:1; Josephus, Antiquities XVIII. viii. 4)." [Note: Lane, p. 555.]

Verses 12-14

The people’s choice left Pilate with a problem. What would he do with innocent Jesus? Pilate’s wife had just warned him to have nothing to do with that innocent man (Matthew 27:19). He put the question to the crowd. The religious leaders probably started the chant calling for Jesus’ crucifixion, not just capital punishment, but it quickly spread through the crowd. The mob ignored Pilate’s request for reasonable reconsideration and continued chanting.

Verse 15

Pilate had had problems in his relations with the Jewish people that he governed (cf. Luke 13:1-2). He saw the present situation as an opportunity to gain popular support. This overrode his sense of justice and his wife’s warning.

Evidently Pilate flogged Jesus in the presence of the crowd hoping that that punishment would satisfy them. John recorded that after the flogging Pilate tried again to persuade the people against crucifixion (John 19:1-7). Flogging was not a necessary preparation for crucifixion. [Note: Wessel, p. 775.] Probably two soldiers stripped Jesus and tied His hands above him to a post. Then they beat Him with a leather whip with pieces of bone and or metal embedded in the leather strips. Victims of Roman floggings seldom survived. [Note: Ibid.]

"The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back and legs. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. . . . Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue." [Note: C. Truman Davis, "The Crucifixion of Jesus. The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View," Arizona Medicine 22:3 (March 1965):185.]

Mark’s use of the phrase "delivered Him over" (NASB) or "handed Him over" (NIV) may be an allusion to Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 53:12 where the same expression occurs in the Septuagint translation. This reminder of Jesus’ position as the Suffering Servant is the emphasis in Mark’s account of this aspect of His trial.

Verse 16

"Praetorium" is a Latin loan word that describes a Roman governor’s official residence (cf. Matthew 27:27; John 18:28; John 18:33; John 19:9; Acts 23:35). The Roman soldiers escorted Jesus to the courtyard (Gr. aule, cf. vv. 54, 66) of the palace. This could have been either the Antonia Fortress or Herod’s palace, but it was probably Herod’s palace. There a group of soldiers assembled around Jesus, probably those who were nearby and available. A cohort consisted of 600 men.

Verses 16-20

The Roman soldiers’ mockery of Jesus 15:16-20 (cf. Matthew 27:27-31; John 19:16-17a)

Verses 17-19

The reddish purple robe and the crown of thorns mocked Jesus’ claim to be the Jews’ king. The Greek word porphyran elsewhere describes colors from bright red to deep blue. [Note: J. A. Alexander, The Gospel According to Mark, p. 418.] The crown of thorns was probably not a torture device but part of Jesus’ mock royal attire.

"It may well have been an improvised caricature of the radiate crown signifying divine kingship and frequently depicted on coins then in circulation." [Note: Lane, pp. 559-60.]

"With this ’crown’ the soldiers unwittingly pictured God’s curse on sinful humanity being thrust on Jesus (cf. Genesis 3:17-18)." [Note: Grassmick, p. 187.]

Mark did not mention the staff that they placed in Jesus’ hand as a mock scepter (Matthew 27:29). "Hail, King of the Jews" is a parody of "Hail, Caesar." Their repeated beatings, spitting, kneeling as if in worship, and bowing as before a great person, intensified Jesus’ sufferings.

"Irony is a dominant feature of Mark’s story. Verbal irony occurs when a speaker self-consciously says one thing but means the opposite." [Note: Rhoads and Michie, pp. 59-60.]

Verse 20

Normally the Romans forced criminals condemned to crucifixion to walk naked to their place of execution and flogged them along the way. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 19:4:5.] Evidently the soldiers concluded that Jesus would not live through such treatment in view of the abuse that He had already suffered. Therefore they put His own garments back on Him.

Mark’s original readers faced subjection to similar mockery and abuse from pagan authorities. This pericope would have been an encouragement to them to remain faithful to Jesus. Jesus allowed other people to treat Him as a servant because this was a part of His obedience to God (cf. 1 Peter 5:6-7).

Verse 21

Probably only Mark mentioned Simon’s sons because the Christians in Rome knew them or knew of them (cf. Romans 16:13). Evidently Simon became a believer in Jesus. Mark mentioned very few people by name other than the Twelve. Simon was evidently a North African Jew who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover season. Since there was a large population of Jews in Cyrene it is probable that Simon was racially a Semite rather than a Negro. [Note: Hiebert, p. 389; Wessel, p. 778.] Simon had to do literally what all followers of Jesus must do figuratively, namely, bear His cross (cf. Mark 8:34; Luke 23:26).

Verses 21-32

The crucifixion of Jesus 15:21-32 (cf. Matthew 27:32-44; Luke 23:26-43; John 19:17b-27)

Verses 21-47

3. Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial 15:21-47

Jesus’ sufferings continued to increase as He drew closer to the Cross.

Verses 22-23

"Golgotha" is a loose transliteration of the Aramaic word for "skull." Evidently the place resembled a skull or had some association with a skull or skulls. An ancient tradition that Jerome referred to identified the place as the one where Adam’s skull lay. If you visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, you can see this traditional site of Adam’s grave under what the authorities claim is the site of the crucifixion.

"According to an old tradition, respected women of Jerusalem provided a narcotic drink to those condemned to death in order to decrease their sensitivity to the excruciation pain (TB [Babylonian Talmud] Sanhedrin 43a)." [Note: Lane, p. 564.]

"They" (Mark 15:23) could refer to the soldiers, but it seems unlikely that they would have done anything to ease Jesus’ pain.

Verse 24

Mark probably described Jesus’ actual crucifixion simply because his Roman readers would have been only too familiar with its horrors. Yet for modern readers some explanation is helpful. Davis described it as follows.

"Simon is ordered to place the patibulum [crosspiece] on the ground and Jesus is quickly thrown backwards with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes [the vertical beam]. . . .

"The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The Victim is now crucified. As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain-the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.

"At this point, another phenomenon occurs. As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. . . . Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically He is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. . . .

"Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins. A deep crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. . . .

"It is now almost over-the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level-the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues-the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. . . .

"The body of Jesus is now in extremis, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. . . .

"His mission of atonement has been completed. Finally He can allow His body to die." [Note: Davis, pp. 186-87.]

Mark’s quotation of Psalms 22:18, the psalm that predicted more detail of Messiah’s sufferings in death than any other passage, contrasted the soldiers callused actions with Jesus’ agony.

"While the use of nails to fasten a body to the cross is not widely attested, in June, 1968, a team of Israeli scholars discovered at Giv’at ha-Mivtar in northeastern Jerusalem a Jewish tomb which produced the first authenticated evidence of a crucifixion in antiquity. Among the remains in an ossuary [dating from the first century before A.D. 70] were those of an individual whose lower calf bones had been broken and whose heel bones had been transfixed with a single iron nail." [Note: Lane, pp. 564-65.]

Verse 25

This time reference is unique to Mark’s Gospel. The third hour was 9:00 a.m. John located Jesus’ trial before Pilate at "about" the sixth hour (John 19:14). This would have been noon. Consequently we should probably understand Mark’s reference as being to the approximate beginning of Jesus’ crucifixion rather than the precise time when the soldiers nailed Him to the cross. [Note: See A Dictionary of the Bible, 1906 ed., s.v. "Numbers, Hours, Years, and Dates," by W. M. Ramsay, extra volume: 478-79.]

Verse 26

Typically Mark recorded only the essence of the charge that Pilate wrote and had displayed over Jesus’ head on the cross. It was probably written in red or black letters on a whitened background. [Note: Lane, p. 568.]

Verses 27-28

Jesus’ position between the two insurrectionists (John 18:40), perhaps cohorts of Barabbas, portrayed Him as the chief offender. The soldiers probably put Jesus in this position as a further insult to the Jews as well as to Jesus.

Most ancient manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel omit Mark 15:28. Many textual experts consider it an interpolation from Luke 22:37. Mark rarely pointed out the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. [Note: Plummer, p. 355.]

Verses 29-30

Evidently Jesus’ predictions about destroying and raising the temple were well known (cf. Mark 14:58-60). Unbelieving Jews seem to have focused on those statements as proof that Jesus could not be their Messiah. They viewed the temple with extreme veneration.

"The jest was the harder to endure since it appealed to a consciousness of power held back only by the self-restraint of a sacrificed will." [Note: Swete, p. 383.]

This public abuse heaped further suffering on the Suffering Servant. The Greek word Mark used to describe their abuse was eblasphemoun meaning "they were blaspheming." Earlier the high priest had charged Jesus with blasphemy of which He was innocent (Mark 14:64). Now the people did blaspheme God. Their comments fulfilled Psalms 22:7 and Lamentations 2:15.

Verses 31-32

The chief priests and scribes also blasphemed by mocking Jesus and claiming that He could not save Himself. Their abuse must have wounded Jesus grievously since they were Israel’s leaders. Their title for Jesus, "King of Israel," focused on the apparent irony of Jesus being the leader not only of the Jews but of their nation. They were the leaders of the nation, not Jesus. The fact that Jesus was apparently helpless on the cross was the supreme irony from their viewpoint. Their Messiah of all people needed to be in control. This was the climax of the religious leaders’ opposition to Jesus (cf. Mark 3:6; Mark 11:18; Mark 12:12; Mark 14:1; Mark 14:64; Mark 15:1; Mark 15:11-13).

"Situational irony occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a character naively expects to happen and what actually happens, or between what a character blindly thinks to be the case and what the real situation is. . . .

"In situational irony the speaker is confident that what he or she says or expects is true, but is unaware that the real situation is, in fact, the opposite. The characters in the story are blind victims of the irony of the situation, while the reader sees the ironic contrast between what the speaker says and the way things really are." [Note: Rhoads and Michie, p. 60]

The rebels crucified with Jesus joined the others who were ridiculing Him. Rejection, abuse, and derision assailed Jesus from the highest to the lowest in society.

The total humiliation of Jesus, which this pericope records, presents Him as the completely submissive Servant of the Lord, even to the point of dying on a cross. What an example He is for all whom God has called to be His servants!

Verse 33

All three synoptic evangelists recorded the supernatural darkness that covered all of Judah from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. None of them explained it. They all evidently viewed it as a sign of God’s judgment on Jesus (cf. Isaiah 5:25-30; Isaiah 59:9-10; Joel 2:31; Joel 3:14-15; Amos 8:9-10; Micah 3:5-7; Zephaniah 1:14-15). The Father withdrew the light of His presence from His Son during the hours when Jesus bore the guilt of the world’s sins (Isaiah 53:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Perhaps darkness covered the whole land of Israel because it also symbolized God’s judgment on Israel for rejecting His Son. [Note: Grassmick, p. 189.] The ninth plague in Egypt was a plague of darkness, and it too was followed by the death of the firstborn (Exo_10:22 to Exo_11:9).

Verses 33-41

The death of Jesus 15:33-41 (cf. Matthew 27:45-56; Luke 23:44-49; John 19:28-30)

Mark’s account of Jesus’ death included five climactic events: the darkness, two of Jesus’ cries, the tearing of the temple veil, and the Roman centurion’s confession. All of these events happened during the last three of the six hours of Jesus’ sufferings on the cross.

"For the first three of Jesus’ six hours on the cross he suffered in daylight at the hands of humans (Mark 15:21-32). In the darkness of the second three hours He suffered at the hands of God." [Note: Bailey, p. 96.]

Verse 34

This cry came at the ninth hour, namely, 3:00 p.m. Jesus’ cry expressed what the darkness visualized. Jesus cried out loudly, not weakly with His last available energy. His great agony of soul was responsible for this cry. Mark recorded Jesus’ words in Aramaic. Probably Jesus spoke in Aramaic in view of the crowd’s reaction (cf. Matthew 27:46-47).

"The depths of the saying are too deep to be plumbed, but the least inadequate interpretations are those which find in it a sense of desolation in which Jesus felt the horror of sin so deeply that for a time the closeness of His communion with the Father was obscured." [Note: Taylor, p. 549.]

Jesus quoted Psalms 22:1. That is why He expressed His agony of separation as a question. Jesus was not asking God for an answer; the question was rhetorical. As Jesus used this verse, it expressed an affirmation of His relationship to God as His Father and an acknowledgment that the Father had abandoned Him. God abandoned Jesus in the judicial sense that He focused His wrath on the Son (cf. Mark 14:36). Jesus bore God’s curse and His judgment for sin (cf. Deuteronomy 21:22-23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13). God, who cannot look on sin (Habakkuk 1:13), turned His back, so to speak, on Jesus who bore that sin in His own body on the cross. Jesus experienced separation from God when He took the place of sinners (Mark 10:45; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18).

Even though the physical sufferings that Jesus experienced were great, the spiritual agony that He underwent as the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world was infinitely greater. We need to remember this when we meditate on Jesus’ death, for example at the Lord’s Supper.

Verses 35-36

Elijah had delivered several people in distress during his ministry. It is difficult to know if the bystanders did what they did because they sincerely misunderstood Jesus or if they were cruelly twisting His words to persecute Him further. In either case they did wound Him deeper. Perhaps one of the soldiers gave Jesus the sour wine (Gr. oxos) to prolong His life so the onlookers could see if Elijah would come and help Jesus. [Note: Gould, p. 295.] In Mark’s account the soldier spoke (Mark 15:36) and in Matthew’s the people did (Matthew 27:49). Both evangelists were undoubtedly accurate.

Verse 37

Jesus’ loud cry indicates that this was not the last gasp of an exhausted man. Jesus’ cry was a shout of victory. He announced, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). Then He dismissed His spirit (Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30). Normally it took as long as two or three days for crucified people to die. [Note: Grassmick, p. 190.] Jesus’ relatively short period of suffering on the cross amazed Pilate (Mark 15:44).

"His comparatively early death was not due to His physical sufferings alone, and it is a mistake to center major attention on the physical agonies of our Lord." [Note: Hiebert, p. 397. Cf. Clarke, p. 246.]

Verse 38

All the synoptic writers also recorded the symbolic act of the tearing of the temple veil. They did not explain it, but the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews did (Hebrews 6:19-20; Hebrews 9:1-14; Hebrews 10:19-22). It represented God opening a way into His presence by the death of His Son. The veil was probably the great outer one that separated the holy place from the courtyard. [Note: Lane, p. 574-75.] If so, it would have been observed by many people. Priests would have been preparing the evening sacrifices in the temple when this event occurred near 3:00 p.m.

Verse 39

The centurion (Gr. kentyrion, a transliteration of the Latin centurio that only Mark used) was the soldier in charge of Jesus’ crucifixion (cf. Mark 15:44). Elsewhere in the New Testament the customary Greek word hekatontarchos ("centurion") appears. Mark’s word choice here is another indication that he wrote for Romans. This centurion spoke more truly than he probably knew. He evidently meant that Jesus was a righteous man (Luke 23:47). Still his words spoken as he stood directly in front of Jesus as He died were literally true. His statement constitutes the climax of Mark’s demonstration that Jesus was God’s divine Son (cf. Mark 1:1; Mark 8:29-30). The torn veil was a Jewish testimony to Jesus’ identity, and the centurion’s confession was a Gentile testimony to the same thing. Taken together they provide a double witness that Jesus was the Son of God.

"Here Judaism and the Gentile world, each in its own way, acknowledges Jesus’ sovereign dignity." [Note: Ibid., p. 488.]

Verses 40-41

Matthew referred to the same three women, and Luke mentioned them generally. Salome was the mother of Zebedee’s sons, James and John, Jesus’ cousins. These women, like the soldiers, also witnessed Jesus’ death. Their loving example contrasts with the enemies of Jesus who ridiculed Him. However Mark 15:41 is unique to Mark. It should be a special encouragement to all female disciples. Many women followed Jesus and served Him throughout His ministry. John mentioned that he was present at the crucifixion (John 19:26-27), but none of the other male disciples appear to have been there. Women can serve Jesus as disciples as well as men. Their roles may be somewhat different from their male counterparts’ now as they were then, but their ministry is just as important. Mark’s introduction of these three women prepares for their roles as eyewitnesses of Jesus’ burial (Mark 15:47) and resurrection (Mark 16:1-8).

Some Women Who Observed the Crucifixion
Matthew 27:56Mark 15:40John 19:25
Mary MagdaleneMary MagdaleneMary Magdalene
Jesus’ mother (Mary)
Mary the mother of James and Joseph =Mary the mother of James the less and Joses =Mary the wife of Clopas
Mother of Zebedee’s sons =Salome =Jesus’ mother’s sister

Verse 42

By evening Mark meant late afternoon. Friday was the day the Jews prepared for their Sabbath observance that began with sundown on Friday. Mark took special pains to explain this for his Gentile readers.

Verses 42-47

The burial of Jesus 15:42-47 (cf. Matthew 27:57-66; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:31-42)

The burial of Jesus was an important part of the preaching of the early church (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). It forms a connection between Jesus’ death and His resurrection. More important, it demonstrated the reality of Jesus’ death.

Verse 43

The shortness of time evidently spurred Joseph into action (cf. Deuteronomy 21:23). The location of Arimathea is questionable, but it may have been the same as Ramah (Ramathaim), the birthplace of Samuel, about 5 miles north of Jerusalem. [Note: The New Bible Dictionary, 1962 ed., s.v. "Arimathaea," by J. W. Meiklejohn.] Joseph was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin. Mark’s description of him as one who was waiting for the kingdom of God presents him as a devout Jew. He had become a believer in Jesus (John 19:38). Mark’s original readers were citizens of Caesar’s kingdom, but they were also waiting for the kingdom of God. Mark stressed the courage that Joseph mustered to make his request. Joseph’s bold action would have inspired Mark’s readers to take a stand for Jesus too. Joseph had to gather up his courage since he faced much opposition on the council. Likewise Mark’s Roman readers would have had to summon their courage to side with Jesus against powerful officials who opposed Him.

Verses 44-45

It was unusual that a crucified person died so quickly. So Pilate verified Jesus’ death. Mark noted that a Roman centurion confirmed Jesus’ death to prove to his Roman readers that Jesus really had died. Perhaps some Romans who had observed crucifixions would have had trouble believing that Jesus was dead since they knew of crucified criminals who had lingered for days.

It was also unusual to give the corpse of a person condemned for treason to anyone but a near relative. [Note: Wessel, p. 785.] Consequently Pilate’s willingness to give Jesus’ body to Joseph shows that he really did not believe that Jesus was guilty of treason (cf. Mark 15:14-15). This is the only place in the New Testament where someone referred to Jesus’ dead body as a corpse (Gr. ptoma). Mark’s use of the word further stressed the reality of Jesus’ death. [Note: Cf. Nineham, p. 435.]

Verse 46

Nicodemus assisted Joseph with these tasks (cf. John 19:39), and perhaps other people, such as their servants, helped them. Mark’s simple description stressed the wrapping of Jesus’ body in the linen sheet (Gr. sindon). Perhaps this also indicated a real burial to his original readers.

Verse 47

The writer mentioned the presence of the two Marys at the tomb during Jesus’ burial to prepare for his statement that they were present to witness the empty tomb (Mark 16:1; Mark 16:5). They had seen Jesus die (Mark 15:40), and now they saw Him buried. There was no question that they went to the right tomb on Sunday morning since they had been there Friday afternoon. Again Mark guarded against any wrong conclusion that the disciples were mistaken about Jesus’ resurrection.

The Servant of the Lord had paid the ultimate price for the sins of humankind, namely, His own life. Mark’s narrative stressed Jesus’ exemplary service and the reality of His death.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Mark 15". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.