Mark 15
Pulpit Commentary
And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.
Verse 1. - And straightway in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him up to Pilate. Straightway in the morning (εὐθέως πρωι'´). The proceedings recorded in the last chapter terminated probably between five and six; the cock-crowing helps to fix the time. Now came the more formal trial. The whole Sanhedrim united in consultation. All the proceedings hitherto had been irregular and illegal. Now, for form's sake, they tried him afresh. But there was another law which was also violated. It was now Friday. In capital cases, sentence of condemnation might not legally be pronounced on the day of the trial. Yet our Lord was tried, condemned, and crucified on the same day. They "hound him," that he might be impeded in any attempt to escape. They "carried him away" (ἀπήνεγκαν), with the semblance of force; although we know that he went "as a lamb to the slaughter." How truly might it be said of these chief priests and elders, "Their feet are swift to shed blood!" And delivered him up to Pilate. Judaea now was added to the province of Syria, and governed by procurators, of whom Pontius Pilate was the fifth. It was necessary for the Jews to deliver Christ over to the Roman power; because the power of life and death had been taken from them since they became subject to the Romans. "It is not lawful for us," they say (John 18:31) "to put any man to death;" that is to say, they could not put to death without the authority of the governor. Our Lord predicted of himself, "They shall deliver him to the Gentiles."
And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.
Verse 2. - Art thou the King of the Jews? It appears from St. Luke (Luke 23:1-5) that when Pilate demanded particularly what the charges against Jesus were, on account of which the Jews urged that he should be crucified, they alleged these three things:

(1) that he perverted the nation;

(2) that he forbade to give tribute to Caesar;

(3) that he said that he was Christ, a King.

Whereupon Pilate, who had heard by many of the blameless life, the pure doctrine, and the famous miracles of Jesus, goes at once to the point, and asks him, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" - a question which, of course, affected the position of Caesar. Our Lord's answer, Thou sayest (σὺ λέγεις), was in the affirmative, amounting to this "Thou sayest that which is true."
And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.
Verse 3. - And the chief priests accused him of many things. The words in the Authorized Version, "but he answered nothing," are not to be found here in any of the best manuscripts or versions. But they are to be found in St. Matthew (Matthew 27:12); and Pilate's question in the next verse confirms St. Matthew's statement, and makes the sentence unnecessary here. Our Lord answered nothing, because all that they had to say against him was manifestly false or frivolous, and unworthy of any reply. St. Augustine says on this, "The Savior, who is the Wisdom of God, knew how to overcome by keeping silence."
And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee.
Verse 4. - It would seem that Pilate had led Jesus out of his palace, into which the Jewish priests could not enter (John 18:28), lest they should be defiled by entering a house from which all leaven had not been scrupulously removed. This would have been a violation of their religious scruples; and therefore he went out into the open court, and there heard the accusations of the chief priests. It is supposed that the building occupied by Pilate was the palace built or rebuilt by Herod near the gate of Jaffa, north-west of Mount Zion. It was doubtless occasionally occupied by Pilate, and it was conveniently situated, being near to Herod's palace - the old palace of the Asmoneans, between it and the temple.
But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.
Verse 5. - Pilate marvelled. He marvelled that the innocent Savior, wise and eloquent, standing before him in peril of his life, should remain silent when thus vehemently accused by the leading men of the Jews. Pilate marvelled at his forbearance, his calmness, his contempt of death; from all of which he argued his absolute innocence and holiness, and resolved to do everything in his power to deliver him. The silence of a blameless life pleads more powerfully than any defense, however elaborate.
Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.
Verse 6. - St. Mark omits here what took place next in the order of events, namely, the sending of our Lord by Pilate to Herod (Luke 23:5). This was Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee; and Pilate, apparently convinced of our Lord's innocence, hoped to escape the responsibility of condemning an innocent man, by handing him over to Herod; for Pilate had heard that our Lord was a Galilean. Moreover, he hoped to accomplish another good result, namely, to recover the favor of Herod, which was desirable on political grounds. The first intention failed; for Herod sent our Lord back to Pilate in mockery, "arraying him in gorgeous apparel" (περιβαλὼν ἐσθῆτα λαμπρὰν). But the second succeeded: "Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day" (Luke 23:12). There was now, however, another resource. At the feast (κατα ἑορτὴν) - literally, at feast-time - he used to release unto them one prisoner, whom they asked of him ὅνπερ ἠτοῦντο). In St. John (John 18:39) we read that Pilate said, "Ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the Passover."
And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.
Verse 7. - And there was one called Barabbas, lying bound with them that had made insurrection, men who in the insurrection had committed murder. Pilate appears to have thought of Barabbas, not doubting but that, by limiting their choice between him and Jesus, he would secure the liberation of our Lord. But Pilate little knew the temper of the chief priests and scribes, and their bitter hostility to Christ. The word "Barabbas," better written "Bar-Abbas," means "son of father."
And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.
Verse 8. - And the multitude went up and Began to ask him to do as he was wont to do unto them. Went up (ἀναβὰς). This is the reading to be preferred to the old reading, "crying aloud" (ἀναβοήσας). The reading ἀναβὰς is supported by the Sinaitic, the Vatican, and the Cambridge manuscripts; also by the Old Italic, the Gothic, and other versions. The AEthiopic Version combines the two," going up and crying aloud." The geographical position of Pilate's residence quite justifies the use of the term
But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?
Verse 9. - Pilate doubtless hoped that they would ask for Jesus. He knew that the chief priests had delivered our Lord for envy. That he could not help observing, as a shrewd Roman judge, from their gestures and manner. And then he knew also, at least by report, of the purity of Jesus, and of the holy freedom with which he rebuked their vices. So he thought, reasonably enough, that if the chief priests wished to destroy him for envy, the people, who had experienced so many kindnesses from him, would desire that he should live.
For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.
Verse 10. - Envy was the low passion that influenced the chief priests. They saw that Jesus was gaining a great and increasing influence over the people by the sublime beauty of his character, by the fame of his miracles, and the constraining power of his words. And hence they concluded that, unless he was arrested in his course, and put out of the way, their own influence would soon be gone. The whole world was going after him. Therefore he must be destroyed.
But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.
Verse 11. - But the chief priests stirred up the multitude (ἀνέσεισαν τὸν ὄχλον), that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. St. Matthew (Matthew 27:20) says, "They persuaded the multitudes" (ἔπεισαν τοὺς ὄχλους). St. Mark's word (ἀνέσεισαν) implies a rousing of their bad passions; agitating them to a blind zeal for his crucifixion.
And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?
Verse 12. - And Pilate again answered and said unto them, What then shall I do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? The word "again" has the support of three great uncials, and the best of the cursives. Pilate did not give way without many an inward struggle. And now at last he puts the matter, so to speak, in their own power; so that it might be an act of their clemency, and that they might have the honor of saving our Lord's life. But it was all in vain. For the chief priests had resolved to press for his crucifixion, little dreaming that they were doing what "God's hand and God's counsel had before determined to be done." Pilate puts the question before them with much shrewdness and tact. He speaks of our Lord as one whom "they called the King of the Jews." He appeals to their national pride and their national hopes. Would they degrade themselves, and extinguish their hopes, by giving up to the most ignominious of deaths one who had established such claims upon their reverence and their love?
And they cried out again, Crucify him.
Verse 13. - And they cried out again, Crucify him. These words might seem at first to justify the old reading, in ver. 8, adopted in the Authorized Version," crying aloud." But there the word was ἀναβοήσας, here it is ἔ᾿κραξαν. Moreover, in ver. 14, it is not (περισσοτέρως) "the more exceedingly," but (περισσῶς) "they cried exceedingly."
Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.
And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.
Verse 15. - And Pilate, wishing βουλόμενος to content the multitude, released unto them Barabbas, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified. St. Luke and St. John are more full in details here. From their narratives it appears that when Pilate found that his attempt to rescue our Lord, by putting Barabbas in contrast with him, had failed, he next hoped to move the multitude to pity by the terrible punishment of scourging, after which he trusted that they would relent. Scourging was a vile punishment, inflicted on slaves. But it was also inflicted upon those who were condemned to death, even though freemen This scourging, which was a part of the punishment of crucifixion, was of frightful severity. Horace ('Sat.' 1:3, 119) speaks of it as "horrible flagellum." But it appears from St. John (John 21:1) that the scourging of Jesus took place before his formal condemnation to be crucified; we may therefore suppose that it was not a part of the ordinary punishment of crucifixion. At all events, there is nothing, upon a careful comparison of the narratives, to lead us to the conclusion that our blessed Lord was scourged twice. In fact, Pilate anticipated the time of the scourging, in the vain hope that he might by this means save our Lord from the capital punishment. A comparison of the narratives of St. Matthew and St. Mark with that of St. John will make this clear; for they all three refer to one and the same scourging. Recent investigations at Jerusalem have disclosed what may probably have been the place of the punishment. In a subterranean chamber, discovered by Captain Warren, on what Mr. Fergusson holds to be the site of Antonia, Pilate's praetorium, stands a truncated column, no part of the structure itself, but just such a dwarf pillar as criminals would be tied to to be scourged. The chamber cannot be later than the time of Herod (see Professor Westcott on St. John 19.).
And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.
Verse 16. - And the soldiers led him away within the court, which is the Praetorium; and they call together the whole band. This was the principal court of the palace, where a large number of soldiers were always quartered. "The whole band" would be the "cohors praetoria" of Cicero; Pilate's body-guard.
And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,
Verses 17, 18. - And they clothe him with purple, and plaiting a crown of thorns, they put it on him; and they began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! They clothe him with purple (ἐνδύουσιν αὐτὸν πορφύραν). So also says St. John (John 21:2, ἱματιον πορφυροῦν). St. Matthew says (Matthew 27:28), "They put on him a scarlet robe (περιέθηκαν αὐτῷ χλαμύδα)." Purple and scarlet are not such very dissimilar colors. Purple is a royal color; and the chlamys of St. Matthew was a short military cloak of scarlet, intended to be a kind of royal livery. St. Cyril says that the purple cloak symbolized the kingdom of the whole world, which Christ was about to receive, and which he was to obtain by the shedding of his most precious blood. It was designed in mockery of his claim to be a King, and it probably bad a reference to his supposed insurrection against Caesar. All this was permitted by Pilate, in order that he might the more easily, after this ignominious treatment, deliver Christ from the extreme sentence. And plaiting a crown of thorns, they put it on him. The crown of thorns was in all probability woven from the Zizyphus spina Christi (the nabk of the Arabs), which grows abundantly in Palestine, fringing the banks of the Jordan. This plant would be very suitable for the purpose, having flexible branches, with leaves very much resembling the ivy leaf in their color, and with many sharp thorns. The pain arising from the pressure of these sharp thorns upon the head must have been excruciating. And they began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! (Ξαῖρε βασιλεῦ τῶν Ἰουδαίων). This word, χαῖρε, was an ancient form of salutation; here used by the soldiers in bitter mockery of his claim to be a king.
And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!
And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.
Verse 19. - And they smote his head with a reed - the same reed, according to St. Matthew (Matthew 27:29, 30), which they bad first put into his right hand as a scepter, to complete the mocking symbolism - and did spit upon him (ἐνέπτυον αὐτῷ). The verb is in the imperfect; they did it again and again.
And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.
Verse 20. - And when they had mocked him, they took off from him the purple, and put on him his garments. The silence of our blessed Lord during these wanton and aggravated insults is very remarkable, and also the total absence of any legal grounds for his condemnation. And they lead him out to crucify him. Assuming the palace of Pilate to have been near the gate of Jaffa, north-west of Mount Zion, and the place of crucifixion that now assigned to it, within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, - the distance would be about one-third of a mile.
And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.
Verse 21. - And they compel one passing by Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to go with them, that he might bear his cross. It seems from St. Matthew (Matthew 27:32) that our Savior bore his own cross from the palace to the gate of the city. The tablet, with the inscription afterwards attached to the cross, would be carried before him; and a certain number of soldiers would be appointed to go with him to the place of execution, and to see the sentence carried out. Having passed out through the gate of the city, they met one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country, and they compel him (ἀγγαρεύουσι); literally, they impress him. The Cyrenians had a synagogue in Jerusalem (Acts 6:9), and this Simon may probably have been one of those who had come up to keep the Passover. He must have been a Hellenistic Jew, a native of Cyrene, on the north coast of Africa. Alexander and Rufus, his sons, were no doubt, at the time when St. Mark wrote his Gospel, well-known disciples of our Lord. St. Paul, writing to the Romans (Romans 16:13), sends a special salutation to Rufus, "chosen in the Lord, and his mother, and mine;" a delicate recognition by St. Paul of something like maternal care bestowed upon him by the mother of Rufus. It is probable that his father Simon, and perhaps his brother Alexander, may have been dead by this time. Rufus is also honorably mentioned by Polycarp in his Epistle to the Philippians. There is a tradition, mentioned by Cornelius a Lapide, that Rufus became a bishop in Spain, and that Alexander suffered martyrdom. To go with them, that he might bear his cross. St. Luke (Luke 23:26) adds the touching words, "to bear it after Jesus (φέρειν ὔπισθεν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ)."
And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.
Verse 22. - And they bring him (φέρουσιν); literally, they bear him. At ver. 20 another word has been used ἐξάγουσιν "they lead him out." It seems as though, when they had reached the gate of the city, they saw symptoms that our Lord was fainting under his burden; and so they pressed Simon into the service, that he might be ready to assist. At first our Lord carried his own cross. Tradition says (Cornelius a Lapide) that the cross was fifteen feet long, the transverse limb being eight feet; and that he so carried it that the upper portion rested on his shoulder, while the foot of the cross trailed on the ground. When they saw that he was breaking down under the weight of the cross, they laid it on Simon, that they might the more quickly reach the place of crucifixion. The place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. "Golgotha" is a Hebrew, or rather Chaldaic, word, applied to the skull on account of its roundness, that being the idea which lies in the root of the word. The Greek equivalent to the word is Κρανίον; and this is rendered in the Vulgate, Calvaria, a skull, from calva, bald. St. Luke is the only evangelist in whose Gospel (Luke 23:33) this word is rendered "Calvary." In the Revised Version it is rendered "the skull" The place was so called, either from its having been the spot where executions ordinarily took place (though in this case we might have expected to find it called τόπος κρανίων rather than κρανίον); or, more probably, it was derived from the configuration of the place itself, perhaps a round-like mound, or knoll, sufficiently elevated to be seen at a little distance and by a large number. As to the actual site of Golgotha, recent researches seem to have done much to confirm the ancient tradition. The Bordeaux pilgrim, A.D. 333, says, "On the left side of the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the hillock (monticulus) Golgotha, where the Lord was crucified. Hence, about a stone's throw distant, is the crypt where his body was deposited." St. Cyril of Jerusalem alludes to the spot frequently, and there was no doubt about it in the time of Eusebius, A.D. 315. Professor Willis says that the rock of Calvary still stands up, some fifteen feet above the pavement. "It appears likely," he says, "that in its original state this rock was part of a little swell of the ground that jutted out from the slope of Sepulchre Street, and probably always formed a somewhat abrupt view on the west and south sides" (see 'Speaker's Commentary' on St. Matthew). Captain Conder (Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statement July, 1882) thinks that he shall be able to show that the traditional Golgotha is the site of the original temple of Ashtoreth, and that this temple was the Jebusite sanctuary before David took Jerusalem, and round which the sepulchres of the kings were hewn after the worship of Jehovah had consecrated the temple hill.
And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.
Verse 23. - And they offered him wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not. There were two occasions on which drink was offered to our Lord during the agonies of his crucifixion. The first occasion is that mentioned by St. Matthew (Matthew 27:34), when they offered him wine mingled with gall. This was a kind of stupefying liquor, a strong narcotic, made of the sour wine of the country, mingled with bitter herbs, and mercifully administered to dull the sense of pain. This was offered before the actual crucifixion took place. It is to this first occasion that St. Mark here refers. The words in the original are (καὶ ἐδίδουν αὐτῷ ἐσμυρνισμένον οϊνον), "they were giving, they offered him." But he received it not. He would not seek alleviation of the agonies of the crucifixion by any drugged potion which might render him insensible. He would bear the full burden consciously. The second occasion on which drink was offered to him was after he had been some hours on his cross, and when the end was drawing near; and it was then given in answer to his exclamation, "I thirst." This drink does not appear to have been mingled with any stupefying drug; and we do not read that he refused it. St. Mark does not record this second occasion.
And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.
Verse 24. - And they crucify him (καὶ σταυροῦσιν αὐτὸν,). Such is the most approved reading. The evangelist states the fact without staying to dwell on the painful circumstances connected with the act of nailing him to the cross; and passes on to the mention of other things. They part his garments among them, casting lots upon them, what each should take. The outer robe and the tunic would have been removed previously to the crucifixion. St. John (John 21:23) here goes into details. "They took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also the coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top through.. out." His garments (τὰ ἱμάτια). This would be the loose, flowing outer dress with girdle. The tunic (χιτών) was a closefitting dress, worn underneath the ἱμάτιον. There were four soldiers employed for each crucifixion. St. Cyril refers to the clothes of criminals as the perquisite of the executioners. Here was another ingredient of bitterness in our Lord's cup, that he saw before his eyes his garments torn by the soldiery, and his tunic divided to them by lot. But he divested himself of these garments of mortality, that he might clothe us with life and immortality.
And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.
Verse 25. - And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. The third hour would literally be nine o'clock. But we gather from ver. 33 that our Lord was on his cross, and still alive, at the sixth hour, that is, at twelve o'clock. The simplest mode of solving the chronological difficulty seems to be this: The Jews divided their day into four parts, which they called hours, namely, the first, from six to nine; the third, from nine to twelve; the sixth, from twelve to three; and the ninth, from three to six. It was, then, within the third hour, that is, between nine and twelve, that they crucified him; and it was from the sixth to the ninth hour that he was actually upon his cross. St. John employs the Asiatic mode of computing time.
And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Verse 26. - And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS. This would probably be the shortest form of inscription, and in Latin, "Rex Judaeorum." All the evangelists mention the inscription; but no two of them in precisely the same words. It appears by comparison of them that the whole title was, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." In the case of remarkable prisoners the accusation was written on a white tablet, and carried before them as they went to the place of execution. It was then placed over their heads when the cross was erected. St. John tells us that our Lord's title was written in three languages - Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Such appears to be the proper order of the words, namely, the national, the official, and the common dialect. St. Mark, writing at Rome, would naturally mention the Latin title. It is quite possible that the superscription may have varied in the different renderings in which it was given. It is evident from St. John (John 21:19-22) that the title was much canvassed by the Jews and the chief priests. Bode says that this title was fitly placed over his head, because, although he was crucified in weakness for us, yet he shone with the majesty of a King above his cross. The title proclaimed that he was after all a King; and that from henceforth he began to reign from his cross over the Jews. And therefore Pilate was divinely restrained from making any alteration in the title, so that it should mean anything less than this.
And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.
Verse 27. - And with him they crucify two robbers (λησταί) - not "thieves" (κλέπται); St. Luke (Luke 23:32) shows that these two robbers formed a part of the procession to Calvary; but they were crucified after our Lord - one on his right hand, and one on his left. We know from St. Luke (Luke 23:40) that one of these malefactors was saved; while it would appear that the other died in his sins. And thus Christ upon his cross, between these two men, and with the title of King over his head, presented a striking and awful picture of the final judgment. Such is the view of St. Ambrose on St. Luke 22, and of St. Augustine, who says," This cross, if you mark it well, was a judgment-seat. For the Judge being placed in the midst, the one who believed was set free; the other who reviled him was condemned; and thus he signified what he will do with the quick and the dead. Some he will place on his right hand, and some on his left" (Augustine, Tract. 31 in S. Johan.).
And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
Verse 28. - This verse is omitted in the oldest manuscripts. It is supposed to have been taken from St. Luke (Luke 22:37).
And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,
Verses 29, 30. - And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads. Here was another fulfillment of prophecy, and other aggravation of the misery of Christ. "All they that see me laugh me to scorn they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighteth in him" (Psalm 22:7, 8). The torment of crucifixion itself was terrible; but it was a still greater torment to the Crucified to be insulted in his agony. Our Lord may well have had these words in his mind, '"They persecute him whom thou hast smitten, and they tell of the sorrow of those whom thou hast wounded" (Psalm 69:26). They that passed by. Calvary was probably near to one of the thoroughfares leading to the city; so that there would be a continual stream of persons passing to and fro; more especially at this time, when Jerusalem was thronged with visitors. And no doubt the words of the accusation against him in its incorrect form would pass freely from mouth to mouth, Ha! thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If you could make such a boast as this, show your power by coming down from the cross.
Save thyself, and come down from the cross.
Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.
Verse 31. - The chief priests and the scribes are more bitter than the people. In fact they had all along endeavored to rouse the bad passions of the people against our Lord. And now they take advantage of this his present degraded condition to renew the old charge that his miracles of healing had been wrought by Beelzebub, because, if they had been wrought by God, God would have interposed in this his sore extremity and have set him free. He saved others. They cannot deny this fact. But they now try to turn this fact against him, by alleging that he who pretended to work miracles upon others, wrought them, not by the finger of God, but by Beelzebub, seeing that, if they had been wrought by a Divine power, the same power would now be exercised for his deliverance. They desired to take advantage of this public opportunity of exposing him as an impostor, and so they hoped to get rid of him, and at the same time to blot the very name of Christianity from out of the earth.
Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.
Verse 32. - Christ might have come down from the cross; but he would not, because it was his Father's will that he should die upon the cross to redeem us from death. So he despised the taunts of the wicked, that he might teach us by his example to do the same. If he had chosen to descend from the cross, he would not have ascended. He knew that the death upon the cross was necessary for the salvation of men; and therefore he would go through the whole. He withheld the exercise of his power. His omnipotence restrained the natural longings of his suffering humanity to escape from these unutterable torments. So he would not come down from the cross, although within three days he would rise from the grave. And yet there was no word of indignation against his tormentors. On the contrary, he proclaimed mercy; for as he hung on his cross he said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
Verse 33. - And when the sixth hour was come. This would be midday, twelve o'clock; and the darkness continued until the ninth hour, that is, three o'clock. This supernatural darkness came when the day is wont to be at its brightest. The moon was now at the full, so that it could not have been caused by what we call an eclipse, for when it is full moon the moon cannot intervene between the earth and the sun. This darkness was doubtless produced by the immediate interference of God. An account of it is given by Phlegon of Tralles, a freedman of the Emperor Adrian. Euse-bius, in his records of the year A.D. , quotes at length from Phlegon, who says that, in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad, there was a great and remarkable eclipse of the sun, above any that had happened before. At the sixth hour the day was turned into the darkness of night, so that stars were seen in the heaven; and there was a great earthquake in Bithynia, which overthrew many houses in the city of Nicaea. Phlegon attributes the darkness which he describes to an eclipse, which was natural enough for him to do. The knowledge of astronomy was then very imperfect. Phlegon also mentions an earthquake. This brings his account into very close correspondence with the sacred narrative. There was darkness ever the whole land (ἐφ ὅλην τὴν γῆν). "Land" is a better rendering than "earth." We are not informed precisely how far the darkness extended. Dionysius says that he saw this phenomenon at Heliopolis, in Egypt, and he is reported to have exclaimed, "Either the God of nature, the Creator, is suffering, or the universe dissolving." St. Cyprian says, "The sun was constrained to withdraw his rays, and close his eyes, that he might not be compelled to look upon this crime of the Jews. To the same purpose St. Chrysostom, "The creature could net bear the wrong done to its Creator. Therefore the sun withdrew his rays, that he might not behold the deeds of the wicked."
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Verse 34. - Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani? St. Mark here uses the Aramaic form St. Matthew refers to the original Hebrew. St. Mark in all probability took his form from St. Peter. It seems from hence that our Lord was in the habit of using the vernacular speech. Why hast thou forsaken me? (εἰς τί με ἐγκατέλιπες;). This might be rendered, Why didst thou forsake me? It is generally supposed that our blessed Lord, continually praying upon his cross, and offering himself a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, recited the whole of the psalm (22.) of which these are the first words, that he might show himself to be the very Being to whom the words refer; so that the Jewish scribes and people might examine and see the cause why he would not descend from the cross; namely, because this very psalm showed that it was appointed that he should suffer these things.
And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias.
Verse 35. - Notwithstanding the supernatural darkness, there were those who lingered about the cross. Indeed, the darkness would add greatly to the awfulness of the place. It was out of that darkness that the voice of Jesus was heard; and inasmuch as Elias, or Elijah, was believed to hold some relation to the Messiah, it was natural for some of those who stood by to understand the words to mean that our Lord was actually calling for Elias.
And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down.
Verse 36. - There is a slight difference here in the narratives. St. Matthew (Matthew 27:49) says, "And the rest said, Let be; let us see whether Elijah cometh to save him." Here in St. Mark the words are recorded as having been spoken by him alone who offered our Lord the vinegar. According to St. John (John 21:28), the offering of the vinegar followed immediately upon the words of our Lord, "I thirst." This drink was not the stupefying potion given to criminals before their crucifixion, to lull the sense of pain, but the sour wine, the ordinary drink of the soldiers, called posen. The reed was most probably the long stalk of the hyssop plant. Dr. J. Forbes Royle, in an elaborate article on the subject, quoted in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible' (vol. 1 p. 846), arrives at the conclusion that the hyssop is none other than the caper plant, the Arabic name of which, asuf, bears a strong resemblance to the Hebrew. The plant is the Capparis spinosa of Linnaeus. The apparent difference between the narratives of St. Matthew and St. Mark may be reconciled by weaving in the narrative of St. John with those of the synoptists - the "Let be" of the soldiers in the one case being intended to restrain the individual from offering the wine; and the "Let be" of the individual, corresponding to our "Wait a moment," while he answered our Savior's cry, "I thirst."
And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.
Verse 37. - And Jesus uttered a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. The three synoptists all mention this cry, which appears to have been something different from the words which he uttered at or about the time of his death. It was evidently something supernatural, and was so regarded by the centurion who stood by; and who had no doubt been accustomed to scenes like these. Usually the voice fails the dying, more especially when the natural forces have been weakened by long agony, as in the case of our Lord. It seems, therefore, the right conclusion that he cried out, just before he expired, by that supernatural power which his Godhead supplied to him; and thus he showed that, although he had gone through all the pains which were sufficient in ordinary cases to produce death, yet that at length he did not die of necessity, but voluntarily, in accordance with what he had himself said, "No one taketh my life from me... I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:18). Victor Antiochanus, in commenting upon this chapter, says, "By this action the Lord Jesus proved that he had his whole life, and his death, in his own free power."
And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.
Verse 38. - And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. There were two veils - one before the holy place, and the other before the holy of holies. The holy place would correspond to what we call the nave of the church, in which the priests were continually present; the holy of holies would correspond to our chancel choir - the holiest part of the building. This was always kept closed; nor might any one enter it but the high priest, and that only once in the year, on the day of expiation. The veil which was rent at our Lord's death was that which was placed before the holy of holies; it was called the καταπέτασμα. The outer veil was called κάλυμμα. It was the duty of the officiating priest, on the evening of the day of preparation, at the hour of evening prayer, which would correspond to the time of our Lord's death, to enter into the holy place, where he would of course be between the two curtains, or veils, the outer veil, or κάλυμμα, and the inner veil, or καταπέτασμα It would then be his business to roll back the κάλυμμα, or outer veil, thus exposing the holy place to the people, who would be in the. outer court. And then and there they would see, to their amazement, the καραπέτασμα, the inner veil, rent asunder from the top to the bottom. These veils or curtains, according to Josephus, were each forty cubits in height and ten in breadth, of great substance, very massive, and richly embroidered with gold and purple. Now, this rending of the veil signified

(1) that the whole of the Jewish dispensation, with its rites and ceremonies, was now unfolded by Christ; and that thenceforth the middle wall of partition was broken down, so that now, not the Jews only, but the Gentiles also might draw nigh by the blood of Christ. But

(2) it further signified that the way to heaven was laid open by our Lord's death. "When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers." The veil signified that heaven was closed to all, until Christ by his death rent this veil in twain, and laid open the way.
And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.
Verse 39. - And when the centurion, which stood by over against him (ὁ παρετηκὼς ἐξ ἐναντίας αὐτοῦ) saw that he so gave up the ghost. The words, "so cried out," are not in the most important authorities. It was the business of the centurion to watch all that took place, and to see that the sentence was executed. He must have been standing close under the cress; and there was that in the whole demeanour of the dying Sufferer, so different from anything that he had ever witnessed before, that it drew from him the involuntary exclamation, Truly this man was the Son of God. He had observed him through those weary hours; he had noticed the meekness and the dignity of the Sufferer; he had heard those words, so deeply impressed upon the faith and reverence of Christians, which fell from him from time to time as he hung there; and then at last he heard the piercing cry, so startling, so unexpected, which escaped him just before he yielded up his spirit; and he could come to no other conclusion than this, that he was in very deed God's Son. It has been supposed by some that this centurion was Longiuus, who was led by the miracles which accompanied the death of Christ, to acknowledge him to be the Son of God, and to be a herald of his resurrection, and was ultimately himself put to death for the sake of Christ in Cappadocia. St. Chrysostom repeats the common report, that on account of his faith he was at last crowned with martyrdom.
There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;
Verse 40. - And there were also women holding from afar (ἀπὸ μακρόθεν θεωροῦσαι). St. Matthew (Matthew 27:55) says that there were many. Amongst them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the wife of Clopas, or Alphaeus, and mother of James the less and of Joses, called brethren of our Lord, and the mother of Zebedee's children, that is, Salerno. The mother of our Lord had been there until the time when, having with St. John crept as near the cross of Jesus as she might venture, she was consigned by our Lord to St. John's care, and taken away by him. St. Mark mentions this to show the faith and love of these holy women, because in the very presence of the enemies of Christ they dared to stand by his cross, and shrank not from testifying their piety and devotion. St. John says that they stood near. He must have known; for at one time at least he was standing near. St. Matthew and St. Mark speak of them as at a distance. They were at a distance, no doubt, for the most part, as compared with the soldiers, whose duty it was to be in close attendance and to keep the people off. But these devoted women came as near as they could, so as to see and hear their Lord. Perhaps they were sometimes further off and sometimes nearer, as they saw opportunity, or as the humor of the officials suffered them.
(Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.
Verse 41. - From this verse we learn that these women followed him, and ministered unto him when he was in Galilee; and that many other women came up with him unto Jerusalem. The sublime beauty of his character, and the spiritual, influence which he wielded, attracted them; and they were able to minister to the various needs of his humanity.
And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,
Verse 42. - And when even was now come. The sabbath commenced on the Friday evening at six o'clock. The evening commenced at three o'clock. Our Lord must be buried before six o'clock.
Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counseller, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.
Verse 43. - Joseph of Arimathaea. St. Jerome says that this city was called Ramathaim-Zophim (the lofty place), where dwelt Elkanah and Hannah of old, and where Samuel was born. Joseph was most probably a native of Arimathaea; but he was now a citizen and counsellor of Jerusalem. He was an honorable counsellor (εὐσχήμων βουλευτής), a councillor of honorable estate (Revised Version). St. Matthew says he was a rich man. It is evident that he regarded himself as a settled inhabitant of Jerusalem, since he had thus provided himself with a place of sepulture. He was waiting for (προσδεχόμενος) - literally, looking for - the kingdom of God. St. Matthew (Matthew 27:57) says that he was a disciple of Jesus. These circumstances explain his desire to bury our Lord. He boldly went in (τολμήσας εἰσῆλθε) - literally, he took courage and went in - unto Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. A poor man would not have dared to approach Pilate for such a purpose as this. St. Chrysostom says, "The courage of Joseph is greatly to be admired, in that, for the love of Christ, he exposed himself to the danger of death." The fact that he was "looking for the kingdom of God" explains his conduct. It shows that he believed in Christ, and through his grace hoped for everlasting salvation; and in this hope he thought little of shelving his reverence for Christ, and so" boldly went in unto Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus."
And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.
Verse 44. - And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. It must have Been somewhat early in the afternoon, probably not long after three o'clock, when Joseph went. The day being the Preparation, the Jews were anxious to satisfy the letter of the Law (Deuteronomy 21:13), and that, more especially, because the coming sabbath was a "high day." So they had gone early to Pilate to obtain permission to accelerate the deaths of the sufferers by the terrible additional punishment called σκελοκοπία. This violence was not inflicted upon our Lord, because he was already dead; and so another Scripture was fulfilled, "A bone of him shall not be broken." But it was necessary that Pilate should be assured of the fact that death had taken place before he gave up the body; and thus, in the providence of God, another evidence was given of the reality of Christ's death. Joseph asked for the body (σῶμα). Then Pilate asked the centurion "whether he had been any while dead." The verb here is in the aorist, and the adverb means "formerly" (εἰ πάλαι ἀπέθανε); literally, if he died some time ago.
And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.
Verse 45. - And when he learned it of the centurion, he granted (ἐδωρήσατο) the corpse (τὸ πτῶμα) to Joseph.
And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.
Verse 46. - And he bought a linen cloth (σινδόνα). This was a fine linen garment, or shroud, something like that in which the young man fled the night before (Mark 14:51, 52). And taking him down (καθελὼν αὐτὸν). It appears from these words that Joseph himself, assisted probably by Nicodemus and others, actually took the body of our Lord down from the cross. wrapped the sindon round him, and laid him in his own new tomb, which had been hewn out of the rock. The word rendered "tomb" is μνημεῖον, as being intended to be a memorial of the departed. And he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. The door here means "the opening," or "entrance." Thus, while our Lord died with the wicked, he was with the rich in his death (Isaiah 53:9).
And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.
Verse 47. - And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid (ἐθεώρουν ποῦ τίθεται); literally, were beholding where he was laid. These women were two of the group mentioned at ver. 40. They remained, after the body of our Lord had been deposited, in sad and silent contemplation. The women appear to have broken up into two groups. One group went alone to purchase spices and ointments, which it was necessary for them to do before six o'clock, when the sabbath commenced; in readiness for the embalming. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses and Salome appear to have bought them after six o'clock on the Saturday night.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

Bible Hub
Mark 14
Top of Page
Top of Page