Mark 15:1
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.
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(1-14) And the whole council.—The words in the Greek are in apposition with “the chief priests.” We do not know of any other elements in the Council or Sanhedrin than the priests, scribes, and elders, and it is possible that the writer may have added the words in the sense of “even the whole Council,” as giving the collective word for the body of which the three constituent parts had been already named. On the whole section see Notes on Matthew 27:1-2; Matthew 27:11-23.



Mark 15:1 - Mark 15:20

The so-called trial of Jesus by the rulers turned entirely on his claim to be Messias; His examination by Pilate turns entirely on His claim to be king. The two claims are indeed one, but the political aspect is distinguishable from the higher one; and it was the Jewish rulers’ trick to push it exclusively into prominence before Pilate, in the hope that he might see in the claim an incipient insurrection, and might mercilessly stamp it out. It was a new part for them to play to hand over leaders of revolt to the Roman authorities, and a governor with any common sense must have suspected that there was something hid below such unusual loyalty. What a moment of degradation and of treason against Israel’s sacredest hopes that was when its rulers dragged Jesus to Pilate on such a charge! Mark follows the same method of condensation and discarding of all but the essentials, as in the other parts of his narrative. He brings out three points-the hearing before Pilate, the popular vote for Barabbas, and the soldiers’ mockery.

I. The true King at the bar of the apparent ruler {Mark 15:1 - Mark 15:6}.

The contrast between appearance and reality was never more strongly drawn than when Jesus stood as a prisoner before Pilate. The One is helpless, bound, alone; the other invested with all the externals of power. But which is the stronger? and in which hand is the sceptre? On the lowest view of the contrast, it is ideas versus swords. On the higher and truer, it is the incarnate God, mighty because voluntarily weak, and man ‘dressed in a little brief authority,’ and weak because insolently ‘making his power his god.’ Impotence, fancying itself strong, assumes sovereign authority over omnipotence clothed in weakness. The phantom ruler sits in judgment on the true King. Pilate holding Christ’s life in his hand is the crowning paradox of history, and the mystery of self-abasing love. One exercise of the Prisoner’s will and His chains would have snapped, and the governor lain dead on the marble ‘pavement.’

The two hearings are parallel, and yet contrasted. In each there are two stages-the self-attestation of Jesus and the accusations of others; but the order is different. The rulers begin with the witnesses, and, foiled there, fall back on Christ’s own answer, Pilate, with Roman directness and a touch of contempt for the accusers, goes straight to the point, and first questions Jesus. His question was simply as to our Lord’s regal pretensions. He cared nothing about Jewish ‘superstitions’ unless they threatened political disturbance. It was nothing to him whether or no one crazy fanatic more fancied himself ‘the Messiah,’ whatever that might be. Was He going to fight?-that was all which Pilate had to look after. He is the very type of the hard, practical Roman, with a ‘practical’ man’s contempt for ideas and sentiments, sceptical as to the possibility of getting hold of ‘truth,’ and too careless to wait for an answer to his question about it; loftily ignorant of and indifferent to the notions of the troublesome people that he ruled, but alive to the necessity of keeping them in good humour, and unscrupulous enough to strain justice and unhesitatingly to sacrifice so small a thing as an innocent life to content them.

What could such a man see in Jesus but a harmless visionary? He had evidently made up his mind that there was no mischief in Him, or he would not have questioned Him as to His kingship. It was a new thing for the rulers to hand over dangerous patriots, and Pilate had experience enough to suspect that such unusual loyalty concealed something else, and that if Jesus had really been an insurrectionary leader, He would never have fallen into Pilate’s power. Accordingly, he gives no serious attention to the case, and his question has a certain half-amused, half-pitying ring about it. ‘Thou a king? ‘-poor helpless peasant! A strange specimen of royalty this! How constantly the same blindness is repeated, and the strong things of this world despise the weak, and material power smiles pityingly at the helpless impotence of the principles of Christ’s gospel, which yet will one day shatter it to fragments, like a potter’s vessel! The phantom ruler judges the real King to be a powerless shadow, while himself is the shadow and the other the substance. There are plenty of Pilates to-day who judge and misjudge the King of Israel.

The silence of Jesus in regard to the eager accusations corresponds to His silence before the false witnesses. The same reason dictated both. His silence is His most eloquent answer. It calmly passes by all these charges by envenomed tongues as needing no reply, and as utterly irrelevant. Answered, they would have lived in the Gospels; unanswered, they are buried. Christ can afford to let many of His foes alone. Contradictions and confutations keep slanders and heresies above water, which the law of gravitation would dispose of if they were left alone.

Pilate’s wonder might and should have led him further. It should have prompted to further inquiry, and that might have issued in clearer knowledge. It was the little glimmer of light at the far-off end of his cavern, which, travelled towards, might have brought him into free air and broad day. One great part of his crime was neglecting the faint monitions of which he was conscious. His light may have been dim, but it would have brightened; and he quenched it. He stands as a tremendous example of possibilities missed, and of the tragedy of a soul that has looked on Jesus, and has not yielded to the impressions made on him by the sight.

II. The people’s favourite {Mark 15:7 - Mark 15:15},

‘Barabbas’ means ‘son of the father,’ His very name is a kind of caricature of the ‘Son of the Blessed,’ and his character and actions present in gross form the sort of Messias whom the nation really wanted. He had headed some one of the many small riots against Rome which were perpetually sputtering up and being trampled out by an armed heel. There had been bloodshed, in which he had himself taken part {‘a murderer,’ Acts 3:14}. And this coarse, red-handed desperado is the people’s favourite, because he embodied their notions and aspirations, and had been bold enough to do what every man of them would have done if he had dared. He thought and felt, as they did, that freedom was to be won by the sword. The popular hero is as a mirror which reflects the popular mind. He echoes the popular voice, a little improved or exaggerated. Jesus had taught what the people did not care to hear, and given blessings which even the recipients soon forgot, and lived a life whose ‘beauty of holiness’ oppressed and rebuked the common life of men. What chance had truth and kindness and purity against the sort of bravery that slashes with a sword, and is not elevated above the mob by inconvenient reach of thought or beauty of character? Even now, after nineteen centuries of Christ’s influence have modified the popular ideals, what chance have they? Are the popular ‘heroes’ of Christian nations saints, teachers, lovers of men, in whom their Christ-likeness is the thing venerated? The old saying that the voice of the people is the voice of God receives an instructive commentary in the vote for Barabbas and against Jesus. That was what a plebiscite for the discovery of the people’s favourite came to. What a reliable method of finding the best man universal suffrage, manipulated by wirepullers like these priests, is! and how wise the people are who let it guide their judgments, or still wiser, who fret their lives out in angling for its approval! Better be condemned with Jesus than adopted with Barabbas.

That fatal choice revealed the character of the choosers, both in their hostility and admiration; for excellence hated shows what we ought to be and are not, and grossness or vice admired shows what we would fain be if we dared. It was the tragic sign that Israel had not learned the rudiments of the lesson which ‘at sundry times and in divers manners’ God had been teaching them. In it the nation renounced its Messianic hopes, and with its own mouth pronounced its own sentence. It convicted them of insensibility to the highest truth, of blindness to the most effulgent light, of ingratitude for the richest gifts. It is the supreme instance of short-lived, unintelligent emotion, inasmuch as many who on Friday joined in the roar, ‘Crucify Him!’ had on Sunday shouted ‘Hosanna!’ till they were hoarse.

Pilate plays a cowardly and unrighteous part in the affair, and tries to make amends to himself for his politic surrender of a man whom he knew to be innocent, by taunts and sarcasm. He seems to see a chance to release Jesus, if he can persuade the mob to name Him as the prisoner to be set free, according to custom. His first proposal to them was apparently dictated by a genuine interest in Jesus, and a complete conviction that Rome had nothing to fear from this ‘King.’ But there are also in the question a sneer at such pauper royalty, as it looked to him, and a kind of scornful condescension in acknowledging the mob’s right of choice. He consults their wishes for once, but there is haughty consciousness of mastery in his way of doing it. His appeal is to the people, as against the priests whose motives he had penetrated. But in his very effort to save Jesus he condemns himself; for, if he knew that they had delivered Christ for envy, his plain duty was to set the prisoner free, as innocent of the only crime of which he ought to take cognisance. So his attempt to shift the responsibility off his own shoulders is a piece of cowardice and a dereliction of duty. His second question plunges him deeper in the mire. The people had a right to decide which was to be released, but none to settle the fate of Jesus. To put that in their hands was an unconditional surrender by Pilate, and the sneer in ‘whom ye call the King of the Jews’ is a poor attempt to hide from them and himself that he is afraid of them. Mark puts his finger on the damning blot in Pilate’s conduct when he says that his motive for condemning Jesus was his wish to content the people. The life of one poor Jew was a small price to pay for popularity. So he let policy outweigh righteousness, and, in spite of his own clear conviction, did an innocent man to death. That would be his reading of his act, and, doubtless, it did not trouble his conscience much or long, but he would leave the judgment-seat tolerably satisfied with his morning’s work. How little he knew what he had done! In his ignorance lies his palliation. His crime was great, but his guilt is to be measured by his light, and that was small. He prostituted justice for his own ends, and he did not follow out the dawnings of light that would have led him to know Jesus. Therefore he did the most awful thing in the world’s history. Let us learn the lesson which he teaches!

III. The soldiers’ mockery {Mark 15:16 - Mark 15:20}.

This is characteristically different from that of the rulers, who jeered at His claim to supernatural enlightenment, and bade Him show His Messiahship by naming His smiters. The rough legionaries knew nothing about a Messiah, but it seemed to them a good jest that this poor, scourged prisoner should have called Himself a King, and so they proceed to make coarse and clumsy merriment over it. It is like the wild beast playing with its prey before killing it. The laughter is not only rough, but cruel. There was no pity for the Victim ‘bleeding from the Roman rods,’ and soon to die. And the absence of any personal hatred made this mockery more hideous. Jesus was nothing to them but a prisoner whom they were to crucify, and their mockery was sheer brutality and savage delight in torturing. The sport is too good to be kept by a few, so the whole band is gathered to enjoy it. How they would troop to the place! They get hold of some robe or cloth of the imperial colour, and of some flexible shoots of some thorny plant, and out of these they fashion a burlesque of royal trappings. Then they shout, as they would have done to Caesar, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ repeating again with clumsy iteration the stale jest which seems to them so exquisite. Then their mood changes, and naked ferocity takes the place of ironical reverence. Plucking the mock sceptre, the reed, from His passive hand, they strike the thorn-crowned Head with it, and spit on Him, while they bow in mock reverence before Him, and at last, when tired of their sport, tear off the purple, and lead him away to the Cross.

If we think of who He was who bore all this, and of why He bore it, we may well bow not the knee but the heart, in endless love and thankfulness. If we think of the mockers-rude Roman soldiers, who probably could not understand a word of what they heard on the streets of Jerusalem-we shall do rightly to remember our Lord’s own plea for them, ‘they know not what they do,’ and reflect that many of us with more knowledge do really sin more against the King than they did. Their insult was an unconscious prophecy. They foretold the basis of His dominion by the crown of thorns, and its character by the sceptre of reed, and its extent by their mocking salutations; for His Kingship is founded in suffering, wielded with gentleness, and to Him every knee shall one day bow, and every tongue confess that the King of the Jews is monarch of mankind.

Mark 15:1. And straightway in the morning — Succeeding the dismal night in which the Jewish rulers had been so busily engaged in the horrid transactions related in the preceding chapter; the chief priests — As soon as it was day; held a consultation with the elders and scribes — What method they should take to execute the sentence they had passed against Jesus, and how they might contrive to put him to death in the most severe and contemptuous manner. And because the sanhedrim, which, indeed, had the power of trying and condemning men for crimes which the Jewish law had made capital, yet had not the power of putting such sentences in execution without the approbation of the civil magistrate, or Roman governor; therefore they determined to bind Jesus and deliver him to Pilate, which they accordingly did, while it was yet early, John 18:28. They had indeed bound him when he was first apprehended, but, perhaps, he had been loosed while under examination, or else they now made his bonds stricter than before; the better, as they might think, to secure him from a rescue as he passed through the public streets in the day-time. See note on Matthew 27:1-2. The observation of Theophylact here is worthy of notice. “The Jews delivered up our Lord to the Romans, and they, for that sin, were themselves given up into the hands of the Romans!”

15:1-14 They bound Christ. It is good for us often to remember the bonds of the Lord Jesus, as bound with him who was bound for us. By delivering up the King, they, in effect, delivered up the kingdom of God, which was, therefore, as by their own consent, taken from them, and given to another nation. Christ gave Pilate a direct answer, but would not answer the witnesses, because the things they alleged were known to be false, even Pilate himself was convinced they were so. Pilate thought that he might appeal from the priests to the people, and that they would deliver Jesus out of the priests' hands. But they were more and more urged by the priests, and cried, Crucify him! Crucify him! Let us judge of persons and things by their merits, and the standard of God's word, and not by common report. The thought that no one ever was so shamefully treated, as the only perfectly wise, holy, and excellent Person that ever appeared on earth, leads the serious mind to strong views of man's wickedness and enmity to God. Let us more and more abhor the evil dispositions which marked the conduct of these persecutors.See the principal events in this chapter explained in the notes at Matthew 27. CHAPTER 15

Mr 15:1-20. Jesus Is Brought before Pilate—At a Second Hearing, Pilate, after Seeking to Release Him, Delivers Him Up—After Being Cruelly Entreated, He Is Led Away to Be Crucified. ( = Mt 26:1, 2, 11-31; Lu 23:1-6, 13-25; Joh 18:28-19:16).

See on [1518]Joh 18:28-19:16.Mark 15:1-5 Jesus is brought bound and accused before Pilate: his

silence before the governor.

Mark 15:6-15 Pilate, prevailed upon by the clamours of the people,

releases Barabbas, and giveth up Jesus to be crucified.

Mark 15:16-23 Christ is mocked of the soldiers, crowned with

thorns, and led to the place of crucifiction.

Mark 15:24-28 He is crucified between two thieves,

Mark 15:29-32 reviled,

Mark 15:33-37 and calling upon God expires.

Mark 15:38 The veil of the temple rent.

Mark 15:39-41 The centurion’s confession.

Mark 15:42-47 Joseph of Arimathea begs the body, and buries it.

See Poole on "Matthew 27:1". See Poole on "Matthew 27:2". Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor in Judea at this time, Luke 3:1. The reasons of their carrying Christ to him, when they had condemned him to death for blasphemy, (a crime cognizable before them, as appeareth in the case of Stephen, Acts 7:54-60), see in our notes on Matthew. What time in the morning they carried him before Pilate is not said, only John saith it was early, and we read it was about the sixth hour, (that is, with us twelve of the clock), when Pilate dismissed him, being by him condemned; so probably they were with Pilate by six or seven in the morning. This morning was the morning after the evening in which they had eaten the passover, and the first day of their feast of unleavened bread: so little did they regard God’s ordinance.

And straightway in the morning,.... As soon as it was break of day, or daylight appeared:

the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and Scribes; who were the principal men in the sanhedrim:

and the whole council; which, on this extraordinary occasion, was convened; the result of which was, to bind Jesus, and deliver him up to the Roman governor, to be put to death by him, as a seditious person, and an enemy to Caesar, and accordingly they did so:

and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate. The Syriac and Persic versions add, "the governor"; See Gill on Matthew 27:1, Matthew 27:2.

And {1} 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 {a} {a} delivered him to Pilate.

(1) Christ being bound before the judgment seat of an earthly Judge, is condemned before the open assembly as guilty unto the death of the cross, not for his own sins (as is shown by the judge's own words) but for all of ours, that we who are indeed guilty creatures, in being delivered from the guiltiness of our sins, might be acquitted before the judgment seat of God, even in the open assembly of the angels.

(a) It was not lawful for them to put any man to death, for all authority to punish by death was taken away from them, first by Herod the great, and afterward by the Romans, about forty years before the destruction of the temple, and therefore they deliver Jesus to Pilate.

Mark 15:1. See on Matthew 27:1-2. Comp. Luke 23:1.

ἐπὶ τὸ πρωΐ] on the morning (Mark 13:35), i.e. during the early morning, so that ἐπί expresses the duration stretching itself out. Bernhardy, p. 252. Comp. Acts 3:1; Acts 4:5. As to συμβ. ποι., comp. on Mark 3:6. They made a consultation. According to the more significant reading ἑτοιμάσ. (see the critical remarks), they arranged such an one, they set it on foot. On what subject? the sequel informs us, namely, on the delivering over to the Procurator.

καὶ ὅλον τὸ συνέδρ.] and indeed the whole Sanhedrim. Mark has already observed, Mark 14:53 (πάντες), that the assembly was a, full one, and with manifest design brings it into prominence once more. “Synedrium septuaginta unius seniorum non necesse est, ut sedeant omnes … cum vero necesse est, ut congregentur omnes, congregentur omnes,” Maimonides, Sanhedr. 3 in Lightfoot, p. 639.

Mark 15:1-5. Before Pilate (Matthew 27:1-14, Luke 23:1-10).

Ch. Mark 15:1-15. The Examination before Pilate

1. And straightway] As the day dawned, a second and more formal meeting of the Sanhedrim was convened in one of the halls or courts near at hand. A legal Sanhedrim it could hardly be called, for there are scarcely any traces of such legal assemblies during the Roman period. In theory the action of this august court was humane, and the proceedings were conducted with the greatest care. A greater anxiety was manifested to clear the arraigned than to secure his condemnation, especially in matters of life and death. It was enacted (i) that a majority of at least two must be secured before condemnation; (ii) that while a verdict of acquittal could be given on the same day, one of guilty must be reserved for the following day; (iii) that no criminal trial could be carried through in the night; (iv) that the judges who condemned a criminal to death must fast all day; (v) that the sentence itself could be revised; and that (vi) if even on the way to execution the criminal reflected that he had something fresh to adduce in his favour, he might be led back and have the validity of his statement examined. See Ginsburg’s Article on The Sanhedrim in Kitto’s Biblical Cyclopædia, iii. 767. But the influence of the Sadducees, who were now in the ascendancy, and were Draconian in their severity, had changed all this, and it was resolved to endorse the sentence already pronounced, and deliver over the Great Accused to the secular arm.

carried him away] Either (i) to one of the two gorgeous palaces which the first Herod had erected, or (ii) to a palace near the Tower of Antonia, for hither the governor had come up from Cæsarea “on the sea” to keep order during the feast.

to Pilate] The Roman governor roused thus early that eventful morning to preside in a case, which has handed down his name through the centuries in connection with the greatest crime committed since the world began, was Pontius Pilate. (i) His name Pontius is thought to indicate that he was connected, either by descent or adoption, with the gens of the Pontii, first conspicuous in Roman history in the person of C. Pontius Telesinus, the great Samnite general. His cognomen Pilatus has been interpreted as = (a) “armed with the pilum or javelin,” as = (b) an abbreviation of pileatus, from pileus, the cap or badge of manumitted slaves, indicating that he was either a libertus (“freedman”), or descended from one. He succeeded Valerius Gratus a. d. 26, and brought with him his wife Procla or Claudia Procula. (ii) His office was that of procurator under the governor (proprætor) of Syria, but within his own province he had the power of a legatus. His headquarters were at Cæsarea (Acts 23:23); he had assessors to assist him in council (Acts 25:12); wore the military dress; was attended by a cohort as a body-guard (Matthew 27:27); and at the great festivals came up to Jerusalem to keep order. When presiding as judge he would sit on a Bema or portable tribunal erected on a tesselated pavement, called in Hebrew Gabbatha (John 19:13), and was invested with the power of life and death (Matthew 27:26). (iii) In character he was not insensible to the claims of mercy and justice, but he was weak and vacillating, and incapable of compromising his own safety in obedience to the dictates of his conscience. As a governor he had shewn himself cruel and unscrupulous (Luke 13:1-2), and cared little for the religious susceptibilities of a people, whom he despised and could not understand.

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." Mark 15:1
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