The Definite Plan
The rooster had crowed, and the sun had risen. Peter was weeping. The chief priest and scribes had condemned Jesus to death (Mark 14:64). Over the proceeding pages, we have seen how the words of Christ are coming to pass. Judas had betrayed him. He was handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They condemned him to death. The disciples had scattered. Peter had denied his Lord three times. Now we see the next fulfillment of Christ’s words, that the chief priests would deliver him over to the Gentiles (Mark 10:33-34). Before we turn to study Mark 15, I want to point out that I am seeking to look at Mark’s account. At some time in my life (Lord willing) I will preach through all gospels. At another point (Lord willing) I will show the harmony of these four accounts. However, this is not my focus today. Each gospel account is different. Matthew mentions Pilate’s wife and the washing of Pilate’s hands. Luke gives the interactions with Herod. John stresses the religious leaders’ unwillingness to go into the house of Pilate, and that they did not want to kill Jesus themselves because that would be breaking the law. Now many people might read these accounts and say, “see look they are making up stories and claiming it to be history.” Without going down this path, I would say two things. The first is that there are no contradictory pieces in the four gospels, they tell the same history differently, not a different account history. Secondly, many of these same advocates of this view are not seeking to be historical. We live in a society that seeks to be ahistorical or selective in its telling of history. Which is what they accuse the authors of the gospels of doing. But this is a rabbit trail I seek not to enter at this time.
The action (1)
The religious leaders had condemned Jesus to death (Mark 14:64). Now they seek to put that plan into action. They have a meeting or consultation. Ultimately, they meet to seek to devise a plan for how Jesus might be put to death. Now, this adds an interesting layer to this story. Mainly, that stoning is still accused these days due to blasphemy (Acts 7:57-58; Matt 23:37; Acts 14:5; Cf. Lev 24:16). Even they explain to Jesus they want to stone him because of his ‘blasphemy’ rather than his good works (John 10:33). They have passed their judgment, yet if we were to look at the law would require that Jesus was to be put to death via stoning. We have no minutes from this meeting so we cannot know the reasoning why they devised to hand him over to the Gentiles. Possibly that some in the council thought it would be an avenue for Christ not to be put to death (John 19:38-39; 7:45-52). Another reason is that the religious leaders were afraid of the people (Mark 14:1-2), having the Roman government execute Jesus would accomplish two things; make the people mad with the government and fulfill their desire to destroy Jesus (Mark 3:6, 14:1-2). A third reason is that they desired the outcome of death but were unwilling to cast the first stone (Dt 17:7). They had tried Jesus in their court system but to no avail (Cf. Mark 14:55). However, John points out that they were seeking to obey the laws of the land (John 18:31).
Whatever the reasoning behind the outcome of the council meeting we see this as a fulfillment of what Jesus had already foretold (Mark 10:33-34). He was to be handed over to the Gentiles, but also that he was to be crucified (Matt 20:19, Cf. John 18:32).
The question (2-5)
Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea. He was the longest governor of the 14 governors of Judea. He reigned from about 26 AD to 37 AD. His name is famous mainly for the role he plays in the crucifixion of Christ. Matthew and Mark only call him Pilate. We utter his name every week in the apostles’ creed, “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Pilate meets Jesus for his hearing. He asks him a question, “are you the king of the Jews?” This can help us understand the accusation that the religious leaders are seeking to have Jesus killed. Previously they sought to put him to death for blasphemy, but for a Roman official, who believes in many gods their idea of blasphemy would not be the same. This makes Pilate more afraid when he hears this (John 19:8). They seek to have a political reason which they present to Pilate. Mainly, that Jesus is the king of the Jews and therefore making himself an enemy of Caesar and the roman empire (John 19:12). In all the differences in the Gospel accounts (not contradictions), the question Pilate asks is the same, “are you the king of the Jews?” Now, this goes to show the thoughts of what many at this time were thinking. Jesus after his baptism begins his earthly ministry by saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). We only have one recorded time before this that Jesus calls it “my kingdom” (Luke 22:24-30). And even this reference shows the different types of Kingdom that Christ’s kingdom will be compared to the gentiles.
Jesus answers Pilate’s question, “You have said so.” The Greek is quite simple, “you say.” Jesus does not answer the question directly. Which he has done before (Cf. Mark 11:27-33, 12:13-34). The chief priests and scribes continued to give many accusations as Jesus stood before Pilate. However, Jesus remained silent. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers are silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). This silence amazed Pilate. Twice before Mark has used this word, first in chapter 5 when he cast out the demons in the region of Gerasene (Mark 5:20). Secondly, Jesus is amazed at the unbelief in Nazareth (Mark 6:6). Here Pilate is amazed at Jesus stands silently in front of him, while the chief priests and scribes hurl accusations towards him.
The Insurrection (6-11)
The main accusation that the leaders are bring against Jesus is that he was committing some form of treason against the Roman empire. Pilate does not believe Jesus is guilty and even if he was guilty in the eyes of Pilate, he does not believe this rises to the level of execution. So, through some political tactics hopes to dissuade them from having Jesus put to death. We are informed through the gospel writer that every year at Passover Pilate would release a prisoner. This year there was a movement to have a man named Barabbas released. Now Barabbas was guilty of insurrection and murder. Movements like this were somewhat common during these days (Zealots, Theudas, Judas of Galilee, cf Acts 5:35-37). Barabbas means, “Son of the Father.” We see the real Son of God the Father imprisoned while Barabbas, “Son of the father” is released. Jesus who was innocent and sinless set to be executed for insurrection and Barabbas who was guilty of insurrection and murder goes free. Pilate thought the leaders would relent when given the two options, “do you want me to release the king of the Jews?” Pilate seems to be going to great lengths to have Jesus released. However, this time in Jerusalem there was a large number of Jewish people who would come in for Passover. Therefore the military might not have the numbers to be able to handle a rebellion. Mark even records that Pilate perceived that it was out of envy that Jesus was delivered to him. The envy this speaks of is the envy of another because of another person’s success.
However, the Chief Priests and religious leaders had been longing for this day for years (Mark 3:6). Their plan is finally coming to pass. They have sought to have Jesus destroyed by tactics of spies seeking to ensnare Jesus in his words, their court system, and now through civil means. The chief priests “stirred up the crowd,” this is no mild stirring but inciting or causing an uproar. We must note that throughout this whole trial it has been the motives of the sinful and lawless men that have driven the whole outcome of the events so far (so it seems).
The Incantation (12-15)
All of this scam trial rests upon the crowd that stood before Pilate that day. The chief priests had stirred the crowd up. Now they continue to have them cry out “Crucify Him.” Within this crowd would be three main types of people, those who came to free Barabbas, and who do not care about what happens to Jesus. The second is those who came with the chief priests, who were in favor of killing Jesus. And you might say there was a small number of curious bystanders. This is a judicial matter of guilt and innocence, but that does not seem to factor into any of this. Pilate asks the same question as I just pointed out, “Why? What evil has he done?” However, the crowd is not moved by right or wrong. Good or evil? They want their desires fulfilled. So, they begin to shout all the more, “Crucify him.” In the end, the mob ruled. It was too much for a politician who must report back to Rome how an enormous riot broke out in his district at the busiest time of year. Mark explains that Pilate’s decision was based on his desire to “satisfy the crowd.” Pilate who was ruler over the area is unable to control those he is supposed to rule. The crowd in the end has the final say (up to this point).
The words of Christ are coming true before everyone’s eyes. “The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.” (Mark 10:33–34). The story has not finished yet there are still things to come, they will mock him, spit on him, and kill him. Peter retells the story to those who were there that day and were responsible for this judgment. Peter had just finished healing a man that he could walk and he utters these words,
“The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life” (Acts 3:13–15).
They do three things, they delivered, denied, and put Jesus, the author of life, to death. Peter later explains, “I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:17–18). That even in their ignorance they still are responsible. However, we see this story is not over. The Bible promises that the serpent will strike the heel of the seed of the woman. However, the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head. Peter earlier in Acts put it this way, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:22–23).
The definite and foreknowledge of God. The religious leaders had a plan to put Jesus to death. Pilate thought he had a plan to dissuade the crowd and the leaders from having him sentence an innocent man. Yet in all this God’s definite plan is unfolding. The promises and prophecies of the Old Testament will soon be clear. The story is not yet over. This morning Christ was sentenced to be crucified. Soon the morning will come when Christ will be victorious.