Summary The following morning, the Sanhedrin confirms its decision and takes Jesus before Pilate. He is arraigned before Pilate, Judea's fifth procurator, CE 26-36. Jesus is said to have proclaimed himself king of the Jews, which would have implicated him in a political rebellion. Pilate suspects Jesus' popularity is the real reason for his being arraigned. A Jewish nationalist, Barrabas, is released in accordance with Passover tradition, even though the people have had their choice of Jesus or Barrabas. Those who have been permitted to be present cry out for the death of Jesus, probably indicated they are a Jerusalem following associated with the Sanhedrin. Jesus is sentenced to crucifixion preceded by scourging. For the claim of king of the Jews, which Jesus has not made, he is mocked by the soldiers in a tradition of the "king" game in which he receives a crown of thorns, a scepter, and a mock robe. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross of Jesus to Golgotha, where he is crucified with two thieves. The victims are offered the opportunity to have their senses dulled by drugged wine; Jesus refuses the opiate. A written notice of the charge against the victims is written on a banner and placed on the cross: Jesus is said to be King of the Jews. He is taunted by passers-by. Jesus, in agony, cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He is offered wine vinegar and utters, "It is finished." At that moment, the curtain of the temple is reported to have been torn from top to bottom. A non-commissioned officer in charge confesses that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. This is the climax of the Gospel. We are told that Mary Magdalene and the mother of James the young look on the crucifixion from afar. Joseph of Armithea, a member of the Council, asks to be allowed to bury Jesus; he, no doubt, has been a sympathizer to the Kingdom of God to come. Joseph wrapped the body of Jesus in linen and laid it in a tomb, with Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus looking on. The traditional tomb closing occurs with a huge stone rolled across the door of the cave.
Readers may wish to redirect to chapter eight where the various names--Son of Man, Son of God, Son of David, and Messiah--have been discussed.
Sharyn Down in a review of Telford's book on Mark says that Telford understands Mark to write from a Pauline-influenced gentile Christianity and that the authors sets out to oppose an incorrect Jewish Christianity understanding of Jesus:
IN THIS CAREFULLY WRITTEN and documented volume, Telford rightly sees christology as the most prominent theological focus of the Gospel of Mark. He approaches the question of Mark's christology through a redactional study of the titles, arguing that the evangelist privileges the title "Son of God" in its Hellenistic sense of a "divine man" who is able to work miracles by virtue of his supernatural nature. But Mark adds the emphasis of the suffering Son of Man to this picture of Jesus. Thus, the "messianic secret" is really a "Son of God secret" according to Telford. The evangelist reinterprets the miracles of Jesus from signs of the in breaking of the Kingdom to signals pointing to Jesus' divinity." The author of Mark's Gospel writes as a representative of a Pauline-influenced gentile Christianity which viewed Jesus (and, by means of the secrecy motif, invites the reader toview him) as the divine `Son of God' who came to suffer and die on the cross" (p. 53).
By contrast, the Jewish Christianity of the primitive community (represented by the
Twelve) viewed Jesus as a Son of David Messiah whose death was the prelude to his exaltation to heaven and whose supernatural status and saving work were focused on hisreturn as the apocalyptic Son of Man. The Jewish-Christian leaders failed to grasp the universal significance of Jesus' saving activity and its corollary, the gentile mission. Mark's opposition to this misreading of christology and soteriology explains for Telford the evangelist's negative portrayal of the Twelve and his refusal (by eliminating the resurrection appearances) to confer on them the leadership of the post-Easter community.
The ESV makes the following observations:
Mark 14:1–16:8 Death and Resurrection in Jerusalem. The narrative of Jesus’ suffering moves quickly from the celebration of the Passover, the betrayal, Gethsemane, and the arrest of Jesus to his trials before the Sanhedrin and Pilate. It culminates in the crucifixion of Jesus and the discovery of the empty tomb, complemented by the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection.
Mark 14:53–15:20 Trial. The trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin leads to the verdict of blasphemy, requiring the death penalty. But only the Roman governor Pilate has the authority to execute Jesus.
Mark 15:1 The whole council is the Sanhedrin. It did not have the right to execute a person convicted of a capital crime. That right was reserved for Roman authorities, especially when dealing with popular figures. Pilate, the Roman governor, was temporarily in Jerusalem “to keep the peace” during the Passover (on Pilate, see note on Luke 23:1; cf. also note on Luke 3:1). The Jewish authorities did not want to be busy with the case during the festive Passover day of Nisan 15.
Mark 15:2 When they brought him to Pilate, the Jewish authorities did not accuse Jesus of blasphemy (a religious crime that would have made no difference to Pilate) but rather of claiming to be King of the Jews, thus challenging Caesar’s rule (in the eyes of Rome, a capital crime).
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In this chapter, yet another title for Jesus emerges: King of the Jews, this title setting Jesus up as challenging current Roman rule, a title which contrasts the climactic Son of God title in the centurion's confession:
Mark 15:39 The centurion has observed the death of many crucified criminals; he recognizes the purity and power of Jesus (in this way) and rightly sees that he is the Son of God (cf. note on Luke 23:47). Like the thief on the cross who expressed faith in Jesus (Luke 23:39–43), the centurion may have had incomplete understanding of Jesus’ identity and mission, but Mark seems to record this testimony as an indication of the centurion’s faith and the truth about Jesus’ identity.
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Understood as a rebel against Rome, much of the rest of the crucifixion scene can be explained:
The presence of the whole battalion (about 600 men at full strength) assumes that Jesus is a rebel against Rome. Therefore the soldiers dress, mock, and mistreat him as King of the Jews(Matt. 27:28; Mark 15:9, 12, 26), which, contrary to their view, he truly was. The sarcastichomage paid to Jesus imitates what various emperors in Rome expected of their subjects (see also note on Matt. 27:28–31).
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Finally, this is the inscription posted above Jesus' head:
Mark 15:26 The inscription of the charge against him (see note on John 19:19) is posted above Jesus’ head, so that all can see why he was so shamefully executed. “The King of the Jews.” With this inscription, Pilate justified his actions (Jesus was crucified as a political rebel) and also provoked the Jewish authorities (John 19:19–22; cf. Mark 15:10).
Turton, as always, attends carefully to the events described here, remarking that King of the Jews has not been previously used and seems unwarranted as based on information given to Pilate and that the question if followed by silence:
Turton next, following his usual pattern, remarks on the Scriptural background:
v5: Jesus' silence recalls Isaiah 53:7:
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (NIV)
Note also that in the discourse in Mark 13, Jesus told his followers not to be anxious about what to say, but that the Holy Spirit would speak for them. Another fulfillment of Mark 13 as a Passion prediction.
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LSB Notes summarizes the content of chapter 15 in the following way, emphasizing the trial before Pilate, a mob scene, the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus.
Mark 15. The day of crucifixion A temporal formula (“as soon as it was morning”—v. 1) provides the transition from the night before the crucifixion to the day of it. The tragic events happen at breakneck speed. The trial before the high priest Caiaphas is now succeeded by the more sinister trial before the Roman governor Pilate (vv. 1–5). A mob scene ensues in which a murderer and insurrectionist is exchanged for the innocent Jesus (vv. 6–15). After that the action marches grimly to its foreordained conclusion: torturing of Jesus (vv. 16–20); the procession to the place of crucifixion and then the crucifixion itself (vv. 21–32); the death of Jesus (vv. 33–41); the burial of Jesus (vv. 42–47). To read any story well, we need to be receptive to the feelings that the story evokes and awakens; this is the saddest of all stories. As we read it, we need to note that the Gospels tell us the facts of what happened, with very little theological explanation of the events. Most of the Bible’s theological interpretation of the significance of what happens in the passion stories is found in the OT sacrificial system and messianic prophecies and the NT epistles’ commentary on Jesus’ atonement.
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Some discussion should probably occur relative to the tearing of the temple curtain and the centurion's confession:
Jesus, in agony, cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He is offered wine vinegar and utters, "It is finished." At that moment, the curtain of the temple is reported to have been torn from top to bottom. A non-commissioned officer in charge confesses that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. This is the climax of the Gospel.
Dominic Rudman has pointed out that the Synoptic Gospels' depiction of the events surrounding the crucifixion "have provoked varying responses from New Testament scholars and says the references can be explained relative to the chaoskampf typology of the Old Testament… Jesus is presented as a creator figure who confronts the powers of chaos. In this instance however, the powers of chaos emerge temporarily triumphant. The old creation is destroyed, paving the way for a renewal of creation with Jesus’s resurrection."
To arrive at his conclusion, Rudman reviews literary approaches taken by scholars to these crucifixion events: the possibility that these equal "'the visible phenomena that vindicate Jesus’ status as God’s son' to which the centurion (a gentile) responds, but which Jesus’ own people ignore" or the view taken by Gundry:
Another view is advanced by Gundry, who argues that the darkness is a response by God to the jeering of the group witnessing Jesus’ execution, an attempt to shield his son from the humiliation of the people’s mockery… yet
et the essential point of the passion narratives seems to be to demonstrate the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus: he suffers a painful and humiliating death and gives utterance to the idea that he has been abandoned by God (Matt 27,46; Mark 15,34).
Yet another approach makes use of a passage in Amos:
Hooker and others, who understand it as a symbol of judgement on Israel for the death of Israel’s king4. Almost all commentators make reference to Amos 8,9-10 in their discussion of this part of the narrative. The text in question states:
On that day, declares Lord Yahweh,
I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your religious feasts into mourning
and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day
Rudman makes two objections to this approach before returning to his own --the years separating Amos and this event and, he thinks, the more important objection, the likelihood of recognizing the allusion:
A new perspective on this problem may be helpful. Biblical texts strongly associate darkness or night with the forces of chaos. Darkness is synonymous with chaos in the form of non-existence (Job 3,3-6) or crime (Prov 2,13), and is therefore particularly associated with Sheol — the place where the human essence resides after death (Job 10,21; 17,11-16; Eccl 11,8). Night is a time of lawlessness, when thieves or the wicked play out their schemes (Job 24,14; Obad 5; Matt 24,43; 1 Thess 5,2). Associations of darkness with the forces of chaos led OT authors to speculate that with God’s final victory over the forces of chaos, night would cease to exist (Isa 60,18-20 cf. Zech 14,7). This theme is adapted by the author of Revelation (22,5 cf. 21,25) in his vision of the new creation, one unmarred by the presence of chaos within cosmic boundaries. As well as the destruction of darkness, two other exemplars of chaos, death and the sea, are also destroyed (Rev 21,1.4).
From this, it is but a short step to see the darkness spreading over the earth at Jesus’ crucifixion as representing the powers of chaos encroaching upon the creation. It is my contention that the crucifixion is expressed literarily as a chaoskampf, but one in which the powers of chaos are victorious.
This chaoskampf theme is far from alien to the gospels (especially in confrontations with the demonic), and features most prominently in the narrative in which Jesus demonstrates his command over the forces of chaos by ordering the winds and waves that had threatened his boat to be still (Matt 8,23-27; Mark 4,35-41; Luke 8,22-25). Several commentators see in this latter episode an allusion to Psalm 104, in which Yahweh accomplishes the same feat. Indeed, it is noticeable that Jesus, faced by the raging chaos waters, does not call on Yahweh, but, rather, acts as if he were Yahweh 6. Naturally, the synoptic writers stop short of taking the parallel to its logical conclusion (i.e. calling Jesus "God")7, but there is certainly a blurring of the distinction between Jesus as human and the Jesus as a creator figure. The act of repulsing the hostile forces of chaos is implicitly linked with creation, and the godlike power of Jesus in so doing is evidenced in the terrified exclamation of the disciples: "Who is this? Even the winds and waves obey him!" (Matt 8,27; Mark 4,41 cf. Luke 8,25).
2. Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
Rudman next links the ideas of death, chaos, and Sheol, describing the cross as "the ultimate victory of Chaos over creation." He points out that Sheol is the place where the essesnce of the person comes to rest, referencing Ecclesiastes 9, 10, Job 17,16; 21,26; Ps 7,6, Psalms 31,17-18; 94,17; 115,17; and Isaiah 47,5.
Both aspects contribute to the feeling that the Hebrew underworld is essentially a dry, lifeless place, rather like the description of the land in Gen 2,5 before the formation of humanity (cf. Gen 1,9-10). As with Sheol, desert and wasteland, where little or nothing grows, are viewed as chaotic in Hebrew thought precisely because they are lifeless (cf. the use of the term wht in Gen 1,2 and Deut 32,10; Job 6,18; 12,24; Isa 24,10; 45,18).
Sheol is further equated with chaos in its frequent association with darkness (Job 17,13 cf. Lam 3,6; Job 18,18), and, like the sea, it is fitted with gates (Isa 38,10; Pss 9,14 [ Eng. 13]; 107,18; Job 38,17 cf. Wis 16,13; Matt 16,18; Rev 1,18) and bars (Jon 2,7 [Eng. 6]; Job 38,10), presumably to prevent the escape of its inhabitants (and thus to maintain the separation between the realms of creation and uncreation). Most significant of all, however, are those OT poetic texts that combine imagery of the individual being engulfed by the chaos waters and being carried down to Sheol (Jon 2,3-6; Pss 42,8; 69,2-3.15-16; 88,7-8). Death in Hebrew thought then involved a movement from the created realm to the realm of uncreation, or chaos.
Against this backdrop, the resurrection can be viewed as a victory over death and the resurrection as the "firstfruits of the eschaton." The tearing of the temple curtain, he suggests, represents divine judgment on Israel, Jesus' death "portending the end of all temple ritual. He explains that scholar Carrington "takes the position that the rending of the curtain represents the destruction of the old barrier separating God and his people (since the curtain in the Temple’s "holy of holies" where Yahweh resided could be passed only once a year, and then only by the High Priest)."
Carrington’s unusual argument deserves closer scrutiny. According to the Antiquities of Josephus, himself a priest (Life 1), the tabernacle was effectively understood to be microcosm of the creation. Divided into three, the outer parts represented the sea and the land, while "the third part thereof ... to which the priests were not admitted is, as it were, a heaven peculiar to God" (Ant. 3.181). This suggests that the temple curtain formed the boundary between earth and heaven: its destruction could be taken to signify the irruption of the heavenly world onto the earth (i.e. the arrival of the kingdom of heaven as Carrington suggests). However, it could equally be taken to
signify the disruption of creation. As noted earlier, the establishing and maintenance of boundaries (e.g. against the sea, or death) is crucial to the process of creation and its preservation in the OT. The dissolution of such boundaries could therefore be seen as signifying a victory by the forces of chaos. It is surely significant that this action happens at the precise moment of Jesus’ death, when chaos has triumphed and all is despair. At this moment, Jesus’ victory remains three days in the future.
The second possibility stems from the colours of the temple curtain noted above. Both Josephus and Philo suggest that the four colours incorporated into it (blue, purple, crimson and white [2 Chr 3,14]) symbolise the four elements from which the cosmos was created — indeed, according to Josephus, a panorama of the cosmos was embroidered into the curtain (BJ 5.212-13). Thus, the temple curtain represented not only the boundary between earth and heaven, but the cosmos itself. On this basis — and this seems to me the most likely interpretation of the event — one could argue that the tearing of the temple curtain at the moment of Jesus’ death signifies the rending of creation.
He then concludes the crucifixion can be understood as a chaoskampf:
Taken together, the three elements of the passion narrative, the darkness that covers the land, the death of a creator figure and the tearing of the temple curtain, point towards the conclusion that the narrator saw the crucifixion as a chaoskampf — one in which Jesus is apparently defeated by the forces of chaos. Alongside the death of this creator figure, one may also see in the tearing of the temple curtain at least a figurative destruction of creation. The crucifixion as depicted in the synoptic gospels therefore demonstrates the unravelling of the old created order prior to the its renewal or, better, replacement, heralded by Jesus’ resurrection. It is this theology of death, destruction and cosmic renewal (not unlike that of the Baal-Mot legend) that informs the synoptic passion narratives.
Chapter sixteen discusses Jesus' burial as a temporary burial and the expectation that after three days, the face of the body would have become disfigured beyond recognition. The three days would affect what could be said of any resurrection. What is clear in the shorter ending of Mark is that the women coming to the tomb reacted with trembling, astonishment, and fear:
16 uvWhen the Sabbath was past, wMary Magdalene, wMary the mother of James, and iSalome xbought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away ythe stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—zit was very large. 5 And aentering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, bdressed in ca white robe, anddthey were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, d“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that ehe is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, ejust as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
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Chapter sixteen also includes the several ways Mark has used "raised." What is reported in Mark is simply that Jesus "has risen" and "is not here."
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Concerning the longer ending of Mark, ESV Notes says the following:
Mark 16:9–20 “Longer Ending of Mark.” Some ancient manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel contain these verses and others do not, which presents a puzzle for scholars who specialize in the history of such manuscripts. This longer ending is missing from various old and reliable Greek manuscripts (esp. Sinaiticus and Vaticanus), as well as numerous early Latin, Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian manuscripts. Early church fathers (e.g., Origen and Clement of Alexandria) did not appear to know of these verses. Eusebius and Jerome state that this section is missing in most manuscripts available at their time. And some manuscripts that contain vv. 9–20 indicate that older manuscripts lack the section. On the other hand, some early and many later manuscripts (such as the manuscripts known as A, C, and D) contain vv. 9–20, and many church fathers (such as Irenaeus) evidently knew of these verses. As for the verses themselves, they contain various Greek words and expressions uncommon to Mark, and there are stylistic differences as well. Many think this shows vv. 9–20 to be a later addition. In summary, vv. 9–20 should be read with caution. As in many translations, the editors of the ESV have placed the section within brackets, showing their doubts as to whether it was originally part of what Mark wrote, but also recognizing its long history of acceptance by many in the church. The content of vv. 9–20 is best explained by reference to other passages in the Gospels and the rest of the NT. (Most of its content is found elsewhere, and no point of doctrine is affected by the absence or presence of vv. 9–20.) With particular reference to v. 18, there is no command to pick up serpents or to drink deadly poison; there is merely a promise of protection as found in other parts of the NT (see Acts 28:3–4; James 5:13–16). (See The Reliability of the New Testament Manuscripts.)
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N.T. Wright addresses the empty tomb in the following way:
When one compares the five different accounts we have of the resurrection (this, Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:1-11, John 20:1-10, and I Corinthians 15:3-7) there are a number of details that are impossible to harmonize. Mark may have allowed himself some imaginative freedom in depicting the scene-the story of the young man, for instance. What can hardly be called legendary or imaginative, however, is the double fact that the tomb was empty and that Jesus appeared to his followers after his death.
How can we interpret the fact of the empty tomb? If we say that the Jews or Romans stole the body, it would have been simple for them to put a stop to the preaching of the resurrection simply by producing it, but this they did not do. If we say that the disciples stole and hid the body, we have a picture of the whole origin of the Christian movement based on a piece of crude deception. Even Jewish commentators on this material find this hypothesis incredible.
Our remaining alternative is to say that God in fact did raise Jesus from the dead, changing his "physical body" into a "spiritual body," and in this latter form he appeared to his followers.
The transformation of the dispirited and cowardly disciples into forthright evangelists, the very existence of the church and the New Testament -- these facts receive an adequate explanation only when we go beyond the general statement, "Jesus conquered death," to the explicit and factual remark that God raised Jesus Christ from :he dead. This is scarcely an easy statement for any of us to make, for we are all modern men. And yet -- though there is room for openness and even agnosticism on some of the details of the resurrection narrative -- it seems certain that no qualification can be accepted of the actual, historical fact of the resurrection as a decisive and mighty act of God for man's salvation and eternal life.
C.H. Dodd explains the "rising again" as part of Jesus' sense of inevitable destiny:
Some sayings speak of "rising from the dead," some speak of "coming again," and sometimes they are in vaguer terms: "A little while and you see me no more; again a little while and you will see me." 28 It is perhaps impossible to decide which of these best represent what Jesus actually said. That forecasts may have grown more specific in the light of what happened is likely enough. It is also likely enough that what he said on various occasions was sometimes more explicit, sometimes more cryptic. But one thing we may say with reasonable certainty: quite apart from the question of time authenticity or the verbal accuracy of this or that reported saying, the idea of new life through death, of victory coming out of defeat, is an inseparable part of the thought of Jesus about his destiny.
He concludes by connecting this destiny to Son of Man on the historical plane, but with a final victory which will be beyond history, but already present in the pattern and example of Jesus' life:
It is in this light, I suggest, that we may best understand the cryptic sayings about the coming of the Son of Man. Central to the whole group of such sayings is the answer which Jesus is reported to have given to the High Priest when he was interrogated about his alleged messianic pretensions: "You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God and coming with the clouds of heaven."38 The language is allusive and the imagery close-packed. There are echoes of two passages in the Old Testament. In one of these the Almighty is represented as conferring the highest dignity on the king of Israel (prototype of the Messiah), in the words, "Sit at my right hand." 39 This is here associated with another passage, from the Book of Daniel, which describes, in bizarre imagery, a vision of timings to come. First, there is a procession of weird and ferocious beasts, and then "one like a son-of-man [a human form, as distinct from the bestial figures] came with the clouds of heaven," to be invested with everlasting dominion.40 The prophet himself has supplied a key. The beasts stand for the brutal pagan empires by which Israel had been successively oppressed, and the human figure stands for "the people of the saints of the Most High." He is therefore a "double" of the Servant of the Lord, an embodiment of the people of God, first oppressed and then vindicated in glory. It is a vision of the final victory of God’s cause over all powers in the universe; it is also a vision of (expected) historical victory for Israel over its oppressors. We are probably to understand that in recalling this prophecy Jesus also was pointing to the final victory of God’s cause, or in other words the consummation of his kingdom, beyond history, and was affirming his own part in it; but as in Daniel, so here, this victory has its embodiment in history, namely in the impending fate of Jesus himself, who is to pass through suffering and sacrifice to glorious life. The human figure of Daniel’s vision has acquired a new identity. It is this historical Person in whom, as its "inclusive representative," the new Israel, the people of God, is to emerge from apparently irretrievable disaster -- "raised to life with Christ," as Paul was to express it.41 This is the coming of the Son of Man on the historical plane. His ultimate "coming" lies beyond history, but the essential pattern of it is already given in the historical Person and the historical event.