Jesus’ Crucifixion – Mark 15:24–47
Read the Passage: Mark 15:24-47
Some Mocked (15:24–32)
Mark 15:1–23 records Jesus’ trial before Pilate and subsequent scourging. Note that, for his own literary purposes, Mark conflates Jesus’ various trails before the high priests and the Sanhedrin (cf. John 18:12–27), combines Christ’s two trials before Pilate, omits Christ’s trail before Herod (cf. Luke 23:8–25), and leaves out the account of Judas’ remorse (cf. Matt. 27:3–10). Mark 15:24–41 then narrates Christ’s crucifixion. Earlier, in a discussion with the Pharisees, Jesus had asked the important question, “What do you think about the Christ?” (Matt. 22:42). Similarly, in talking with His disciples Jesus inquired, “Who do men say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). Of course, there are different ways of asking this most important question—that is, What do you think about Jesus? And there are different ways to answer it. Here in this passage Mark details three varied reactions that people have towards Christ, both in biblical times and in the present.
In three different ways, Mark emphasizes that Jesus was mocked while on the cross. First, Mark notes that those who passed by Christ blasphemed Him, referencing His teaching on the destruction of the Temple (cf. Mark 15:29–30). This was a repetition of the false charge uttered before Caiaphas at Mark 14:58, which itself was a distortion of Jesus’ own words while leaving the Temple, as is recorded at Mark 13:1–2. Second, Mark reports that “the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes said, ‘He saved others; himself he cannot save.’” (Mark 15:31–32a). Third, Mark writes, “Even those who were crucified with him reviled him” (Mark 15:32b). Interestingly, Mark omits the later conversion of one of the robbers who was crucified with Jesus (cf. Luke 23:40–43), as well as almost all of Jesus’ dialog when on the cross, except for His final cry to the Father (cf. Mark 15:34).
Some Misunderstood (15:33–36)
Mark continues his narrative writing, “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ And some of the bystanders hearing it said, ‘Behold, he is calling Elijah’” (Mark 15:33–36). In modern chronology, this narrative covers from 12:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. It is unclear what caused the darkness; however, it is clear that the darkness was supernatural. Note that the Aramaic term “Eloi” in Jesus’ query, which is a citation of Ps. 22:1, is close to the word for “Elijah,” who was likely called “Eli” for short. This term, coupled with peoples’ identification of Jesus as Elijah (cf. Mark 8:28), resulted in the crowd misunderstanding Christ’s cry as a reference to the return of Elijah, which is promised at the end of the Old Testament (cf. Mal. 4:5–6).
Some Marveled (15:37–47)
Mark 15:37–41 concludes the narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion reporting three events: (1) Jesus cried out as He died, (2) the Temple veil was torn in two, and (3) a centurion confessed that Christ was the Son of God. The strength of Jesus’ cry is likely recorded to emphasize the fact that Jesus laid down His life of His own accord; He did not die of exhaustion on the cross. The content of Christ’s cry is reported by Luke as, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). Observe that the Temple veil was torn in two, from top to bottom, to demonstrate that the sacrificial system had been fulfilled by Jesus. The confession of the centurion is ironic, as the Romans facilitated the crucifixion. Indeed, according to church tradition, this centurion was converted and became a faithful follower of Christ. Note that Mark also omits references to the earthquake and to the appearance of deceased saints at Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Matt. 27:51–53).
Mark 15:42–47 records the burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea. Interestingly, Joseph only appears at this point in the Gospel narratives. Mark notes that Joseph was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin (cf. Mark 15:43); Luke records that Joseph was “a good and just man . . . [who] had not consented [to the death of Christ]” (Luke 23:51); and Matthew reports that Joseph was rich and “had become a disciple of Jesus” (Matt. 27:57), although John notes that Joseph was a secret disciple of Christ (cf. John 19:38). John also reports that Joseph was accompanied by Nicodemus as they buried Jesus with a hundred pounds of spices (cf. John 19:39). In this passage Mark notes that Pilate was surprised that Jesus had already passed away, which is likely recorded to further emphasize Christ’s control over His own death (cf. John 10:17–18). The fact Mary Magdalene and the other Mary saw these events shows they knew where He was buried, and would later return to the correct tomb.
- What are the options for Jesus’ identity? Do most people, even most Christians, have a proper understanding of Christ being fully man and fully God?
- Do you think that the Pharisees and scribes would have believed Jesus was the Messiah had He descended from the cross?
- What did Jesus mean by asking God why He had been forsaken? How could Jesus, who was God, be forsaken by God?
- What is the significance of the supernatural signs that transpired at Jesus death? Why does Mark omit references to the earthquake and resurrected saints?
- Why does Mark record the fact that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where Jesus was buried?