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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Mark 15

 

 

Verse 1

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!”


Verses 2-5

Mark 15:2-5. Pilate asked him, Art thou the king of the Jews? — These verses are explained in the notes on Matthew 27:11-14. But Jesus yet answered nothing — This is not an accurate translation of the original, (which is, ουκετι ουδεν απεκριθη,) implying, as Dr. Campbell justly observes, “that he had answered nothing to the former question, the reverse of which is the fact, as appears, Mark 15:2. All the Latin translators say rightly, Nihil amplius respondit, he answered nothing more, or what is manifestly equivalent. All the foreign translations give the same sense. Yet, to show how difficult it is to preserve a uniform attention, and how liable at times even judicious persons are to run blindfold into the errors of their predecessors; it may be observed, that Wesley is the only modern translator who has escaped a blunder not more repugnant to the fact, as recorded in the verses immediately preceding, than contradictory to the import of the Greek expression here used. His version is, Answered nothing any more. The rest without exception say, Still answered nothing, or words to that purpose. Yet, in the translation commonly used in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the sense was truly exhibited, Answered no more at all.”


Verses 6-10

Mark 15:6-10. Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner — The passover being celebrated by the Jews in memory of their deliverance from Egypt, it was agreeable to the nature of the feast to make this release at that time, and therefore customary. See Whitby, and note on Matthew 27:15-18. There was one named Barabbas, bound with them that had made insurrection — A crime which the Roman governors, and Pilate in particular, were more especially concerned and careful to punish; who had committed murder in the insurrection — He seems to have been the head of the rebels. The multitude, crying aloud, &c. — Greek, αναβοησας ο οχλος ηρξατο αιτεισθαι, With great clamour, the multitude demanded of Pilate what he used to grant them. So Campbell. But Pilate answered, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? — If Pilate made this proposal with a view to preserve the life of Jesus, it is hard to say which he discovers most, his want of justice, or of courage, or of common sense. While in a most mean and cowardly manner he sacrifices justice to popular clamour, he enrages those whom he seeks to appease, by unseasonably repeating that title, The King of the Jews, which he could not but know was highly offensive to them. For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him — To be put to death, not from a regard to justice, but merely for envy at his popularity and goodness; and that these things, and no crime of his, either real or suspected, had made them his enemies. Pilate ought, therefore, certainly rather to have lost his own life than to have delivered Jesus to their will. See note on Matthew 27:24-25.


Verses 11-15

Mark 15:11-15. But the chief priests — Being very solicitous to carry the plan they had formed for his destruction into execution; moved the people — To desire the release of Barabbas, though he was a scandalous and outrageous criminal. Pilate said again — Being willing, Luke says, to release Jesus; What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call King of the Jews — It seems strange that Pilate should so often repeat this title, King of the Jews; but perhaps he might do it partly to ridicule it, and bring contempt on the scheme of a Messiah; and partly to procure from the Jews, in their zeal against Jesus, the strongest and most public professions of their subjection to Cesar. And they cried out again, Crucify him — By this cry, they declared the greatest degree of rage that can be imagined; for it was as if they had said, Let him whom you call our king be treated like one of the vilest of your slaves, who has committed the most enormous crime. To have inflicted such a punishment as this on any free Jew, would probably have been sufficient to have thrown the whole city and nation into an uproar; but now they were deaf to every thing but the clamour of passion, and in their madness did not consider with how dangerous a precedent they might furnish the Roman governor. And indeed it turned dreadfully on themselves, when such vast numbers of them were crucified for their opposition to the Romans during the time of their last war. See Doddridge, and note on Matthew 27:25. Pilate said, Why, what evil hath he done? — What crime do you accuse him of? But instead of showing that he had done any evil, or specifying any one crime of which he had been guilty; they only cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him — See note on Matthew 27:23. Pilate, therefore, willing to content the people — To whom, as appears from Josephus, he had given much cause of disgust before; being perhaps afraid of an insurrection if he should continue to withstand them, though at the head of an armed force sufficient to have quelled any mob, weakly suffered himself to be borne down by their violence; and released unto them him that for sedition and murder had been cast into prison, whom they desired; but delivered Jesus to their will, Luke 23:25, namely, delivered him to be crucified, when he had scourged him! “Whipping, or scourging, was a punishment frequently used by the Jews and Romans. The Jews commonly inflicted it by a whip of three cords, and limited the number of stripes to thirty-nine, that they might not exceed the number limited. Deuteronomy 25:3. But the usual way of scourging among the Romans was with such rods or wands as the lictors carried in a bundle before the magistrates; and they were exceeding cruel in this kind of punishment, tearing with their scourges even the veins and arteries, and laying the very bowels of the malefactors bare; and as our Saviour was scourged at Pilate’s order, it was done most probably by his officers, after the Roman manner, and was therefore no less severe than disgraceful.” See Calmet, and note on Matthew 27:26.


Verses 16-19

Mark 15:16-19. And the soldiers led him away — The soldiers, knowing that it was a Roman custom to scourge prisoners just before they were put to death, interpreted Pilate’s order on this head as a declaration that he was immediately to be crucified; therefore they led him to the hall, called the Pretorium — As being the place where the pretor, a Roman magistrate, used to keep his court, and give judgment; but in common language, the term was applied to the palace in general. And they call together the whole band, &c. — Or cohort, to insult and torment him, not being concerned to keep any measures with a person whom they looked upon as entirely abandoned to their will. And they clothed him with purple — As royal robes were usually purple and scarlet, Mark and John term this a purple robe, Matthew a scarlet one. The Tyrian purple is said not to have been very different from scarlet. They clothed Jesus in this gaudy dress that he might have something of a mock resemblance to a prince. And platted a crown of thorns, &c. — Still further to ridicule his pretensions to royalty, which they considered as an affront to their nation and emperor; and began to salute him — In a ludicrous manner, as if he had been a new-created prince, and this his coronation-day. And they smote him on the head

And so, as it were, nailed down the thorns on his forehead and temples, occasioning thereby as it may be reasonably supposed, exquisite pain, as well as a great effusion of blood. And did spit upon him — Even in his very face; and bowing their knees, worshipped him — Did him reverence in a scoffing and insulting manner: all which indignities and cruelties this holy sufferer bore with the utmost meekness and composure, neither reviling nor threatening them; but silently committing himself to the righteous invisible Judge, 1 Peter 2:23. See note on Matthew 27:27-31, where these particular circumstances of his humiliation are enlarged upon.


Verse 20-21

Mark 15:20-21. And when they had mocked him, &c. — These verses are explained in the note on Matthew 27:31-32.


Verses 22-28

Mark 15:22-28. They bring him, unto the place Golgotha — See these verses elucidated in the notes on Matthew 27:33-44. When they had crucified him, they parted his garments — Mark seems to intimate, that they first nailed him to the cross, then parted his garments, and afterward reared up the cross. The English word to crucify, denotes properly, to put to death by nailing to the cross; but the Greek word σταυροω, here used, means no more than to fasten to the cross with nails. In strict propriety, we should not say, a man cried out after he was crucified, but after he was nailed to the cross. And it was the third hour — Or nine o’clock in the morning, when they thus brought him to mount Calvary. John says, it was about the sixth hour, even when he was condemned to be crucified. “But then, it must be observed, that the Greek manuscripts produced by Camerarius, Beza, and R. Stephanus, read in John, ωσει τριτη, about the third hour; that Nonnus seems to have read so, his paraphrase running after this manner, the third hour was not yet past; that Theophylact contends it ought to be so read, and that because the three other evangelists unanimously say that the darkness began at the sixth hour, which yet began not, till after our Lord had hung upon the cross some considerable time; till after the soldiers had divided his garments, the Jews had mocked him, and bid him come down from the cross, and the discourse had passed between the two thieves among themselves, and between the repenting thief and our Lord. And lastly, the author of the Constantinopolitan Chronicle saith expressly, that the exacter copies, and the manuscript of St. John, kept till his time at Ephesus, read ωρα ωσει τριτη, about the third hour. See Jerome on Psalms 77. And the change from γ, the third, to ζ, the sixth, is so easy, that this may very reasonably be owned in the later copies of John’s gospel; especially if we consider how punctual Mark is in the enumeration of the hours, saying, it was the third hour, and they crucified him, or began to lead him away to be crucified; and, Mark 15:33, when the sixth hour was come, from that time there was darkness over the whole land till the ninth hour; and, Mark 15:34, at the ninth hour Jesus expired.” — Whitby. And the scripture was fulfilled — Namely, Isaiah 53:12, And he was numbered with the transgressors — The prophet thus speaking with amazing plainness of the sufferings of the Messiah.


Verses 33-38

Mark 15:33-38. When the sixth hour was come — For an explanation of this paragraph, see notes on Matthew 27:45-53. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? — In these words, Jesus claims God as his God; and yet laments his Father’s withdrawing the tokens of his love, while he bare our sins.


Verses 39-41

Mark 15:39-41. When the centurion saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost — Cried out with such strength of voice, and such firm confidence in God, even at the moment when he expired, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God — See this translation defended and explained, in the note on Matthew 27:54. Who followed him and ministered unto him — Waited upon him, and provided him with necessaries.


Verses 42-44

Mark 15:42-44. And now, &c. — και ηδη οψιας γενομενης, And the evening being now come. The word οψιας, answering to evening, is used with some latitude in Scripture. The Jews spoke of two evenings, (see notes on Matthew 14:15; Matthew 14:23.) It is probably the former of these that is meant here and Matthew 27:57; for at six the preparation ended, and the sabbath began, when they were no longer at liberty to be employed in the manner mentioned in the subsequent verses. Therefore, that the bodies might not be hanging on the sabbath day, (or after six that evening,) they were in haste to have them taken down. Joseph, an honourable counsellor — A man of character and reputation, and a member of the sanhedrim; who himself waited for the kingdom of God — Who expected to see it set up on earth under the Messiah, and to partake of the blessings of it. Observe, reader, those who wait for the kingdom of God, and hope to obtain an interest in the privileges of it, must show it by their forwardness to own Christ’s cause even then, when it seems to be run down and crushed: came and went in boldly unto Pilate — Though he knew such an action must necessarily draw upon him the enmity and contempt of his brethren; and craved the body of Jesus — That he might preserve it from further insults, and bestow on it an honourable interment. Probably, as Dr. Doddridge observes, the prodigies attending Christ’s death, had been the means of awakening this rich and noble senator to greater courage than he had possessed before, and of inducing him thus to stand forth and publicly own his friendship to Jesus in the midst of his greatest infamy; which certainly was a courageous act at such a time, and in such a situation of affairs. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead — For though he had given orders to break the legs of the crucified persons, John 19:31-32, he knew that they might live some hours in that condition: and calling the centurion, he asked whether he had been any while dead — Whether it was so long since they perceived any sign of life in him, that they might conclude he was actually dead, past recall. It was through the special providence of God, that Pilate was so strict in examining into this matter, that there might be no pretence for saying that he was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb while he was yet alive; and so for disproving his resurrection. And the reality of his death was so fully determined, that an objection of that kind was never started. Thus the truth of Christ sometimes obtains confirmation even from its enemies.


Verses 45-47

Mark 15:45-47. And he gave the body to Joseph — Pilate gave Joseph leave to take down the body, and do with it what he pleased, the priests either not knowing that he was disposed to make such a grant, or being so influenced that they did not oppose his making it. And he bought fine linen — Thus showing in what great estimation he held Jesus; and took him down — Mangled and macerated as his body was; and wrapped it in the linen — As a treasure of great worth; and laid it in a sepulchre — To perform this necessary service God raised up this man at a time when none of Christ’s disciples had courage or ability to undertake such a thing. See note on Matthew 27:60. And Mary Magdalene, &c; — beheld — Greek, εθεωρουν, carefully observed where he was laid, having followed those who took down and carried away the body. They were thus particular in observing where the corpse was placed, because of the design they had formed of coming and embalming the body as soon as the sabbath should be over, there not being time to do it before it commenced.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 15:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/mark-15.html. 1857.

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