Mark 15:1−39

March 3rd, 2014| Topic: aBeLOG, Mark | 2

Mark 15:1−39

Faithfulness to Jesus involves sacrifice and suffering ridicule as part of submitting to his ultimately victorious kingship!

The centurion, who was standing by in front of Him … said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Mark 15:39

The account is peppered with the sardonic attribution of “kingship” to Jesus. But there is irony here: from Mark’s inkwell, Jesus’ kingship becomes a powerful truth—sarcastically affirmed by the scoffers, but true nonetheless (see 15:2, 9, 12, 18, 26, 32), and forming the implicit basis for all the mockery and insults heaped on Jesus in this section. The way to glory, as this Gospel has oft reminded the reader, is through suffering.

The details here are carefully chosen to evoke the picture of the triumphal march of a victorious Roman general: commencement at the guard house (15:16); attendance of the whole cohort (15:16); clothing of purple (15:17); crown (15:17); formulaic accolades from soldiers (15:18–19); the procession (15:20); etc. And the terminus of every such procession was a “place of the head” or the Capitoline Hill (from caput, “head”; “Golgotha” = “place of the skull,” 15:22). Frequently, at the culmination of the procession, a threesome (the king and his two closest advisors or generals) was elevated above the adoring throngs (= the two robbers crucified with Jesus; 15:27). Thus Mark portrays the victorious kingship of Jesus, even in the ironic account of his sufferings.

The entire scene of mockery is revolting (15:16–20); it is carefully structured to emphasize the degradation—one will notice that Jesus was disrobed, not once, but twice (15:17, 20)! And “Hail, King of the Jews” (Mark 15:18) is clearly a parody of “Hail, Caesar!” The crucifixion only takes a mere three words in the Greek (15:24). Mark’s focus is not so much on the physical suffering Jesus underwent, as much as it is on the abject ridicule he faced from everyone around. The king that disciples submit to is one who was ridiculed mercilessly. Can they expect anything less for themselves?

An interesting framing structure develops in 15:21–27 around Jesus’ crucifixion (15:22–26). There is Simon the Cyrenian on one side (15:21), and two robbers on the other (15:27). Both groups, playing the part of “disciples,” suffer with Jesus. Simon is a “disciple” figure that parallels the other Simon, Jesus’ disciple. This Simon, though, is a Gentile. But he turns out to be the one who “takes up the cross” (15:21) as Jesus had recommended to the other Simon (8:34). That Jewish Simon is nowhere around. The robbers, too, are “disciple” figures (15:27), stand-ins for James and John who had boldly declared their intention to be on Jesus’ right and left, and asserted their capacity to share in Jesus’ “cup” and “baptism” (10:35–40; a metaphor for Jesus’ sufferings, 14:36). The irony is that the real disciples of Jesus are nowhere to be found, and it is only these “pseudo-disciples” who remain “with him” (15:27; as the actual disciples had been called to do, 3:14).

The Evangelist’s focus is thus on the abandonment of Jesus by one and all—particularly the unfaithfulness of the disciples. In the barren loneliness of abandonment, the King suffers alone—the true King, but without country or subjects, and with a cross for a throne. The total aloneness that Jesus experiences with the fleeing of the disciples is now made more shocking: darkness descends (15:33) as even light flees. And soon God, too, will forsake him (15:34): Jesus’ abandonment will be total.

There is further irony in that only a Roman centurion remains on the scene, and this Gentile gets it! He sees, he acknowledges, and he believes Jesus (15:39)!

What will we do? Suffer with Jesus trusting in him, or abandon him?


  1. Imanuel Christian March 3, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Interesting that I just finished my comments on Romans 8:17 and just after that read this your comments! How the whole Bible fits together as one piece!




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