13. Truth on Trial and Getting the King's Treatment - Milo Wilson (Mark 14:32-15:47) A ReMARKable LIFE

A ReMARKable Life Series
  • The gospel of Mark is a short, action-packed book that focuses on how Jesus Christ is the Messiah for every man, woman, and child. Christ – fully man, fully God. But Jesus wasn't the rescuer God's people had imagined, and many didn't recognize Jesus as their answer to prayer. We, too, can miss out on what God wants for us if we're only looking for answers that fit our expectations. Join us for this series as we explore Jesus' heart for people and we can change the world by serving one person at a time and helping them connect with God.
13. Truth on Trial and Getting the King’s Treatment (Mark 14:32-15:47)
  • After the last meal with His disciples, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went to pray to His Father about His coming death and the cup of suffering. He was arrested without cause by the authorities, His disciples all fled, He was illegally tried by the Sanhedrin, and was condemned to death by Pilate for claiming to be God.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Despite the reluctance of His humanity, Jesus was nevertheless obedient to His Father’s will to be the sacrifice for sin. (Mark 14:36, 41 & 42, 62; 15:2, 37)
  • God’s plan for salvation through His Messiah, Jesus, is the fulfillment of prophecy. (Mark 14:49, 58; 15:24, 28, 34)
  • Rejection of Jesus as the Messiah may be one’s choice, but it does not mean He is not the Messiah because He truly is. (Mark 15:61 & 62; 15:2)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • Why did Jesus want the hour of suffering to pass Him by?
  • Why did Jesus submit to the will of God the Father?
  • What did Jesus prove in His death?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why did Jesus need to pray? Why did Jesus want Peter, James and John to come with Him as He prayed?
  • What was Jesus asking God for in His prayer and why? What was the result of Jesus’ praying?
  • Why was facing His death so difficult for Jesus?
  • What ways did Jesus’ disciples fail Him?
  • Why did the religious authorities bring a crown with swords and clubs when they arrested Jesus?
  • What were the religious authorities trying to prove at the trial? Why could they not prove their case?
  • Why was the high priest’s question about Jesus being the Christ a crucial question? Why was Jesus’ answer the key to what happened?
  • What was the charge against Jesus by the religious authorities?
  • What was the attitude of the religious authorities towards Jesus and how did they show it?
  • Why did Peter deny Jesus? Why were Peter’s denials no worse than the other disciples fleeing Jesus?
  • Why did Pilate not release Jesus? Why did the religious authorities even take Jesus to Pilate to be tried?
  • Why all the physical abuse and torture of Jesus? Why all the humiliation at the scene of the crucifixion?
  • Describe the effect of Jesus’ death on the various people who witnessed it?
  • Why was Joseph brave to do what he did in asking for Jesus’ body?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What is the importance of praying in time of need? Why should we pray in time of need, and how should we submit to the Father’s will?
  • In what ways might you essentially deny Jesus?
  • Why do people like the religious authorities in Jesus’ day hate Him so much? Why do people hate Jesus today?
  • Why did Jesus keep silent in the face of His accusers? (read I Peter 2:18-24)
  • Why did Jesus allow Himself to be subjected to such torture and, ultimately, to His death?
  • What did Jesus’ death accomplish?
  • What strikes you the most about the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death, and His death itself?
  • How do you feel about Jesus’ death, and how does that affect you in your day to day life?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
Jesus has eaten His last meal, the Passover meal, with His disciples, and Judas has gone to betray Jesus. After the meal they left Jerusalem and crossed over the Kidron Valley to the east and went to the Garden of Gethsemane which was on the lower west side of the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:32). It was a Garden of olive trees and olive presses, and Luke 22:39 and John 18:2 tell us that Jesus and the 12 often met there. Since the Passover meal had to be eaten between sundown and midnight, it was likely shortly after midnight when the group reached the Garden.

Surely the disciples wondered what would happen now; Jesus had already told them what was to come, but they were not accepting of the reality. Jesus knew the reality only too well, and in view of what would happen He needed to pray. So He took Peter, James and John apart with Him, leaving the others to sit and wait while He prayed. He was in deep distress, and shared His emotions with the three disciples (Mark 14:33 & 34). Mark writes that Jesus was “troubled” and “very sorrowful, even to death.” These words are actually insufficient to describe what Jesus was going through and feeling in His humanity as He faced what was shortly to happen to Him. Commentators have used other words and phrases like “terrified surprise,” “shuddering awe,” amazement amounting to consternation,” bewilderment,” uncertainty,” and “anxiety” in an attempt to portray what Jesus was feeling. At the least, we can begin to have a sense of the tremendous difficulty and overwhelming nature of the circumstance facing Him, and His desire to have friends present with Him at this time. Jesus went a little further and began to pray, throwing Himself on the ground (Matthew 26:39) and asking God His Father to permit this cup of suffering to pass if possible, but submitting Himself to God’s will (Mark 14:35-36, 39 & 41). As He prayed, Luke 22:44 tells us that His sweat became like drops of blood, so heavy was His heart. He prayed three times, asking the three disciples to watch and pray themselves (Mark 14:34, 38). The disciples were tired, however, and they fell asleep (Mark 14:37, 40 & 41). When Jesus came from praying and found them asleep each time, He gently chided them, and implored them to stay awake and pray that they would not enter into temptation (Mark 14:37 & 38, 40 & 41). But alas, they could not stay awake, and in the end, following His third time of prayer, Jesus said, in effect, that the time for sleep had come to an end, for those who would arrest Him were at hand. Jesus’ hour had come; He was ready, and He stepped forward with His disciples to meet His betrayer (Mark 14:41 & 42).

Mark's description of the arrest is short and to the point. He reports that at the very moment Jesus woke up His three disciples, Judas approached with “a crowd” from the chief priests, scribes and elders (the religious authorities), armed with swords and clubs (Mark 14:43). Judas signaled which one was Jesus by kissing Him, whereupon Jesus was seized (Mark 14:44-46). One of Jesus’ disciples (John 18:10 tells us it was Peter) drew his sword and cut the ear off the slave of the high priest (Jesus healed him. Luke 22:51), and Jesus protested the method of His arrest, noting that He had been openly present in the Temple every day (Mark 14:48 & 49), yet also noting that what was happening was a fulfillment of prophetic Scripture (Mark 14:49). All Jesus’ disciples then ran away, afraid for their own lives, leaving Jesus alone with the crowd of accusers. Mark also records that another young man who was following Jesus, who most identify as Mark himself, was seized with Jesus but ran away and in so doing left his linen garment in the hands of those who seized him, so that he ran away naked (Mark 14:51 & 52). Indeed, now Jesus was totally alone.

A reading of all four gospels provides a picture of Jesus' subsequent trials, both before the religious authorities and the civil authorities. Mark's account highlights only selected scenes as they fit his overall focus on who Jesus is and how He was rejected. Jesus is taken to the high priest (who is named Caiaphas) and the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious court made up of a total of 70 members) who were gathered in the home of Caiaphas as opposed to their normal meeting place. Why proceed at the home of Caiaphas? Likely to make sure the trial was secret. But more fundamentally, it was because the proceedings were actually illegal. Trials before the Sanhedrin were to be held in public and during the day, and witnesses were to be called during the day as well. Further, the accused was to be brought on charges which were to be proved by the testimony of two or three witnesses; the accused did not have to testify against himself or herself. In the case of Jesus, the Sanhedrin were looking for charges by which they could take Jesus before the Roman authorities to have Him executed. In short, the entire process was a travesty of justice, trumped up, and designed to avoid public response and ultimately to conclude in Jesus' death. Mark indicates that the witnesses who were brought before the Sanhedrin (again, illegally at night) put forth inconsistent testimony (Mark 14:56-59). When the high priest sought to force Jesus to incriminate Himself, Jesus remained silent (Mark 14:60 & 61) until the high priest asked Him if He was “the Christ, the Son of the Blessed.” (Mark 14:61) By his question he was asking if Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, and if Jesus answered in the affirmative, the Sanhedrin would be able to charge Him with blasphemy (reviling the name and majesty of God), which was a capital crime. This question from the high priest is indeed the question which has been the focus of Mark's gospel to this point. These religious authorities clearly did not believe Jesus was the Messiah; they had already long since rejected Him and were seeking His death. Nonetheless, the question, though asked with the wrong motive and intent, is the question, and now Jesus is prepared to state the unequivocal truth. Hence Jesus answers simply, “I am” which is tantamount to saying He is God, and then adds that He will one day be the judge (indeed He will be their judge) upon His return (Mark 14:62), quoting Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1 in His answer. So there is it, Jesus' declaration of exactly who He is; and that answer thus became the ground for the death penalty in the eyes of the Sanhedrin, and also the excuse for the members of the Sanhedrin to release their pent-up hostility towards Jesus by beating and mocking Him (Mark 14:63-65), and then turning Him over to the guards to continue the beating.

After Jesus’ arrest, Peter had followed as Jesus was taken to the home of Caiaphas and was in the courtyard warming himself at the fire with some of the guards (Mark 14:54). He thus had a “ringside” view of what was going on with the “kangaroo” trial. As he was observing, Peter was recognized by one of the servant girls and then by others standing around, and when asked if he was with Jesus, in reply Peter three times denied being identified with Jesus or knowing Him, going so far as to call down curses on himself if he was lying (Mark 14:66-71). No sooner had Peter uttered his third denial than a rooster crowed for the second time (Mark 14:72), thus fulfilling Jesus' prediction (Mark 14:30). Peter immediately remembered what Jesus had said and broke down (Mark 14:72). He had failed his Lord and He knew it!

But the religious authorities were not done yet; they wanted imprimatur of the Romans to execute Jesus, and for that they needed a civil charge. So the scene shifts back to them. They determined to charge Jesus with treason which was a civil offense punishable by death at the hands of the Roman government as it meant that Jesus was against the emperor himself (Mark 15:1) To follow through with their plan, in the morning they took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor who apparently had already been advised of the charges (Luke 23:2) of which Mark recites only one, namely that He said that He is Messiah, a king (Mark 15:1b & 2). Pilate honed in on this charge and asked Jesus if He was “King of the Jews.” to which Jesus replied, “You have said so,” (Mark 15:2b), indicating by His reply that Pilate didn't understand the true import of his own question. The chief priests then began hurling accusations against Jesus, but He remained silent to the amazement of Pilate (Mark 15:3-5). The crowd, who were present to witness the proceedings which were now in public, called out for Pilate to release a known insurrectionist-murderer named Barabbas as Pilate typically at Passover time was known to release a prisoner. The crowd, riled up by the chief priests, didn't want Jesus released, so they shouted for Barabbas (Mark 15:6-11). Pilate was reluctant as he understood what was going on with the Jewish leaders (Mark 15:10), and as noted by the other gospels, he did not find Jesus to be guilty. When he asked the crowd what he should do with Jesus, they shouted that he should crucify him (Mark 15:12-14). Pilate was on the horns of a dilemma: release the innocent man, Jesus, and he would have a riot on his hands and get in trouble with the Roman authorities for mishandling the situation as he was already on the outs with the Jewish people for previous handling of religious matters;and release the guilty man, Barabbas, and condemn Jesus, and he would be releasing a known murder and insurrectionist and sending an innocent man to death. Pilate was nothing if not practical and opted for political expedience; he released Barabbas and handed Jesus over to be crucified after having him scourged (Mark 15:15).

The scourging of Jesus was only the beginning of physical abuse. Scourging was a procedure whereby the prisoner was stripped, his hands were tied to a post above his head, and he was then flogged with a whip made up of several strips of leather with pieces of bone and lead imbedded near the ends. Two Roman soldiers would do the flogging, one on each side of the prisoner, taking alternating turns of hitting the prisoner’s shoulders, back and even legs with the whip and dragging it along the flesh which would eventually tear off the flesh and dig deep into the muscles. Victims of Roman scourging often died from the wounds and severe loss of blood. Jesus’ scourging would have been done in public (it was a way to discourage people from engaging in crimes against the government).. After the scourging, Jesus was taken to the governor’s residence, which was not in public view. Mark indicates that an entire battalion of Roman soldiers was called together to enter into the humiliation of this prisoner (Mark 15:16). The soldiers proceeded to dress Him up in purple (the color of royalty), mock Him, shove a crown of thorns into His head, then beat Him with a staff (called a reed by Mark), spit on Him, and pretend to worship Him as the “King of the Jews.” (Mark 15:17-20) The Romans felt no love loss for the Jews in general, and here was an opportunity to give vent to their anti-Semitism. When they were done with their “fun,” they ripped off the robe and put His clothes back on Him, then took Him off to be crucified (Mark 15:20). By now, Jesus was exhausted, badly bruised, and severely weakened from loss of blood. He was made to carry His own cross (meaning the crossbeam which weighed some 30-40 pounds), as such was the standard practice with the victim of a crucifixion; however, Jesus was so weakened that the soldiers pressed one Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross (Mark 15:21). Mark identified the man by reference to his two sons, likely because they were known to the Roman church. The soldiers took Him to the place called Golgotha (meaning “place of a skull”) which was outside the city, where they would crucify Him.

Crucifixion was a cruel and horrible means of execution, and the Romans were expert at it. The victim was thrown down onto the crossbeam which was placed on the ground. The victim’s wrists were nailed to the crossbeam, leaving some flexibility, then the crossbeam was put on top of the beam which served as the vertical beam when lifted up and placed in the ground. The victim’s feet were placed one on top of the other and a nail driven through the arch of each. Thus, the victim was literally hanging on the cross, with the nails putting pressure on nerves in the wrists and feet, causing excruciating pain as the victim sags down. As he sags, he would try to push himself up with his feet which would cause more severe pain in the feet. The muscles would cramp and throb, and with the sagging it would become difficult to breath. Because Jesus’ back had been torn apart by the scourging, every time He sought to lift Himself up, He would be rubbing His back on the timber causing more bleeding and pain. He would suffer more and more fluid loss, and eventually the chest would fill with fluids and compress the heart making it harder and harder for the heart to function which, along with the difficulty of getting air into the lungs, would result in death. The entire process would take many hours, though in Jesus’ case, death came considerably sooner because of the severity of His condition from the beating and scourging before His crucifixion. Mark goes into none of the foregoing detail; he simply writes, “and they crucified him.” (Mark 15:24) His readers would have been familiar enough with the procedure; they needed no elucidation of the details. The soldiers tried to give Jesus what amounted to a drug to dull the pain (Mark 15:23), but He refused; one thinks it was so He could fully experience His suffering and death as He willingly took on the sins of the world. The soldiers cast lots for His garments (Mark 15:24), in fulfillment of Psalm 22:18. Pilate had a sign placed on the cross indicating the charge, “The King of the Jews.” (Mark 15:26) He was set between two robbers, often thought to be insurrectionists as Barabbas was, presumably to mock Jesus as the “chief” insurrectionist (Mark 15:27). As He hung on the cross, suffering, the mocking continued from the passers-by and the chief priests (Mark 15:29-32). The mockers in effect said, “You’re the Messiah and the King; prove it by saving yourself! Do that and then we’ll believe.”

After some three hours, the skies grew dark and stayed that way for another three hours (Mark 15:33). After another three hours, Jesus called out in Aramaic, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Some who were standing by though He had called to Elijah, and that perhaps Jesus was seeking help from the long since dead prophet, as he was thought to be a deliverer (Mark 15:35). But that was not Jesus’ what Jesus was saying; rather He was a cry of desolation and even horror at His separation from the Father as the full weight of sin bore down on Him (note II Corinthians 5:21) and He was truly alone. His words were from Psalm 22:1, a Psalm of lament which ultimately resolves in complete trust on God. One wonders if Jesus were attempting to recite the entire Psalm, but was unable to do so because of His condition and inability to breathe. In any case, when the people standing near heard Jesus, they tried to offer Him some sour wine, perhaps so He would be able to speak more. However, it was too late, for Jesus cried out (Luke reports that Jesus committed His spirit into God’s hands, Luke 23:46; and John reports that Jesus cried out “It is finished.” John 19:30), and then He died (Mark 15:37). He had been on the cross for some six hours, and now Jesus’ work of sacrifice was done.

Several things occurred following Jesus’ death. First, the veil of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38). The veil was the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place in the inner portion of the temple (Exodus 26:31-35). Only priests were permitted to enter the holy place, and only the high priest into the most holy place (also called the holy of holies), so this happening must have been reported later by priests who became followers of Jesus and converted to Christianity. This veil itself was reported by the Jewish historian, Josephus, as being four inches thick and that horses pulling on it from each side could not pull it apart. This tearing of the veil was therefore an extraordinary event, to be sure, but the fact that the tearing was from top to bottom indicates it was miraculous and theologically significant, indicating that access to God was now available to everyone (cf. Hebrews 9:1-14; 10:19-22). Second, the centurion who was on duty and witnessed Jesus’ death was impressed enough of the event that he commented on it. This centurion would have been in charge of the soldiers who carried out the crucifixion, and presumably had also witnessed the beating and mocking of Jesus prior to the crucifixion. He had undoubtedly witnessed and participated in many crucifixions, and was certainly no stranger to death. Yet of Jesus’ death, he said “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). Matthew’s gospel says that the centurion was frightened by the other events surrounding Jesus’ death (earthquakes and the darkness. Matthew 27:54). While it is not likely that the centurion a hardened, professional soldier, had professed a belief in Jesus as the Messiah, he certainly observed something special about Jesus and was somehow drawn to Him sufficiently to make such a statement. For the purposes of Mark’s gospel, the centurion’s statement is the clear answer to the on-going question of the gospel, namely who is Jesus. Third, there were a number of women who were watching the events from a distance, of which Mark mentions three by name: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome. These three were women who attended to Jesus as He ministered in Galilee (Mark 15:40 & 41). They and the many other women had not left Him, but had remained as witnesses to the crucifixion, showing a love and devotion to their Lord and master.

By now it was late in the day, and sundown was approaching. As the next day was the Sabbath on which no work could be done by Jewish people, one Joseph of Arimathea sought to bury Jesus before the Sabbath (Mark 15:42 & 43). Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin who had not consented to the plan of that group to have Jesus killed (Luke 23:50 & 51), but instead was anticipating the kingdom of God and surely saw Jesus as from God. He sought permission from Pilate to take the body of Jesus and bury Him (Mark 15:43), a courageous act as it would have identified him with Jesus and put him at odds with the religious authorities who had just had Him killed. Pilate was surprised that Jesus was dead as it typically took a day or more for victims to die from crucifixion. In fact, Pilate checked with the very centurion who had commented on Jesus’ death to see if it was true (Mark 15:44 & 45). Pilate released the body to Joseph who took Him down from the cross, wrapped Him in linen and buried Him in a tomb carved out of rock in a nearby area (Mark 15:46). A stone was rolled into place covering the entrance to the tomb (Mark 15:46), and the two Marys that Mark had noted in the prior verses were watching to see where Jesus was laid (Mark 15:47). Not only was Jesus dead, He was now buried. It was the end, and it seemed that evil had won the day.

The truth of who Jesus was, namely that He was the Messiah of God, was on trial that day so long ago. The trial was illegal, however, and didn’t seek the truth after all; it sought only to bring about the conclusion of a preconceived plan to kill Jesus as a threat to the Jewish religious establishment. But Jesus truly was the Messiah, and He said so boldly when asked directly by the high priest, calling Himself the “I am” and referring to His position as ultimate judge (Mark 14:62). But truth didn’t have the day; it was trampled down and thrown out; it was murdered. The “alleged” king was no longer; he was dead, unable to save Himself. Yet truth really did have the day as Jesus came to earth to go to the cross and suffer humiliation, the true King offering Himself as a sacrifice for sin. So while it appeared that the forces of evil had the victory, in actuality the triumph belonged to the true King Jesus even in His suffering and death. His cry, “It is finished.” was a clarion call of victory over those forces of evil and sin; it was a clarion call that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the One in whom is salvation, the One who did His Father’s will. Praise God for that Friday when Jesus died … it was truly Good Friday, for even in His death the true King reigned!