The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: Mark 15:1-20, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: Mark 15:1-20, for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.

Mark 15:1-20, Christian Witness; The Trial pt2

  • So when we covered the first trial, we went all the way back to Deuteronomy 16:18-20 to look at the initial justice system that was put in place to protect the innocent and to condemn the guilty. The Jewish trial of Jesus violated all those laws.
  • The Gentile trial which is where we are tonight, was equally unjust. In this terrible scene of injustice Jesus, as we have seen, had been left all alone. Bound with chains, falsely charged, and slandered. Clearly innocent, yet unjustly condemned to die as a criminal.
  • And that’s what we’ll look at tonight. How the Lord Jesus was the victim of deep injustice, despite also being a voluntary victim. So in our application later on, we’ll also look at how this may impact us. For if you have suffered abuse at the hands of someone, you can find comfort in the fact that Jesus did too.
  • And so for this reason, I’m using these two trials of Christ and their injustice, to deal with the reality of the injustice we’ll experience in our Christian Witness of Him. So firstly,

1. Unjust Authority & Christian Witness:

  • Text – v1-5
  • Explanation – This chapter contains six references to Jesus as King. But something needed to happen before the King, Jesus, would be enthroned. He first needed to be rejected by the Jews and Gentiles. He would need to be crucified before he is to be crowned.
  • But He won’t just be crucified, He was mistreated and persecuted because of His obedience to the Father’s will. And what He faced was a foreshadowing of what Mark’s readers would face, and the church would face, and what we still face.
  • You see, as witnesses of the True King, we are making a good confession in the presence of many witnesses according 1 Timothy 6:12. Now Jesus did the same here.
  • It starts with Pilate. He asked, “So, you are the King of the Jews, are you?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” One commentator suggests that the phrasing was intended to convey Jesus saying, “sure, but not the kind you have in mind.”
  • Illustration – Matthew and John’s accounts suggest that Pilate was troubled by this encounter, not politically, but by what was so different about Jesus. Now the council condemning Jesus could sense that Pilate was impressed with Jesus, because they immediately jumped in with further accusations of “many things.”
  • Pilate responded by asking Jesus why he was not answering their charges. He was surprised that, amid these accusations, Jesus remained silent. Jesus didn’t need to challenge the accusations, nor defend Himself of the charges. Hence Calvin wrote, “He was silent, that we may boast that by his grace we are righteous.
  • The silence of Jesus was astounding, especially when you consider what was at stake, right? His life. But the thing is, it was astounding considering the very reality of what was at stake. You see, Jesus was silent because He was submissive to the predetermined plan.
  • But Jesus wasn’t only silent in response to the false accusations. He remained silent until moments before His death. In front of the hostile crowd, He was silent (vv. 6–15). When he was beaten and mocked, and when He was crucified on Calvary, He remained silent (vv. 21–32).
  • Application – Only after he had paid the price for our sin, experiencing the wrath of God on our account, would He speak. And He speaks with a cry of anguish. See, Jesus was silent because He was confidently submissive.
  • Remember the words of Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
  • We should learn a great deal from this in our Christian witness. See, naturally we want to defend ourselves, more so if we’re innocent. But it is like the saying, there are no guilty people in prison. Everyone is quick to claim innocence.
  • Why are we so quick to defend ourselves? Firstly, I think we want to avoid shame, especially when we’re guilty. But another reason is, the fear of consequences. Yet the reality is, if you are innocent but accused, there are times when we need to silence our tongues.
  • Conclusion – Of course the Bible provides us with principles for justly handling allegations and accusations. And there are certainly times when it is righteous to break our silence and give a personal defence. Jesus sometimes did, so as did Paul in 2 Corinthians.
  • But a general principle we gather from this passage is that the Christian should remain silent when it will lead to a higher good. For example, if breaking your silence means casting your pearl before swine, rather don’t.
  • Bridge – Friends, when you are slandered, when you are set up, remember the Lord Jesus and be prepared to remain silent, committing yourself and your situation to God who judges righteously where necessary. Now consider this reality in the next section.

2. Society & Christian Witness:

  • Text – v6-15
  • Explanation – Now in order to make sense of how this too relates to Christ’s witness, consider what John said about Pilate. John 12:43, Pilate “loved the praise of man more than the praise of God.” Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. Mark says that Pilate “perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up.”
  • The problem with their society, or all of society, they are driven by envy. Envy can be defined as “anger or grief over the success of another.” Who was envious? Well the religious leaders of Judea were angered over the popularity of Jesus.
  • Illustration – So you take that, with the established a custom of letting one prisoner during Passover free, and what do you get? The perfect injustice. Pilate was such a people pleaser, which is another problem in our society, that he used this opportunity to let the people make the decision of Christ’s judgement.
  • So the scary reality is, even though Barabbas was guilty and charged, they wanted him instead because he wasn’t questioning anyone’s morals. Therefore, in an attempt to show off his power, as he told Jesus that he had the authority of his death or life, Jesus boldly responded, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 18:9-11).
  • Application – Perhaps taken back by this, the evil-minded rulers influenced the crowd to call for the release of Barabbas and the death, by crucifixion, of Jesus. “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
  • The sad irony is, Jesus is going to be killed for the sort of crime that Barabbas actually committed. But that’s the reality of the Gospel. The Gospel is that the righteous died in the place of the unrighteous. The Lamb would be slain so the lambs could, and would, be set free.
  • Conclusion – Again, Calvin states, “the Son of God stood, as a criminal, before a mortal man, and there permitted himself to be accused and condemned, that we may stand boldly before God.” Jesus the innocent, had no need to justify Himself, for Christ will be vindicated.
  • But until then, Jesus would remain silent for another three days. Friends, live a blameless life and then you can be silent rather than defensive. I think we need to learn from this, that we need to be prepared to respond to personal injustice with silence when it glorifies God.
  • Bridge – Especially in the current conditions of our society. We know that around every corner, as Christians, we will possibly face opposition because of our faith and will be unjustly condemned. And yet, there is a rewarding outcome for the faithful.

3. An Outcome of Christian Witness:

  • Text – v16-21
  • Explanation – So a battalion of Roman soldiers, which could be anywhere from 200–600 soldiers. They gathered inside the courtyard of the governor’s mansion where they commenced their humiliations on Jesus.
  • Now before they’re mockery reached a hype, they scourged Jesus. Scourging is the act of whipping someone with a whip that has sharp stones & bones attached to each end. The Bible does not directly indicate how many lashes Jesus received. Deut 25:3 states that a criminal should not receive more than forty lashes. And so in order to avoid possibly accidentally breaking this command, the Jews would only give a criminal 39 lashes.
  • But here’s the deal, Jesus was scourged by the Romans, not by the Jews. There is no reason to believe that the Romans would follow a Jewish tradition. Scourging was the punishment ordered for Jesus by Pontius Pilate: He was to be flogged (Matthew 27:26) but not killed in that way. His death was to be carried out by crucifixion after the scourging.
  • But no matter how He was treated, the torment He endured was prophesied in Isaiah: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
  • Illustration – Having scourged him, most likely bare-backed if not naked, they now wrapped Jesus in a purple cloak. Most probably, this was a ragged purplish cloak from one of the soldiers. Purple was a colour for royalty.
  • Not only would he wear this, but as the emperor also wore a golden crown and the soldiers mocked that with a twisted crown of thorns. As they placed these on Jesus, they hit him on the head with a crude sceptre, bowed the knee to him in mock, and chanted, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and the Romans did this to taunt the Jews, as a way of saying “Look what kind of a King you have!”
  • Application – After this barbaric cruelty, they took the cloak off of Jesus, probably ripping it off like a bandage on a wound, and put his own clothes on him. They then “led him out to crucify him.” Now that’s Christ’s outcome for being the Messiah, for being the Son of the Living God.
  • The Crucifixion was reserved by the Roman authorities for non-Romans. It was designed to bring about the greatest amount of shame and suffering. And sometimes a crucifixion could last for several days and the cause of death would ultimately be suffocation.
  • Conclusion – See what would happen is, when the crucified person could no longer keep up their own weight, their legs give way, and their chest cave in, and then they are unable to breathe. John 19:31-37 tells us that Pilate was surprised that Jesus had died so soon, especially without the assistance of his legs being broken.
  • Now not only was the crucifixion a shameful act, the Jews saw it in a much worse way. Under old covenant law, those executed for capital crimes were stoned to death. But their dead bodies were then hung on a stake of wood or on a tree, which was a sign to all the community that such an individual was cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:22–23).
  • Bridge – Which brings us to His true outcome. Jesus needed to be curse. For he was cursed so that sinners like you and I would not be. Colossians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’.”
  • Application:
  • Friends, His cruel and tormenting outcome was for our gain. Jesus endured for our sake. Philippians 2:8, “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” It was His predetermined outcome!
  • 1 Peter 2:24, “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” That is the purpose of His outcome.
  • Colossians 2:13-14, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” This is what we get to experience through His outcome.
  • And finally, Romans 6:8; “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” Friends, this is our ongoing outcome because of what He has done for us. Let us therefore remain faithfulness witness of the risen Lord Jesus!