The Scourged King (Mark 15:1-15)

The Scourged King (Mark 15:1-15) – YouTube

  • The King and His Creation

What do we see when we look into this text? We see mankind’s love for power and prominence among people. Both the Sanhedrin, and Pontius Pilate, feared losing their status and control. We see the hypocrisy of self-righteous men who follow certain laws so they may celebrate the Passover, while breaking nearly every other law so they could execute Jesus Christ.

We see the hatred of man towards their Maker, the hostility of the creature toward their Creator. God dwells in unapproachable light.[1] He wraps Himself in it.[2] He is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.[3] He came into the word and the darkness could not comprehend it.[4] Men loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil.[5] Men do not come to the light, because they hate the light; for it exposes how darkened they truly are.[6] It reveals to them that they are not under the love of God, but the wrath of God.[7] Jesus Christ is the light of the world, and He revealed to these men how far from the glory of God they had truly fallen. He showed them that God was neither like them, nor did He approve of them, and they killed Him. Though they held the outward appearance of loving God, they truly hated Him; for He is light, and they are darkness. We, therefore, see in this text creation scourging their King, and crying out for Him to be crucified.

What else do we see when we fix our minds upon this portion of Scripture? We see God’s hatred for sin and sinners. The Psalmist declares that God does not take pleasure in wickedness, for no evil dwells with Him, therefore, He hates all who sin.[8] Psalm 7:11 states that, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day.” The soul that sins must die.[9] That is the wage of our sin, eternal death under the wrath of God,[10] for He is holy, good, and just, and He will not allow the guilty to go unpunished.[11]

So that man would see how holy He is and understand how egregious their sin was to Him and what it deserved, God established a sacrificial system whereby an innocent animal would die in the guilty party’s place. God had determined that in order for there to be forgiveness for sin, blood needed to be shed.[12] It began in the garden when Adam and Eve, who deserved to die for sinning against God, lived after God killed an animal in their stead and clothed them with its skin.[13] It is seen with Abel, who, through faith, offered to God a better sacrifice then his brother Cain, when he brought the first of his flock and not of his crop to die in his place.[14] It is seen with Noah, who being born of Adam, deserved to be destroyed with the flood, but he found grace in the eyes of Lord.[15] God mercifully saved him and his family from His wrath, and graciously preserved their lives with the ark.[16] As soon as they went out of the ark, Noah built and alter to the Lord, and offered every clean animal as a sacrifice upon it.[17]

Under this sacrificial system, the blood of the animal was shed to atone for the one who sinned, and the creature would experience death in the sinner’s place so that they may live. Moses says in Leviticus 1:4, that the one who sinned was to “lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.” When a person placed their hand on top of the head of the offering, they were acknowledging that they deserved to die, but the innocent animal would do so in their place. It signified that the sins of the sinner were being imputed to the animal. Meaning the guilty account of the person was being transferred to the innocent account of the creature, which would then suffer the penalty due to the perpetrator. This is known as penal substitutionary atonement.

Did the blood of animals take away sin? No, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”[18] The sacrificial system served as a reminder of sin and was a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice to come, which was Christ crucified.[19] The author of Hebrews directs us to Psalm 40:6-8, which is to be understood as the Son of God coming into the world saying to His Father:

“Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me;In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’”[20]

Man deserved death, so to save mankind from sins penalty, power, and presence, the Creator and King of heaven and earth humbled Himself by becoming a man obedient to the point of death on the cross.[21] Hebrews 2:17 says:

“He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

We see God’s hatred for sin and sinners here in this text, as Jesus Christ begins to become that bloody sacrifice as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.[22] The Father will lay the iniquity of us all on His Son.[23] He will make Him who knew no sin to become our sin.[24] Christ will bear our sin on His body on the cross.[25] He will drink of the cup of the wrath of God He came to drink,[26] and the Father will crush Him with the just fury we deserve.[27] Christ will put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.[28] He will purchase us with His own blood, and secure for us eternal redemption.[29] If we truly want to know what God thinks of sin, just consider His only Son upon the cross.

With this in mind, above all else in this text, we see the love of the Creator for those created in His image, and the love of the King for His people. He demonstrated such love toward us in that while we are yet sinners, while we are yet the objects of His indignation, He died for us.[30] Jesus came to seek and to save the lost by giving His life as a ransom for them.[31] He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, so that we might become rich through His poverty.[32] For the joy set before Him, He endured such hostility by sinners against Himself; He endured the cross, thinking nothing of the shame associated with it, but the glorious work it would accomplish.[33]

As Isaiah says:

“He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”[34]

Let us now turn our attention to our gospel narrative detailing the hostility of man towards their Maker, and consequently the playing out of Jesus’ passion for His people.

  • Accusing the King

Mark begins by telling us that:

Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate.

Jesus came to His own and His own did not receive Him.[35] The men of the great Sanhedrin had heard His claims of being the Christ, the Son of the Living God. They witnessed His works backing up those claims and proving that He was exactly who He declared to be. Rather than turning from their sin and trusting in Him as God in the flesh, they rejected Him and sought to kill Him.[36] As we are aware, they secretly seized Him at night, and held an illegal trial where they condemned Him to death for blasphemy, because as a Man, He declared Himself to be God.[37]

            Now, under Roman occupation the Jews had lost the power of life and death. What this means is that if the Jews wanted to execute a person, they needed Rome’s permission to do so. There were certainly instances where they did put people to death without the approval of Rome, such as the stoning of Stephen,[38] but they did not dare do this with Jesus. Knowing that the people loved Him and many were believing in Him, they did not want to be seen responsible for His death.[39] They wanted Rome to be seen as Christ’s executioner, so binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate.

Pontius Pilate was a Roman governor over Judea.[40] He was appointed in A.D. 26 by Emperor Tiberius, and was responsible for tax collection, military command, and settling legal matters that arise. Politically, Pilate was already in a pretty precarious situation by the time these men bring Jesus to him. Several Jewish revolts had already occurred under his rule gaining the negative attention of Caesar. Any other incident, therefore, would frustrate Caesar and destroy his career as a procurator of Rome.

We will see that the Jews understood this, and they sought to manipulate him with it. John 18:28 says:

“28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.”

The Praetorium in Jerusalem was a great palace built by Herod the Great for himself. It was used to house the Roman governors visiting Jerusalem, and it served as the place for them to fulfill their duties, [41]  hence its being known also as “The Judgment Hall” or “Hall of Judgment”.[42]

Since this served as a gentile residence, the Jews considered it to be unclean. The Jewish leaders, therefore, hypocritically refused to enter so they could remain clean and celebrate the Passover, while illegally trying Christ to kill Him for a crime He did not commit. Since, in their false piety, they would not enter, John says:

29 Therefore Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” 30 They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.”[43]

Keep in mind that they have already condemned Him to death. They are not looking for a judge, but an executioner. John goes on to say:

“31 So Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”[44]

They have not yet disclosed to Pilate why they have brought Jesus to Him. They just want him to use his Roman power to execute Him according to the method of the Romans, which was to nail a perpetrator to a wooden cross by their hands and feet, and lift them up so they might slowly suffocate to death as their muscles become fatigued from sustaining them.

As John says, this was, “to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.”[45] Jesus had said that, just as Moses lifted the bronze serpent in the wilderness in the book of numbers, so that all who were dying could look upon it and live,[46] so too would He be lifted up; “that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.”[47] In John 12:32, He indicated the kind of death He was going to die by saying, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

He was ordained to die via crucifixion well before it even entered the heinous mind of man. He was to be pierced through in His hands and feet.[48] He was to become a curse for us and hang from a tree.[49] He was to become a spectacle as everyone would look upon Him whom they had pieced.[50] Christ was to be nailed to the cross at the hands of godless men, all according to the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.[51] As Revelation 13:8 describes, He is the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world. These wicked men are the vessels through which the Scripture will be fulfilled, and the purpose of God accomplished.

            The Jewish leaders understood that Pilate would not crucify Jesus for making Himself out to be God, so as Luke 23:2 says:

“They began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” 

Their plan was simple and sadistic. Knowing that Pilate was already in a vulnerable situation with Rome because of the previous Jewish revolts, they lied seeking to convince him that Jesus was attempting to start another one and that He poses a threat to Caesar. They play off Pilate’s desire for power and prominence and accuse Jesus of being an insurrectionist. Jesus of course was not one.  Though He is a King, He avoided those who forcefully sought to make Him an earthly king,[52] and He instructed people to pay their taxes to Caesar.[53] The Jewish leaders knew this, but lied to have Him killed.

  • Examining the King

Mark tells us that after hearing their accusation, Pilate began to examine Jesus more closely.  He “questioned Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’” Jesus answered him honestly and directly, It is as you say.”John 18:33-38 gives more depth to this scenario:

33 Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” 3Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”

Seeing that their accusation did not have the effect they thought it would, Mark 15:3-4 says:

The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly.Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!” But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.”

            Jesus had no need to respond. He was innocent, and He was declared innocent by the authority He was delivered to. Like a sheep before it’s shearers, He was silent and did not open His mouth.[54] While being insulted, He did not insult in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.[55] He left us this example that we may follow in His steps when we are reviled by men and suffer under their hatred.[56]

Luke 23:5-7 says that Christ’s enemies:

“Kept on insisting, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place.When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time.”

            Now, we will not take much time considering Jesus’ trial before Herod. One can find it and study it for themselves in Luke 23:8-12. What we should understand is that Herod questioned Jesus for some time, and came to the same conclusion Pilate did, that Jesus was not guilty of the crime the Jews were accusing Him of. He declared that Jesus was not deserving of death. Herod treated Christ with contempt by mocking Him and dressing Him in a kingly garment before he sent Him back to Pilate.[57]

Luke 23:13-23 records that the religious leaders attempt to have Christ executed as an insurrectionist begins to deteriorate:

13 Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. 15 No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. 16 Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” 

The King of the Jews had been examined, and He was found innocent! Why then was He being unjustly punished? To placate the ravenous leaders of Israel. It was an attempt to satisfy their blood lust, and maintain whatever shred of justice was left to uphold by not executing an innocent Man.

  • Scourging the King

As we see in our text, Pilate was aware that these men did not want Jesus executed because they believed Him to be a threat to Rome, “he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. Jesus was loved by the people, and His life and message was a threat to their power and prominence. With all of this in mind, the gospel accounts indicate a way in which Pilate would be able to release Jesus even though the leaders wanted Him dead, and that was to have the people release Him themselves. We see it here in Mark 15:6, that:

“At the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested.”

There was a notorious prisoner they were holding at the time, called Barabbas.[58] As Mark notes in verse 7:

The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection.

In Pilates mind, the people would surely ask for the release of Jesus, who was innocent of insurrection, over this criminal who was guilty of it. Mark 15:8-9 says:

The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 

We do not see it here, but we should understand that after he asked this question, Pilate received a warning to distance himself from any affairs pertaining to Jesus. Matthew 27:19 tells us that:

“While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” 

As Pilate received this message from his wife, “the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death.”[59] Pilate said to the crowds, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”[60] As Mark says:

11 The chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” 14 But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” 

            Pilate wanted to release Jesus.[61] He knew that Jesus was not guilty, and He therefore did not deserve death.[62] He did not deserve any form of punishment. He should have been released without any scourging, but it was down to appease the Jews.  

            Scourging was a gruesome process, where a prisoner was whipped with an instrument known was a flagellum, which had a wooden handle with long leather straps attached to it. At the end of each strap, one would find sharp pieces of bone and metal fastened to it so that it would tare apart its target with every stroke. It is said that:

“The victim would be tied to a post, his hands extended high over his head and his feet suspended off the ground so that his body was taught. As the scourge tore into his back, muscles would be lacerated, veins cut, and internal organs exposed. Intended to hasten death on the cross, scourging itself was sometimes fatal.”[63]

Take a moment to consider John’s narrative. John 19:1-7 says:

19 Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the facePilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the Man!” So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”

The truth finally comes out! They do not want to kill Him because they believe Him to be any enemy of Rome. They want to kill Him because He says He is the Son of the Father, thus making Him equal with God.[64] John goes on to say:

“8 Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”[65]

Listen to what Pilate seeks to do after this, and what the Jews do to manipulate him:

“12 As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” 13 Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” 15 So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”[66]

The Scripture tells us that:

24 When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 25 And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”[67]

The irony in all of this is that they charge Christ with attempting to start a revolt, while demanding for an actual insurrectionist to be released, and starting a riot until it is done. Who is the real threat to Caesar? Who should be crucified? Out of a desire to preserve his power and prominence, Mark tells us that:

“15 Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.”

Luke 23:24-25 says:

“23 But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail. 24 And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted. 25 And he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will.”

It is worth noting that the name Barabbas means “Son of the Father”. They requested the release of the guilty, insurrectionist son of the Father, and cried out for the innocent, Eternal Son of the Eternal Father to be kept and to be killed in the manner Barabbas deserved to die. The King of heaven and earth was rejected, scourged, and delivered to be crucified!

  • Adoring the King

Consider the hostility Christ willingly endured against Himself at the hands of godless men. For the joy set before Him He endured the crossing despising its shame. As our Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ laid down His life for His sheep of His own initiative.[68] He had the authority to lay it down, and He had the authority to take it up again. Though He had always been God by nature, He did not hold onto His privileges as God’s equal, but became a Man; and as that Man He lived a life of complete obedience to the Father, even obedience to the point of tasting death due to a common criminal.

To those of us who have turned from our sin and have trusted in Jesus. Do not ever underestimate the love of God for you in Christ. Yes, see how great your sin is to Him, but see how much greater His grace is toward you. There is nothing that can separate us from His love.[69] The good news of the gospel is that God justifies ungodly people.[70] He demonstrated His own love towards us in that while we are yet helpless, ungodly, sinners, He suffered and died under the penalty that we deserve so that we may be saved from His wrath; and He rose again on the third day never to die again so that we may forever live with Him by His very life and righteousness. He truly was rich, but became poor, so that we who were poor mighty become rich through His poverty. By His wounds we are healed! He put away our sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and He is coming back “a second time for salvation without reference to sin, for those who eagerly await for Him.”[71] As John says:

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins…we love Him, because He first loved us.”[72]

You who both know this King, and are known by Him, adore Him and live to the praise of His glory!

To those who are listening who do not know God, and to those who have not obeyed His gospel. Do not overestimate His patience towards you. When He returns for His people without reference to their sin, He will return with reference to yours. He is coming back, and when He does, He will deal out retribution to those who do not know God, and to those who do not obey His gospel.[73] He, therefore, commands all people everywhere to turn from their sin and trust in the message of life in His Son.[74]

Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. Do not neglect so great a salvation. The King came once to save the guilty from His wrath, but there will be a day when He returns to forever destroy them with it. Call out for mercy to the King who was scourged, crucified, and risen again. Since He lives, He will save forever those who draw near to God through Him![75]

[1] 1 Timothy 6:16

[2] Psalm 104:2

[3] 1 John 1:5

[4] John 1:5

[5] John 3:19

[6] John 3:20

[7] John 3:36

[8] Psalm 5:4-5

[9] Ezekiel 18:30

[10] Romans 6:23

[11] Exodus 34:6-7

[12] Hebrews 9:22

[13] Genesis 3:21

[14] Genesis 4:1-4; Hebrews 11:4

[15] Genesis 6:8

[16] Genesis 7-8:19

[17] Genesis 8:20

[18] Hebrews 10:4

[19] Hebrews 10:1-3

[20] Hebrews 10:5-7; Psalm 40:6-8

[21] Philippians 2:5-8

[22] John 1:29

[23] Isaiah 53:6

[24] 2 Corinthians 5:21a

[25] 1 Peter 2:24

[26] Matthew 26:36-42; Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22:39-45; John 12:27-28; 18:11

[27] Isaiah 53:10; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:1-2; 4:10

[28] Hebrews 9:26

[29] Hebrews 9:11-15; 1 Peter 1:18-19

[30] Romans 5:8

[31] Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10

[32] 2 Corinthians 8:9

[33] Hebrews 12:2-3

[34] Isaiah 53:5

[35] John 1:11

[36] Mark 3:6; John 11:47-53

[37] Mark 14:53-65

[38] Acts 6:12-15; 7:54-60

[39] Mark 12:12

[40] Matthew 27:11; Luke 23:1

[41] Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Merrill Unger; Praetorium, Page 881

[42] John 18:28,33; 19:9; Acts 23:35

[43] John 18:29-30

[44] John 18:31

[45] John 18:32

[46] Numbers 21:6-9

[47] John 3:14-15

[48] Psalm 22:16; Isaiah 53:5

[49] Deuteronomy 21:22-23

[50] Zechariah 12:10

[51] Acts 2:23

[52] John 6:25

[53] Mark 12:13-17

[54] Isaiah 53:7

[55] 1 Peter 2:23

[56] 1 Peter 2:21

[57] Luke 23:11

[58] Matthew 22:16

[59] Matthew 27:20

[60] Matthew 27:21

[61] Luke 23:18

[62] Luke 23:22

[63] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Mark 9-16, John MacArthur; Page 354

[64] John 5:18

[65] John 19:8-11

[66] John 19:12-15

[67] Matthew 27:24-25

[68] John 10:

[69] Romans 8:35-39

[70] Romans 4:5-8

[71] Hebrews 9:28

[72] 1 John 4:10,19

[73] 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9

[74] Acts 17:30

[75] Hebrews 7:25

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