The chief priests with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation. Since blasphemy was by no means a criminal offense among the Romans, the Sanhedrin consulted together and sought for some charge of which the Romans would take notice. As we follow their course, it will become evident to us that they found no new ground of accusation against Jesus, and, failing to do so, they decided to make use of our Lord's claim to be the Christ by so perverting it as to make him seem to assert an intention to rebel against the authority of Rome.
And bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him up to Pilate. The Sanhedrin could try and could condemn, but could not put to death without the concurring sentence of the Roman governor. To obtain this sentence, they now led Jesus before Pilate in the early dawn, having made good use of their time.
15:2 And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews1? And he answering saith unto him, Thou sayest2. FIRST STAGE OF THE ROMAN TRIAL. JESUS BEFORE PILATE FOR THE FIRST TIME. (Jerusalem. Early Friday morning.) Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15:2-5; Luke 23:2-5; John 18:28-38
Art thou the King of the Jews? The Gospels are unanimous in giving this question as the first words addressed by Pilate to Jesus. The question expresses surprise. There was nothing in the manner or attire of Jesus to suggest a royal claimant. The question was designed to draw Jesus out should he chance to be a fanatical or an unbalanced enthusiast.
Thou sayest. Using the Hebrew form of affirmative reply, Jesus admits that he is a king. See John 18:34.
15:3 And the chief priests accused him of many things1.
The chief priests accused him of many things. See Luke 23:2.
15:4 And Pilate again asked him, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they accuse thee of.
Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they accuse thee of. Pilate was irritated that Jesus did not speak in his own defense. He had already seen enough of our Lord's wisdom to assure him that it would be an easy matter for him to expose the malicious emptiness of these charges--charges which Pilate himself knew to be false, but about which he had to keep silent, for, being judge, he could not become our Lord's advocate.
15:5 But Jesus no more answered anything1; insomuch that Pilate marvelled.
But Jesus no more answered anything. Our Lord's silence was a matter of prophecy (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus keeps still because to have successfully defended himself would have been to frustrate the purpose for which he was come into the world (John 12:23-28).
15:6 Now at the feast1 he used to release unto them one prisoner, whom they asked of him2. THIRD STAGE OF THE ROMAN TRIAL. PILATE RELUCTANTLY SENTENCES HIM TO CRUCIFIXION. (Friday. Toward sunrise.) Matthew 27:15-30; Mark 15:6-19; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-19:16
Now at the feast. The passover and unleavened bread.
He used to release unto them one prisoner, whom they asked of him. No one knows when or by whom this custom was introduced, but similar customs were not unknown elsewhere, both the Greeks and Romans being wont to bestow special honor upon certain occasions by releasing prisoners.
15:7 And there was one called Barabbas, [lying] bound with them that had made insurrection, men who in the insurrection had committed murder1.
Who in the insurrection had committed murder. Josephus tells us that there had been an insurrection against Pilate's government about that time caused by his taking money from the temple treasury for the construction of an aqueduct. This may have been the affair here referred to, for in it many lost their lives.
15:8 And the multitude went up and began to ask him [to do] as he was wont to do unto them1.
And the multitude went up and began to ask him [to do] as he was wont to do unto them. It was still early in the morning, and the vast majority of the city of Jerusalem did not know what was transpiring at Pilate's palace. But they came thither in throngs, demanding their annual gift of a prisoner. Pilate welcomed the demand as a possible escape from his difficulties.
15:9 And Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews1?
Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Though Jesus had been declared innocent on the joint finding of himself and Herod, Pilate did not have the courage to deliberately release him. We see from Matthew's account that though the people had a right to name their prisoner (Matthew 27:15), Pilate took upon himself the liberty of choosing which one of two it should be. By doing so he complicated matters for the Jewish rulers, asking them to choose between Jesus, who was held on an unfounded charge of insurrection, and Barabbas, who was notoriously an insurrectionist and a murderer and a robber as well. But the rulers were not to be caught in so flimsy a net.
15:11 But the chief priests stirred up the multitude, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them1.
But the chief priests stirred up the multitude, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. Without regard to consistency, they raised their voice in full chorus for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus.
15:14 And Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done1? But they cried out exceedingly, Crucify him2.
Why, what evil hath he done? Finding the mob cruelly persistent, Pilate boldly declines to do its will and turns back into the Praetorium declaring his intention to release Jesus.
But they cried out exceedingly, Crucify him. But he retires with the demands of the multitude ringing in his ears.
15:15 And Pilate, wishing to content the multitude, released unto them Barabbas, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him1, to be crucified.
When he had scourged him. Carrying out the program which he proposed, Pilate had Jesus removed from the Praetorium to the place of scourging, and inflicted that punishment upon him. We learn from Josephus and others that the law required that those about to be crucified should first be scourged. But Pilate hoped that scourging would suffice. He believed that the more moderate would take pity upon Jesus when they viewed his scourged body, for scourging was so cruel a punishment that the condemned person often died under its infliction. The scourge was made of thongs loaded at the extremity with pieces of bone or metal. The condemned person was stripped and fastened to a low post, this bending the back so as to stretch the skin. Blood spurted at the first blow. Mark mentions the scourging to show that it preceded the crucifixion, but we see from John's account that the scourging took place somewhat earlier in the proceeding (John 19:1).
And delivered Jesus . . . to be crucified. Pilate delivered Jesus to the punishment, but not into their hands; he was led forth and crucified by Pilate's soldiers, who first mocked him, as the next paragraph shows.
15:16 And the soldiers led him away within the court, which is the Praetorium1; and they call together the whole band2.
And the soldiers led him away within the court, which is the Praetorium. After the sentence of death the soldiers take Jesus back into the Praetorium, and renew the mockeries and indignities which had been interrupted that Pilate might exhibit Jesus to the people, as John shows us (John 19:4-8).
And they call together the whole band. Moreover, the whole band, or cohort, are now gathered, where at first but a few took part.
15:17 And they clothe him with purple1, and platting a crown of thorns, they put it on him2;
And they clothe him with purple. The robe was designed to give Jesus a mock appearance of royalty, and it was likely some cast-off military coat or state garment of Pilate's.
And platting a crown of thorns, they put it on him. It is not know which one of the many thorny plants of Palestine was used to form the Lord's crown. See Mark 4:7. It is likely that the mock robe and crown were removed when Jesus was brought before Pilate to be sentenced, for it is highly improbable that a Roman judge would pronounce the death sentence while the prisoner was clothed in such a manner.
15:18 and they began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews1!
And they began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! The soldiers had no special malice against Jesus, but the Roman military system made men hard of heart. The occasion gave to these foreign legionaries a much-enjoyed opportunity to show their contempt for the Jews by mocking Jesus as their King.
15:19 And they smote his head with a reed, and spat upon him1, and bowing their knees worshipped him.
And spat upon him. See Mark 14:65.
15:20 And when they had mocked him1, they took off from him the purple, and put on him his garments. And they lead him out to crucify him. THE CRUCIFIXION. A. ON THE WAY TO THE CROSS. (Within and without Jerusalem. Friday morning.) Matthew 27:31-34; Mark 15:20-23; Luke 23:26-33; John 19:17
And when they had mocked him. This ended the mockery, which seems to have been begun in a state of levity, but which ended in gross indecency and violence. When we think of him who endured it all, we cannot contemplate the scene without a shudder. Who can measure the grace of God or the depravity of man?
15:21 And they compel one passing by, Simon of Cyrene1, coming from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus2, to go [with them], that he might bear his cross3.
And they compel one passing by, Simon of Cyrene. Cyrene was a flourishing city in the north of Africa, having in it a large Jewish population, and Simon shows by his name that he was a Jew. The Cyreneans had one or more synagogues in Jerusalem (Acts 2:10; Acts 6:9; Acts 11:20). There were many Cyreneans afterwards engaged in spreading the gospel (Acts 13:1), and since the sons of this man are spoken of as well known to Mark's readers, it is altogether likely that Simon was one of them.
Rufus. He may be the one mentioned by Paul (Romans 16:13).
That he might bear his cross. The Roman soldiers found Simon entering the city, and because he was a stranger and they needed a man just then, they impressed him; see Matthew 5:41 on the manner.
15:22 And they bring him unto the place Golgotha1, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.
And they bring him unto the place Golgotha. Where this place was, or why it was so called, are matters of conjecture. All that we know certainly is that it was outside of, yet near, the city (Hebrews 13:12
15:23 And they offered him wine mingled with myrrh1: but he received it not2.
They offered him wine mingled with myrrh. This mixture of sour wine mingled with gall and myrrh was intended to dull the sense of pain of those being crucified or otherwise severely punished. The custom is said to have originated with the Jews and not with the Romans.
But he received it not. Jesus declined it because it was the Father's will that he should suffer. He would not go upon the cross in a drugged, semi-conscious condition.
15:24 And they crucify him1, and part his garments among them2, casting lots upon them, what each should take3. THE CRUCIFIXION. B. JESUS CRUCIFIED AND REVILED. HIS THREE SAYINGS DURING FIRST THREE HOURS. (Friday morning from nine o'clock till noon.) Hebrews ; Matthew 27:35-44; Mark 15:24-32; Luke 23:33-43; John 1918-27
And they crucify him. A quaternion or band of four soldiers did the work of the actual crucifixion (John 19:23).
And part his garments among them. The Roman law awarded them the garments of the condemned as their perquisites. The sandals, girdle, outer robe, head-dress, etc., of Jesus were divided into four parts and lots were cast of the parts.
Casting lots upon them, what each should take. See Psalms 22:18
15:25 And it was the third hour1, and they crucified him.
It was the third hour. About nine o'clock. See Matthew 20:3.
15:26 And the superscription of his accusation was written over1, THE KING OF THE JEWS2.
And the superscription of his accusation was written over. It was a well-established Roman custom to thus place a witness above the heads of the crucified to indicate the cause for which they died.
THE KING OF THE JEWS. Pilate writes the accusation so as to clear his own skirts before Caesar and so as to show his contempt for the Jewish people. They had forced him to crucify and innocent man, and he retaliates by giving to that man the title which his enemies accused him of professing. Also see John 19:20.
15:27 And with him they crucify two robbers1; one on his right hand, and one on his left2.
And with him they crucify two robbers. These were doubtless robbers of the class of Barabbas. See Mark 15:7. They were also those who, led on by fanatical patriotism, had become insurrectionists and outlaws. Large numbers of them were crucified during the Jewish wars (Josephus, Wars 13:2.3).
One on his right hand, and one on his left. The two may have been crucified at this time for convenience' sake, but the fact that Jesus was placed between them suggests that they were crucified with him to heighten his shame and indignity. For, though Pilate had no personal ill will toward Jesus, he wished to show contempt for Judah's King.
15:28 [And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was reckoned with transgressors.]
And he was reckoned with the transgressors. See Isaiah 53:12.
15:29 And they that passed by1 railed on him, wagging their heads2, and saying3, Ha! Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days4, Mark 15:29-32
And they that passed by. Jesus was evidently crucified near the highway.
Railed on him, wagging their heads. Thus one and all unite in mocking Jesus, using both words and gestures.
And saying. They bring forth echoes from the trial of Jesus and take other incidents from his life, little dreaming the deep significance of what they utter.
Ha! Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days. They reminded Jesus of his words about destroying the temple (John 2:19-22; Mark 14:58), when they were committing that very act.
15:31 In like manner also the chief priests mocking [him] among themselves with the scribes said, He saved others; himself he cannot save1.
He saved others; himself he cannot save. They taunt him with saving others, yet being unable to save himself, which is the great truth of the atonement which the Lord was then making.
15:32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross1, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reproached him2.
Let the Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross,
that we may see and believe. They promised to believe if he will come down from the cross, yet his being lifted upon the cross was the very act which would convince them (John 8:28).
And they that were crucified with him reproached him. It seems that at first both robbers reviled Christ, but one repenting spoke in his favor and prayed to him. See Luke 23:42.
15:33 And when the sixth hour was come1, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour2. THE CRUCIFIXION. C. DARKNESS THREE HOURS. AFTER FOUR MORE SAYINGS, JESUS EXPIRES. STRANGE EVENTS ATTENDING HIS DEATH. Matthew 27:45-56; Mark 15:33-41; Luke 23:44-49; John 19:28-30
And when the sixth hour was come. Noon. See Matthew 20:3.
There was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. The darkness lasted from noon until three o'clock. It could not have been an eclipse, for the moon was always full on the first day of the passover. Whether the darkness was over the whole world, or simply all of Palestine, is uncertain, as, according to the usage of Bible language, the words would be the same.
15:34 And at the ninth hour1 Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani2? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me3?
And at the ninth hour. At three o'clock p.m. See Matthew 20:3.
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? The words of the cry are found at Psalms 22:1. "Eli" is Hebrew, "Eloi" is Aramaic or Syro-Chaldaic for "My God". The former would be used by Jesus if he quoted the Scripture, the latter if he spoke the language of the people.
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? We can imagine what it would mean to a righteous man to feel that he was forsaken of God. But the more we feel and enjoy the love of another, the greater our sense of loss at being deprived of it. Considering, therefore, the near and dear relationship between the Son and Father, it is evident that we can never know or fathom the depth of anguish which this cry expressed. Suffice it to say, that this was without doubt the most excruciating of all Christ's sufferings, and it, too, was a suffering in our stead.
15:35 And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elijah1.
Behold, he calleth Elijah. Jesus had now been upon the cross for six hours, and fever and loss of blood and the strain upon the muscles of his chest had rendered his articulation difficult and indistinct. For this reason some of those who stood by, though perfectly familiar with the language, misunderstood him and thought that he called upon Elijah.
15:36 And one ran, and filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed1, and gave him to drink, saying, Let be2; let us see whether Elijah cometh to take him down.
And one ran, and filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed,
and gave him to drink. After Jesus speaks of his thirst (John 19:28), vinegar is given to him to remove the dryness from his throat.
Let be. Those who give the vinegar and those who stand by (Matthew 27:49), unite in saying "Let be". This phrase has no reference to the vinegar; it is a general expression, meaning, "Let us do nothing to prevent him from calling upon Elijah, or to prevent Elijah from coming".
15:37 And Jesus uttered a loud voice1, and gave up the ghost2.
And Jesus uttered a loud voice. See Luke 23:46.
And gave up the ghost. In Greek, "ekpneo", "breathed his last". None of the Evangelists speaks of Jesus as dying; for he yielded up his spirit voluntarily (John 10:18).
15:38 And the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom1.
And the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom. The veil was the heavy curtain which hung between the holy and the most holy places in the sanctuary. By shutting out from the most holy place all persons except the high priest, who alone was permitted to pass through it, and this only once in the year, it signified that the way into the holiest--that is, into heaven--was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was standing (Hebrews 9:7,8). But the moment that Jesus died, thus making the way manifest, the veil was appropriately rent in twain from top to bottom, disclosing the most holy place to the priests who were at that time offering the evening incense in the holy place.
15:39 And when the centurion, who stood by over against him, saw that he so gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.
The centurion . . . said, Truly this man was the Son of God. The conduct of Jesus upon the cross and the disturbances of nature which accompanied his death (Matthew 27:51-52), convinced the centurion that Jesus was a righteous man. But knowing that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and this claim was the real cause for which the Jews were crucifying him, he concludes, since he concedes that Jesus is righteous, that he is also all that he professed to be--the Son of God. There is no just reason for minimizing his confession, as though he had said, "A son of the gods"; for he said nothing of that kind, and those err as to the use of Scriptural language who think so. Like the centurions of Capernaum and Caesarea (Matthew 8:10; Acts 10:1,2), this Roman xsurpassed in faith those who had better opportunities. But in this faith he was not alone.
15:40 And there were also women beholding from afar: among whom [were] both Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;
And there were also women beholding from afar off, etc. John had already mentioned this group of women (John 19:25), and has shown that he stood with them. The women unable to bear arms in an insurrection had little to fear. They were not likely to be complicated in the charges against Jesus. But the men were conspicuously absent. They appear to have stood quite close to the cross at one time just before the darkness. Probably they feared violence in the darkness, and so withdrew and viewed from afar off the scene as lighted by the torches which the Roman soldiers would be obliged to procure in order to effectually guard their prisoner (Acts 16:29). The Synoptists, who make mention of the women toward the close of the crucifixion, do not mention the mother of Jesus as any longer among them. It is likely that she had withdrawn with John, being unable longer to endure the sight.
NOTE.--To aid the reader, we submit the following table of the women who watched the crucifixion of Jesus, for it is from their names and descriptions that we get our Scriptural light by which we distinguish the kindred of our Lord.
|Matt. xxvii. 56.||Mary Magdalene||and Mary the mother of James and John,||and mother of the sons of Zebedee.|
|Mark xv. 40.||Mary Magdalene,||and Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses,||and Salome.|
|John xix. 25.||his mother||and Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas,||the sister of Jesus' mother.|
Matthew and Mark each name three women, whence it is thought that Salome was the name of the mother of James and John. But the solution of the problem depends on our rendering of John 19:25. Now, was Mary, the wife of Clopas, named and also additionally described as sister to our Lord's mother, or was it the unnamed Salome who was her sister? Does John mention three or four women? The best modern scholarship says that there were four women, and that therefore James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were cousins of our Lord. In support of this it is argued: (1) That it is unlikely that two sisters would bear the same name, a fact which, as Meyer says, is "established by no instance". (2) John gives two pairs of women, each pair coupled by an "and". The first pair is kindred to Jesus, and is unnamed and is paralleled by the other pair, which is not kindred and of which the names are given. Hebrew writers often used such parallelism. (3) It accords with John's custom to withhold the names of himself and all kindred, so that in his Gospel he nowhere gives his own, his mother's, or his brother's name, nor does he even give the name of our Lord's mother, who was his aunt. (4) The relationship explains in part why Jesus, when dying, left the care of his mother to John. It was not an unnatural thing to impose such a burden upon a kinsman.
15:41 who, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him; and many other women that came up with him unto Jerusalem.
Who . . . followed him, and ministered unto him. As to the ministering of these women, see Luke 8:3.
15:42 And when even was now come, because it was the Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath1, THE CRUCIFIXION. D. JESUS FOUND TO BE DEAD. HIS BODY BURIED AND GUARDED IN THE TOMB. Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:31-42
It was the Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath. According to rabbinical writing a few hours before the Sabbath were called the Preparation; but afterwards the term was applied to the entire day preceding the Sabbath.
15:43 there came Joseph of Arimathaea1, a councillor of honorable estate, who also himself was looking for the kingdom of God; and he boldly went in unto Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus2.
Joseph of Arimathaea. Joseph's town has been variously identified with Ramleh in Dan, Ramathaim in Ephraim (1 Samuel 1:1), and Ramah in Benjamin (Matthew 2:18). It was a fulfillment of prophecy that the one who buried Jesus should be rich (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57).
And he boldly went in unto Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. It is strange that those who were not afraid to be disciples were afraid to ask for our Lord's body, yet he who was afraid to be a disciple feared not to do this thing (John 19:38).
15:44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.
And Pilate marvelled if he was already dead. Instances are cited where men lived one whole week upon the cross, and men rarely died the first day.
15:46 And he bought a linen cloth1, and taking him down, wound him in the linen cloth2, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of a rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.
And he bought a linen cloth. A sindon. See Mark 14:51.
Wound him in the linen cloth. As to the swathing of dead bodies, see John 11:44.
15:47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the [mother] of Joses beheld where he was laid1.
And Mary Magdalene and Mary the [mother] of Joses beheld where he was laid. See Luke 23:55 and see Luke 23:56.