Mark: Jesus Before Pilate; Mocked by Soldiers

Read: Mark 15:1-20

In a rather factual-reporting style, John Mark covers the brief appearance of Jesus before the Roman magistrate. Not much drama in these words, but the impact is, of course, huge!

The chief priests (plural) have one last task to do: convince the Roman authority to kill the man who stands to destroy their plans.

So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. Mark 15:1

Captured with clubs and a mob, they tie the peaceful prophet and deliver Him to Pilate.

The interaction is brief. Jesus only answers one question; otherwise remains silent.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “You have said so,” Jesus replied. Mark 15:2

The chief priest bait Pilate with the annual prisoner swapping routine. Barabbas, the murderer, is exchanged for Jesus, the prophet. Somehow the crowds are convinced, the masses are swayed.

“Crucify him!” they shouted. Mark 15:13

Handed over to the soldiers, they too play their part. Perhaps these are the kinds of men people associate with the military, but I’m sure you know differently. These soldiers have been thoroughly trained to be brutal, to see human life as that which can be taken at any time. Scourging a man is just a routine task, but with a crowd that’s so excitable, they see this as an opportunity to play to the people.

And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Mark 15:18

Sympathize or Not?

Should I be more sympathetic to the priests or to Pilate, the soldiers or even the crowd? After all, the Jewish hierarchy was established to combat the ridiculous kings that misled the tribes into near distinction. Reading through Judges and Kings in the Old Testament, combined with the major and minor prophets, we get the point: humans are weak and do stupid things when given too much power. The response: create a legalistic culture that has a law for everything. Sound familiar? Our current society has been seduced by such thinking, but it does not lead to a life of bliss. Rules upon rules do not satisfy.

What about Pilate? Is he merely a pawn of higher rank than others around? The Roman machine was in full motion during this time. If he acted according to his own ideas, he would surely be replaced–beginning with his execution (no doubt). I’m not sure how he rose to such a position, but I’m confident it was not out of kindness to his fellow citizen or desire to appeal to the Jews. Absolutely not! His interaction with Jesus was administrative at best, unaffected by evidence that might have changed his hardened heart, Pilate played his part, that which he had rehearsed for years.

No, I have no sympathy for Pilate or his soldiers.

I have no sympathy for the priests or the crowd they controlled.

They all missed the opportunity to hear from the Messiah, the foretold, the long awaited Son of God that came to earth to demonstrate the incredible value of humans to the eternal.

Jesus kept it simple: love God, love others, love yourself. Value people over everything else. Rich or poor, mentally challenged or genius, status or none–all people matter to God, they should matter to us.

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