Read Mark 15
Jesus Before Pilate
Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate,10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.
14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.
27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.  29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
The Death of Jesus
33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
The Burial of Jesus
42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.
One of the most upsetting moments in today’s reading, besides Jesus’s death, is the action of the soldiers who called Jesus King, put a crown on His head, and bowed down to Him… but all as a joke. He was/is the true King, and He deserved their true praise, yet, they taunted Him in mockery. How dare they?! But, as much as we want to angrily hurl that question at the soldiers, we can’t let Easter weekend go by without asking the same of ourselves: How dare we?
Because while we may not physically mock Jesus in fake worship, when we sit at lunch after church on Sunday and gossip about someone we saw that morning, are we not the same as the soldiers crowning Jesus with a crown of thorns? Is our worship as big of a joke as that of the soldiers when we strive to find our worth in success rather than in identity given by God? Do we mock Jesus when we say that He is Lord but confine that to an hour a week on Sundays? You see, just like the soldiers, we may have the right words and posture and some of the right actions, but if our heart isn’t in it, then our worship is just as fake.
This fake worship means that we prioritize everything else in our life first, and Jesus second. Idolatry consumes us as our hearts become too busy worshipping ourselves–our careers, kids, successes, looks, and possessions–and we end up unable to acknowledge the true King right in front of us, just like the soldiers. Simply put, we miss Him, just like they did. This Easter weekend, let’s slow down, reflect, and confess in order to make sure we don’t miss Him again.
What person in this story do you most connect with today? Are you an idolator like the soldiers? A skeptic like Pilate? The disciples, who are no-shows in today’s chapter? The faithful women who followed Jesus to the very end? Why?
What are your idols? In what way is your worship of Jesus falsified at times by your heart or your actions?
Easter weekend, coronavirus style, probably looks a bit different this year than normal–less loud, less busy, maybe even less “fun.” How can you use the extra stillness of this weekend to reflect on your role in putting Jesus on the cross?
Did You Know?
The scourging (the whipping, beating, flogging) that Jesus received was very common practice at that time. It was so intense that oftentimes the criminal who was to be crucified didn’t even make it to the cross. The entire company of soldiers normally joined in, which means that there could’ve been up to 600 people mocking Jesus before His crucifixion.