Monday, June 22, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 15

Immediately in the morning the chief priests hold a meeting with the larger council before taking Jesus to Pilate.  Pilate asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews, to which Jesus replies, "You say so."  Very mature, Jesus.  Pilate listens to the priests' accusations but Jesus says nothing more in his defense.

The crowd gathering outside asks Pilate to fulfill a tradition where he would release a prisoner during the festival.  Pilate offers Jesus, but the crowd says no and demand Barabbas, a rebel who had committed murder during a recent insurrection.  This doesn't sound like a wise choice on the part of the crowd.  So Pilate asks what he should do with this Jesus fellow, and the crowd insists that he should be crucified.  Pilate objects, but the crowd is insistent and he wishes to appease them, so he releases Barabbas.

According to Mark, Pilate is a pretty solid dude, blameless of this whole crucifixion of Jesus business.  But historically, Pilate isn't known for being that cool of a dude.  Instead he's rather known for antagonizing the people of Judea and going out of his way intentionally incite their anger.  So, wishing to appease the crowd doesn't really sound like it would be Pilate's jam.  Alternatively, maybe Pilate was just a really shrewd politician that knew this charismatic teacher was a bigger threat to the empire than some murderous foot soldier, and getting the crowd to demand for Jesus' death was exactly what he wanted.  Or it might be something else entirely.  Again, per usual, Mark doesn't go into too many details.

Soldiers take Jesus away, clothe him in a purple robe, and mockingly worship him while beating him and adorning his head with a crown of thorns.  Then they dress him again in his own clothes before leading him out to crucify him.  A seemingly random passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, is conscripted to help.  This new Simon literally does what The Rock metaphorically couldn't: carry Jesus' cross.  Simon is also the father of Alexander and Rufus.  Who the crap are Alexander and Rufus?

Arriving at Golgotha, Jesus refuses an offer of wine to dull the pain.  So there he is crucified with a plaque calling him "The King of the Jews" affixed to his cross.  Two bandits were also crucified at the same time, one on Jesus' left and one on his right.  Note that these were not the Thunder Twins, who previously desired to positions at Jesus' left and right.

Then the soldiers gamble for his clothes, which begs me to ask just how good the clothes Jesus wore were?  I guess I never thought of Jesus as a snazzy dresser, but if his clothes were worth gambling over at his crucifixion, maybe he had a pretty good sense of style.

Witnesses to the crucifixion mock and insult Jesus.  How can he destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days if he can't even get himself down from a cross?  After a few hours of this, darkness descends upon the land.  This lasts for several more hours, and then Jesus cries out that impossible, perhaps a/theistic, prayer that I dearly love of God crying out to God that God is not there: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Someone soaks a sponge with wine, places it on a stick, and raises it up to Jesus for him to drink.  People in the crowd think he's crying out for Elijah to come save him.  But Elijah does not come.  Instead Jesus lets out a loud cry and breathes his last.  A centurion witnessing all this exclaims that surely he was the Son of God.  Oh, and the curtain in the Temple suddenly tears completely in two from top to bottom.  That one seems like a big deal that Mark could have focused on a little more.  But Mark is not one to dally in the details!

Mark does make a point to note that several women are watching from afar, including Mary Magdalene (who Mark hasn't mentioned at all until now!) and Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses.  Mark also mentions that overall many women were counted among Jesus' follows.  I don't know if this makes up for the fact that Mark failed to name the woman that shall always be remembered in chapter 14, though.

That evening, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council (was he in attendance at the council meeting that morning?), goes before Pilate to ask for Jesus' body so that he can be buried.  Pilate is taken aback from this, but not because someone wants the body.  He's surprised that Jesus is already dead.  Crucifixion was a slow process.  A couple hours on the cross is way too short.  Pilate summons the centurion to confirm that Jesus is in fact dead before turning the body over to Joseph.  Joseph wraps the body in a linen cloth and places it in a tomb before sealing it with a heavy stone.  The two Marys previously mentioned witness where the body is laid.

And thus ends the Fifteenth Chapter of the Gospel of Mark.

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