A Translation of Mark Chapter 15

RomansText1“There was one man named Barabbas in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the rebellion. The crowd came before him and began to ask that he do what he normally did for them during the feast.” (Mark 15:7-8)

One of the great questions that hovers around the story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, is how the crowds could so easily have turned away from Jesus toward Barabbas. We often picture these crowds as consisting of the same folks who welcomed Jesus just a few days earlier waving palm fronds and shouting, “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!”

That common understanding about the crowd is wrong. It is certainly not the picture that Mark gives us as he describes events. The two verses above tell us much about the crowd. Remember that Jesus was arrested in secret late in the evening, and that his trial took place while most everyone else was sleeping. His followers were also in the midst of their Passover observances, and did not know that Jesus was in need. Jesus’ disciples had fled in fear. They were in hiding, and were not rallying the troops on Jesus’ behalf.

So whence the crowds? Mark reveals that particular detail to us. Barabbas, a prisoner who had committed murder during a riot against Rome, was scheduled to be executed with two other insurrectionists. However, his followers knew of Pilate’s normal custom of releasing one prisoner during the Passover observances. They had come together in the early morning to intervene on Barabbas’ behalf. That was the crowd which had gathered on that morning.

You can imagine their surprise to find out that Jesus the Nazarene was also on trial for his life. For many of these people, Jesus would most certainly have been a curiosity, but he would not have drawn their attention. Those who support political insurrection aren’t usually drawn to someone who preaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” That doesn’t mean they were antagonistic to Jesus, but they probably didn’t “get” him. Of course, they would not have been there on Barabbas’ behalf if they did not “get” Barabbas. They had come out early to call for the release of someone they supported, and probably admired.

When we understand these details, details that Mark so helpfully provides, it makes the events in front of Pilate much more accessible. The crowd had come to call for Barabbas’ release. Those who wanted Jesus crucified only had to support the crowd in their original intent. While the crowds may have initially felt as if they were on the horns of a difficult dilemma when confronted with the choice Pilate presented, those who wanted Jesus dead only needed to support the crowd in their original quest, and provide justification for the crowd to carry through with its original desire. They easily did that.

Mark’s background detail clarifies one of the questions surrounding Jesus’ trial. The crowds who supported Jesus at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem had not suddenly become murderously fickle. Those who gathered before Pilate would not have been among their number.

Now, on to the translation of Mark 15.

Mark 15:1-47
A Translation by Randal Cutter

15:1  Shortly after that in the early morning, the chief priests, in consultation with the elders, scribal scholars, and the whole Sanhedrin, made a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

15:2  Pilate questioned him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” In response, Jesus said to him, “Are you yourself asking this?”

15:3  For the chief priests were bringing many accusations against him.

15:4  But Pilate again questioned him asking, “Won’t you respond to anything? Pay attention to the many charges they are bringing against you.”

15:5  But Jesus no longer responded to anything. This amazed Pilate.

15:6  Now during the feast, Pilate customarily released to them one prisoner whom they requested.

15:7  There was one man named Barabbas in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the rebellion.

15:8  The crowd came before him* and began to ask that he do what he normally did for them during the feast.

15:9  So Pilate responded to them asking, “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews?”

15:10  For he knew that the chief priests had handed him over because they were jealous.

15:11  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd that he might instead release Barabbas to them.

15:12  Pilate again responded to them asking, “What do you wish that I do with the one you call King of the Jews?”

15:13  They again shouted, “Crucify him!”

15:14  But Pilate asked them, “For what? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!”

15:15  Because Pilate wished to pacify the crowd, he released Barabbas to them, and after he scourged Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

15:16  The soldiers led him away out of the governor’s residence, that is the Praetorium, and they called together the entire Roman cohort.

15:17  They dressed him in a purple cape, and wove a crown made of thorny branches, and put it on him.

15:18  They began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews.”

15:19  They repeatedly struck his head with a reed staff, and kept spitting on him. They also knelt before him and bowed to him.

15:20  When they had finished mocking him, they took the purple cape off of him, and put his own clothing back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

15:21  They pressed a man into service* who had come from the countryside and was passing by; Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. They made him carry Jesus’ cross.

15:22  They brought him to the place called Golgotha, which means, “Place of the skull.”

15:23  They gave him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

15:24  They crucified him, and distributed his garments, throwing dice* to decide what each soldier would get.

15:25  It was the third hour when they crucified him.

15:26  There was a notice of the charge against him. It was inscribed, “King of the Jews.”

15:27  Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

15:28  The scripture was fulfilled that said, “He was counted with the lawbreakers.”

15:29  Those who walked by ridiculed him shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! This is the one who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.”

15:30 “Come down from the cross and save yourself.”

15:31  Likewise the chief priests and the scribal scholars were also mocking him among themselves saying, “He saved others. He does not have the power to save himself.”

15:32  “The Messiah! The King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross so that we might see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with him heaped scorn on him.

15:33  At the sixth hour, darkness fell across the whole land until the ninth hour.

15:34  At the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a thundering voice, “Eloi, Eloi! Lama sabachthani?” When it is translated, it means, “My God, my God! Why have you abandoned me?”

15:35  Some who were standing nearby said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.”

15:36  Then someone ran and filled a sponge with cheap wine. He put it on a reed stick and gave him a drink saying, “Allow me to do this! Let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”*

15:37  After Jesus released a piercing cry, he breathed out his last breath.

15:38  Then the curtain of the temple was split into two from top to bottom.

15:39  When the centurion who was standing facing Jesus, saw the way that he had breathed his last breath, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

15:40  There were also women who were observing events from a distance. The group included Mary Magdalene; Mary the mother of the less prominent James,* and Joseph; and Salome.

15:41  When Jesus was in Galilee, they followed him and served him. There were also many other women who traveled with him to Jerusalem.

15:42  Since evening was already upon them and it was the preparation day—the day before the Sabbath—

15:43  Joseph from Aramathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was also waiting for the Kingdom of God, acted with courage; he approached Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus.

15:44  But Pilate was amazed that he had already died. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died.

15:45  When he learned the details from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

15:46  Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down, wrapped him in the linen, and placed him in a tomb that had been hewn out of rock. He also rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.

15:47  Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Joseph were watching where they laid placed him.

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15:8  The crowd came before him: Since Jesus’ arrest had been secret, and was still not common knowledge, this crowd consisted of Barabbas’ fellow zealots, or sympathizers, who were seeking his release. Pilate attempted to get Jesus released in front of the wrong crowd.

15:21  They pressed a man into service: The Roman soldiers had the legal right to force any citizen to carry a burden one mile for them. Jesus had spoken about this in the beatitudes when he had mentioned going an extra mile when so impressed. When Jesus could no longer bear the burden, the soldiers took advantage of this law.

15:24  Throwing dice: The more traditional translation is “casting lots.” However, we know this particular method of gambling among the Romans as throwing dice. In ancient times, people cast lots in many different ways. However, among the Romans, dice was the standard method among the soldiers.

15:36  Allow me to do this: Most translations drop this phrase because they miss the wider context, and do not understand what is being said. When a crucifixion was taking place, a centurion was in charge (see verse 44). The man who gave Jesus the cheap wine needed permission to do this, or he would not have been able to approach Jesus. When Matthew describes this scene, he uses the same verb, but changes the verb to the plural in order to show that all of the soldiers were asking the centurion to allow this action on Jesus’ behalf. The soldiers were far from disinterested observers at this time. They were enthralled by the spectacle, and what to see how it would be carried out.

15:40  The less prominent James: The Greek phrase I have translated here is often translated “James the Less” (NASB) or “James the Younger (NIV).” I agree with the NASB that it refers to his prominence among the disciples, not his age. However, I have translated in a way that brings out what “James the Less” means. It simply means that James, the Son of Thunder, was far more prominent and well known than this James.

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Image credit: Randal Cutter/iPhone 6s/Photoshop Oil Paint Filter