Mark 15

Mark 15:1 in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council

James E. Talmage

"The law and the practice of the time required that any person found guilty of a capital offense, after due trial before a Jewish tribunal, should be given a second trial on the following day; and at this later hearing any or all of the judges who had before voted for conviction could reverse themselves...

"Apparently for the purpose of establishing a shadowy pretext of legality in their procedure, the Sanhedrists adjourned to meet again in early daylight. Thus they technically complied with the requirement-that on every case in which the death sentence had been decreed the court should hear and judge a second time in a later session-but they completely ignored the equally mandatory provision that the second trial must be conducted on the day following that of the first hearing. Between the two sittings on consecutive days the judges were required to fast and pray, and to give the case on trial calm and earnest consideration." (Jesus the Christ, 582)

Mark 15:2 Art thou the king of the Jews?

Those who acknowledge Jesus as a great moral leader while denying his divinity claim that Jesus never said that he was the Messiah. They claim that he never declared his divine Sonship. Nothing could be further from the truth. In response to the enraged high priest's question, 'Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?...Jesus said, I am' (Mark 14:61-62). When Pilate asked, 'Art thou the king of the Jews?...he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it' meaning "you said it, not me, but it is true." Earlier, he was asked:

'...If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not...
I and my Father are one...

Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?' (John 10:24-36)

The Jews of Jesus' day had to deal with his claim that he was the Messiah. Similarly, the Jews of today must deal with his claim to be the king of the Jews. They can't accept him as a prophet and deny him as the Messiah-he was either both or he was neither. If he was neither, he should have been killed for blasphemy (Lev. 24:16). If he was both, then woe unto that nation that crucified their Lord!

Mark 15:7 Barabbas... had committed murder in the insurrection

Jeffrey R. Holland

Ecclesiastical and political rejection became more personal when the citizenry in the street turned against Jesus as well. It is one of the ironies of history that sitting with Jesus in prison was a real blasphemer, a murderer and revolutionary known as Barabbas, a name or title in Aramaic meaning "son of the father." Free to release one prisoner in the spirit of the Passover tradition, Pilate asked the people, "Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?" They said, "Barabbas." So one godless "son of the father" was set free while a truly divine Son of His Heavenly Father moved on to crucifixion. ("None Were with Him" Ensign, May 2009, 86)

Mark 15:15 Pilate, willing to content the people...delivered be crucified

Spencer J. Condie

"Pilate's capitulation to the chief priests of the Jews is a classic example of caving in to the curse of respectability, notwithstanding his wife's warning and his own personal discernment that Jesus was a just man without fault. The washing of his hands after delivering the Savior to the mob is an example of what President Marion G. Romney describes as 'serving the Lord in such a way as not to offend the devil' ("The Price of Peace," Brigham Young University Devotional, March 1, 1955)." (Your Agency, Handle with Care [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 42.)

Neal A. Maxwell

"Within a few hours Christ would rescue all mankind, yet he heard the manipulated crowd cry, 'Barabbas,' thereby rescuing a life-taking murderer instead of life-giving Jesus (see Mark 15:7-15). Can we remain true amid false justice? Will we do our duty against the will of the roar of the crowd?" (Men and Women of Christ [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991], 65.)

Mark 15:15 he...scourged him

Bruce R. McConkie

"This brutal practice [of scourging], a preliminary to crucifixion, consisted of stripping the victim of clothes, strapping him to a pillar or frame, and beating him with a scourge made of leather straps weighted with sharp pieces of lead and bone. It left the tortured sufferer bleeding, weak, and sometimes dead." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:807.)

Mark 15:17 they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head

Spencer W. Kimball

"Even when delivered to the soldiers to be crucified, he prayed for them who despitefully used him. How he must have suffered when they violated his privacy by stripping off his clothes and then putting on him the scarlet robe!

"Then, the crown of thorns. Blood from the thorns seemed to be what they wanted. For had they not just said, 'His blood be on us and on our children'? (Matt. 27:25.) Now nothing could stop them. They hungered to satisfy their blood lust. Only the crucifixion would do that, but first they must satisfy their appetites for sadism and cast their spittle in his holy face.

"With a reed in his hand, a scarlet robe over his shoulders, and a crown of thorns on his head, he was made to suffer indignity: they laughed and mocked and jeered and challenged him. Taking the reed from his hand, they would strike him on the head. Yet he stood there, the model of long-suffering.

"Still they moved about him. In base mockery they feigned worship, praying mockingly to him, doing him false reverence, joking, laughing. Was all their ugliness, all their pent-up grievance against mankind, all their bitternesses against acquaintances and enemies loosed upon this one so pure, clean, and worthy? When would they get their fill? How base can man become-he who may be but a little lower than the angels, he who is created in the image of God. What would they do when their victim could suffer no more and no more satisfy their depravity?" ("Jesus of Nazareth," Ensign, Dec. 1984, 6)

Mark 15:21 Simon...the father of Alexander and Rufus

At the time, it was customary to identify an individual as the son of "so-and-so." However, herein Mark refers to Simon as the father of Alexander and Rufus. This is presumably because Mark is writing his gospel for the general church membership, and Alexander and Rufus were generally known in the church. Apparently, Simon was a faithful convert from this time on, and his sons continued in the faithfulness of their father.

Neal A. Maxwell

"Simon's son, Rufus, joined the Church and was so well thought of by the Apostle Paul that the latter mentioned Rufus in his epistle to the Romans, describing him as 'chosen in the Lord' (Romans 16:13). Was it, therefore, a mere accident that Simon 'who passed by, coming out of the country' was asked to bear the cross of Jesus?" (But for a Small Moment [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986], 100.)

Mark 15:23 they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh

The wine and myrrh, it would seem, was administered as a drug to dull the senses and lessen the impending torture. But Jesus would endure without anesthesia. Nor would he quench his own thirst-though hungry, dehydrated, and suffering from significant blood loss-'he received it not' because the True Vine had previously told his disciples, 'I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom' (Matt 26:29).

Mark 15:25 it was the third hour, and they crucified him

For details regarding the process and effects of crucifixion, see commentary for John 19:18.

We know that Christ suffered on the cross for six hours because Mark tells us that they crucified him at 'the third hour' (about 9:00 a.m.) and it was 'at the ninth hour' (v. 34) when he made one of his last utterances. Death by crucifixion usually took longer and Pilate was surprised to learn that he was 'already dead' (v. 44), but Jesus had been through more in the preceding 24 hours than any other human had ever suffered.

James E. Talmage

"...the crucified sometimes lived for days upon the cross...Jesus, though weakened by long torture during the preceding night and early morning, by the shock of the crucifixion itself, as also by intense mental agony, and particularly through spiritual suffering such as no other man has ever endured, manifested surprising vigor, both of mind and body, to the last." (Jesus the Christ, footnote 8, p. 620)

Mark 15:31 He saved others; himself he cannot save

Spencer W. Kimball

"Were not the twelve legions of angels still at his command? Did they not still have their swords unsheathed? Were they not still agonizing, yet restrained from coming to the rescue?

"The mockery grows as the rabble walk alongside and look up, leering and blaspheming and mocking. 'He saved others; himself he cannot save.' (Mark 15:31.) They had seen or heard of his miracles: how the wind and waves had yielded to his word, how lepers had been made clean, how the lame had walked and the sightless had seen, how the dead had been raised how Lazarus had walked forth alive from the grave after he had been dead for days and his body was already decomposing.

"What a temptation it must have been for the Lord who could have stepped down whole and well without scars or bruises! What a challenge it must have been, yet he had set his mind and had sweat great drops of blood in his anguish as he faced his mission-to move forward through all gross indignities and meet death at the end, to bring life to these very men and their children, if they would heed.

"Here, with mortal life fast ebbing-here he restrained himself, controlling the temptation to 'show them' his power. As he had been tempted in the wilderness to satisfy his hunger by causing stones to become bread, as he had stood on the mountaintop and was tempted to show his adversary what he could do, so now he was again approached. Surely Lucifer, who had tempted him in the wilderness, on the mountain, and on the pinnacle of the temple-surely he had done an efficient work in prompting his underlings. They now used the same tactics, the same words: 'If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself.' (Luke 23:37.) The thief on the cross taunted him, 'If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.' (Luke 23:39.) All around were others only little less criminal in their persecution. The swaggering clergy in their long embroidered robes, the leaders of the people-base, low, degraded-they also were to mock and jeer." ("Jesus of Nazareth," Ensign, Dec. 1984, 7)

Gordon B. Hinckley

"Those who hated Jesus thought they had put an end to Him forever when the cruel spikes pierced His quivering flesh and the cross was raised on Calvary. But this was the Son of God, with whose power they did not reckon. Through His death came the Resurrection and the assurance of eternal life. None of us can fully understand the pain He bore as He prayed in Gethsemane and subsequently hung in ignominy between two thieves while those who looked at Him taunted Him and said, 'He saved others; himself he cannot save' (Matt. 27:42; Mark 15:31)." ("This Glorious Easter Morn," Ensign, May 1996, 66)

Mark 15:34 My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?

Regarding this famous utterance, Elder James E. Talmage wrote: "It seems, that in addition to the fearful suffering incident to crucifixion, the agony of Gethsemane had recurred, intensified beyond human power to endure. In that bitterest hour the dying Christ was alone, alone in most terrible reality. That the supreme sacrifice of the Son might be consummated in all its fullness, the Father seems to have withdrawn the support of His immediate Presence, leaving to the Savior of men the glory of compete victory over the forces of sin and death." (Jesus the Christ, 613)

How could Christ descend below all things, if he had never experienced the withdrawal of God's influence? How else could he succor those who through sin or excommunication had felt the vast emptiness, the disabling darkness, and the terrifying loneliness which occurs when the Spirit leaves? Elder Maxwell has stressed that it was important for the Master to experience all suffering, "in order to perfect His capacity of mercy and empathy...that He might know 'according to the flesh' (see Alma 7:11-12) what we pass through and thus become the Perfect Shepherd, which He is." ("A Choice Seer," Ensign, Aug. 1986, 15)

By thus feeling forsaken, the Master descended to the bottom of the pit. Nothing worse could be inflicted. He experienced it all. After suffering physically, spiritually, and emotionally, the sustaining influence of the Father was withdrawn. No one could ever say to Him, "You may have suffered physically and spiritually, but You don't know what it feels like to have the Spirit withdraw and leave you terribly and utterly alone." He knew! He experienced it! He knows what we feel like in our worst, most distraught, and most lonely moments-especially when we feel spiritually forsaken.

Tad R. Callister

"...the Savior knows, understands, and feels every human condition, every human woe, and every human loss. He can comfort as no other. He can lift burdens as no other. He can listen as no other. There is not hurt he cannot soothe, rejection he cannot assuage, loneliness he cannot console. Whatever affliction the world casts at us, he has a remedy of superior healing power. Truman Madsen [said]:

'No human encounter, no tragic loss, no spiritual failure is beyond the pale of his present knowledge and compassion...he knew them all. Why? That he might succor, which is to say comfort and heal, this people. He knew the full nature of the human struggle'" (Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 209)

Jeffrey R. Holland

"Because he must ultimately tread this winepress of redemption unaided, can he endure the darkest moment of them all, the shock of the greatest pain? This comes not with thorns and with nails, but with the terror of feeling utterly alone: 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? ... My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' (Mark 15:34.) Can he bear all of our sins and our fear and loneliness too? He did and he does and he will.

"We do not know how such great sorrow can be borne, but it is no wonder the sun hid its face in shame. No wonder the veil of the temple was rent. No wonder the very earth convulsed at the plight of this perfect child. And at least one Roman centurion who saw all of this sensed something of what it had meant. In awe, he uttered the declaration for all eternity, 'Truly this was the Son of God.' (Matt. 27:54.)" ("He Loved Them unto the End," Ensign, Nov. 1989, 26)

Mark 15:35 some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias

Like so many utterances of the Savior, this too was misunderstood. A generation which pretended to be so religious did not know the difference between Elohim and Elijah. Even more significantly, they missed the message of those four Aramaic words, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.' Not only was this a heartbreaking plea to his Father, Jesus was also referencing the 22nd Psalm by invoking the first line of the chapter. Had those present understood the reference, they could have opened their scriptures (so to speak) and read the Messianic psalm which graphically paints the scene of Christ's crucifixion as foreseen by the prophet-king David. Consider this clear reference to Christ's crucifixion:

'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
'...I am...a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
'All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
'He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
'...They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
'I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
'My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
'For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
'I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.

'They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.' (Ps 22:1-18)

Mark 15:38 the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom

Bruce R. McConkie

"Once each year in ancient Israel the high priest passed through the veil of the temple into the Holy of Holies. This solemn act was part of the sacrificial rites performed in similitude of the coming sacrifice of the Son of God, and these rites were performed for the remission of sins. ("#lev. 16:1Lev. 16.) 'For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.' ("#lev. 16:30Lev. 16:30.)

"But Christ is now sacrificed; the law is fulfilled; the Mosaic dispensation is dead; the fulness of the gospel has come with all its light and power; and so-to dramatize, in a way which all Jewry would recognize, that the kingdom had been taken from them and given to others-Deity rent the veil of the temple 'from the top to the bottom.' The Holy of Holies is now open to all, and all, through the atoning blood of the Lamb, can now enter into the highest and holiest of all places, that kingdom where eternal life is found. Paul, in expressive language (Heb. 9:1, 10), shows how the ordinances performed through the veil of the ancient temple were in similitude of what Christ was to do, which he now having done, all men become eligible to pass through the veil into the presence of the Lord to inherit full exaltation." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 830.)

Mark 15:39 Truly this man was the Son of God

Bruce R. McConkie

"Never was there such a crucifixion as this one. Scourging was always or often a prelude to the cross. Nails had been pounded into hands and feet by the thousands. To insult and demean dying sufferers was the common sport of the coarse ruffians who gaped on the mangled bodies. Perhaps others had been crowned with plaited thorns. But whenever did the rocks rend, and the earth shake, and a dire and deep darkness envelop the whole land for three long hours? And when else did the dying one, yet having strength and vigor in his whipped and beaten body, shout with a loud voice and seem to end his mortality of his own will and in full control of his faculties?

"To all this the centurion and his soldiers were witnesses, and when they saw it all, they greatly feared and said: 'Truly this was the Son of God.' And the centurion himself glorified God-perhaps in praise and prayer-and said: 'Certainly this was a righteous man.'" (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 4: 234.)

Mark 15:43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor...waited for the kingdom of God

Luke tells us that Joseph 'was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them)' (Lu. 23:50-51). Apparently, Joseph, although a member of the Sanhedrin, was absent from middle-of-the-night proceedings which condemned Jesus. That council was unanimous in condemning Jesus, for 'they all condemned him to be guilty of death' (Mark 14:64). But Joseph wasn't in Jerusalem at the time, for the next morning the Romans find him passing by, 'coming out of the country' (v. 21).

Yet, prior to this, there would have been many opportunities for him to declare his allegiance. The plots against Jesus of Nazareth had been going on for many months. What did Joseph say to his colleagues when they spoke of Jesus? It would seem he remained silent, 'being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews' (John 19:38).

Howard W. Hunter

"Joseph of Arimathea was secretly a disciple, but his fear of what others might think or do prevented him from declaring his allegiance until after the crucifixion of the Master.

"Joseph of Arimathea was a man of wealth and station in Jerusalem. We can assume that he had a wide acquaintance and was a man of influence. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the assembly of seventy-one men constituting the supreme council of the aristocracy which administered the Jewish law. It was because of his membership in this tribunal that he was referred to as 'counsellor.' Mark refers to him as '... an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God .... ' (Mark 15:43.) He waited in the background, doing nothing to support or sustain the Master. No doubt he had heard Jesus and listened to his teachings, for we are told that he was a secret disciple of the Savior.

"When the council was called into session early in the morning, following the Last Supper and the betrayal, Joseph...absented himself from the council...

"There are many like Joseph of Arimathea, who do not declare loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ, but merely 'wait for the kingdom.' Like Joseph they are secret followers of Jesus and halfhearted, lukewarm Christians. Secret disciples of Christ are almost in the same category as those who are antagonistic. They are much the same as persons among us today who have only a halfhearted interest in our great democratic way of life and are as dangerous to the future freedom of the world as those who are openly avowed to destroy democracy.

"We would have greater respect for Joseph, if he had taken a strong position in the council and defended Jesus...Nevertheless, we have respect for one who stands upon moral convictions and upholds the right." (Conference Report, October 1960, Afternoon Meeting 108.)