Mark 15.1-20

Title: Who Killed Jesus?

Text: Mark 15.1-20

Introduction: Who killed Jesus? Don’t answer too quickly and don’t give me a Sunday School answer! You probably have some ideas, but it isn’t as easy as just blurting out an answer. You blame one person or group and there are answers to clear them and shift the blame to another group. So, who killed Jesus?

This question has caused many throughout the last couple of millennia to cast accusations and stir up hate. Certain people rise to power and use that power to persecute and discriminate against others. People have gone to war over such things. Even before the holocaust in the ’30s and ’40s, which I’m sure you’re familiar with…

In our text this morning, there are four different groups who have power – at least to some degree in one way or another. Let’s look to see who these folks are and how they wield their power. Let’s observe if we can see how they play a part in killing Jesus:

  1. The Jews
  2. The Romans
  3. The People
  4. The Soldiers

Let’s begin with this first group.

I. The Jewish Authorities (1)

exp.: rd v1;

  1. As soon as it was morning; Their work was done in during the night hours; from this text, we actually get a timeline;
    1. 15.1: as soon as it was morning
    1. 15.25: it was now the 3rd hour
    1. 15.33: the 6th hour to the 9th hour
    1. 15.34: the 9th hour
    1. 15.42: and when evening had come;
  2. …the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole counsel (Gk: Sanhedrin);
    1. Many have argued that these are responsible for putting Jesus to death and that has caused anti-Semitism to spread down through the centuries. As early as 66 AD; massacres occurred in the Nile Delta in Egypt; in 113-115 AD another report of massacres. Repeated ad nauseam to the Holocaust of the early 1900s; This has led others to rise up in their defense of the Jews. Genesis 12.3
    1. Many other scholars have reported that the Council couldn’t put Jesus to death, so you can’t blame them. They say it would have been illegal for the Jews to put anyone to death. Carl Walls presented this argument to us last Wednesday night as we walked through each of the three mock trials (cf.: Jn 18.31). And he makes a great point, but if that is truly the case, explain why they could put Stephen to death in Acts 8; They put Stephen to death by stoning him and Saul was there holding the coats of those who cast their stones and giving approval. One guess is that they couldn’t put him to death for the charge they laid against him.
    1. No, I think they held their consultation with the whole counsel for the purpose of determining a specific charge of Jesus being “King of the Jews” (rd v2). If Jesus claims to be King, well, then that’s high treason, punishable by death. I think that is why they didn’t kill him themselves. They could get someone else to do that – and that’s just what they did. Besides, a Roman death would be so much more public and humiliating. With the holidays upon them, they wouldn’t have to break their own laws by executing someone during the festival. And, they wouldn’t risk upsetting the crowds who loved Christ. There were just too many good reasons against their putting him to death and getting someone else to do it.
  3. Two words stick out in our text and guide our study, and these words are repetitive as we continue reading v1. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him; (14.53, 15.1, 10, 15, 16, 20); these two words direct us through the timeline and the process;  

app.: these two words will help us identify that none of these folks wanted Jesus – so they led him away and delivered him over to someone else.

t.s.: So, Did the Jews kill Jesus? To be sure, these religious leaders started all this, but they didn’t actually execute the charge. Instead, they delivered Jesus over to Pilate; we see that in v2ff

II. The Roman Authorities (2-5)

exp.: rd v2a; King of the Jews; I think Mark is giving us some direction here; this term King of the Jews is another repetition we see; after not appearing in Mark at all, it now appears 6x’s in this chapter; here in v 2, 9, 12, 18, 26, and as King of Israel in v 32; So, this is probably the charge the religious authorities present to Pilate; rd v 2b; now in English, we cringe! Did he just condemn himself? Well, in the Greek it is so ambiguous that you’re just not sure what he said; The English translation try to convey that, but it just doesn’t work: you say

  • ESV: You have said so…
  • NASB: It is as you say… this is so far from a literal translation I don’t know where to begin. If you have a NASB, you’ll note the first three words are in italics, meaning those words have been supplied.
  • NIV: gets even further away… Yes, it is as you say.
  • CSB: You say so… closer than the others, but still not correct.
  • KJV: Even the King James Version adds words to make a sentence. Thou sayest it.

Why? Because Jesus is ambiguous in his reply: Subject: You; Verb: say, It’s like an incomplete sentence – an incomplete thought.

Now the Religious Leaders throw accusation after accusation, but Jesus doesn’t respond – to Pilate’s amazement; rd v 3-5.  

There is something else I’d like to note: the other Gospels tell us of how Jesus was sent to Herod, but Herod didn’t want him either; Mark doesn’t tell us this part. I guess for him, it wasn’t necessary to tell us this story. But something I think, that is important about that detail is that it shows Pilate really didn’t want to deal with this. Pilate didn’t want Jesus either.

app.: And, with the help of the other gospels, we know that Pilate found no guilt in this man. So he sought to pass this problem on to Herod; and then, he sought to release him;

t.s.: We find out something very interesting by the way that Mark presents this release and it’s found in this third section…

III. The Crowds (6-15)

exp.: I think the way this works actually begins in v 8, but Mark fills us in on the details in 6-7, so v 8 will make sense; they initiate a release, not Pilate; A question you might have is: who is the ‘crowd’? v 11 tells us the religious leaders have worked the crowds, but who made the request?

  • Was it followers and supporters of Barabbas? We often think of him as a criminal and a murderer, but there are those who love that he was zealous and rising up against the Romans.
  • Did Pilate offer Barabbas to the crowd, thinking to himself that they would never vote to release such a horrible criminal?
  • The ‘crowd’ could have been the high priest’s henchmen who started this up. It might have just been circumstantial or situational as the religious leaders see it – you know, an auspicious occasion in their eyes. So, in v 11, they begin working the crowds for Barabbas’ release.

Now, v 10 lets us in on Pilate’s thinking – that he perceived this whole circus was orchestrated by the religious leaders and they did all that they were doing because of envy or sometimes translated jealousy. I love the Gk word, its’ spelling beings phth – φθόνος; Isn’t it funny, I mean ‘odd’ or ‘peculiar’ what jealousy can lead us to do to others?

t.s.: There is one last group here… you could add them to the list of those we might accuse of killing Jesus.

IV. The Soldiers mock and persecute Him (16-20)

exp.: they’re the ones who would drive the nails; they’re the ones who weave a crown of thorns; at this stage of our story, Jesus is mocked, beaten, and ridiculed by those entrusted with his execution; they humiliate him repeatedly.

*We’ll pick up here next week… I just want to add them to this section to say, many actually blame the soldiers for killing Jesus.

t.s.: So, who killed Jesus and why did they kill Jesus ?


  1. The Jewish leadership pushed for Christ’s death at the hands of the Romans. It was their plan from as early as Mark 3.6 to destroy him. They may have instigated it all, but they didn’t pull the trigger.
  2. Pilate clearly found no fault in him and wanted to release him. When he found a way, the crowds rejected his proposal and asked for Barabbas’ release. You could add Herod here to the list of Roman Authorities. Although Mark doesn’t add that part of the story, the other Gospels let us in on it. Herod was interested as far as observing Jesus as a sideshow, but nothing more.
  3. The crowds may have been worked up into a frenzy; however, their call for his crucifixion wasn’t as if they pulled the trigger either.
  4. The Battalion cruelly mistreated Christ, but only a few will actually carry out the orders to crucify Christ. And I’m not so sure these guys are all on board, even though they’re obedient, for we will see next week the Centurion standing at the foot of the cross proclaiming, Truly this man was the son of God (v39).

So, which one of these killed Jesus?

  • I think they all did. Not one is more responsible than the others. No one is less guilty than any of the others. Furthermore, the Bible teaches us that it was God’s Will to accomplish this. Let that sink in – these people all acted within their own free will to exercise their jealousies, their hate, their power, but God was in charge the whole time. And, I guess added to this you and I killed him. It was because it was for your sin and my sin that Jesus died.

Transition: I think it is interesting how each one wielded what power they had to do their deeds. And that brings me to the application for this morning.

Application: Power is a scary force.

  1. The Religious Leaders use their power to bring Jesus before Pilate. They use their power as influence over the crowd.
    1. Pilate uses his power as authority to execute Jesus.
    1. The crowd uses its power as a vote to release Barabbas and vote to crucify Jesus.
    1. The soldiers use their power to humiliate and mistreat Jesus.

So, let me ask you:

  1. Where is your power and how do you use it?
  2. With your family? – over your wife or husband, over your kids, or your adult parents. Sometimes one of the spouses holds the purse strings and lords it over the other. Spouses us their power to withhold favor – sexual favor, getting their husband or wife to behave or do or act or… Sometimes, the oldest in the family use their power to get what they want. Maybe it is money they have and they use their money to get their grown up kids to do and act and (story of young woman whose grandparents told her that they would pay for her medical school if she lost weight… I’ve even seen little children run a family – using their power over their parents.
  3. In your work or business? – over other employees or coworkers? Do people have to come to you to get things done? Do they need your permission and you hold it over them until they perform or do or act or behave…
  4. What about at church? Elders, Deacons, Teachers, Pastor and staff…we all have power through position and influence. Where do you use your power and how do you use it?

Here is the point: you do have power. I think of little children at school, even, who use their power as influence over other children.

Ill.: years ago I was taken a group of children to Children’s Camp. There were a group of three boys in the group of children. One of these boys would play the other two against each other, wielding his power like a mob boss. On the trip, he pulled out a bag of candy. He then proceeded to give one of the boys some of his stash. The 3rd boy asked for some and was refused. This little boy who had been refused began to offer money for a piece of candy. Eventually, the little boy offered all the money he had brought for the week for just one piece of candy. That little mob boss refused to sell his candy to the other boy at that inflated rate.

Pause: This sinful nature never seems to leave us does it? It will rule over us, unless of course, there is a change.

You see, the one person in this story who doesn’t execute the power he has – and he has the ultimate power – is Jesus. I think of Phil 2: although Jesus had the right of heaven, he let go of his rights to the throne of heaven and became a man – a simple man, a humble man. Through his obedience to his father, he humble himself and became obedient to death. That’s what we see going on here.

In that passage in Philippians, Paul urges his readers to become more like Jesus – to take his attitude in all things. And his plea to take on the mind of Christ comes from his plea in v1-4; 2.So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Paul’s talking about relationships within the church. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Let’s pray…


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