Jesus’ Silence: Mark 15:1-15

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As we continue moving through Mark’s gospel, we come to the morning Jesus is crucified. However, before Jesus is actually nailed to a cross, He must be sentenced to death by the Roman governor, who at this point in history was Pilate. During Jesus’ trial with Pilate, I am amazed how Mark describes this event and how Jesus is ultimately condemned to death without any actual crime being committed.

Let’s read Mark’s gospel record and discover how he describes what happened. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 15, and we will read from the New International Reader’s Version. Starting in verse 1, Mark tells us that:

It was 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 tied Jesus up and led him away. Then they handed him over to Pilate.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

The chief priests brought many charges against him. So Pilate asked him again, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they charge you with.”

But Jesus still did not reply. Pilate was amazed.

Pausing reading our passage for a moment, I’m amazed at how Mark describes Jesus’ trial before Pilate. While we didn’t have time to cover it in an earlier episode, Mark describes Jesus acting in a similar way towards Pilate that he does towards the chief priests and religious leaders. When being charged and accused, Jesus simply remained silent.

When reading about Jesus’ silence, part of me wonders why Jesus did this. In the earlier case of the religious leaders looking for a reason to condemn Jesus, it makes a little sense, because while Jesus did not speak, the lies and false testimony begin to break down and fall apart.

However, before Pilate, there is only one set of accusations, and while Mark doesn’t tell us what these leaders accuse Jesus with, there is likely a little bit of truth with a whole bunch of lies.

But this doesn’t really answer the question about why Jesus stayed silent – especially when it would not be sin to speak the truth that He is innocent.

As I ask myself this question, I believe Jesus’ silence is intentional and it tells us something important. By not speaking, Jesus is intentionally, subtly, and willing to take all the lies, false testimony, and really all the sins onto Himself. Even though Jesus had predicted His death numerous times leading up to this weekend, no one present in this event believed Jesus’ mission at this point in history was death. Through Jesus’ silence, He allows all the lies, evil, and sin to rest on His shoulders as He is being questioned and charged by Pilate.

However, Pilate is an inquisitive person, but not entirely bright, especially in this instance.

Continuing in verse 6, after Jesus had remained silent, much to Pilate’s amazement, Mark tells us that:

It was the usual practice at the Passover Feast to let one prisoner go free. The people could choose the one they wanted. A man named Barabbas was in prison. He was there with some other people who had fought against the country’s rulers. They had committed murder while they were fighting against the rulers. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to let the king of the Jews go free?” asked Pilate. 10 He knew that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him because they wanted to get their own way. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd. So the crowd asked Pilate to let Barabbas go free instead.

12 “Then what should I do with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

13 “Crucify him!” the crowd shouted.

14 “Why? What wrong has he done?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”

15 Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd. So he let Barabbas go free. He ordered that Jesus be whipped. Then he handed him over to be nailed to a cross.

In this event, Pilate condemns a man to death who he knows has done nothing wrong. The people in the crowd reveal what type of messiah they wanted by requesting Barabbas, who was another potential messiah who had tried to rally people together to overthrow Rome in their region.

In this event, Pilate could see through the deception of the religious leaders, and Pilate knew the religious leaders disliked Jesus because of their pride and His popularity. However, Pilate doesn’t realize that the only people who would have made up the crowd at this early morning trial would have been those who the religious leaders handpicked.

Pilate doesn’t realize this detail until it is likely too late. While the crowd was present and they appeared impartial, this was the morning leading up to one of the biggest events in Jewish culture, which means that most people would be preparing for the festival and not paying attention to the trial taking place.

The crowd shouting in unison, at the prompting of the religious leaders, and likely all the forces of Satan as well, wins out over Pilate’s objective judgment. Pilate can see that the religious leaders have accused an innocent man. Pilate can also see that Jesus is not actively defending Himself, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to Pilate, but lack of a defense does not make false accusations true. Pilate sees the religious leaders’ lies in their actions, attitudes, and behavior.

Pilate knows one person tied up is guilty, while the other person tied up is innocent. Pilate knows Barabbas deserves death, and Jesus does not.

But the crowd’s united voice convinces Pilate to change his accurate judgment and switch the two condemned people. Pilate sentences Jesus to crucifixion, which was the death Barabbas deserved; and Pilate releases Barabbas, which was the outcome Jesus deserved.

In this event, we discover that Jesus willingly chose to take the place of a rebel, a murderer, and a sinner, and in this event Barabbas, the clearly evil, condemned-to-die person, represents you and me. Barabbas represents every human being who has ever lived who deserves to die for their sins but who gets the opportunity of a new free life because of Jesus!

When we accept the gift Jesus offers us through what He for Barabbas by taking Barabbas’ place on the cross, we allow Jesus’ death to cover our sins and we let Him face the death we deserve while He offers us the life He deserves. Through Jesus’ trial before Pilate, we see that Jesus willingly takes the lies, the false testimony, and all the sin onto Himself, and He willingly takes our place and our punishment onto Himself in order to give us a new chance of life that we did not deserve!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, be sure to purposefully and intentionally seek God first. Choose to accept the gift Jesus offers to you and I through what He did for Barabbas on crucifixion weekend. Understand that while Barabbas was a criminal, Jesus wrote history in a way that shows God is willing to take the punishment of sinners and criminals against His law onto Himself. Accept the gift Jesus offers for a new chance at life that isn’t trapped and stained by sin!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Through prayer and Bible study, we are able to open our hearts to God and let Him into our lives, and with God in our hearts, He will teach us how He wants us to live, how we can be loving like He loves us, and how to best thank Him through how we live our lives.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 42: When being brought before Pilate, Jesus again remains silent to all the accusations of the religious leaders. Discover why Jesus may have chosen to remain silent and a huge spiritual truth we can discover in how this trial concludes.

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