Daily Devotional

March 22, 2019

Daybreak: Mark 15:1-20

“And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15)

I am a substitute teacher. As such, I am called upon, sometimes with little notice, to go to a local junior or senior high school to replace a teacher who is unable to teach his or her regular classes. Sometimes this job is more difficult than at other times, but it nearly always presents interesting challenges. 

On one occasion, I had students try to change the classroom clock to trick me into dismissing early. In another class, the students all chose to sit in a different order than that assigned by the regular teacher, thinking I would not notice. Often I have had students suggest that the “real” teacher’s rules were wrong or not applicable since I was there. Not every day or every student is a problem, but it is generally understood by the students that a substitute can be taken advantage of quite easily. 

So . . . why would I continue to accept the job of a substitute? Is it the great pay? Hardly! Do I enjoy the attempts by students to manipulate me? Not at all! It is because of the joy I receive when I hear a student call me by name in the hallway, thanking me for coming. It is for the joy of working with young people and the potential that exists for making a difference in young lives.

Jesus was called to be a substitute by God the Father. When sin entered into the world and death because of sin, God ordained that One would come to earth and take the place of those who were destined to die for their own sins. God’s plan — one that was in place from the foundation of the world — meant that Jesus would need to set aside many attributes of His divine nature and privileges of His divine office as co-Creator of the universe. Humbling Himself, Jesus became a human. He lived a human life with all of its temptations, pains, and disappointments, yet without yielding to or being under the control of sin. God’s plan culminated in Jesus’ death upon the Cross. 

Jesus accepted His assignment as man’s substitute willingly. He endured the false accusations of the Jewish leaders, the political maneuvering of the Roman governor, the rejection of the crowd, and the mocking of the soldiers who would later kill Him. He went through all of this because there was an ultimate purpose behind His actions — mankind’s redemption. 

The murderer Barabbas was the first to benefit from Jesus’ role as a substitute; he was released from custody instead of the innocent Jesus. Though He had committed no crime, Jesus was cruelly mistreated and crucified. Barabbas, on the other hand, had committed murder and insurrection, but he was set free.

Things have changed little since the time of Jesus’ death. As humans condemned to death because of our own sinful ways, Christ offers us peace, forgiveness, freedom, and eternal life. All of this is available because He became our Substitute. Today, let us challenge ourselves to be ready to share our testimony so others may know that Jesus has paid the price for their sins. If they will repent of the sins of their past and ask the Lord into their hearts, He will give them eternal life.

Background

Chapter 15 represents the culmination of the message Mark was presenting to his readers: the contrast of Jesus as Messiah-king, “the Anointed One,” to Jesus as the Suffering Servant of God. Six times in this chapter Jesus is referred to as “king” (verses 2, 9, 12, 18, 26, and 32). However, He was shown no honor on the Cross, but rather was mistreated and executed as a common criminal.

Verses 1-20 of this chapter describe Jesus’ trial and ultimate condemnation by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who ruled in southern Palestine from A.D. 26 through A.D. 36. Pilate is described by Jewish historians Philo and Josephus as greedy, inflexible, cruel, and oppressive, particularly to his Jewish subjects. The Scriptures portray Pilate as a consummate politician looking to balance the truth and the legal system against the influence of the Jewish leaders and public opinion. This is evident in his offering of the already-incarcerated Barabbas as an alternative to the release of Christ. Pilate was finally removed from office for his harsh treatment of the people.

At holidays, it was customary for the local rulers to release a prisoner of the people’s choice to the public. The people requested that a notable prisoner, Barabbas, be released. Pilate, recognizing that the chief priests had brought Jesus to trial because of envy, suggested that Jesus be released instead. However, the chief priests “moved the people” to reject Jesus and to continue clamoring that Barabbas be released, so that Jesus would be crucified.

Barabbas was a murderer and an insurrectionist, who apparently was condemned to death (perhaps by crucifixion). His pardon, release, and freedom were paid for by the condemnation of Jesus. He prefigures all of humanity in what is available to condemned sinners who are headed for eternal death — pardon, release from sin, and eternal life. The words “Crucify Him” were hurled at Jesus rather than at Barabbas. In his terse style, Mark summarized the mocking and abuse of the Roman soldiers, but conveyed the extremes of the paradox of the new kingdom which was ushered in by Jesus. His was a kingdom in which the King offered Himself as a servant sacrifice for those who openly rejected Him. 

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
VII.   The Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Son of God
       G.   The trials
             3.   The trial before Pilate (15:1-20)
                   a.   The questioning by Pilate (15:1-5)
                   b.   The alternative of Barabbas (15:6-11)
                   c.   The concession by Pilate (15:12-15)
                   d.   The mocking of Christ (15:16-20)

A Closer Look

  1. What was the name of the Roman soldiers’ meeting hall of the in Jerusalem? 
     
  2. Why do you think Jesus was silent during His interrogation by Pilate?
     
  3. The religious leaders were able to manipulate the crowd. How can we be true to our convictions today?

Conclusion

Jesus was a substitute, and was subjected to many forms of mistreatment. The Jewish leaders accused Him. Pilate tried to maneuver Him. The crowds condemned Him. Roman soldiers mocked and abused Him. Barabbas received life because of Him. How are you treating Jesus today?

Reference Materials