Chapter 15

The Jewish leaders turn Jesus over to Pilate. The soldiers torture and crucify him. He dies and is buried.

Early in the morning the leading priests met as the high Council (the elders and the teachers of religious law were there) and planned their next step. Then they bound Jesus and took him to Pilate, the Roman official in charge of Judea. Pilate asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Yes, but not as you mean it.” The leading priests brought all sorts of accusations against Jesus, so Pilate asked again, “Are you not going to answer? You heard all the charges brought against you.” Jesus wouldn’t say a word and it left Pilate dumbfounded.

It was the governor’s custom at Passover to release a single prisoner to the Jews, it could be anyone they wanted. At that time there was a group of men in prison for an insurrection involving murder. One of them was a man by the name of Barabbas. The crowd went up to Pilate’s palace and asked him, as they did every year, to release a prisoner. Pilate asked, “Would you like me to turn over this ‘king of the Jews?’” He was fully aware that they had arrested Jesus because he was a threat to their authority. But the priests incited the crowd to demand that Barabbas be released. So Pilate said, “And what do you want me to do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”

“Crucify him!“ they shouted. “Crucify him!”

“Why?” objected Pilate. “What crime has he committed?” But the crowd kept shouting all the louder, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

So Pilate, wishing to appease the crowd, released Barabbas to them. Then he had Jesus scourged and turned over to be crucified. The guards on duty took him into the barracks of the governor‘s palace (the Praetorium) and called together the rest of their battalion. They dressed Jesus in a purple robe, twisted some thorny branches into a crown and jammed it on his head. Then they mocked him, saying, “Hail! King of the Jews!” They took a staff and beat him on the head. They spit on him. They dropped to their knees and honored him as though he were royalty. When they grew tired of their fun, they ripped off the purple robe and put his own clothes back on. Then they took him out to be crucified. (1-20)

On their way out of Jerusalem, they met Simon, a member of the Jewish community in Cyrene, as he was returning from the countryside. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) The soldiers ordered him to carry the cross beam that Jesus had been carrying. The soldiers brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “The Place of the Skull”). Some women offered him wine flavored with myrrh to dull the pain but he refused it. Then, after stripping Jesus of his clothes (they threw dice to see who would get what), the soldiers nailed him to the cross. It was nine o’clock in the morning. The accusation posted against him read, “The King of the Jews.”

On either side of Jesus they crucified another “revolutionary,” one on his right and one on his left. The crowd around the cross ridiculed Jesus, wagging their heads and taunting, “Look at you now! You said you could destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! So, why don’t you just jump down from the cross and save yourself!” Even the religious leaders mocked Jesus among themselves, saying, “He came to save others, but he can’t save himself. Let’s watch this Messiah, this self-appointed king of Israel, step down from the cross. If that happens we could believe.” (21-32)

At noon a strange darkness settled over the entire land of Judea and remained for the next three hours. Then at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Some of those standing there heard him and said, “Listen, he’s calling for Elijah.” One of them soaked a sponge with cheap vinegar wine and lifted it up on a staff so Jesus could wet his mouth. “Let’s keep watch,” he said, “then we can see if Elijah will come and take him off the cross.” 

At that point Jesus cried out in a loud voice and took his last breath. The veil separating the courtyard from the Holy Place was torn apart, top to bottom. When the Roman commander saw how Jesus had died, he confessed, “Surely, this man was the Son of God.” Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the Younger), and Salome. When Jesus was ministering in Galilee, these women had been with him, caring for his needs. Among the many women were those who had come to Jerusalem with him for Passover. (33-41)

It was the day of Preparation (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was himself looking forward to the coming of God’s kingdom, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to learn that Jesus had died so quickly, so he asked Joseph how long it had been. When the Roman officer on duty confirmed that Jesus had died, Pilate gave permission. Joseph took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in some linen cloth that he had purchased. Then he laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of rock. Across the opening he rolled a stone. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus took careful note of where the body was laid.