This is a Bible study on Mark 15:1-41.

7 pages.

Mark 15:1-41 - Look to Jesus, Our Empathetic Savior

Read Mark 15:1-41.


Norma paced the floor—all alone, late at night. Earlier that evening her husband had sat across the kitchen table from her, his eyes averted. Finally, he said he must leave; he had some thinking to do. Norma knew there was something desperately wrong, but she could only wonder about the extent of the problem.

The next morning Norma asked her husband why he had gone out the night before, and what was the problem. He explained that he had “fallen in love” with a younger woman, and that he was leaving. Norma’s world crumbled. They had survived so many crises together: financial difficulties, family problems, major surgeries, how could he leave her now?

During the next few weeks when Norma witnessed other couples together it only reinforced the fact that she was alone. Norma was acutely aware that she was alone, rejected. She felt her entire life was over, that she had arrived at the end of the road.

We, too, may find that there are certain times in our lives when we experience rejection, when we feel that nobody understands and nobody cares; times when we feel isolated and all alone. This present passage of the Gospel of Mark reveals to us just such a time in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Because our Lord Jesus Himself has experienced the absolute depths of rejection and isolation for our sake, we may look to Him with confidence that He understands and cares. In our times of rejection and isolation, we may look with confidence to Jesus, our empathetic Savior.

If You Are Rejected by the Political Establishment, Look to Jesus, Our Empathetic Savior🔗

Very early in the morning the Jewish leaders convened a special session of the Sanhedrin for the purpose of officially passing sentence against Jesus (vs. 1). Having officially passed sentence against Him, they now bound Jesus and brought Him before the Roman governor. Before Pilate the Jewish leaders accused the Lord Jesus of many things, all in an effort to persuade the Roman governor to pronounce the death penalty (vs. 3).

Perhaps you, too, have been the victim of “politics” at one time or another in your life. Maybe you did not get the job, even though you were the most qualified, because someone else had “connections” with the company’s officials. Maybe you did not get the promotion, although you were deserving, because of your Christian life and witness.

Perhaps the very legal system itself was set against you: you found yourself to be the victim of a miscarriage of justice; you were falsely accused and convicted on the testimony of false witnesses.

If you find yourself rejected by the political establishment, you can look to the Lord Jesus, our empathetic Savior, and be confident that He understands and cares; for He, too, was rejected by the political and religious establishment.

If You Are Rejected by the Very People of God, Look to Jesus, Our Empathetic Savior🔗

Mark reports the custom that the Roman government had initiated with regard to the Jews: as a goodwill gesture, one prisoner was released at the time of the Passover (vs. 6). Now, addressing the crowd that had gathered before him, Pilate asks, “Would you have me release for you the King of the Jews?” (vs. 9) Pilate recognized that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered Jesus to him (vs. 10). So he now seeks to take the matter directly to the people, being confident that they will choose to have Jesus released for them.

But the Jewish leaders had incited the crowd, persuading them to request the release of a revolutionary criminal named Barabbas (vs. 11). Barabbas was a notorious prisoner (Matt. 27:16), the equivalent of a modern-day terrorist. Caught off guard by this unexpected turn of events, Pilate now asks the multitude, “What then shall I do with him whom you call the King of the Jews?” At this point in the proceedings Pilate dismissed Jesus as an idealist who posed no threat to Rome; an innocent man who was being victimized by the Jewish hierarchy who envied His popularity. In his effort to release Jesus, Pilate sees no harm in reminding the people that they have hailed Jesus as their king: “What then shall I do with him whom you call the King of the Jews?”

But back comes the response of the multitude incited by the chief priests, “Crucify him!” (vs. 13) Pilate tries to reason with them, but to no avail, for by this time the crowd was on the verge of turning into a raging mob and the situation was rapidly getting out of the control of the Roman authorities (vs. 14). Pilate, desiring to appease the multitude, acquiesces to their will: he releases Barabbas, and sentences Jesus to crucifixion.

Perhaps you have found yourself rejected by the very people of God at one time or another in your life. Maybe you experienced some form of prejudice within the church, which ought not to be: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

Maybe you experienced rejection because of your lack of social status, which ought not to occur within the church of Christ, as the Apostle James reminds us:

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, do not practice favoritism. 2Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes [into your assembly]. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, Here is a good seat for you, but say to the poor man, You stand there, or, Sit on the floor by my feet, 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?... 8If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing right. 9But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. Jas. 2:1-4,8-9

Maybe you experienced rejection because of some past sin of which you have repented but that is still held against you, which should not happen within the church of Christ. Referring to the repentant brother, the Apostle Paul counsels the Corinthian church, “you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:7). The church of Christ should never act like the elder brother in Jesus’ parable of The Prodigal Son, the brother who, due to his self-righteous attitude, refused to rejoice when his younger brother repentantly returned to their father.

If you find yourself rejected by the very people of God, you can look to the Lord Jesus, our empathetic Savior, and be confident that He understands and cares; for He, too, was rejected, rejected by the Old Testament covenant nation.

If You Are Rejected by the World, Look to Jesus, Our Empathetic Savior🔗

The Roman soldiers mocked the Lord Jesus, then beat Him, and finally led Him away to crucify Him (vs. 16-20). As Jesus hung upon the cross in the agony of an awful death, the soldiers callously sat at the foot of the cross and divided up among themselves whatever valuables He might have possessed (vs. 24).

All those who passed by that way made it their business to pause long enough to hurl their own insults at our Lord as He hung upon the cross, displaying their contempt for Him (vs. 29-30). Even the two criminals hanging on either side of Him, reproached Him, denouncing Him and insulting Him (vs. 32). But note that as the one witnessed Jesus’ conduct as the afternoon wore on and the hour of death approached, he had a change of heart and cried out to Jesus for salvation:

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him, Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! 40But the other criminal rebuked him. Do you not fear God, he said, since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. 42Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. 43Jesus answered him, I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. Lk. 23:39-43

At one time or another you, too, as a Christian will find yourself rejected by a world that is hostile to Christ and to the God of the Bible. Maybe your Christian beliefs have been ridiculed with contempt by a teacher at school before an assembled class. Maybe you have been taken advantage of because you are a Christian, perhaps being assigned the worst jobs at work. Maybe you have been accosted by a self-centered, disappointed, misconceived neighbor who is angry with God for failing to do as he desired and who now vents his anger against you because you bear the name of Christ. Many Christian brothers and sister are presently suffering persecution unto death for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When you find yourself rejected by the world, you can look to the Lord Jesus, our empathetic Savior, and be confident that He understands and cares; for He, too, was rejected by the world.

If You Feel that You Have Been Rejected by God, Look to Jesus, Our Empathetic Savior🔗

The physical darkness that engulfed the land from the sixth hour (approximately noonday) until the ninth hour (3 p.m. in the afternoon) testifies to the awful spiritual darkness our Lord Jesus Christ experienced in His soul during those hours. At the ninth hour Jesus cried out those awful words recorded in Mark 15:34, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? (which, being interpreted, means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?)” This was the terrible experience of separation from God, the experience of hell itself. The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, testifies:

4...we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him...6the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isa. 53:4-6

Note that Jesus’ cry was unintelligible and misunderstood by the crowd: “Some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, said, Listen, he is calling for Elijah” (vs. 35). This all the more emphasizes the complete isolation experienced by the Lord Jesus. In that awful hour He was abandoned by God and no one could understand the horror He was undergoing.

Perhaps you, too, even as a Christian, have had times in your life when you have felt isolated from God. Maybe you have experienced an awful moment of darkness in your soul. The Christian who has the highest experiences of God’s glory seems also to be exposed to moments of deepest darkness. Consider the testimony of the Apostle Paul: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn [or, stake] in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me” (2 Cor. 12:7).

Maybe you experienced a sense of isolation and felt rejected by God after having committed an especially defiant act of sin. Although you expressed sorrow and repentance, you still felt separated from God. Such was David’s experience after his grievous sins against the LORD: “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psl. 51:3)

If you experience a time in your life when you feel that you have been rejected by God, you can look to the Lord Jesus, our empathetic Savior, and be confident that He understands and cares. He was rejected by God for our sake, bearing all our sins, that we might be reconciled unto God forever:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree;' 14so that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, [and] so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Gal. 3:13-14

13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ...14he himself is our peace...through him we...18have access to the Father by one Spirit. Eph. 2:13-14,18

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will beable to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:38-39

We may give special attention to the words of the Apostle John, when he writes on the subject of assurance for the Christian:

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him; 20[but] if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 1 Jn. 3:18-20

In verses 18-19 John teaches that genuine displays of love expressed toward fellow believers will serve to assure the believer that he is “of the truth; (i.e. that he has been born of God and partakes of Christ’s character). Such displays of love will serve to “assure our heart before [God].”

Then, in verse twenty, John goes on to write, even if “our heart condemns us;” (i.e. even if our awareness of the remnants of our old sinful nature suppress the assurance to be derived from our acts of love), we have a greater assurance, one that is objective and all-knowing. That greater assurance is the fact that “God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.”

This is the very thing to which Peter appealed when, being very aware of his sin of having denied Christ at His trial, Peter now calls upon his Lord to look beyond that sin and below that sin, to his heart. As he and the other disciples stand before the risen Christ on the shores of the sea of Galilee, Peter implores his Lord, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you” (Jn. 21:17).

This is the great assurance that we as Christians possess: “God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” It is God who has begun a good work in us, and it is God who will bring it to completion. The Apostle Paul expresses and shares this confidence, this assurance, with the Philippians: “Of this I am sure, that he who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).


Sometimes you may feel that nobody understands and nobody cares; you may feel like Norma felt, all alone. But Norma discovered that she was not alone: she found the LORD upholding her, providing for her, and graciously ministering His own presence to her. Norma testifies:

I thought I had arrived at the end of the road. In reality, it was not the end, but a turn that brought me to a deeper commitment to God and His leading. There were times when I allowed bitterness to control my thoughts, actions and words. But God’s Holy Spirit didn't permit me to dwell on these negative emotions. Most of my days have been bathed with joy and a deep inner peace. I was on my own, yet I was never alone, for God’s presence surrounded me. His Spirit was in me and around me.1

Christian, at those times in our lives when we experience rejection and the sense of being all alone, we may look with confidence to Jesus, knowing that He understands and cares. We may look with confidence to the Lord Jesus, our empathetic Savior, because He Himself has experienced the absolute depths of rejection for our sake:

[God] made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. 2 Cor. 5:21

7Cast all your care upon him because he cares for you... 10after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will personally restore you, support you, strengthen you, and establish you. 11To him belongs the dominion forever. Amen. 1 Pet. 5:7,10-11

The assurance that we, as Christians, are not abandoned by God, the assurance that we are, in fact, accepted by Him, is found in the closing verses of this passage: “Then Jesus let out a loud cry and yielded up his spirit. 38And the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom” (vs. 37­ 38). The fact that “the veil of the temple,” the veil that separated the Holy of holies from the rest of the holy sanctuary, was “tore in two,” is the assurance that, by virtue of Christ’s atoning death, the way is now open into the immediate presence of God. The fact that the veil was torn “from top to bottom,” demonstrates that it is God Himself who has opened the way; in other words, it is the Father’s testimony that the atoning sacrifice offered up to Him by His Son has been accepted by Him as the all-sufficient payment for sin on behalf of all who place their faith in Him.

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. Who is it that incites the crowd to demand that Jesus be crucified? See Mk. 15:11. What was their motivation for doing so? See Mk. 15:10. How often do men in authority, both civil and religious, operate out of self-interest rather than in accordance with justice? Have you ever been the victim of such men's unscrupulous acts? From whom alone can we expect justice, and for whom must we wait? Note Psl. 96:13; Lk. 18:7-8,

But the chief priests incited the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. Mk. 15:11

Pilate asked, Would you have me to release for you the King of the Jews? 10[He asked this] because he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed [Jesus] over to him. Mk. 15:9-10

...[the LORD] is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth. Psl. 96:13

And shall God not avenge his own elect who cry out day and night to him... 8I tell you that he will avenge them without delay... Lk. 18:7-8

The Greek phrase usually translated, “swiftly,” or, “speedily,” also bears the nuance, “without delay,” which is the preferable translation in the present context. The assurance is that God will not become negligent in keeping His promise (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9); He will, without fail, ensure that the fulfillment of His promise to avenge His elect will occur at the divinely-appointed time.

  1. How do the Roman soldiers treat the Lord Jesus? See Mk. 15:16-20. Have you ever witnessed the name of the Lord Jesus being treated with contempt and mockery? How do you react to such Satanically-inspired abuse heaped upon the holy Son of God? How did the Roman centurion react when he saw what occurred at the moment of Christ’s death? See Matt. 27:54. How shall the world react on the day our Lord appears in glory? See Isa. 52:13-15; Rev. 1:7,

Then the soldiers led him away into the courtyard, (that is, the Praetorium), and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17They clothed him with a purple [robe], and weaving together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18Then they began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! 19They repeatedly struck his head with a rod, and spit upon him, and bowing their knees [before him], they worshiped him. 20After they had mocked him, they took off the purple [robe] and put his own garments back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. Mk. 5:16­-20

So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, 'Truly this was the Son of God!' Matt. 27:54

Behold, my servant will be successful; he will become high and lifted up, he will be greatly exalted. 14Just as many were appalled at you—he was so disfigured that his appearance was unlike any other man, his form was unlike the sons of men, 15so shall he cause many nations to be shocked. Kings shall cover their mouths at [the sight of] him; for what was not reported to them they [themselves] will see, and what was not explained to them they will understand. Isa. 52:13-15

Behold! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth shall mourn because of him. Even so, Amen. Rev. 1:7

  1. What occurred at the moment of our Lord’s death? See Matt. 27:50-53. What is significant about the temple curtain (that concealed the Holy of holies) being ripped from top to bottom? Note Eph. 2:18. What is the significance of the events described in Matthew 27:52-53? Note Jn. 5:28-29,

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. 51Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53and coming out of the graves after his resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. Matt. 27:50-53

...through [Christ] we...have access to the Father by one Spirit. Eph. 2:18

Do not be amazed by this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs shall hear his voice 29and shall come out: they who have done good shall be resurrected to life; but they who have done evil shall be resurrected to condemnation.Jn. 5:28-29

The events that occurred at the moment of our Lord’s death are a precursor of the events that shall occur at the time of His return in glory.

  1. What was Simon of Cyrene recruited to do? See Mk. 15:21/Lk. 23:26. Although they laid the cross upon Simon’s shoulders, did Jesus permit him to bear it? See Jn. 19:17. What is significant about the fact Jesus alone bore His cross to Calvary? Note Isa. 53:6,

Now a certain man from Cyrene [named] Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country; [the soldiers] forced him to come with them, in order to carry [Jesus’] cross. Mk. 15:21

Now as they led him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. Lk. 23:26

So [the soldiers] took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place called 'The Place of a Skull,' in Hebrew it is called, 'Golgotha.'Jn. 19:17

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has laid upon him the iniquity of us all. Isa. 53:6

Christ indeed died for sins once for all, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones, so that he might bring us to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive [again] by the Spirit.1 Pet. 3:18

  1. What occurred at the sixth hour as Jesus hung on the cross? See Mk. 15:33-35. What is being emphasized by the fact that no one was able to understand the meaning of Jesus’ cry, “Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabachthani”? What was the Lord Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, experiencing as He hung on the cross of Calvary? It is to this extent that God demonstrated His love for sinful mankind: Jn. 3:16.

When the sixth hour Hof the day] arrived, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34At the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? (which, being interpreted, means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) 35Some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, said, Listen, he is calling for Elijah.Mk. 15:33-35

It is here that our Lord Jesus Christ “descended into hell:” In addition to the excruciating physical pain, there was total darkness and complete isolation—deprived of all human empathy, forsaken by God.

...for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. Jn. 3:16

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