The Powerless One? Studying Mark 15

prisoner with hands on bars

prisoner with hands on barsPhoto by Damir Spanic on Unsplash


We’re continuing our study of the Gospel of Mark today, a study that is following the preaching schedule at Rincon Mountain Presbyterian Church. Mark 15 places Jesus in the eye of the storm. He is the powerless one, who seems to be at the mercy of the swirling plots and sudden action. Notice the time stamp, “As soon as it was morning…” and feel the tornado begin.

Have you ever felt powerless? Usually we fight that feeling, trying one thing after another until we finally run out of options. But even then, we may have one more card up our sleeve. When you’re powerless, your final tactic is to refuse to cooperate.

We’ve all watched it on the evening news. A man on trial refuses to testify. A group of protestors refuses to move. A prisoner refuses to eat. It’s the only power they have left to wield.

Years ago I read a report about the hunger strikes that occurred at Guantanamo Bay on two separate occasions. Starting with a handful of prisoners, the first incidence in 2005 grew to over 50 who were refusing food as a protest against being detained without being charged for crimes. Shortly after, a second strike brought the total number to between 150 and 200. What politicians failed to do, the hunger strikers were able to accomplish. Media attention grew and public pressure began to follow.

Passivity is a power play for the powerless.

Passivity is a power play for the powerless.

Not Powerless, But Meek

As we read Mark 15, it might look like Jesus has begun a form of passive resistance. He speaks only once to Pilate, in answer to a direct question. His silence in answer to further accusations is utterly baffling. He offers no explanation, no defense. Even a veteran ruler like Pilate was amazed.

Instead of fighting back, Jesus seems to go passive, allowing his enemies to do with him as they please. He is passed from one to the next like some kind of package, until he reaches his terrible destination. First, the Council “delivers him over to Pilate.” Next Pilate delivers him over to the mob. After that, the mob demands his death. Finally, Pilate delivers him to be crucified.

But was this the passive resistance of the powerless? No. Matthew tells us that Jesus could call on his Father at any moment and be delivered by an army of angels (Matthew 26:53). His silence and submission and refusal to drink the myrrh laced wine wasn’t a last ditch protest. It was absolute power under absolute control.

He decided to die. His submission was meekness, not weakness.

This was the submission to the Father’s will that Jesus had fought for in the Garden of Gethsemane. He laid down his life willingly for us. It was the ultimate obedience. He died, not just at the hands of his friends who forsook him, not just at the hands of his enemies who betrayed, mocked, and crucified him, but at the hands of his Father, whose will it was that he be crushed so we could be forgiven.

The Truly Powerless Ones

The chief priests must have felt their powerlessness keenly. They had no authority to carry out their rage. They had to grovel and ask Pilate to fulfill their secret plot. How it must have stung to have to bring Jesus to Pilate for the death sentence. One more humiliation for the Jews.

Yet in God’s plan, this moment showed the unity of all humanity in opposing the LORD and his Christ. Jew and Gentile alike are guilty. As Paul was to say several years later, “None is innocent. No not one.”

Who is the truly powerless one in this scene? The chief priests and their party, for one. They are held in the power of envy, a motive hidden to themselves, but obvious to Pilate. Who else is powerless? Pilate himself is bowing to public opinion. Obsessed with maintaining power, he gives them what they want. Not only that, but the crowd who have been stirred up by their leaders, they are powerless against being turned into a mob, demanding the death of the one who had taught and healed and fed them.

Finally, you and I are the powerless ones in this story. Ashamed by the secret sins and obvious vices in our lives, we try and try again to free ourselves. We make resolutions and set goals and punish ourselves and vow to do better. And then we don’t. We can’t.

In the middle of the whirlwind of the powerless stands the calm center. The Righteous One is ready to bear, not only the wrath of man, but the wrath of God. By becoming powerless, he will set us free.

How many times have you and I read the crucifixion accounts? Their familiarity can dull us. As you study this week, be amazed, like Pilate was.

Day 1: Context — Read Exodus 12:42 and review the events of the night before in Mark 14.

  1. According to Exodus 12:42, what did the LORD do during the night of Passover? How were the people to celebrate that aspect of their salvation?
  2. How was this a night of watching? For the disciples? For Jesus?
  3. What temptation did Jesus overcome by watching and praying?

Day 2: Observation — Read Mark 15 and observe the details of Jesus’ rejection and suffering.

  1. Who rejected him in Mark 15:1-15? What was the reason for each of the 3 rejections?
  2. What abuses did Jesus suffer from the soldiers? Record what “they” did starting as recorded in Mark 15:16-25.
  3. What mockery did he endure while hanging on the cross? What was the irony of their words? Mark 15:26-32.
  4. What one sentence does Mark record from Jesus’ lips? How was this the ultimate suffering?
  5. What two things happened immediately after he died?

Day 3: Meaning — Read Mark 15 as a story of passion, not powerlessness.

  1. Why was Jesus condemned? Whose condemnation did he take? (Romans 8:1)
  2. Why was Jesus rejected? Who is now welcomed? (Romans 15:7)
  3. Why was he forsaken by the Father? Who is now beloved by the Father? (John 14:23)
  4. Why was he silent before his accusers? Who now bears witness? (Acts 1:8)

Day 4: Application — Read Mark 15 as a message of comfort for your sins and help for your needs.

  1. What sins are troubling you today? Nail them to the cross and celebrate your freedom. Sing to your Savior!
  2. What needs are you aware of in yourself or others? Run through the torn curtain straight into the Father’s presence and ask.
  3. Who do you know that needs to hear about the passionate love of Jesus? Seek the Spirit for an opportunity and the boldness to speak clearly.

Have a blessed week contemplating the cross of Christ. All the grace you need was paid for that day.  Find the Mark 15 application post here. Find previous Gospel of Mark posts here.