Mark 15 outlines what is most likely one of the most well known portions of scripture as well as one of the most difficult to read as Jesus is delivered to Pilote, sentenced to death, and brutally beaten, mocked, and nailed to a wooden cross, which ultimately led to His death by crucifixion.
Even in a society over run with advertisements for the Easter Bunny and all the fun of hiding and finding those colorful plastic eggs filled with sweet and sugary goodness, most have at least heard a bit about the story of this man called Jesus who died on the cross or, at the very least, have seen a cross or crucifixion scene hanging somewhere in a home, in an art museum, or even in the home decor isle when out shopping at their local WalMart.
With the image of the cross being so prominent in society it is easy to glance over it and miss the true weight of what it truly symbolizes - the moment that Jesus stood in the gap for each of us, bringing about forgiveness for our sins, redemption for our souls, and making a way for us to come into relationship with our heavenly Father. And though that in and of itself is more than enough to be remembered and celebrated, when we take the time to truly study the 47 verses of Mark 15 we begin to discover another layer of Christ's mission and purpose as He walked that painful, difficult, and selfless road to Golgotha. Obviously there are many truths we could pull out of this passage of scripture but in our time today I am going to focus on one key truth that I find often gets overlooked in this passage and that is Jesus’ impact on - not mocking crowd, not his malicious accusers, and not his mysteriously absent comrades, the disciples, but rather one single person - Pontius Pilote.
As Mark chapter 15 opens we find Jesus coming before Pilate and you can tell Pilate is trying to determine what crimes this man may have committed that have brought him into his court that day. He even plainly asks Jesus in verse 4 “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.”
In saying this Pilate is essentially urging Jesus to clear His name. You see, Pilote has come across many true criminals in his time but this man Jesus was different. Even when hearing the list of accusations that are being made by some of the most respected leaders in the area he can’t seem to believe what is being said.
But even after being given additional chances and even encouragement to get out of this mess of a situation, verse 5 tells us “But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.”
Let’s take a moment to unpack that word “amazed”. Some translations say “Pilate was surprised” or “Pilate marveled”. Another word that could be used here is astonished or impressed. This bold choice of words stands out to me in this passage and begs the question…why was Pilate so amazed at Jesus’ silence?
I think he was likely amazed for many reasons, but for the sake of time today I am going to just focus on one.
Up until this point Jesus has spent His entire adult life talking! You would find him teaching in the synagogues, talking with sinners and tax collectors over a casual meal, speaking to literal thousands, picnic style, on the side of a hill while everyone munched on some bread and fish, and even moments before He was arrested, in the Garden of Gethsemane talking to, or maybe more accurately, pleading with His heavenly father.
In fact, when you really look at it, it is rare to find a time when Jesus is truly in a state of
silence. But now, in this life or death situation, when sparing His life literally depends on
some deep, moving, and profound words, that we find Jesus 100% completely without words. No arguments. No defense. No preaching or teaching or declaring the promises of His father. Just humble and intentional silence.
I have a feeling the silence in that moment was almost deafening. I would venture to say it would be baffling no matter who was standing trial. But in Jesus case it would truly be amazing and surprising and would cause most, if not all, of us to marvel.
So that begs the question - why did Jesus, in that moment of all moments, choose silence?
Well, if you remember, as a supreme judge, a big part of Pilates job was to hear the case of criminals and cast down their punishment. He even had the power to inflict capital punishment. In my study of Pontius Pilate I discovered that it was often said of him that “What he couldn’t negotiate he is said to have accomplished through brute force.” So that means, on the regular, Pilate is hearing the frantic cries and excuses made by the guilty who are desperate to escape what they fear is certain death and he is definitely not hesitant in handing down severe and harsh punishment. Now, most of these criminals were likely not skilled and practiced in the art of rhetoric and speech. But that didn’t stop them from passionately pleading their case.
Yet, here we find Jesus, a man Pilate believes to be innocent and one who is well versed as a teacher and speaker, not using His gift and opportunity to plead his case. Why?
I think one Bible commentator put it beautifully when they wrote “The silence of a blameless life pleads more powerfully than any defense, however elaborate.”
You see, in that moment, Jesus wasn’t just looking through the cross to a future that holds you and I. He was, in that moment, also thinking of Pilate, a man standing right in front of him. If you remember, Pilate obviously believes Jesus is innocent and does not want to have innocent blood on his hands by sending down the ultimate punishment - death. There was something stirring in Pilates spirit and mind that no one else could see.
1 Samuel 16:7b says “...for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Isn’t that so like Jesus? Even when He’s about to walk into the greatest level of suffering anyone had ever or would ever experience, as He takes on all of our sin and suffering and the brokenness of this world and is brutally beaten and nailed to the cross, His concern isn’t about saving Himself, defending Himself, or even feeling sorry for himself. His concern is for the one. The one in the room who is seeing the Fathers love and compassion through silence. And because of that silence “Pilate was amazed”.
The scriptures don’t tell us what happened to Pilate. There is much speculation over whether he ever became a Christian, especially since he, as a ruler, was commonly known for being “cruel and unfair”. But no matter what future decision Pontius Pilate did or did not make, Christ's mission remained the same...
As Matthew 18 verse 12 tells us, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?”
His cause, His mission, His passion has always been and will always be for “the one”.
You see, when the crowds are yelling untruths and the world around you seems to be spiraling into chaos. When life is overbearing and when you feel all alone. Just as it was with Pilate - in it all and through it all - He sees you. He hears you. He knows you. And He’s reaching out to you.
For those of you who know me you know that I love music! In fact that is true for every member of my little family. It is rare to find our home not filled with some form or music emanating from at least one (and many times from more than one) room at any given time throughout the day. And with this constant serenade of songs filling our home, music also freely flows from our hearts on the regular. It is actually a VERY common occurrence for me to bust out into a random song in the middle of a conversation or even in the middle of our family bible time. The words I hear inevitably remind me of a song I know and before I know it the entire family is getting to “enjoy” my incredibly random serenade.
So, in true me fashion, as I was preparing today’s devotion I had a song that kept popping into my head over and over and I can’t think of a better way to close out our time today than by sharing a few of the lyrics from the song “You Don’t Miss a Thing” with you.
“What a wondrous thing
I can stand to sing
Cause when I fall to my knees,
You’re the One who pulls me up again.
What a mystery
That You notice me
And in a crowd of ten thousand
You don’t miss a thing.”
Friends, as you continue to dive into the power of the hope found in Mark chapter 15 today I pray that you won’t just see Jesus as the guy who died on the cross for your sins but also as the Father who sees you, the Friend who notices you, the Comforter reaching out to you, right where you are - in the middle of your doubts, your fears, your mess - and lean into the hope, truth and freedom found in Romans 5:8:
“But God shows His love for us in that WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us.”
As you read through this passage of scripture today I encourage you to take time to dwell on each and every verse. Take time to let the weight of what Christ did for all of us soak in. Then take time to offer up a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, not only for His sacrifice that day on the cross but also for the never ending outpouring of love and grace and acceptance and hope that He continually pours out on us so freely. And finally, take a moment to ask the Lord to, first, show you the ONE in the “crowds” of life that you can extend that same love, grace, acceptance, and hope to today and second, give you the boldness to step out and be the hands and feet of Jesus to them today.