Mark 15:1-20 – Jesus: The King of Kings

What do you imagine when you picture Jesus? Do you picture Him as a man in His 30s with dark hair, a beard, and a robe – people following Him as He teaches and performs miracles? Do you picture Him as a baby in a manger? Or perhaps do you picture Him on the cross?

There are many facets to Jesus. You will never completely understand Him. You can see Jesus as a healer, a teacher, the Savior, the Lord – and all these things are true.

Today, we’re going to look at Jesus as King. Jesus is the King who was dishonored by everyone but who will one day be honored by everyone. We pick up the story in Mark 15.

Jesus is Accused as a King

In Mark 15:1-5, we see that Jesus was accused as a King. The chief priests got together and took Jesus to Pilate (v. 1). “And Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ And he answered him, ‘You have said so.’ And the chief priests accused him of many things” (vv. 2-3).

Pilate accused Jesus of being a King, and He answered, “You have said so.” In John’s version, we find a more in-depth conversation in which Jesus tried to explain that He was a King, but not like Pilate was thinking (John 18:33-38). In Mark’s version, all that Jesus says is basically, “Those are your words, not mine.”

Apart from God revealing it to us, we can’t fathom the nature of Jesus’ Kingship. Jesus is the King of the Jews. But He’s also the King of the Romans and the King of everyone. So the Jewish officials and Pilate should have submitted to Him as King, but they didn’t.

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Jesus is Condemned as a King

Jesus was accused and also condemned as a King. This is what we see in verses 6-15:

“Now at the feast [Pilate] used to release for them one prisoner whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas.”

– vv. 6-7

Apparently there was an insurrection in which some of the Jews had attacked the Romans, and Barabbas was put in custody because of being part of that. Now, the crowd went up to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner (v. 8), so he asks, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” (v. 9).

As we read on, we learn that the chief priests stirred everyone up to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus (vv. 10-15). And so Pilate gave in.

Why would they ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus? It makes sense if you think about it. When the crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as a King, they didn’t anticipate or want the kind of King He would prove to be. They weren’t looking for a king whose kingdom would transcend all kingdoms – they wanted a king who would lead them out of Roman oppression.

People had thought Jesus might be the guy who would overthrow Rome. But here He stood bloodied and abandoned by all His followers. He surrendered willingly and without a fight, and was apparently defeated. Barabbas, though, was willing to kill and had fought bravely against the Romans. So it makes sense that people chose him over Jesus.

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Jesus is Mocked as a King

After Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified, the soldiers led Him away and mocked Him. They “clothed him in a purple cloak” and made Him a crown of thorns (v. 17). Then they sarcastically saluted him with “Hail, King of the Jews!” (v. 18). They knelt in homage to Him, mocked Him, beat Him and then led him off to be crucified (vv. 19-20).

Jesus, the King of everyone was dishonored by everyone. Why would we follow Him? Why would the New Testament writers make this so prominent and report on this so truthfully? It looked like Satan had won – Jesus was defeated.

Why Do We Follow Jesus?

Throughout Scripture, we see that Jesus was not dishonored because He was powerless to stop it – it was because He was strong. These events took place because God wanted them to. They were, as Acts 4:28 says, what “[God’s] hand and [God’s] plan had predestined to take place.”

Jesus was also dishonored to save us. He bore “our griefs and carried our sorrows … pierced for our transgressions … crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Our sins brought this about. Jesus was dishonored in our place.

We follow Jesus because, one day “every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10). It’s a fact. And it’s also the good news of Christianity: the King is coming to punish everyone who does not acknowledge Him, but He has made a way for people to be forgiven and granted full citizenship in His kingdom. Christians are those who honor Jesus as King now.

Honor Jesus as the King. In your decisions ask, “What will honor the King?” In your priorities, relationships, work and word choices ask, “What will best honor and reflect the dignity of my King?” Live as someone who follows the King of kings.

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Discussion Starters

  • Thinking of Pilate, the chief priests, the disciples and the crowd, what are some ways people misunderstood who Jesus was? Similarly, how might we misunderstand Jesus?
  • Why did the crowd choose Barabbas over Jesus?
  • How have you (as an individual) and we (as a church) allowed peer and cultural pressure to influence Christian life?
  • Why do you follow Jesus?
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