Red Letter Year: 3/1

Mark 15:16-32

16 The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. 17 They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. 18 Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 19 And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. 20 When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

21 A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) 22 And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). 23 They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.

Duke Chapel stations24 Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece. 25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 A sign announced the charge against him. It read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

29 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. 30 Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

31 The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.


I am calling this “Red Letter Year” because we’re spending the whole year reading slowly and (hopefully) carefully through the Gospels, putting our devotional focus squarely on Jesus. A main part of this is paying close attention to all that Jesus said, which some Bibles put in red font (a feature I am personally fond of). It won’t happen often that a whole reading goes by with no red letters, but when it does (like today), that doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t saying something. As the old adage says, actions speak louder than words. Right here, Jesus is saying volumes. About love, commitment, trust, perseverance and…. Actually, what is Jesus saying to you in this passage?

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Red Letter Year: 2/28

Mark 15:1-15

15 Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law—the entire high council—met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.

Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner—anyone the people requested. One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual.

“Would you like me to release to you this ‘King of the Jews’?” Pilate asked. 10 (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 11 But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. 12 Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”

13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

14 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”

But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

15 So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.


You can come away from the Gospels thinking Pilate was an okay guy. That he wanted justice, wanted to set the innocent free, but was forced by the mob to hand Jesus over (when we get to Matthew, he even washes his hands). Don’t be fooled. Pilate was a piece of work. He was recalled to Rome and reprimanded by two different emperors for his violent abuse of the Jews under his governance. When your brutality shocks the likes of Tiberius, you are a thug. Pilate went out of his way to bait the Jewish people and then met resistance with lethal force. There is no reason to think Pilate was especially interested in justice on this occasion; more likely he enjoyed how agitated the religious leaders were because of Jesus and wanted to use that tension as an occasion to crack down and further subjugate the people. Jesus shows an absolute unwillingness to be used in such a way. Whatever Pilate hoped to accomplish, it is both Jesus and  the religious leaders who use him to get what they want – an immediate execution. This remains true: Jesus resists being used by those in power as a tool for the oppression and subjugation of others. This happens, but only through a grotesque distortion of the Gospel. That’s why Anglican slavers didn’t allow the Gospel shared with their cargo, because where the Gospel is truly shared the Spirit is the one really doing the sharing. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.