Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. This week I take a look at how Jesus Seals The New Covenant. In the forty-seven verses of this 15th chapter of Mark we see Jesus before Pilate, Pilate handing Jesus over to be crucified, the soldiers mocking Jesus, The crucifixion of Jesus, The death of Jesus, and the burial of Jesus. In this text we see a crowd ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus. Only a few days ago a great crowd had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest. Perhaps the crowd is the same; perhaps it’s a different crowd. I think one point we can take away from this lesson is that crowds can’t be trusted. Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms:
Son of God
Son of Man
This week we continue to focus on how the New Covenant came to be. With that in mind I’ll provide some background on Mark the person, a bit more on the book of Mark, and then a bit more on this week’s chapter of study.
Who’s Who In The Bible notes that “the second century Christian writer Papias first recorded the tradition that this gospel was written by Mark”. This Mark would have been a follower of Peter name Mark (I Peter 5:13). The New Interpreter’s Study Bible adds that “Augustine seems not to have known this tradition, for he argued that the Gospel of Mark was merely an abbreviation of the Gospel of Matthew”. Additionally, “Jerome, the translator of the Bible into Latin, believed that the author of Mark was John Mark of Acts 15:37-38 (NISB). This is the same Mark who’s other name was John in Acts 12:12. John would have been his Hebrew name and Mark would have been his Latin Name. Having two names like this was a common practice for Hellenized Jews (WWITB). This is the same Mark who accompanied his cousin Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey. When Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem it displeased Paul because when Barnabas asked that Mark go with them on a second missionary journey Paul refused (WWITB). Acts 15:39 tells us this refusal created a sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas. The writer of this Gospel may also be associated with Peter who referred to him as “my son” in I Peter 5:13. However, most modern scholars are hesitant to make this link (NISB). With that in mind, “The Gospel of Mark, like the other canonical Gospels, probably originally circulated anonymously among Christian groups” (NISB). In other words we cannot definitively know who the author is.
The book of Mark was likely written “in the decade of 65 to 75 Common Era when Nero’s persecutions of Christians in Rome was soon followed by the first Jewish-Roman war. In this war Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans” (NISB). Most scholars agree that Mark is the first Gospel to be written. It is written to suit the needs of Christians under persecution. This Gospel does not mention the name of its author and it is not written as a letter to anyone in particular. Mark intends to portray Jesus as a Servant Redeemer. “Mark shows his Gentile readers how the Son of God – rejected by his own people – achieved ultimate victory through apparent defeat” (Nelson’s Bible Handbook).
The forty-seven verses of this fifteenth chapter of Mark show us
Jesus before Pilate
Pilate handing Jesus over to be crucified
The soldiers mocking Jesus
The crucifixion of Jesus
The death of Jesus
And the burial of Jesus.
Our Scripture text is interspersed through most of this chapter. Some important words to consider from these two texts include:
Son of God
Son of Man
King of the Jews
Review Of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week our lesson came from two separate texts in the New Testament but the Hebrews text was really a long quote from the Old Testament. We studied parts of Mark 14th chapter and Hebrews 8th chapter. The text in Mark began with the 14th chapter 17th verse where Jesus and the twelve disciples were gathered together for the evening Passover meal. As they ate the Passover meal Jesus told his disciples one of them would betray him.
Distressed, upset, and sorrowful the disciples took turns asking “is it I”. Jesus explained “it is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me”. We mentioned how the NISB noted that “Dipping bread into the bowl emphasized the bond of hospitality and intimacy that was about to be broken by betrayal”.
We discussed verses twenty-two through twenty-four where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper otherwise known as Holy Communion. We also discussed verse twenty-four where “He said to them, this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”. This was where Jesus mentioned the covenant that was the basis for the new and better covenant mentioned in the text in Hebrews. That closed the discussion of Mark and then we skipped to Hebrews 8.
Hebrews 8:6 began by explaining that Jesus was the mediator of a better covenant with better promises. We noted that verse seven explained if the first covenant had been faultless, there would be no need to look for a second one. No one could keep all the rules and regulations of the Old Testament. But more importantly, this new covenant would replace the practice of animal sacrifices. Jesus was the one sacrifice for all eternity to absolve or release humanity of the consequences of sin and separation from God.
This week’s lesson is the second lesson of the Summer quarter and the second lesson in the Gospel According To Mark. We will return to Hebrews in the third week of the quarter. The focus for each lesson remains on the idea of covenant and specifically the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ. The aim of this week is to show us how Jesus Seals the New Covenant. As the Nation of Israel rejects Jesus he is turned over to Pontius Pilate for crucifixion. It is the sacrificial death of Jesus that seals the covenant and establishes our relationship with God. Standard Lesson Commentary, Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary all title this week’s lesson Jesus Seals The New Covenant. The scripture text comes from Mark 15:6-15, 25-26, and 33-39.
What Takes Place in This Passage:
This Gospel is probably written in the decade of 65 to 75 Common Era. The events of this chapter take place thirty-five to forty-five years earlier. Mark 15:6 begins by reminding us that it was customary for Pilate to release a prisoner. This was customary during the Passover feast. It could have been any prisoner. Barabbas was in prison with people who had committed murder during the insurrection. So Barabbas was likely charged with murder whereas Jesus was charged with insurrection.
It should be noted that “the Jewish council had the power to put offenders they condemned to death. So this second trial on different charges before Roman authorities seems unnecessary” (NISB). It also seems remarkable that this crowd would ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus. Only a few days ago a great crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest. Perhaps the crowd is the same; perhaps it’s a different crowd. I think one point for us to take away is that crowds can’t be trusted.
It’s important to also note that ultimately it is the Roman government that crucifies Jesus not the Jewish council leaders. That’s an important distinction. Across the centuries people have used this event to provoke anti-Jewish feelings in those who blame the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion. While it’s true the Jewish council turned Jesus over to Roman authorities, it cannot be said that the Jews crucified Jesus.
Verse 25 identifies the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. The third hour was nine o’clock in the morning. It was 9AM when they crucified him. Verse 26 was the charge against him. Although it read “The King of the Jews” the crime was insurrection. He was charged with being king in Caesar’s place.
Verses 33 through 39 speak to the death of Jesus. The sixth hour is 12 o’clock noon. The ninth hour is 3PM. It was at 3PM when Jesus cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. In this text, these are the last words Jesus speaks before his death, burial, and resurrection. When the some of the bystanders hear his cry they think he is calling for Elijah. After someone filled a sponge with sour wine and gave it to him to drink they said “wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down”.
In verse 37 Jesus breathes his last breath. In verse 38 the text leads us to believe that the curtain of the temple was immediately torn in two from top to bottom. This tearing of the curtain is significant. It symbolizes the new direct access to God through Jesus Christ. Now the high priest no longer needs to enter into the holiest of holies on our behalf. Now we have direct access through this New Covenant with Jesus Christ.
Verse 39 closes our lesson text with the centurion proclaiming “Truly this man was God’s Son”! It is the Roman centurion that proclaims Jesus as God’s son.
Anti-Semitism is opposition to or hatred of Jews. It may take the form of discrimination, arrest, or extermination. Throughout Christian history anti-Semitism has been a real problem spread by the view that Jews crucified Jesus. It’s important that all Christians prevent the spread of this false narrative. Although rejected by his own people, It was the Roman government that crucified Jesus. The good news is the crucifixion, the willing sacrifice of Jesus was part of God’s plan. Through this sacrifice now all of humanity has direct access to God through Jesus Christ.
Key Characters in the text:
Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity. He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God.
Barabbas – a man who had been arrested and sentenced to death by crucifixion for insurrection against Rome and murder. He was freed by Pilate, instead of Jesus, at the request of the crowd during the Passover feast.
Pilate – The Roman governor of Judea from about 26 to 37 Common Era. Pontius Pilate presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered his execution.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Son of God – An individual who stands in a special relationship with God is a son or child of God (Gal 4:6-7). The concept is used in the Old Testament for Israel as a nation, David, and kings. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is God unique Son.
Son of Man – A Hebrew or Aramaic expression that may be a synonym for humankind or refer to an apocalyptic figure who will judge the righteous and unrighteous at the end time. It is also used as a title for Jesus in each sense.
Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:
1. What shall I do with him? (see vs 12)
2. The Centurion called Him Son of God. What do you call Him?
1. The title of our lesson is Jesus Seals The New Covenant. What is the seal?
2. Mark 15:10 identifies the chief priests as the ones who handed Jesus over to Pilate but it was the Romans that crucified Jesus. Why should Christians refuse to entertain the idea that the Jews crucified Jesus?
We’ve been focused on how the New Covenant came into existence. The short answer is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ in Calvary’s cross. But just as important is the fact that this New Covenant brings reconciliation. We are reconciled to God through the grace of Christ on Calvary. If God would go this far for our reconciliation, shouldn’t we also do the work of reconciliation with our family members, friends, and acquaintances?
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week we return to the book of Hebrews. As we focus on how the New Covenant came to be I will bring the New Covenant’s sacrifice into view. That sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It’s this same sacrifice that gives us hope to look forward. I Corinthians 15:17 reminds us “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”. The good news is that Christ is risen and we have salvation through his sacrifice.