These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, commentary, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Mark 15:21-41 Bible Study Commentary And Discussion Questions
The crucifixion of Jesus (21-32)
Jesus’ death on the cross (32-41)
I. The crucifixion of Jesus (21-32)
What did they have Simon do? Why might he have been in Jerusalem?
Why might the passage tell us the he is the father of Alexander and Rufus?
What is Golgotha?
What prophecies were fulfilled while Jesus was on the cross? (See cross-references)
What dialogue did Jesus have with the two thieves? What can we learn from this?
How was the crowd acting while this was going on?
What does Jesus’ self-control in not replying to their accusation in verse 31 and 32 teach us?
Matthew 27:52 – The tombs broke open and many saints came out.
Prophecies fulfilled by Jesus on the cross: From https://christianity.about.com/od/biblefactsandlists/a/Prophecies-Jesus.htm
Messiah would be hated without cause.
Messiah would be crucified with criminals.
Messiah would be given vinegar to drink.
Messiah’s hands and feet would be pierced.
Messiah would be mocked and ridiculed.
Soldiers would gamble for Messiah’s garments.
Messiah’s bones would not be broken.
Messiah would be forsaken by God.
Messiah would pray for his enemies.
Soldiers would pierce Messiah’s side.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Simon of Cyrene – Cyrene was a city in Libya, Northern Africa. There was a community of roughly 100,000 Jews there. It is very possible that Simon (since his name is likely Jewish) was a Jew visiting Jerusalem for the Passover. His two sons are also mentioned. This is very curious and would seem to point to the fact that they would be well-known by Mark’s readers in Rome. Thus they were probably believers well known in the church. Some believe that the Rufus Paul mentions in Romans 16:13 is the same one and he very well could be. Simon was merely a passer-by. He could have been drawn to the commotion and wanted to take a look to see what was going on. Then suddenly Roman soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. This surely wasn’t in his holiday plans! It was dirty, painful, arduous work to carry the cross. Even worse, it was a great indignity. Here he was being treated as a criminal when he hadn’t done anything (kind of like Jesus was). So what do we learn from Simon’s story?
A. Not everything that seems bad is. Romans 8:28. This was not the ideal way for Simon to spend his “vacation.” Most facing similar situations would complain and grow bitter and angry. Yet this event appears to have been integral in saving two of his children (which would also indicate that he himself was saved.) God had a purpose even for this. Next time you face an inconvenience remember the inconvenience Simon faced and how God used that in his life. Maybe He wants to use the inconvenience and trouble in your life as well. This is especially applicable to parents, who need to set a good example for their children in how to respond to difficulties. Our children will learn from us.
2. They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take any – While the majority of the crowd and soldiers were abusing and insulting Jesus there were some individuals who at times took compassion on Him and went against the flow. Two times he was offered something to drink and one of the two thieves also stood up for Jesus. Just because everyone else is doing something wrong doesn’t mean you have to join in. We should show sympathy when others don’t and stand for justice when it is being trampled on by the majority.
3. Verse 24 – This is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalms 22:18. There was no effort to give Jesus’ effects to His family members. Everything was fair game. At this point the soldiers seem to have complete control in Jesus’ punishment and are doing whatever they want with no oversight.
4. Verse 25 – Jesus was crucified at the third hour. This is 9:00 AM. Roman time keeping began at 6:00 AM in the morning. All of Jesus’ trials had been rushed and started from very early in the morning.
5. Verse 26 – See John 19:21. The religious leaders tried to have this inscription changed to say that Jesus said He was the King of Jews. Pilate wouldn’t have it. In order to preserve his dignity, he finally shows a little bit of spine. This the like the parent who finally relents by buying their sixteen year old son the sports car he has been asking for, but firmly draws the line by saying “No!” to a new paint job.
6. The two robbers – See Luke 23:39-43.
7. Come down and save yourself – Jesus is still able to talk on the cross. He talks to several people and says seven different things. But interestingly, not one time does He talk to any of the people accusing or mocking Him. He does not give one word of response to their accusations. It is not because He is too tired. He summoned the energy to talk to the thief who stood up for Jesus and to His mother. These insults do not deserve a response. Jesus demonstrated remarkable self-control in resisting the urge to argue with these fools or to give them a demonstration of His deity in the form of a lightning bolt from heaven. If it was me on the cross, I would have said, “Ok you don’t believe, watch this!” Fortunately for all of us, Jesus is not me. He is not only humble in meek in not replying, but also wise. It is wise firstly because no amount of signs would convince these hard hearted people. Secondly, He gives us a wise example of self control. For us once we start down the path of debate or arguing, it will be even harder to control ourselves in the middle of that argument. Generally a much better choice will be silence. For example if a relative or co-worker is hostile to your faith and just wants to argue about it, it may be better just to remain silent and not take the bait by getting involved in an argument that may lead you to say things you will regret later.
Jesus never did miracles just for the sake of showing He could. Many times unbelievers demanded signs of Jesus to prove who He was and He refused every time. This power was not a toy to twirl around and show off. It was serious and used for people who were serious-minded. This is a reminder that spiritual gifts are to be used to glorify God and edify the body and not for personal glory or showmanship. Our gifts, skills, and talents must always be used to bring people to God and not to say, “look at me.” This can apply to many Christian workers such as worship leaders and choir members, but many others as well.
Application: Before arguing/debating I should evaluate my motives. Wanting to prove myself or my intelligence is not a good reason. I should only engage in order to glorify God and win the hearts of people to Him.
II. Verses 33-41
What do the sixth and ninth hour refer to? What time is that?
List everything Jesus is recorded as saying while hanging on the cross. What can we learn about Jesus from this? What can we learn about His relationships with the people around Him? What can you learn that you need to apply to your own life?
Do you notice anything interesting about the moment of Jesus’ death?
How did the centurion respond to it? Why did he respond like this?
What happened at the moment of Jesus’ death? Why?
Jesus’ last words:
Luke 23:34 – Father, forgive them…
Luke 23:43 – Today you will be with me in paradise.
John 19:26-27 – Jesus talks to Mary and John.
Matthew 27:46 – Why hast thou forsaken me?
John 19:28 – “I am thirsty.”
John 19:30 – “’It is finished.”
Luke 23:46 – Into Your Hands I commit My spirit.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. The sixth hour – Noon.
2. Darkness fell – The longest solar eclipse in the 20th century was 6 minutes and 39 seconds. While Jesus was hanging on the cross darkness fell over the land for three hours. This was not just a solar eclipse. This was a super natural event. Darkness is a symbol for evil and for lies. Sometimes it also represents depression, grief, or sorrow. All of these are appropriate here. Mankind had just committed the worst evil in the history of the universe. They did it based on the biggest lie in the history of the universe (the lie that Jesus was a devil and not the Son of God.) It is the saddest event in the history of the world and God the Father must have been filled with infinite sorrow and grief as well. People had never descended further into sin or further from God than they did when they crucified His Son who came to save them. How do you feel when you read this? Where are you in this story?
3. My God, My God, Why have You Forsaken Me? – Most commentators agree that this was the worst of all the punishment and agony that Jesus endured. His perfect, eternal, and intimate relationship with the Father had been shattered and the one He had perfect harmony with was now pouring out wrath upon Him. There is nothing in our world that can compare to what Jesus felt at that time. But the following example can perhaps give you a taste of what Jesus felt.
Imagine a soldier who marries his childhood sweetheart. The couple love each other dearly. They do everything together. They dream and plan about the future. They laugh and sing. Then one day the soldier gets called to duty. He needs to fight for his country. He does many heroic deeds in the battle, but instead of receiving a heroes welcome the king accuses him of treason out of jealousy (like Saul did to David.) His close friend turns him in and the rest of his friends flee and refuse to stand up for him. But none of this matters so much to him. The betrayals and accusations of those around him pale in comparison to the love he has for his wife. She will come and the joy of seeing her will wipe away all his tears. One day she does come. But instead of embracing him and telling him everything will be OK, she is the first one to pick up a stone and cast at him. His last memory of this life is his wife angrily throwing a rock at him. Why? His heart is broken and he dies from despair even before the wounds from the rock take him.
4. The crowds’ reaction – Some thought He was calling for Elijah. It is not clear why they thought this, but clearly their theology needs some work. One more sympathetic individual ran to get him a drink (albeit of terrible tasting sour wine.)
5. Jesus breathed His last – The way Jesus died is clearly very remarkable. The centurion was very well acquainted with death and he considered it so amazing that he immediately became a believer in Jesus. Why? How did Jesus die? The text is not very clear, but it would seem that the way Jesus died showed His complete control over and dignity in the middle of the situation. It is almost as if Jesus chose to give up His life rather than having it forcibly taken from Him (which is of course what happened.) Jesus could have used His divine powers to hang on the cross forever without dying, but He didn’t. He made the conscious choice to give up His life just at that moment. See John 10:18.
What important lessons does the crucifixion teach us?
What do we learn about Jesus? What do we learn about people? What do we learn about God the Father?
In light of the passage today, what do you need to do? What do you need to obey? How should your life be changed?