Jesus had two trials, a religious one and a civil one. The religious one was overseen by Annas, then Caiaphas; the civil one by Pilate, then Herod, then Pilate again (Luke 23:6-12). Jesus had kept his claim to Messiahship low key until now. Hid first response is “I am,” but later it is very bold (v62).
Although “following” Jesus is normally a physically close experience, now for the first time, someone is following Jesus “from a distance.” The literal meaning suggests a actual distance between Peter and Jesus. But the notion of “following” in Mark’s Gospel almost always means more than merely walking beside someone. It suggests loyalty and allegiance. Peter was still following Jesus, but he want to distance himself from Jesus to ensure that he was safe from the danger. Peter has permitted distance to develop in his relationship with Jesus. He denies his Lord . . . three times. He thought he was protected from the danger, but found that more danger lurks when distance separates us from the Lord.
Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea (26-36 AD). He lived in Caesarea, and travelled to Jerusalem during festivals when he stayed in the late Herod the Great’s palace. Herod Antipas was governor of Galilee, though he too made the trip to Jerusalem for the festivals. Luke records that when Pilate learned that Jesus was a Galilean, he sent Him to Herod (the Galilean governor) since he was in town. Herod then sends Jesus back to Pilate, who ultimately sentences Jesus to crucifixion.
They chose to release Barabbas over Jesus. It is ironic that when Jesus proved to be a different type of Saviour than the one they wanted, they chose to replace Him with one who was what they wanted – a political insurgent. Many thought Jesus, as the Messiah, would lead a revolt and conquer Rome – although he didn’t; Barabbas had been a failed revolutionary and yet still lived. This is the challenge: Do we follow Jesus as he is, or Jesus as we hope he might be?
Mark’s story of the release of Barabbas paints a vivid picture of what Jesus did for you and me. Barabbas had been judged and legally condemned. Barabbas was guilty. Barabbas deserved death. Barabbas could do nothing to free himself. Jesus took the place of Barabbas and died on Barabbas’ cross. Barabbas was released. I am Barabbas.
Flogging was not necessarily a part of crucifixion. Pilate was probably trying to stop the crowd from pursuing the demand to crucify Jesus (John 19:4-5). When they persisted, though, he had no choice.
Mark 15:16 describes the whole scene. Hundreds of soldiers were involved. They struck him on the head with the staff after they had placed the crown of thorns on his head. Mockery ensued, beatings, and so on. The crucifixion of Jesus was a lengthy, painful process, not a point in time. Perhaps the psychologically most painful part of the episode was their kneeling before Jesus in mockery, though it certainly foreshadowed everyone’s kneeling before Him one day (Phil. 2:10-11).