Crucifixion in Mark: Close Reading Analysis

This post is an analysis regarding the Crucifixion and death of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark Verse 15:21-41 and also fulfills a course assignment to provide a close reading of a passage in the New Testament.

The overall theme of the Gospel of Mark is that Jesus is a healer, teacher, messiah and most prominently the Son of God.  He is viewed in a very holistic way; his followers identify him as an individual with great power and great knowledge; and all of the Gospels support that claim as well. Also, all the Gospels imply that Jesus is God’s son. Thus when analyzing his crucifixion, it is expected that Jesus has the power to control the circumstances of those events. You would think that Jesus knew his death was coming as a form of sacrifice that must occur in order to fulfill the prophecy of God. However, not all Gospels portrayed Jesus in that light, thus the meaning behind Jesus’ crucifixion can be viewed in many different ways. One of those differences is very evident when looking at how the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke portray Jesus’ imminent death.

Throughout the passage in Mark, readers may feel that Jesus did not expect his death to come when it did, especially through his statement “God why have you forsaken me?”.  This is the last thing that Jesus says before his imminent death in which he sacrifices himself for the good of the people.  The statement is depicting Jesus’ overall belief that he has been abandoned by his Father and that this final cry shows that his humanity has come to an end and he has been forsaken.  This desertion from God also leads to a desertion from his followers and disciples because they allowed him to be put to death in the end.  Jesus’ last words can be seen in a multitude of ways but this was the overall seperation of Jesus and God for the first time in eternity. It is implies that Jesus blames his death on God, thus further implying that he does not agree with why he must die which contradicts other passages. For example in the previous passages (around 14:24) Jesus reveals that he has been sent down for a reason.  Verse 14:24 states, “He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many.”  Taking into context what Jesus was going through, it does make sense that contradictions in his words did arise. Jesus suffered a very painful death, and it is quite possible that he experienced doubt due to the excruciating pain that he was feeling even though he knew he had to die as part of God’s plan for him.

This in comparison to the Gospel of Luke is greatly different. In Luke, the crucifixion is largely revolved around the political reasons behind Jesus’s death.  The author begins with bringing up the actual political charges that Jesus is facing. For example, the bible verse states “There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the king of the Jews’. One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!'”.  One can see how the crucifixion is much more politically focused in Luke.  There is a large controversy between the Jews and the Romans due to their differences in culture.  From this the Romans are mad that Jesus is somewhat disrupting the peace leading to more conflict and a possible crash of the empire.

There are many small differences in the two Gospels, yet these differences cause a huge comparison to the overall theme and meaning of the crucifixion.  The differentiation of both Gospels is clear when looking at how Jesus reacted to his own death. As explained earlier, in Mark Jesus did not expect his imminent death. On the other side, in Luke Jesus seemed to be very aware of his future and what was to come. He remained calm and accepted the upcoming events. In Luke 23:46, the passage states “Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last breath.” Whether Jesus had been told that his personal sacrifice was on the horizon, does not change the fact that we do not have any evidence of his personal reaction to the crucifixion. By jesus being so calm, the Jesus in Luke proves to be close to his father, he is at peace with himself and he is ok to die because he has completed his mission.

After re-reading this specific passage a few times through, many other hidden meanings and symbols were revealed to me.  As stated earlier, in Luke the passage was viewed as a more political statement. Overall, crucifixion his a form of political punishment, yet in the Gospel of Mark the author depicts it as a symbol of sacrifice by  the Son of God for humanity. The main message in Mark is to repent and prepare for the Kingdom of God.  Many of the passages in this Gospel of Mark show that Jesus knew he was going to be killed at the end of his mission on Earth. Because Jesus talks about his death so much it is easy to say that Mark is the most apocalyptic of the passages in the New Testament.  Possibly, Jesus talked about his death so much in order to prepare his disciples for what would come after it.  In Verse 38, there is a slight foreshadowing of what the disciples can expect.  The verse states “And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”  This may suggest that the death of Jesus made access to God possible for all humanity because Jesus’ death broke down the walls separating God and humanity.  This analysis sheds a positive light on Jesus’ death and emphasized that Jesus had to die in order to make the world a better place.

Currier Crucifixion of Jesus
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ alongside two convicted thieves at Golgotha, outside the walls of Ancient Jerusalem. (Wikimedia)