Jesus’ Pursuit of the Cross

I have the privilege of leading each cohort of M.Div. students through Mark’s gospel. While there are many wonderful passages in Mark, one always stands out to me – Mark 14:53-15:15. Peter denies Christ, as predicted, in 14:66-72, but on either side is a trial account. It is these trials that interest me most in this article.

Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin

We learn that Jesus appears before the high priest (v. 53). The religious leaders not only arrested Jesus but gathered the necessary individuals to conduct a trial. They, apparently, had been planning most of the day. They invited everyone who might have a story to tell about Jesus (v. 55). Remarkably, the leadership was unable to satisfy the condition that “based on two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed” (Num 35:30; Deut 17:6, 19:15). Even those who shared false testimony (vv. 56-57) could not manage to get their story straight.

One can only imagine how frustrated the council must have been. They finally have Jesus under their control, they have invited every scoundrel in the city to the party, and they cannot find two people to tell the same story. Even when people discuss an actual event (v. 58) they cannot agree (v. 59). Will all this planning result in nothing? Will they release Jesus because they cannot satisfy their own crooked plans and fulfill their devious purposes?

Verse 60 is legitimately hilarious. “Do you not answer?” “What is it that these men are testifying against you?” It is a total bluff. Jesus responds with silence. The high priest knows he has a massive problem. He has no charge that will satisfy the people — and he will need them later that day! He cannot even bluff his way to satisfying the two-witness testimony requirement. Therefore, he does the only thing he has left, he asks the question, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

Mark’s gospel explains that Jesus refused to let the demons or people tell others who he was. It is often referred to as the “Markan Secret.” Scholars view the secret as a combination of attitudes starting with Jesus will reveal who he is in all his glory when he is ready.

In Mark 14:62 all Jesus must do is remain silent. Without his testimony or the testimony of two witnesses the chief priest has nothing. He has no grounds to hold him or to condemn him. But amazingly enough, Jesus speaks!

Not only does he speak, but he responds by citing the truths found in Daniel 7:13-14 and Psalm 110:1. Some will equate the “I am” in v. 62 with the episode at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14 where the Lord reveals his name/character. But even without that detail, the quotations of Daniel and Psalms make it clear – Jesus is calling himself God. With that, the chief priest needs nothing more. He does not need additional witnesses nor the false witnesses he invited to the trial. He has Jesus saying it himself!

Instead of speaking, Jesus could walk away silently. Yet, he gives the chief priest everything he needed. With the blasphemy charge in hand, he knows he can win over the crowd. He has a real charge following the rule of witnesses (through a confession). They now have reason to put him to death. However, since Rome ruled, there were very restrictive guidelines on capital crimes. Thus, they needed Pilate to finish their mission.

Jesus before Pilate

In v. 2 the religious leaders changed the charge of “blasphemy” (Pilate would not have cared about that) to insurrection. Instead of asking Jesus whether he claimed to be God, Pilate askes whether he is the king of the Jews. Rather than make a strong statement with the attitude of an insurrectionist, Jesus confirms that Pilate is not lying. It is two words in Greek (woodenly translated, “you say”). The chief priests are more aggressive (v. 3).

We know (v. 10) that Pilate is on to the religious leaders. He knows that they have come because they hate Jesus. Thus, Pilate is amazed that Jesus does not defend himself (v. 5). Mark does not describe this event with the same detail as John (no mention of sending him to Herod for example). We also learn that the chief priests are stirring up the crowd (v. 11). Through it all, Mark presents Pilate as knowing this whole thing is a sham.

Here is what is so amazing – Jesus does not defend himself. It amazed Pilate and it should amaze us. Pilate is looking for a way out of this predicament. What if Jesus defended himself? What if he shared that the prior trial was not a real trial, or that they could not find two consistent witnesses, or that the religious leaders were jealous and head-hunting? What if Jesus gave a defense that resulted in his freedom and would protect Pilate from potential charges should the religious leaders attempt to go over his head?

Conclusion from the two trials

It seems to me that Jesus had an “out” in each trial. If he chose to say quiet in the Jewish trial, they would not have been able to convict him and win over the crowd. Instead, he gave them what they needed to move forward and in so doing pursued the cross.

If he chose to defend himself in the Roman trial, then Pilate would have had reason to release him knowing that the chief priests were being deceptive and jealous. Instead, he remained quite and in so doing paved the way for Pilate to satisfy the crowds thus pursuing the cross.

Jesus promised that he would be delivered to the hands of men who would kill him (Mark 8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34). When the proper hour came, and the Father did not allow the cup to pass (Mark 14:32-42), Jesus not only submitted to the cross; he pursued it!


There are many applications of Jesus’ example, but I want to share two in this article. First, what a savior. Mark’s presentation should cause us to love the Lord for his willingness to suffer and die for our sakes. When your love for the Lord seems stale or your relationship distant, remember that the Lord Jesus pursued the cross. He pursued giving his life so that you might have it.

Second, pursue the Lord’s calling. Each of us contribute to the cause of Christ differently. While there might be a time when you are unsure of his direction, faithfully following the Lord results in mission clarity. Mission clarity means pursuing. It is not a passive acceptance of what the Lord might want, but an active pursuit of it.

May the Lord’s trials be as meaningful to you as they have been to me.

Rob Green
Pastor Rob Green oversees Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries. A seasoned counselor, Rob also teaches others how to counsel--through FBCM's training conferences and Faith Bible Seminary's MABC program.