Mark 15:21-47 | Discussion Questions

MARK 15:21-47

Preached at SoBo on November 6, NM on November 13, 2022



Share a moment in your life when you felt alone. Maybe it was a work project that fell entirely on you with no outside help; perhaps you were lied about, and only you and God knew it; maybe everybody forgot your birthday, etc.

In our passage today, Jesus is forsaken and alone as he is crucified and bears the sins of the world. And as he hangs alone, Mark shows us a wide range of attitudes toward Jesus, from hatred and violence to devotion and courage, to seeing Jesus clearly for the first time.


MARK 15:21-47
And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

Mark 15:33   And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Mark 15:40   There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

Mark 15:42   And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.


  • Begin by examining the text together. What do you notice? What stands out? What is unexpected? Who are the main characters? What is surprising? 1
  • Mark intentionally highlights the different characters' actions and words in this passage. How would you describe the posture or heart condition of each character: 
    • Scribes and crowds (21-32)? 
    • Jesus (33-37)?
    • Centurion (39)?
    • Female Disciples (40-41)?
    • Joseph (42-46)?
    • Where are Jesus’ twelve disciples????
  • Mark mentions two robbers crucified on the right and left of Jesus. In Chapter 9, James and John ask Jesus if they could sit at his right hand and left in his kingdom, imagining positions of glory and honor with Jesus. But the gospel ends with Jesus hanging in shame, with two men on his right and left. What do you think Mark is trying to tell us about discipleship through this parallel?
  • While Jesus hung on the cross, the sky turned dark, and he cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Here Jesus quotes the first words of Psalm 22. This Psalm begins with David deeply despairing (1-18) and progresses to prayer for God’s help and deliverance (19-21). It ends with David expressing hopeful confidence that he will one day tell his brothers about God’s mighty deliverance (22-26). The Psalm ends with David looking forward to the day when not only will he praise God for delivering him, but “all the nations” will praise God and proclaim what he has done.
    • With this context in mind, how should we understand Jesus’ words from the cross, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Are these words of despair? Are these words of hope and faith? Why?
  • Mark tells us that when Jesus cried out his final words and died, the Centurion saw this and became convinced that Jesus was the Son of God. 
    • What do you think was going on in the Centurion’s heart? Why do you think he came to believe in Jesus?
    • How do you think he felt in this moment, having just presided over Jesus’ execution?


  • In this passage, we see several groups of people in different places. Which of the following groups do you most relate to right now? Why?
    • The religious leaders and crowds were hostile to Jesus. 
    • Jesus was in a place of immense suffering but also a place of hope. 
    • The Centurion was in a place of seeing Jesus clearly for the first time and regretting what he had just done. 
    • The women were in a place of devotion to Jesus but also distanced from him in fear.
    • Joseph was in a place of wanting to honor Jesus even if it cost him his status.
    • And the disciples were nowhere to be found.
  • Share the moment when you, like the Centurion, saw Jesus clearly for the first time. What led to you seeing him as the Son of God?
  • Joseph was a man of stature and high position. And publicly aligning himself with Jesus would have been a risky move. Yet we see this prominent Jewish man courageously give Jesus an honorable burial. Where is one area of your life that you think God is calling you to make your allegiance to Jesus more public? How do you feel about this?


Father, help us see your Son with the eyes of the Centurion, stay faithful to your Son with the women's devotion, and honor your Son with the courage of Joseph. Amen.
1 Example Observations:
  • Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus’ cross (21)
  • Vv 21-32 focus on the actions of those crucifying Jesus: “they compelled”, “they brought”, “they offered”, they crucified”, “they derided”, “they mocked”, they reviled”...
  • Jesus was crucified at the third hour i.e. 9am (25)
  • There were two robbers crucified on his right and left (27). This harkens back to James and John’s request to sit on his right and his left in his kingdom (9:37). 
  • From the sixth to the ninth hour there is darkness over the land (33). This darkness harkens to the darkness of pre-creation chaos (Gen 1:1-3) and the darkness of the plagues of Egypt (ex 10:22-23).
  • Jesus quotes Ps 22:1 in the darkness on the cross (34)
  • Jesus uttered a loud cry and died (37)
  • The curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom (38). The curtain of the temple separated the holy place from the most holy place, where the high priest, once a year would enter to offer sacrifice on the day of Atonement. 
  • Jesus died on the day before the Sabbath i.e. Friday (42)