Mark 15: 1 – 15 “The Trial” – Idylwood Presbyterian Church – March 18, 2016

Theme: We don’t understand fully our relationship to our Lord until we hear ourselves in the passion narrative crying out along with the crowd: “Crucify Him!”

Purpose: Have members deepen their intimacy and commitment with the Lord through a deeper conviction of their own brokenness.

President Harry S. Truman had a sign on his Oval Office desk which contained a saying that he made famous.  Anyone know what it said?

“The Buck stops here”

 I always thought it referred to a dollar bill “buck” but actually the expression is said to have originated from poker, in which a marker or counter (such as a knife with a buckhorn handle during the American Frontier era) was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal. If the player did not wish to deal he could pass the responsibility by passing the "buck", to the next player.[2]

Well, President Truman may have originated the phrase but I don’t think he originated the practice of passing the buck.  And as proof I present to you: Mark 15: 1 – 15.

One long, grueling, slapdash exercise in buck-passing.

If the participants in this passage received one denarii for every time they passed a buck, they probably could have funded the temple coffers for a full year!

 Let me show you how frequently someone in this story shirks responsibility by giving you the alternative scenarios.

 We’ll start with the CHIEF PRIESTS.  Had they not passed the buck, how would this passage have read?  Simple:

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests put Jesus to death.

Done.  Case closed.  We can all go home.  But NO!  They don’t want that responsibility.  So they call a meeting of the council.

 Had the ELDERS AND SCRIBES not passed the buck, how would this passage have read? 

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council and together they decided to put Jesus to death. 

The whole incident would have been re-tellable in one sentence.

But they don’t want that responsibility either.  Let’s ‘pass the buck’!  This time let’s go UP the pecking order.  When Susy and Johnny can’t resolve their differences, they go to mommy or daddy, in this case, the governor of the land, Pontius Pilate.

If Pontius Pilate had owned this one, what would we have?

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate who flogged Jesus and had him crucified.

And on down it goes: 

If the CROWD had not passed the buck:  

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’  ‘Yes,’ they said, and he released Jesus and all went home.

But no, no one wants to make the call.  And so the buck keeps getting passed until finally someone buckles:

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do* with the man you call* the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Why all the buck-passing?

Well, the Chief priests can’t get enough dirt on him but letting him go could easily strip them of the precious influence they have over the Palestinian Jews.

Ø  Have you ever secretly wished you had more dirt on a certain group of friends your child hangs out with so you could definitely say, ‘Don’t go anywhere near them’ and be justified in saying so?

The Elders and Scribes maybe don’t see the logic but sticking your head out and standing up for this vagabond could cause the chief priest to single you out for his wrath.

Ø  Ever been in a board meeting where you know everyone is disagreeing with the chairman or chairwoman but no one is saying anything because they don’t want to get bawled out?

Pilate wants to stand up for what’s right but doesn’t want a riot on his hands which could affect his standing in Rome.

Ø  No doubt there were many at the Metro headquarters this week who told Mr. Weidefeld, “Are you crazy?  You shut the whole system and you could start a riot!”

The Crowd doesn’t want to take responsibility; wants other to make the decision for them. 

Ø  Two words: presidential election

We can stand in condemnation of any one or all of these characters for putting Jesus to death.

That’s the easy way to leave this passage.  But there’s a bit of buck-passing in doing that as well!

OR – we can admit that if everyone from the governor of the land to the peasant onlooker was in agreement that defending Jesus was not worth the cost, then logically – unless we are superman –we too would have been an accomplice in the death of our Lord.

I don’t think we’ve really come to grips with our depravity until we’ve identified the character in the trial of Jesus that most represents how we would have responded.

I suppose because of my profession it would make sense for me to relate most to the chief priest or one of the elders.

But maybe because of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ movie that came out several years ago and the extraordinary acting in that movie, I relate most to Pontius Pilate.

In the movie, Pilate presents himself in his opening scene as a strong, confident up and coming Roman leader.  By the time he is done with Jesus, his head is bowed, he has lost his confidence, his face has ‘demoralized’ written all over it. 

Why?  He knew what the right decision was, but he couldn’t bring himself to make it.

Why are you tempted to turn your back on the Master of your life?

 Is it the social standing like the elders and scribes?

Is it the economic or financial precariousness of such a decision like the chief priest?

 Will you lose face like Pilate?

 Or is it just too much work to bother with?  Is it easier just to melt into the crowd?

 Thank God many of us will never have to face such a stark, precarious and dangerous ethical dilemma such as these faced, along with military servicemen and women, political leaders, and others stand in the gap for us.

 But it’s important to know where we stand; it matters.  Whether your child is refusing to pick up her toys or your co-worker is refusing to let you tell your boss the truth.

 Meanwhile, in the middle of all of this, stands Jesus, as quiet as a mouse.

 You know, in a sense, he’s sort of passing the buck, too.

 He could have made this a lot easier for folks.

 He could have called down curses on Caesar’s head.

 Or he could have recanted and told the chief priest that he would never criticize a religious leader ever again.

 Or he could have feigned lunacy.

 But he doesn’t.  He forces other people to make decisions about him.

 Is he TRYING to be a stick in the mud?

 Well, no, the truth is: sometimes it’s appropriate to pass the buck.


 When it’s truly someone else’s decision to make!

 Each one – the chief priest, the elder, the scribe, the governer, the crowd – needed to face the reality that a Living God had come into their life and was asking them: what do you value most, what is right or what gives you the edge?

 Jesus kept quiet.  He had said all he needed to say.  It was time for others to figure out their true loyalties.

 Sometimes, the people around us need to make a decision.  It’s wrong for us to take away that moment of reckoning.

 It’s a ministry: sometimes we can play the part of Christ in others’ lives, standing there in their midst and representing truth so that they have to come to terms with themselves.

 Ex. Daddy & Alicia


 There is a prophetic moment in every honest Christian’s life when our true loyalties will be made clear, either in this life or the next.

 Jesus stands at a trial 2,000 years ago with eyes that look into ours today and ask: where do you stand?  To whom is your greatest loyalty?

 Don’t wait to make that decision.  Otherwise, you may find yourself passing the buck on your own truest self.