Sometimes it’s instructive when reading the Gospels to compare them and see what is unique to each one. Then, ask why the gospel writer saw fit to bring that up.
As we reach chapter fifteen, it is only Mark who tells us Barabbas was a murderer. Only Mark makes a point of telling us that the soldiers mockingly worshiped Jesus, that he was crucified the day before the Sabbath and at the 9th hour.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all mention it was Simon who was pressed into service to aid Jesus in carrying his cross, but only Mark tells us Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus – two men who must have been known to Mark’s readers.
It is Mark who most underscores that it was the Jewish leadership who killed Jesus, opening the chapter with mention of the chief priests, the elders, teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin. In fact, Mark particularly makes the leaders of this murderous group the “chief priests.”
In the Old Testament, the chief priest (High Priest) was always to come from the house of Aaron. But by the days of Jesus, the priesthood changed every year, going mainly to the highest bidder (who paid the fee to the Romans, making him subject to them). Though only one person functioned as the “High Priest,” everyone who served made up the group of “chief priests” in Jesus’ time.
Finally, only Mark tells us Pilate, despite his insistence that Jesus was innocent, gave Jesus to be crucified to “satisfy the crowd.” The crowd had followed Jesus relentlessly. They were the ones on whom Jesus had compassion (6:34), the ones he fed (chapter 8), the ones who were so zealous for Jesus that the Jewish leadership decided to kill him (11:18), and those whose protection of Jesus made the leaders cautious in what they did.
But the tide turned.
That’s the way it is when you follow the crowd. People are fickle. What appeals one minute will repulse the next. That’s why being a part of the crowd, the majority, is so dangerous. The Christian must never find himself there – indeed cannot – because the life Jesus calls us to will never be embraced by them. When we are accepted by the crowd, we’re doing something wrong. This is not an excuse for being contrary. It’s the result of being Christ’s disciple.