In his account of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, Mark subtilely presents irony everywhere; he doesn’t point it out explicitly, he leaves it for us to discover. Consider:
- The soldiers. As was their custom, when the foot soldiers got ahold of Jesus, they tortured and abused him with little regard for human decency, this was the nature of the day. They dressed him in purple robes, the color of royalty; they crammed a crown of thorns on his head; they hit him on the head with a stick; they spit on him; they mockingly worshipped, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” Ironically, Jesus really was the King of the Jews. The soldiers were blind to the fact.
- Passersby. We don’t know exactly who these people were, most likely part of the mob that the Jewish leaders got to cry out, “Crucify him.” They mocked Jesus: “Save yourself by coming down from the cross.” Ironically, the only way for the mockers to be saved was if Jesus did not save himself and come down from his cross. They were unwittingly calling for their own destruction.
- Chief priests and scribes. Jesus’ main opponents do not miss the opportunity to mock him on the cross, as grisly and appalling as that was. “Let Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross that we may see and believe,” they cry. There is very deep irony here because they know, and Mark knows, and we the readers know, that even if Jesus were to come down from the cross, they would see but still not believe. They proclaimed him the Messiah, the King of the Jews, but they did not believe a word of it, what they said was merely for the purposes of mocking Jesus, but inadvertently they themselves proclaimed the truth.
- Those crucified with him. We know from the other gospels that at least two other prisoners were crucified at the same time as Jesus. Mark says that they were both mocking him, but we discover from other writers that one of the mockers comes to faith in Jesus on the cross. It isn’t difficult to believe that one of the prisoners who began with mocking, as he listened to Jesus, and watched his suffering and heard his words, had a change of heart. Jesus was their only chance, and yet they did not realize or accept this fact, until at the very end, just under the wire (all three men will be dead before sunset), one of them professes faith in Jesus.
In Mark’s account of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion, almost everyone abandons him, including, shockingly, God himself. Jesus’ last recorded words were: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” There is irony even here because Jesus was innocent. He was forsaken by God and died in our place for our sins. Isaiah puts it this way:
But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished him for the iniquity of us all. (Is. 53:5–6 CSB17)