15:16-20 – In these verses, the Roman soldiers taunt and abuse Jesus (much as the Jewish Temple guards did in 14:65). Just as there was a potent irony in the name of “Barabbas” in the previous verses, so too there is an obvious irony here. They mockingly hail him as “King of the Jews,” but so he truly is—the heir of David’s throne, the promised Messianic King. They give him a purple robe and a cruel mockery of a victor’s crown—the traditional accouterments of triumphing generals and emperors in Roman culture; and they kneel down to pay him homage. This is not just irony that Mark is pointing out here; it’s also a clear prefiguration of coming things. This man, about to be executed as the lowest sort of criminal, is soon to have worshippers in Rome itself; and less than three centuries later, the emperor of the entire Roman world would be bending the knee before the crucified Christ.
15:21-24 – In v.21, we have Mark’s brief account of Simon of Cyrene being forced to carry the cross. This was simply a physical necessity—Jesus had been beaten so severely that at this point it would have been humanly impossible to complete the demanding task of dragging the cross out to Golgotha. The fact that Mark mentions Simon’s name and the names of his two sons is an indication that this family would probably have been well-known among the early audience of the Gospel, so it’s a fair guess that all three—Simon, Alexander, and Rufus—became believers in that first generation of Christians. There’s a symbolic element to Simon’s service here, too: Christ’s cross isn’t just his own; his disciples too are called to bear the cross, to share in Christ’s sufferings in the world, to live a cruciform life, shaped by the passion, suffering, and love of Jesus’ cross. The sequence of events that follows in vv.23-24—the offering of wine and myrrh (a pain-numbing agent, which he refuses), and the division of his clothes by lot, are both fulfillments of prophecies made in the Old Testament, as the other gospel accounts of the crucifixion make clear. More than that, though, all these elements speak to the level of pain and humiliation that Christ was forced to undergo--a pain and humiliation that he never chose to escape from, but rather to bear it all for our sake.