MAY 29, 2016
MAIN TEXT: 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. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 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, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 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.
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 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?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 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.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 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!”
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, andSalome. 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.
And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 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. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 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. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was not an accident in human history. It was a divine appointment prophesied in Scripture. His death, detailed by three Gospel writers, was the fulfillment of numerous prophecies that had anticipated a day that was both tragic and glorious all at the same time.
What Jesus endured on the cross took place right on schedule – exactly according to divine plan. The horror of it is also the glory of it. Jesus died the death we should have died that we might live now and forever.
The details of the suffering aren’t most important in this story but rather the One who is suffering – the Son of God taking away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
Jesus’ Crucifixion and Death
Verse 23 records one of the few-human elements the Romans allowed – a wine-myrrh narcotic that was given to condemned prisoners to dull their senses to the pain they were about to endure. Jesus did not take it. He willingly suffered the full measure of the torment of crucifixion.
Mark gives no details to the grisly act of the crucifixion – he simply notes that it happened at the third hour – which was 9 am (verse 25). It was the custom of the Romans to affix a statement of the charges against the condemned one on the beam of the cross – The king of the Jews. John 19 records that the religious leaders asked Pilate to change it to say, “He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’”.
Jesus is crucified between two robbers. As he hung in agony, Jesus endured more taunts and mockery. The chief priests mocked Him for His apparent inability to save Himself from execution (verses 30-31). But Jesus was not about saving Himself. He was about saving His people – which required that He stay on that cross until the bitter end. Even the two robbers reviled Him – however we know from Luke’s gospel that one of them came to faith before he died that day (Luke 23:39-43).
From noon until 3 pm darkness came over the land (verse 33). God brought this darkness for hours and history tells us that the people were fearful. This darkness shows God turning away and refusing to gaze on His Son as He carried the full measure of the pollution of wickedness. At the climax of the darkness, Jesus cried in agony (verse 34). It wasn’t a cry of agony from the scourging, thorns, or mails – but the agony of being forsaken.
Mark reports two immediate outcomes of the death of Jesus (verses 38-39). The first is the curtain (veil) of the temple was torn in two – from top to bottom. This curtain separated fallen humanity from the sacred Holy of Holies in the temple – it separated men from God. Three gospels report that this wall of separation was pierced. The second outcome was the centurion’s statement (verse 39). There were four soldiers to guard the prisoners that were being executed – they were under the command of a centurion. This centurion saw something in the manner of Jesus’ death that caused him to confess that Jesus was the Son of God. He appears to be the first to realize that something of cosmic significance was happening that afternoon outside Jerusalem.
The Meaning of the Cross
With the exception of the centurion, most if not all of those that witnessed the execution of Jesus did not understand what was going on. What was happening on Golgotha that day was almost an everyday occurrence – humans being executed by the Romans. Yet what was happening at that time was nothing less than the most momentous cosmic event imaginable. The epistles of the New Testament, written under divine inspiration, give us the theological significance of this event – it was an atonement by which the wrath and justice of God were satisfied by a substitute.
Here is the definition of atonement: “a reconciliation of alienated parties, the restoration of a broken relationship. It is accomplished by making amends, blotting out offenses, and giving satisfaction for wrongs done”. Jesus suffered the wrath of God in our place. Jesus was without blemish – He kept the law of God perfectly. This qualified Him to be the only fit substitute – the perfect Lamb of God. This atoning death of Jesus was absolutely necessary and we cannot be saved apart from it.
To understand the full meaning of the cross, we must not lose sight of the character of God. Too often we see God as a celestial grandfather or a cosmic bellhop who is on duty 24 hours a day to supply our needs and wants. We can allow the love of God to eclipse His justice, His righteousness, and His holiness. To think or believe that God will forgive our sins without atonement to prove that He is good and loving is wrong. We must be careful not to fashion for ourselves a God who requires no satisfaction, who requires no payment for sin.
Paul would focus on the cross (1 Corinthians 2:2). By God’s grace, when Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), the atonement was complete and divine justice was satisfied. The cross reveals the truth about mankind but also about God’s incredible power. The cross reveals God’s incredible love. The cross reveals that things are never what they seem in our world. It sometimes seems as if God is absent. Henri Nouwen writes, “Where God’s absence was most loudly expressed, God’s presence was most profoundly revealed”. The cross reveals the pain of the human situation. Lastly, Jesus lives out His own teaching on the cross, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” (Luke 17:33). This teaching lived out on the cross calls us to a new way of life.
The Gospel story depicts many of the sins that put Jesus on the cross: pride, envy, jealousy, betrayal, cruelty, greed, indifference, cowardice, and murder. Our many sins should be added to the list.
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 15:21-47
How would you respond to someone who says that any man could have fulfilled these prophecies simply bymanipulating events and doing certain things?
Theologians use the terms, “substitutionary atonement,” “propitiation,” and “reconciliation” to describe what Jesus accomplished. Should the church continue to use these terms? How would you explain these terms to a person not familiar with theological/biblical concepts?
Could Jesus have avoided going to the cross? Was He capable of coming down from the cross? What kept Him there?