events of the Crucifixion are familiar to all Christians. Indeed, the peril of
the lesson is that the teacher repeats himself to the point of being dull – on
the most important subject. This should not be. We begin by letting the Bible
speak for itself.
16The soldiers led Jesus away into the
palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of
soldiers. 17They put a purple robe on him, then
twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19Again
and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on
their knees, they paid homage to him. 20And when they had mocked him, they took
off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to
21A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the
father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country,
and they forced him to carry the cross. 22They brought
Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 23Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take
it. 24And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast
lots to see what each would get.
25It was the third hour when they crucified
him. 26The written notice of the charge against
him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. 27They crucified two robbers with him, one
on his right and one on his left.£ 29Those who passed by hurled insults at him,
shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple
and build it in three days, 30come down from the cross and save
31In the same way the chief priests and the
teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said,
“but he can’t save himself! 32Let this Christ,£ this King of Israel, come down now from
the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped
insults on him.
33At the sixth hour darkness came over the
whole land until the ninth hour. 34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a
loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi,
lama sabachthani?“—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”£
35When some of those standing near heard this,
they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
36One man ran, filled a sponge with wine
vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him
alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
37With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38The curtain of the temple was torn in two
from top to bottom. 39And when the centurion, who stood there in
front of Jesus, heard his cry and£
saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son£ of God!”
40Some women were watching from a distance.
Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of
Joses, and Salome. 41In Galilee these women had followed him
and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem
were also there.
42It was Preparation Day (that is, the day
before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was
himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for
Jesus’ body. 44Pilate was surprised to hear that he was
already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the
body to Joseph. 46So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took
down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of
rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
before the Cross (Mark’s view)
has selected certain events with which he portrays the Crucifixion. It is not
my intention to provide a complete view of this event, but rather to look
through Mark’s eyes, asking, “Why did he include that?”
begins with the flogging. It may surprise you, but the flogging is an act of
mercy – and efficiency. A man simply nailed to the cross might take many days
to die – days which would occupy soldiers to make sure the man wasn’t removed
from the cross by friends. During those many days, the victim would suffer
constantly. Flogging shortened the suffering.
that to us? Perhaps in our own lives God has led us through suffering. We ask
why; it just may be that this is the shortest path to God’s desire. By
suffering Christ was fitted for God’s purpose; we should expect the same.
Mockery – the crown of thorns
punishment in America has a rather antiseptic air about it. It is dignified,
almost formal. This is the exception in history. Executions have usually been
public affairs presented for the entertainment of the populace. The soldiers
here are doing no more than they would have done with any other prisoner. They
let loose the full venom of the human spirit.
please, how our Lord endures it. In silence. It is his way of answering the
mocker. It is a lesson for us, as well. We often want to answer a fool
according to his folly. Our Lord here brings out the power of silence. Our
silence signals the end of reasonable discussion and the beginning of mockery.
It is very difficult to do, but in the end such silence speaks louder than any
Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
understand this you need a little historical background. First, this
procession with the victim carrying his cross (and the placard announcing his
crime) was a feature of Roman justice. Justice? Yes indeed. If someone in
the crowd knew of a reason that the man should not be crucified, he was
commanded to speak up. In theory, at least, this prevented the execution of an
however, the flogging was so severe that it meant the victim could not carry
the cross. In this instance the Roman soldier used his authority. Part of
being a Roman conquest was the fact that a soldier could compel someone to
carry a burden for about a mile – taxation by sweat, so to speak. He could not
compel a citizen to do this – but a conquered subject could be compelled.
(This is the source of the statement about a man compelling you to go one mile,
you go two). That’s what’s happening here.
you look at this instance and not see the point? We are the “Simon” of our
time. The world looks at us and says, “Carry Jesus’ burden.” Indeed, that is
our privilege. We are the body of Christ, and therefore we must carry his
burdens. He carried the sins of the world with Him. We must at least be
willing to carry the lesser burdens. It is surprising sometimes to see how
many Christians are willing to do this – until it becomes inconvenient.
On the Cross
selection of events on the Cross gives us these:
it interesting that Pontius Pilate got it right? The other accounts tell us
that the Jewish leaders argued with him about this placard. Mark simply
records its existence. It is one of those fine details by which God exhibits
you ever been “labeled?” Put in a pigeon hole by the way the world works? It
can be very frustrating. Children in school often find this. One teacher writes
down a negative comment on the “permanent record” (how we feared that when I
was a child!) and from then on it becomes absolute truth – even if the child
changes. In this instance the accusation is indeed a proud title.
consider: do we confine God in our lives this way? Do we place a label on his
shirt and say, “thus far – and no farther?”
Between two thieves
you ever been in a jail? A prison, perhaps? It is something with which my
wife and I have become familiar. There is a certain hardness in the cruel
clang of the doors. Jails are at the same time kept very clean – so that the
air of scum confined will penetrate all the better. My wife, after her first
trip to visit someone in prison, said “I want to go back to the hotel room, take
off all my clothes and burn them, and take a shower.”
went through that same feeling. The feeling of being thrown together with the
scum of the earth. The King of Kings endured that for us. Is it any wonder,
then, that one of the tests for entry into the kingdom is whether or not we
have visited those in prison? If he – who arranges all things – could go
through this, which of us is too good to visit prisoners?
Mockery of the people
go in and out of fashion – which has nothing to do whatever with their truth.
The mood of the crowd has turned against Jesus, and some of those who shouted
“Hosanna” just a week ago are now mocking him.
a lesson for us. One week things are going well, and we pat ourselves on the
back for doing things right. Next week we are out of fashion – do we then
blame ourselves? Or do we continue to do what is right, whether we are praised
for it or blamed for it?
Mocked by the priests
every generation there are those who are the “intellectual leaders.” It is
amazing how each generation has two consistent ideas:
previous generations, unenlightened by our wisdom, got it wrong, and
got it right.
priests had the entire Old Testament before them – and could not see the Christ
when he came. But are we much better? There are those in the church who have
“discovered” that homosexuality is not sin (a fact which escaped the notice of
a hundred generations of Christians). Indeed, there are those in our own
church who have “discovered” that the roles of husband and wife are
interchangeable. These are the people who mock the old-fashioned sort who read
the Bible to find truth, not their own opinions. Have we progressed?
The cry of despair
God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is one of those passages which
gives theology a bad name. Let’s take it at face value: it is the cry of the
one who had no sin yet became sin itself – so that we might appear sinless
is a horrible cry. Have you ever heard a small child crying out in terror for
her mother? If you can hear the rising panic in the voice of a child like
that, you have an echo of what has happened here. The one source of all good
has been cut off; this is truly the cry of the hopeless. He went through that
– for us.
The loud cry
know from other Gospels that the cry was, “It is finished.” Mark does not give
the words, only that it was a loud one. What can we learn from that?
Certainly this: Jesus death was a voluntary one. He came for that purpose. A
man who is dying a natural death (especially one being crucified) does not have
a loud cry as his last word. No, it’s a feeble whisper. But Jesus dies as he
must – willingly.
brings up a question: He died for you, voluntarily. What do you do, voluntarily,
are four reactions observed in Mark’s Gospel:
centurion could hardly have been unaware of the struggle surrounding the death
of Christ. He would know that this was another of what seemed an endless
series of hagglings over the minutest of things. His reaction at first must
have been one of a man carrying out an unpleasant (but all too familiar) task.
the change: At the end, the centurion knows that Jesus must be the Son of
God. Please note one thing: it is not the resurrection which changes the
man’s mind. It is Christ’s death. The manner in which he died was that of
wonder; do we ever think on that? Do we ever realize that Christ died like
God? If God (in the flesh) dies this horrible death – and does it in such a
way as to convince a hard nosed Army sergeant – what impact does it have on
all the followers of Jesus, only the women remain to the end. They say
nothing; they are just there. They see him die; they know he is dead. Then
they have a task – embalming the body. It seems so hopeless, yet they are
about us? Are we Christians only as long as everything is upbeat and
cheerful? Or do we press on, doing what we can, even in the times of despair?
It is likely enough that we will soon get an answer to that question.
Joseph of Arimathea
One of the enigmas of the New Testament is this man. See
how he is emboldened by Christ’s death! Just at the point where things appear
to be hopeless, he comes forward. We know from other Scriptures that he was a
secret disciple. Secret, because he would lose his position in the Sanhedrin
if he proclaimed it publicly. That doesn’t speak very well of the man, does
now – when all appears truly hopeless – he shows himself to be devoted. He
does something that the world would say is foolish. Perhaps he is trying to
atone for the cowardice of secret discipleship. One thing is certain: the
death of Christ changed Joseph radically.
about us? Does his death – his sacrifice – change us? If not, why not?
is one final witness. It is the curtain in the Temple that hides the Holy of
Holies. It is torn – starting at the top. The meaning is clear: God himself
has torn it, opening up the way for all who believe to have direct access to
rip in the cloth – which changes our access to God – was very costly. The
price was willingly paid so that you and I might have eternal life. I leave
you with one last question: do our lives show it?
“His shame took away our shame
His bonds made us free
By the thorny crown of His head we have obtained the crown
of the Kingdom
By His wounds we are healed”