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Mark 15:33-47

Daniel Schetky
The King and His Kingdom  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:44
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Read Mark 15:33-47 The Death of a Messiah Today we come to Mark’s account of the death of Jesus. This is a passage that is familiar to many of us if you’ve spent any amount of time in the church. The Death of Jesus and the Resurrection of Jesus are the two things that Christians base their entire belief system on. If Jesus didn’t die in our place we would have no forgiveness, and if he wasn’t raised then we have no hope because he was just another teacher or prophet who taught us how to live well and his death has no higher meaning. But, today we are focusing on his death. We could go a few ways with this: we could talk about the historicity of his death and I could try to convince you that this isn’t a legend. We could talk about the agony of his death and I could try to make you squirm in your seats with the violence and the suffering of it. We could talk about the Prophecy of it and all of the Scripture that was fulfilled in these few passages and the weight to the authority of the Bible that brings. We could talk about the necessity of His death and our need for atonement. These are all good things, things that should be thought on and pondered and understood. But, I think Mark has something, in particular, that was important to him about this event; something that he really wanted his readers to understand about the significance of the death of Jesus. Remember, Mark has been shuffling us along in a whirlwind of actions and wanted us to see the Kind of Man Jesus was by his actions. He wanted us to feel the same build up, the same excitement about this Messiah that his disciples were feeling. Second, Mark shows us Jesus keeping silent about His Messiahship until His disciples believed and confessed it. Then He teaches them what it means that He is the Messiah, He was going to suffer and die and be rejected by his people and would rise again. If that is what he is doing, let’s take that road. First, let’s talk about how Mark wants us to see Jesus in His death: Nowadays we don’t experience any executions and very few of us will see people die particularly violent deaths. In the first century, this would have been a much more common thing, especially as crucifixions were done outside the city gates in a public place where people would see them as they walked by and likely people would gather to watch. They saw all sorts of deaths, saw the ways that people died and what that told them about the person. For our understanding we are going to need to draw a little bit on media to have a reference for how unique and powerful Jesus’ death was. When we are watching shows about spies or soldiers that have been captured by the enemy and tortured, or when someone knows they are going to die if they don’t give in, there are a wide array of responses but they tend to fall into two categories: cowardice and bravery. The cowards break and scream for mercy, asking that the pain be ended. They give up their convictions, sacrifice their friends, they do whatever it takes to keep themselves alive or to end the suffering. It doesn’t matter what they were fighting for or how good the mission was, they just don’t want to die or suffer any more agony. And what do we generally feel about those characters, especially when their weakness puts the greater good (or the character we actually care about) in danger? We feel shame, pity, disgust, and frustration. We deem them a coward, or weak. Sometimes, depending on how it is portrayed, we feel pity for them and know that, “How could they have had any other choice, who could have endured it?” Pity or reviling. That’s a generalization of our response. The Brave on the other hand, never give in, they look their captors in the eye and dare them to do their worst. They endure torture, pain, and even death and hold true to their convictions, their mission, their people. We glow with pride at those characters. We are happy to see their devotion pay off, either in their survival and ultimate victory, or in the victory of their cause because of their sacrifice. Respect and admiration and camaraderie, that’s how we respond to them. But even the brave seek to end their suffering. The brave never take it lying down, they never accept the injustice quietly. They are always taunting their captors, planning their escape, doing everything in their power to escape death and suffering. Then we have Jesus. He is no Coward. He knows His purpose, He knows his mission, He knows God’s plan. He had ample opportunity to run or fight in the garden. He had ample opportunity to turn to Pilate and defend Himself against His accusers, Pilate was even begging Him to. He had plenty of time to break under the beatings and beg for his life. He didn’t complain, He didn’t mock, He didn’t run, He didn’t break. He knew what needed to be done and he accepted it. But, not only did he accept it, He did so with dignity. He didn’t hurl insults at the onlookers, He didn’t taunt them back trying to get some small measure of revenge, He didn’t fight it trying to hold off the inevitable. He died in 6 hours. Crucifixion usually lasted days and the reason it lasted days was that the victims would fight for life as long as they could. They would keep pushing up for air prolonging their agony but also prolonging their life. Jesus, in dignity and courage, accepted God’s plan, accepted the pain, and accepted his death. The Centurion watching Him had never seen anything like it. This man could very well have been in charge of many executions, maybe had been involved in battles and seen men die around him; but seeing the way Jesus died caused Him to look on in Awe and say, “Surely, this man was the Son of God.” I don’t know where we are all at today with Jesus. I don’t know if some of you, especially the men in the room, have a hard time following him because all you have in your head is the white hippy Jesus with a lamb in his lap. He seems effeminate, a pushover, weak, never worked a day in his life, has perfect hair and perfect nails. He just wants to talk about feelings. He’s not a strong man, a man who has the strength and courage to do what needs to be done. He was a victim that couldn’t save himself. But, that is far from who Jesus was or is. This was a man who did hard labor, working with his hands for his adult life. This was a man who walked miles and miles to teach people a different way. This is a man who stood up to his opponents and stood for what was right at every turn. And then, when the time came for Him to die to fulfill God’s plan, He stood there brave and unflinching as they humiliated him and falsely accused Him. He hung there without bitterness, without reviling, and he didn’t try to cling to life. He was no victim, He knew what was coming, when it was coming, how it was coming, and chose to accept it for the sake of you and me. He is the soldier who takes the bullet, Stands in the door to let his squad escape, jumps on the grenade. He is worthy of respect and admiration. He is a man you can follow, who you know is watching out for you and won't bail when the going gets tough, because unlike most people worthy of following who you know would take a bullet for you, he did take a bullet for you. Mark wants us to see in Jesus’ suffering and death, The Son of God, a man worth following. Mark also wants us to see in the suffering and death of Jesus the true Messiah. The death and suffering of Jesus is the culmination of the build-up of the Gospel of Mark. I would submit that Mark gives it more weight in his account than he does the resurrection. As I am of the opinion that the gospel of Mark probably originally ended after verse 8. But, that is a different discussion for another time. The point is that all of Mark has been building to this moment. So, what does Mark want us to learn? Mark actually spends a decent chunk of this passage talking about the reactions of those that were watching all of this happen. So, let’s take a look at how they responded and we’ll back up a little to include a couple other key characters. What it meant to his disciples Jesus’ death crushed the disciples. They ran in fear as the mob took him away. They had followed him as the Messiah with Glory and power their eyes. Sitting at his right hand and left as they ruled the new world order with and for Jesus. Their Messiah meant the improvement of their lives and Victory. For them His suffering and death meant defeat. It’s a little hard for us to understand just how crushing this was for the disciples because we stand on the other side of the story, having access to the full story, and the explanations the New Testament. But, to get an idea of how crushed they were I am going to ask those of you who have seen Avengers Infinity War to think back to how you felt when the credits rolled. Me personally, I felt so heavy and in shock. I couldn’t believe it ended that way. I don’t want to talk too much about it in case there are those here who want to see it. But, that movie gave us a glimpse into what it felt like for the disciples. Now, in a few months we will probably never have that feeling again, because the new movie will be out and we’ll have the whole story. Now how many of us have felt that way in life? How many of us have banked in something: some hope, some dream, some goal, some life improvement and then it fell apart. How many of us have thought, “If I follow Jesus, my life will get or be better.” How many of us were brought to faith in Jesus because someone told us that if you come to Jesus you will never be lonely, your marriage will be saved, you’ll find the love of your life, you’ll have healthy happy kids, your job will prosper? Then life happened, hard stuff happened: stuff that wasn’t supposed to happen because we were following Jesus. We have a pit in our stomach, we feel crushed, and despairing. We see suffering as defeat. We view the Messiah the same way the disciples did and when those hard things come we don’t have the strength, desire, or courage to continue to follow him because he failed us. He wasn’t who we thought he was and so like the disciples we run from him. What it meant to the Self-Righteous and the Onlookers That Jesus was a sinner and an impostor. Their Messiah was going to come and cement their power and uplift them for the righteous acts. He was going to glorify the temple and drive out the heathens - the wicked, the unclean. Their Messiah would never associate with the wicked, never welcome them in, never break their man-made rules, never choose to act in the spirit of the law and not the letter that they had determined, never threaten their way of life, never condemn their most holy place as something that was going to be judged. Their Messiah would purify the land by removing or destroying the wicked. Their righteousness had bought them God’s favor. So, when news started to spread that Jesus was Messiah, they wouldn’t accept it; and when He suffered and died at the hands of the Gentiles on a tree they were justified in their belief. The death of Jesus was something to shame, “Look at that man claiming to be from God, He is disgraced; No true servant of God would suffer that way”. To the point where they were blind to scripture literally being fulfilled in front of their eyes, with Jesus’ cry of “My God my God why have you forsaken me” being mistaken for a cry for Eli, or Elijah. Suffering and Death were for the wicked. How many of us see Jesus that way? How many of us see ourselves as God’s Chosen ones, the righteous ones. We look at those around us, in our church, in our city, and we enjoy it just a little bit (because it would be sinful to really revel in it) when they get their comeuppance. We want Jesus to purify the world of the unrighteous, which in our minds tends to be everyone who is not like us, or thinks differently than we do. We don’t have compassion for the downtrodden, the poor, the weak, because clearly they’ve done something to deserve this or its their own fault for the choices they’ve made. We are blind to God working around us and through those we don’t agree with, or who don’t do things the way we think they should. And then, when wickedness continues around us, or when suffering happens to us we get angry at God. We’ve earned something better, Jesus owes us for our righteousness. We view Jesus and suffering the same way the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the Council did; and we are either ashamed or angry at God when we are weak or suffering (or both), because a disciple of Jesus shouldn’t be feeling this way, or this shouldn’t be happening to me; I’ve followed Jesus. And because of that we are blind to what He is really doing around us. What it meant for the Centurion We already talked about this a little bit. But, I think it is worth coming back to. Because the Irony here is that this Gentile Sinner, worse than that the enemy, a leader of the occupation of Judea and a man who had probably executed or killed many people some innocent, some criminals. Someone who wasn’t really invested one way or another in this Messiah deal, this Jesus thing, proclaimed, “This man was the Son of God!” Just by seeing the way he died, Mark emphasizes it that way. He doesn’t record the earthquake, and he explicitly says, “Who stood facing him [Jesus], saw that in this way he breathed his last , he said.” There was all this Scripture being fulfilled, Jesus had told his disciples what was going to happen, and this guy looked at the way Jesus suffered and the way he died and he saw it. He had no context, no idea what to do with it, and we have no idea what happened to this guy after this, but the death of Jesus impacted him. He saw the suffering and death of Jesus as something noble, something Divine. What it meant to the Women While the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples had run, hid, and denied Jesus. We find the women looking on on the horror, staying near. We find that they had been “following Jesus” an idiom for discipleship. This practice was unheard of. Women did not go to Rabbi school, did not read or write, were supposed to be homebodies, weren’t supposed to be conversed with in public by a man, rarely owned their own property, were often defined by their Man or lack of one, and in Judea often were impoverished if they were to lose a man to take care of them. They were some of the least that Jesus had been trying to convince his disciples to emulate. Mark doesn’t give us any indications about their thoughts or motives, but we know they stuck around. Maybe they didn’t fully understand what was going on, but they were open. They had been given a dignity that had never been offered to them before by this Messiah and had heard his words and seemed to be waiting to see what would happen and because of that they got to see the Glory of God and be the witnesses charged with spreading the news that He was indeed alive. What it meant to Joseph Joseph is a curious character. He is apparently wealthy, as shown by being granted an audience with Pilate and his owning of a private tomb. He is a part of the same Council who condemned Jesus and convinced the crowds to have him crucified. But, Mark says that this man was also looking for the kingdom of God. This was the message Jesus had preached since the beginning of his ministry, “the kingdom of God is at hand.” It also says that he took courage, which implies that this wasn’t a casual request he was making; there was some risk involved for him. But, why? Why would this man take a risk on keeping the body of Jesus from being put in a mass grave? Almost everyone else had given up on him or written him off. If he had subscribed to the prevailing view of the Messiah and the Kingdom then there was no reason to do it, Jesus was clearly not the Messiah. But, he did, he took a risk because he was looking for the kingdom of God. Maybe he heard Jesus teachings on becoming like the least, like the children, maybe he heard Jesus teaching about his death and resurrection and chose to believe. He chose to take a risk, to act in faith, to believe the Gospel. So, what does all of this mean for us, what does it teach us about the Kingdom and being disciples of this kind of Messiah. Suffering and Perseverance Is the way of the Messiah and thus His Disciples. Something that I have been chewing over for a while now, ever since the concept was presented to me, is that a person is a Christian - a true disciple of Jesus - not when they say a prayer, or really mean it, or surrender their life to him, or start going to church, or reading their bible; but a true Christian in the New Testament is someone who perseveres to the end. Through suffering, through trials. Who’s discipleship mirrors the life of Jesus, one of endurance through suffering, rejection, abandonment, injustice, and death. And in this perseverance God’s glory is shown to onlookers. The Centurion was convinced, not by the power of Jesus’ life, but in the way he died. Jesus desires disciples who like the women and Joseph, stuck around when things got tough; who took courage to advance the kingdom, and identify with this Messiah. Our False Messiahs must die Why did the disciples and the Self-Righteous miss it? Because they had firmly fixed in their minds a False Messiah and so do we. We touched on a couple of them earlier, but they come in all shapes and flavors. A Jesus who just wants us to be happy now and so doesn’t care what we do as long as it makes us happy. A Jesus who has called the Right or the Left a chosen people for his own possession. A Jesus who is white and does not associate with cultures or ideas that do not look like middle class white society. A Jesus who wants us to separate ourselves from the world and not engage in or associate in secular gray things because it could taint us. A Jesus who is only Charismatic or only Dispensational or only Evangelical or Protestant. When we are following these Messiahs, in part or entirely, we will not be able to endure and hold fast to him through suffering. We will run away, or get angry, or harden our hearts, or miss an opportunity to see the kingdom advance, or crucify those who are; because we don’t see the True Messiah, the Messiah who suffered and died in obedience for the joy the Father had set before him. If we realize that is the Messiah we follow and that is the purpose of suffering and hardship and the death of things in our lives maybe we will more often be like the Women, or Joseph, and people like the Centurion will say, “Ah, I see something Divine.” And finally, it means that The Kingdom is something new, and breaks the limitations we place on it. A Gentile Soldier saw it for what it was first. The Jews were not expecting this and instead saw the Messiah and the Kingdom bringing the establishment of the Jews. But we have no right to make any judgment because we have become the self-righteous. We are the ones who see the kingdom as the expansion and furtherance of our likeness our philosophies and our ideologies. The Kingdom is not about our white middle-class sensibilities. It is not a weapon to make everyone think and act and dress like us, so that way we feel comfortable. The kingdom of God is something more than that, we were once the outsiders; but through the culturization of Christianity and the rise of Western Civilization we are now where the Pharisees of the day found themselves and we are missing the Kingdom and opportunities to see it expand. When Prophecies talk about all nations and tribes and tongues worshipping Jesus, they don’t mean everyone in Jeans and a button up shirt, singing Chris Tomlin. They mean different cultures being purified including our own of the ways sin has tainted it and allowing the Glory of God hidden in it to shine through. That is what a large portion of the New Testament is: the writer’s trying to help Jews and Gentiles see the darkness in their culture and calling them to leave it and embrace the good in their culture so that way Jesus could be seen and understood and the kingdom would join us here on Earth. And adjacent to this is that the Kingdom was for the outcasts, the people we count out. The ones that we often neglect, or overlook, or ignore. Jesus discipled women, uneducated people with little to no power, and they were the ones who ended up being his witnesses. It is not just for our culture and it is not just for our social, financial strata. The Kingdom is a New Thing. It is always a New thing because we must constantly submit our worldview to it and allow it to change us and the way we live to be in line with the Kingdom Jesus had in mind. It also means that God uses the weak, foolish, sometimes shameful things for his glory. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 Jesus’ death made no sense to those at the time. Just as often our weakness, our suffering, our sins, our failures, the death of our plans, or dreams, may not make any sense. God calls us to endure, to look to Jesus to be our wisdom, our righteousness, and remember that God calls us to emulate Jesus, to endure and stay close to Him and we may get to see something incredible as God works in us and those around us and the Kingdom of God comes to inhabit us and our lives. Jesus Has gone before us, He has endured through suffering, loneliness, abandonment, rejection, shame, humiliation, pain, injustice, mocking, and death; for the Glory of God, the arrival of the Kingdom, and the Salvation of all mankind. This is not a Sermon to try to guilt you into doing better, but a Sermon that I hope draws your eyes away from ourselves and reveals the lies of the False Messiahs in our lives. I hope it grants you a glimpse at how amazing Jesus is and how glorious His true Kingdom is. I hope it gives you hope. I hope that it changes how we view ourselves and Jesus and the Church and the Mission of God. We cannot do this alone, we need to humble ourselves, and ask Jesus and His spirit to use the Word of God to inform the way we see events, the way we work, the way we live, the way we talk, the way we play, the way we see and interact with people, and the way we do church. In the Words of Jesus, “The Kingdom of God is at Hand, repent and believe the Gospel.”
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