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Mark 15b

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Mark 15:16-20… So the soldiers led him into the Praetorium (that is, the governor’s residence) and called together the whole cohort. 17 They put a purple cloak on him and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 They began to salute him: “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Then they knelt down and paid homage to him. 20 When they had finished mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

 

Commentary

Following Barabbas’ release from prison Jesus was taken away, scourged, and mocked by the Jews and Romans. A scourging was a beating with a whip. It had a handle with many leather thongs on the end that were embedded with glass, bone fragments, and metal so that each crack of the whip took away more flesh, sometimes exposing the victims bones, muscles, and entrails. The Jews limited their scourging to 39 lashes, but the Romans had no such law. They likely beat Jesus relentlessly. Many of their scourging victims didn’t even survive the beatings they gave them which attests to how ruthlessly they whipped their victims.

Jesus was then taken into Pilate’s palace with the whole Roman cohort around him (about 600 soldiers). There they stripped Jesus naked and put a scarlet robe on him to mock his so-called kingship, for scarlet was the color of robe only kings wore. Then, because kings wear crowns, they placed a crown of thorns on his head. Now thorn bushes in Judea are known to have two-inch barbs – barbs that penetrated Jesus’ scalp allowing more blood to run down into his eyes and face. How ironic that thorns would be a part of Jesus torment, for thorns were part of the curse dating back to the fall of mankind in the Garden (Gen. 3:17-19). Jesus took the curse of mankind and became a curse himself on behalf of mankind. Even his crucifixion, death by hanging on a tree, was part of his taking mankind’s curse upon himself, for the OT teaches, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Deut. 21:22-23; cf. Gal. 3:13).

In v. 18 Pilate’s soldiers, some 600 of them, all fell down on their knees giving mock worship to Jesus. Then they began to beat him over the head and spit upon him. This was now the second time Jesus was beat over the head and spit upon like a common criminal. The first group to do so were his fellow Jews who had convicted him the night before (Mark 14:65).

John’s Gospel says that Pilate, after having Jesus scourged, brought him back to the Jews to see if they had changed their mind about wanting him crucified (19:1-15). He even took Jesus aside and spoke to him briefly. Then he went out and pleaded with the mob to let the innocent man go, but when he realized that it was hopeless he sentenced Jesus to crucifixion. Though Mark skips over these details for his own purposes, what does it say about the Jewish leaders who looked upon Jesus in the bloody mess after his scourging who were still insistent on his complete demise? They were a ruthless group so filled with envy and jealousy over Jesus that his torture at the hands of the Romans did not seem to bother them in the least bit.

Food for thought

Some folks today blatantly use the name of Jesus as a punch-line while others simply disregard who he is by ignoring him and leaving him to the “religious folks” who believe in such things. Either way, Jesus is scorned and rejected by both sides – whether willfully or ignorantly. All that Jesus did – his scourging, mocking, beatings, and crucifixion, however, was for the forgiveness of mankind’s sin which plagues us from birth. But only those who trust in Him for salvation will receive eternal life. He became a curse for mankind in that he took what our sins deserve – torturous death! This is why Christians celebrate his death – because he died for us.

Mark 15:21-25… The soldiers drafted a passer-by to carry his cross, a man coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 They brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (translated, “Place of the Skull”). 23 They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 Then they crucified him and divided his clothes, throwing dice for them, to decide what each would take. 25 It was the third hour when they crucified him.

Commentary

Following the horrific treatment of Jesus by the Romans, his robe was stripped from him, and he was handed a heavy cross upon which he would eventually hang until he died. Of course after all that’s happened to this point it’s no wonder “a passer-by” had to be summoned to carry it for him. His name was Simon from Cyrene (an African city in modern-day Libya). Because it was Passover Simon was likely a convert to Judaism who had come to Jerusalem to observe the annual Feast as all good Jews did. He’s called “the father of Alexander and Rufus” in v. 21, and knowing that Mark wrote from Rome around A.D. 50, it is probable that Alexander and Rufus were believers known to the church there (Paul sent greetings to Rufus in Romans 16:13 and to his mother – the wife of this Simon of Cyrene). Though Simon was probably less than anxious to carry the cross of a man he most likely thought was a hardened criminal, the fact that Simon is named by three of the Gospel writers suggests that he was known to them and to the early church because he had become a believer in the Man he carried the cross for.

Jesus and the entire entourage came to the edge of the city of Jerusalem to a place called Golgotha – an Aramaic term meaning “cranium” because the surrounding cliff resembled a skull (the name “Calvary” comes from the Latin word calvaria for skull, or cranium). When he arrived he was offered wine mixed with myrrh – a narcotic also used as a perfume. Ironically this myrrh was one of the gifts given to Jesus at his birth (Matt. 2:11). Myrrh was a narcotic which was bitter to taste, and though it was presented as a gift to Jesus at his birth as an expensive gift of worship, here it is ironically presented to him to dull the pain of crucifixion. Crucifixion, though invented by the Persians and used extensively by the Greeks, was perfected by the Romans. It was designed to mete out the greatest amount of pain without granting a quick death to the victim. Myrrh, as a narcotic, was often given to the victims to keep them from struggling violently in pain and ripping their flesh, and themselves, from the cross they hung on. It was not given for mercy by the Romans but as a tool to exacerbate pain for a longer period of time. Jesus, after tasting it, did not want his senses dulled, and he refused it. He was bearing ALL men’s pain.

John says that Jesus was turned over by Pilate at about the sixth hour, which is 6:00 a.m. in Roman time-reckoning (19:14). Mark says that Jesus was actually crucified on the third hour, which according to the sunrise to sunrise way of Jewish reckoning, was 9:00 a.m.

John’s Gospel also says that Jesus’ outer garment was seamless (19:23-24), and in fulfilling the prophecy of Psalm 22:18, the soldiers cast lots for those clothes.

Food for Thought

            Simon of Cyrene was just minding his own business when he was summoned to carry God’s cross. While carrying that cross and observing Jesus’ peaceful demeanor in the midst of intense pain and persecution, he was likely converted to the faith of the man whom he helped. So it is with salvation. It happens to folks who aren’t looking for it, but when they come face-to-face with the peaceful demeanor of One who shines forth God’s love – and see themselves in comparison – they realize their need for salvation. Truly God traced Simon’s steps that day. And truly God traces our steps to reveal Himself to us in His perfect time. Truly God is good!

Mark 15:26-32… The inscription of the charge against Jesus read, “The king of the Jews.” 27 And they crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself and come down from the cross!” 31 In the same way even the chief priests and the scribes were mocking him among themselves: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! 32 Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, that we may see and believe!” Those who were crucified with him also ridiculed him.

Commentary

As a final mockery a sign was placed over Jesus’ head that said he was the king of the Jews. The two robbers crucified with Jesus were no doubt fellow insurrectionists and murderers with Barabbas, the man who went free because Jesus took his place.

As Jesus hung on the cross, naked, famished, thirsty, and beaten to within an inch of his life, those that passed by mocked him slanderously. “Aha!” in v. 29 is laughter at Jesus as they ridiculed his teachings about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days. Ironically, that was the very thing he was doing! But he wasn’t destroying the literal temple in Jerusalem, for he spoke of “this” temple as his body, the one that would be resurrected after three days.

The main scoffers that day were the religious leaders in Jerusalem – the ones who had Pilate crucify him. They mocked Jesus saying, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself!” Just the fact that they recognized that Jesus had saved others shows how accountable they were for their actions. They’re the ones that followed him around the Palestinian countryside observing his miracles. They knew the truth but rejected it because he was a threat to them and their power over the people. The irony of their statement is that the “others” they said he saved would also include their own souls if they would place their faith in him. The truth is, he could save himself, and he did at his resurrection – a fact that no Jew in that day refuted. They only covered over the truth by spreading the lie that the disciples stole his body from the tomb (Matt 28:11-15).

Verse 32 just wreaks of sarcasm. They must have stressed the words “Christ” and “King” as their condescending tones revealed their hypocrisy. They were hypocrites because even when Christ did reappear just days later in full health, they refused to believe. This reflects Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 12:38-45 about how a wicked and adulterous generation seeks for signs in order to believe. They did see the sign in the resurrection but subsequently rejected it – again.

The last sentence of the verse is bittersweet – bitter because the criminals with Jesus joined in the ridicule – sweet because one of the them had a change of heart only a brief time later when he asked Jesus to remember him when he came into to his kingdom (Luke 23:43).

Food for Thought

Those that mocked Jesus’ words about rebuilding the temple are just like people today who mock the Bible’s teachings – the very words of God. While they ridicule God for not fulfilling what He said He would fulfill, He is fulfilling it the same way Jesus was fulfilling his words of rebuilding the temple while dying on the cross! How blind the world is to the Truth.

We live among people today who are not unlike the people that crucified Christ 2,000 years ago – those whose “intelligence” blinds them to the truth – those who seek “proof” beyond what is already given in the Scriptures and elsewhere. Remember 1 Corinthians 1:18-19: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’” Certainly that is what God did to the “intelligent” of Jesus’ day.

Mark 15:33-37… When the sixth hour came, darkness covered the land until the ninth hour. 34 And in the ninth hour Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of the bystanders heard it they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah!” 36 Then someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down!” 37 Then Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last.

 

Commentary

            In first-century Israel, as with the rest of the world, people didn’t have watches or clocks. Time was estimated but done so somewhat accurately. Mark 15:33 speaks of the “sixth hour,” and by the Galilean time reckoning (sunrise to sunrise being a day) the sixth hour would have been noon (six hours from the 6:00 a.m. sunrise). The third hour was 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25) when Jesus was taken from Pilate’s palace to be crucified. Now John 19:14 says that Jesus was not sentenced by Pilate until “the sixth hour.” But John was clearly using Roman time, writing at the close of the century when Jewish time reckoning was no longer used. So John’s “sixth hour” was 6:00 a.m. which fits right in with Mark’s account that it was early in the morning when Jesus was taken to Pilate (15:1). So it was about 5:00 a.m. when Jesus came to Pilate, and at 6:00 a.m. he sentenced him to crucifixion which commenced around 9:00 a.m. Darkness came over the land at noon (the Jewish sixth hour) and lasted until 3:00 p.m. (the ninth hour) when he died.

            Darkness in the Bible is sometimes a sign of God’s judgment as seen in many of the prophecies of the OT prophets. Darkness was also one of the plagues in Egypt. Now Given that the cross of Jesus Christ was the place where God’s judgment was meted out on one man, and the sins of the world were poured out onto Him, it might be safe to assume that the darkness over the earth was God’s reaction to His Son taking mankind’s sin upon himself. What’s especially notable about the darkness is that it occurred at NOON and lasted until 3:00 p.m. 

            What’s amazing about Jesus’ words in v. 34 is that they show how God was separated from God in a moment in time. Now Jesus didn’t cease to be God in that painful moment of separation which begat his cry, but he ceased to have fellowship with his Father at that moment, and his resulting cry was “why have you forsaken me?” (cf. Psalm 22:1). It’s the only time in the NT where Jesus does not refer to God as his Father; this time it is “my God!” Truly Jesus became sin on man’s behalf, bore the curse of mankind, and as Habakkuk wrote about God, “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look upon iniquity with favor” (1:13).

            While the Trinity was briefly separated at the cross of Christ, amazingly those gathered continued to hurl insults at Jesus. They heard his words, “Eloi, Eloi” (Aramaic for “my God, my God”), and they joked that the deceased prophet Elijah might rise from the dead and save him.

Food for thought

            God is not some decrepit “holy man” who can’t look evil in the face. That would make evil more powerful than Him. On the contrary He looks at evil every day when He sees us! God the Father forsook Jesus at the cross because He couldn’t look at sin in His Own Son. Jesus was carrying the wretchedness of all mankind, so God forsook him as He does all the sins of man. Now God doesn’t have His back turned to His children today, but how can He bear to look at us made in His own image and gaze upon the sin that fills our lives? How can we continue to allow our pet-sins to rule our behavior and think nothing of it? God paid for those sins at the cross of Jesus, and as a result we are saved – those who place their trust in Him. If you feel that God has forsaken you, maybe it’s you who have forsaken Him. Read 1 John 1:9 and get right with God.

Mark 15:38-41… And the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw how he died, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” 40 There were also women, watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When Jesus was in Galilee, they had followed him and given him support. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were there too.

Commentary

            The miraculous is seen throughout the day Jesus died. Darkness covered the earth at noon, the Son of God was separated from God the Father for a time, then Jesus cried out and yielded up his spirit to bring forgiveness to all God’s elect. Consider two more however.

            First, the veil of the temple is split in two following Christ’s death in v. 38. This veil was the door that separated the Holy of Holies in the temple from the rest of its rooms. This room was where God dwelt, and only the Jewish high priest could enter into this room – and only once per year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) to offer a sacrifice for sins. The Day of Atonement sacrifice was for Israel’s unconfessed sins. Now when Christ died that veil was torn in two, and access to God became available to all without the need for a priest who acted as the mediator between God and man. Now because it was Passover when the veil was miraculously torn – at the very moment that Christ died on the cross – many were there to witness it. And from that day forward blood sacrifices became worthless because the perfect sacrifice had been made. Hebrews 4:16 comments on the torn veil that day: “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” In other words, there are no longer any barriers between God and man. Jesus tore them down.

            The second miracle in Mark 15:38-41 is the conversion of the Roman centurion. This Roman soldier (a soldier in charge of 100 others), who may have participated in beating and torturing Jesus, had obviously put all the pieces together and come to the conclusion that Jesus was truly God’s Son – a Roman soldier! He had likely watched Jesus’ peaceful demeanor during his persecution, observed his willingness to be scourged, heard his forgiving words on the cross, experienced the darkness from noon to 3:00 p.m., and to him there was nothing left to conclude except that “Truly this man was God’s Son!” The amazing thing, the miraculous thing, is that after all Jesus had done in three and a half years of ministry in Palestine so few actually recognized who he was. Finally! Someone with eyes to see and understand, but that in itself is a miracle because no one comes to God unless God draws that person to Christ (cf. John 6:44).

            Verses 40-41 speaks of the women who followed Jesus and who watched him die that day. While the disciples were cowering in fear away from Jesus, these bold women were there – ones who had served him while in Galilee. Mary Magdalene had been exorcised by Jesus (Luke 8:1-3); the exact identity of Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses is unknown, but Salome was known to be the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee (Matt. 27:56).

Food for thought

            Though the faith of the centurion is notable in Mark 15:39, let us not overlook the faithful women who followed Jesus right up to his death. Since the fall of man (Gen. 3) women have had the difficult task of not only being under their own curse (Gen. 3:16) but of being strong because men are too often weak and spineless. While the bold-talking disciples were spinelessly absent, the women were there. Let us honor the women who have stepped up to the plate when the men have dropped the ball. And men, pick up the ball, and be the godly leader you’re called to be.

Exegetical Outline

I)            The Mocking of Jesus (16-20)

A)    Defiled him in the palace (16)

B)    Gave him a mock robe and crown (17)

C)    “Hail king!” (18)

D)    Beat, spit, and kneeled before him (19)

E)     Stripped him (20)

II)         The Crucifixion of Jesus (21-32)

A)    Simon carries the cross (21)

B)    Taken to Golgotha/Calvary (22)

C)    Offered wine to dull pain (23)

D)    Clothes gambled for (24) in fulfillment of Psalm 22:18

E)     Crucified w/common criminals (27)

F)     Endured further mockery from observers (29-32)

III)      The Death of Jesus (33-41)

A)    Darkness from noon-3:00 p.m. (33)

B)    Cried out “My God…” as curse was completed (34)

1)      Habakkuk 1:13… “Eyes too pure to approve of evil…”

2)      When we feel abandoned by God, is it because we’ve abandoned Him?

3)      Restoration w/God comes through 1 John 1:9

C)    After six hours Jesus breathed his last (37)

D)    Temple curtain was torn (38)

E)     The centurion’s eyes were opened (39)

F)     Mary, Mary, and Salome – bold women were present (40-41)

Homiletical Outline

I)            We must endure our ministries set before us without complaint as Jesus did (16-20)

A)    Preachers should endure all complaints against them

B)    Parents and non-parents to endure what is given to them

C)    Missionaries (Adoniram Judson)

D)    Corrie/Betsy ten Boom

II)         Download Jesus’ forgiveness: with each insult forgiveness was “downloaded” (21-32)

A)    Download began at 9:00 a.m. (25)

B)    Download complete at 3:00 p.m. – six hours of scorn (33, 37; cf. John 19:30)

C)    To come down from cross at behest of crowd (32) would make download incomplete

1)      Idea of planting a church downloaded, then the file was accessed!

2)      What idea has God downloaded into you that you’ve not opened yet?

III)      Let us come boldly before the throne of God… (Heb. 4:16)

A)    Access to God granted

B)    “It is finished” – paid in full (John 19:30)

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