Title: The Son of God
Text: Mark 15.21-39
Introduction: We’ll be in two texts this morning: here (Mark 15) and Psalm 22.
The Events leading up to the crucifixion –
- Our series began in Chapter 14.1 where Jesus was anointed for burial. That event caused quite a stir among some, especially Judas who was so offended, he betrayed Jesus into the hands of those who wanted him dead.
- Jesus celebrated the Passover Meal with his disciples – including Judas – on the night before his death. It is sometime during this meal that Judas slipped out and went to the religious leaders, having already agreed to betray Jesus into their hands.
- As a side note: tomorrow night, Jews around the world will begin celebrating the Passover. Calvary is privileged to have an Orthodox Jewish man who was converted to Christianity through a VBS trophy. He’ll come and share with us how the meal was observed by Jesus and his disciples, and, what the different parts to the meal mean to the Christian. You’ll want to be here and take notes. 6 pm…
- At the end of the Passover meal, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. These events are what we remember every time we partake.
- There is the prediction of the falling away of all the disciples and of course, Peter’s denial – which of course he denied. Jesus takes the disciples up to the Monte of Olives and then the three to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is here the three who were adamant about their faithfulness cannot watch and pray for one hour with him.
- Judas comes to the camp bringing a mob. Jesus is then arrested and led away to the High Priest. I believe Matthew tells us this is Caiaphas. Jesus will spend the night before an informal gathering of the Sanhedrin. They will accuse Jesus falsely, but in the end, get him to say what they need to condemn him. Peter will be just outside in the courtyard denying he knows or is a part of Jesus.
- In the morning, the Council (Sanhedrin) will gather and officially charge Jesus, but then take him to Pilate to deal with this issue of Jesus being the ‘King of the Jews’.
- Pilate, of course, will find no fault in him.
- Pilate appealed to the crowd to release to them Jesus, as was the tradition he had begun some years before at this time. But instead, the crowd chose Barabbas, a man who had committed murder and was a revolutionary. The crowd’s desire was to have Jesus be crucified.
- So, Pilate had him scourged and turned over to the soldiers. That is where our story picks up this morning… we begin in v 21; however, the language dictates that this section actually starts in v 16
I’ve outlined the message this way:
- The Crucifixion of the Son of God
- The Rejection of the Son of God
- The Death of the Son of God
Transition: I think Mark’s story is simple, brief and restrained. He doesn’t try to move us to sympathy for Christ as he is tortured and punished; Nor, does he try to make us angry at Christ’s enemies. So, let’s pick up in Mark 15, v21 Where we see…
I. The Crucifixion of the Son of God (21-28)
exp.: The crucifixion is a process of execution. Pilate commissions his Roman soldiers to carry out that execution. Mark is very matter-of-fact about his storytelling. He almost lists these moments and actions as bullets. For example, he begins each sentence with And they… did such and such. Notice, Mark begins this for us in v 16 and continues through v 24; “and they”;
Mark is making it clear for us that these soldiers are the ones acting here. In our section, their first action is to keep the process going. Jesus has been so mistreated that he can’t keep going. He is just too weak. It was customary for the victim to carry his own cross. It is most likely that he didn’t carry the whole thing himself, but rather just the traverse beam. He fell beneath its weight and needed someone else to carry his cross beam. So, (rd v 21) they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. It is amazing that Mark includes some interesting information her for us.
- Simon is a Jewish name – so we assume that this man was a Jew. Of Cyrene means he was from North Africa, making him a Jew of the Diaspora – i.e.: the Exile.
The question would be why? Why would Mark add this to his story.
- I believe he wants us to see there are witnesses to what is happening. Sure, the disciples wimped and ran, but not others. In a moment, mark will add to these folks, some women who were present.
- It is highly possible that this Rufus, probably just a child here, is the same Rufus mentioned in Romans 16.13. Consider, Mark served in Rome under Peter. This Gospel is considered written to those people. This would be a natural tie. However, with that said – it doesn’t make it so. But, if that is the case, it would make sense that Mark would add witnesses who they would know.
- In 1941, an Israeli archeologist unearthed a burial cave used by a family from Cyrene. This burial cave was used just before the destruction of the Temple and found on the western slope of the Kidron Valley. The valley that links the Temple and the Mt of Olives. What got the attention of these scholars was an inscription on one ossuary. It was written twice in Greek: Alexander, son of Simon. To be sure, these were common names by people in that day. I’m sure there were other Jews from Cyrene who had moved back Israel. But it is interesting, nonetheless.
So what is Mark doing? I think he’s just dropping names. Here are the witnesses and you know them or can easily find them and ask them yourselves!
ill.: As a boy I was a huge fan of Earl Campbell. I just dropped a name. A famous name – in Tyler nonetheless. He lives here near us and we can all bear witness to his athletic prowess. Even those of you who don’t follow sports probably know who Earl Campbell is!
exp.: Well, they (the soldiers) brought him to Golgatha – the place of the skull.
ill.: Show Pictures. The 1st one is from the early 20th Century… the 1900’s. the 2nd, is a pic from modern times – probably in the last 30 years. Now look at this past summer. Should Jesus tarry in his return, our children will only be able to see old pictures. The decay is occurring at an alarming rate – and because it is Arab owned, there is nothing that can be done to preserve it.
exp.: So, they offer him some wine mixed with myrrh. I was taught growing up that this was probably used as a painkiller. There are stories of women who would mix frankincense with wine and offer it to the condemned. However, consider that those who offer the wine aren’t the women, but the soldiers. Because of this, it is possible that this is more of the mockery they have been pouring out on Jesus – offering him the finest of wines for a King.
Then, after this long processional, v 24 tells us that Jesus is crucified. Rd v 24; I think this is much more important to Mark in the story telling – Jesus is fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies concerning him. Here, Mark quotes from Psalm 22 – Specifically, v 18. Turn there. Mark makes clear references to:
V1: 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
V6-8: 6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
V15-16, 18: 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
18 they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
app.: Truthfully, you can read so much more into Mark from Psalm, especially when you know this story through the eyes of the other Gospels. Mark’s intent is for us, the reader, to see that Jesus is fulfilling what was spoken of him through the Prophets and the Writings.
exp.: Mark gives us a timeline in v 25 – 9 am when he was crucified. The place a placard – an inscription with this charge: King of the Jews. And they crucified him between two thieves.
t.s.: First, The Son of God is Crucified and 2nd, he is rejected.
II. The Rejection of the Son of God (29-36)
exp.: Jesus is rejected while hanging on the cross. There are people who pass by and mock him on the cross. The religious leaders also continue mocking him (29-32). But something very interesting happens about noon: Darkness. Man I wish we had time to spend taking about darkness.
- Not a solar eclipse: it lasted 3 hours – vs. 2min and 25 sec.
- I think of the 9th plague: darkness: a Darkness to be felt! I think of Isaiah 9.2: 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.
For to Us a Child Is Born
9 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
That famous passage on the promised coming Messiah…
What is going on here? Well, I believe it is a demonstration of the Father’s reaction to the sin of the world. This becomes clearer for us as Jesus cries out “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You probably noted this earlier when we read Psalm 22. At this point I can’t help but think of the song:
How deep the Father’s love for us– How fast beyond all measure
That he should give his only son– to make a wretch his treasure
How great the pain of searing the loss– The father turns his face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One– Bring many sons to glory
If you’re having a tough time with this – the actions of God – Can I let you in on a little secret? There in Psalm 22.24 we read: All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. God sacrificed his Son for our sins. But he did not abandon him. I think that is important.
exp.: I believe the mocking continues as someone grabs a sponge and offers Jesus a drink, but hesitates to see if Elijah will come to his rescue (33-36).
app.: I picture this ‘someone’ with the reed in his hand as Jesus dies…
t.s.: The Son of God is Crucified, is rejected and finally he dies…
III. The Death of the Son of God (37-39)
exp.: Jesus cries out and breathes his last breath. It is finished. He is dead. But something absolutely incredible happens: the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
Many have asked if this could be true. Well, for the believer, we have God’s word. But as for secular history, the answer is yes. Listen to Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah:
“And now a shudder ran through Nature, as its Sun had set. We dare not do more than follow the rapid outlines of the Evangelistic narrative. As the first token, it records the rending of the Temple-Veil in two from the top downward to the bottom; as the second, the quaking of the earth, the rending of the rocks and the opening of the graves… while the rending of the Veil is recorded first, as being the most significant token to Israel, it may have been connected with the earthquake, although this alone might scarcely account for the tearing of so heavy a Veil from the top to the bottom. Even the latter circumstance has its significance. That some great catastrophe, betokening the impending destruction of the Temple, had occurred in the Sanctuary about this very time, is confirmed by not less than four mutually independent testimonies: those of Tacitus, of Josephus, of the Talmud, and of earliest Christian tradition. The most important of these are, of course, the Talmud and Josephus. The latter speaks of the mysterious extinction of the middle and chief light in the Golden Candlestick, forty years before the destruction of the Temple; and both he and the Talmud refer to a supernatural opening by themselves of the great Temple-gates that had been previously closed, which was regarded as a portent of the coming destruction of the Temple”
Well, all of these miraculous, supernatural events take place as bulleted notes by Mark. Then, the centurion, who has charge over the detail, stood facing Jesus. As he witnesses the death of Jesus he remarks, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”(37-39).
app.: this statement is in line with what we’ve been reading in Mark for a year now. In chapter 1 Mark tells us this in the first verse. Then, in v 13, God says, this is my son! The demons recognize him as the chapters roll by. In about Chapter 9, on the Mt. of Transfiguration, God once again declares the identity of who this is: His Son! Not once does a human acknowledge this, until now. And Mark closes out his book with this revelation. Theologians call this a melodic line. There is a phrase that echoes through the book called a melodic line.
t.s.: And for Mark, it is this: Jesus is the Son of God.
Conclusion: so, let me wrap this up. Let me leave you with a couple of thoughts.
- The Christians of the early church who were suffering persecution would have been encouraged by this story. Persecution, suffering and death are not necessarily a sign of God’s absence, but rather his active work in our lives and in the lives of others.
- There is irony here:
- In how Jesus is treated; what they call him and who he really is.
- They call him to save himself, but by staying on the cross he will make it possible for them to be saved.
- Although all rejected Christ, he will not reject anyone who comes by faith.
- God judges sin and the penalty for sin is death. Therefore, all sinners must die. However, Christ died for the unjust, giving us hope. Let Christ pay your death penalty and set you free today.