041614Mark 15:21–47

21 A man named Simon, who was from Cyrene was coming in from the country just then, and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon is the father of Alexander and Rufus.) 22 And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means Skull Hill). 23 They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it. 24 Then they nailed him to the cross. They gambled for his clothes, throwing dice to decide who would get them. 25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when the crucifixion took place. 26 A signboard was fastened to the cross above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “The King of the Jews.” 27 Two criminals were crucified with him, their crosses on either side of his. 29 And the people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You can destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days, can you? 30 Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!” 31 The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the two criminals who were being crucified with Jesus ridiculed him. 33 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then, at that time Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a stick so he could drink. “Leave him alone. Let’s see whether Elijah will come and take him down!” he said. 37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” 40 Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. 41 They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Then they and many other women had come with him to Jerusalem. 42 This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, 43 an honored member of the high council, Joseph from Arimathea (who was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come), gathered his courage and went to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman military officer in charge and asked him. 45 The officer confirmed the fact, and Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. 46 Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth, and taking Jesus’ body down from the cross, he wrapped it in the cloth and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.

Points of Interest:

  • ‘father of Alexander and Rufus’—apparently the children of this man became well-known followers of Jesus; they were known to Mark and to the people to whom he was writing.
  • ‘wine drugged with myrrh’—a painkiller. Jesus refuses to have his senses dulled to the suffering. IN the prayer at the garden, Jesus asks the Father to ‘take this cup of suffering away.’ But he submits himself to the Father’s will. Here, on the cross, he decides to take on the full suffering. As the prophet Isaiah says, ‘You have drunk the cup of terror, tipping out its last drops’ (51: 17).
  • save yourself and come down from the cross’—They assume Jesus is not coming down from the cross because he can’t save himself. Actually, if he were to try to save his life by coming down from the cross he would lose it: everyone who saves his life will lose it, but everyone who loses his life for Jesus’ sake and the sake of the good news will find true life (8:35, March 29). Jesus is staying on the cross because it is the way to true life, for him and for everyone else.
  • Two criminals were crucified with him, their crosses on either side of his’—James and John had asked Jesus if they could be on his right and left in his glory, and Jesus told them that they didn’t know what they were asking. This moment is Jesus’ glory, and it is two criminals, not two disciples, who are on his right and left. Even though they are not ready to be with Jesus in his suffering and glory now, both James and John will be by the end of their lives; Jesus has promised them both the persecution and the glory.
  • My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’—Jesus is truly crying out deeply in his suffering. In his body, he does not want to die. However, this cry of anguish is simultaneously a deep affirmation of Jesus’ faith in his father. This question is the first line of Psalm 22. During Jesus’ day, the psalms were known by the first line, rather than by numbers; so, Jesus is referencing the entire psalm. It’s a psalm that speaks of terrible suffering, astounding similar to what Jesus is undergoing: including mockery by everyone who passes, being very thirsty, wounded hands and feet, and gambling for the clothes of the suffering one. It may be worth reading the psalm to hear how profoundly this psalm describes Jesus’ pain. Yet, the psalm doesn’t end at the suffering. The psalmist goes on to say, ‘Snatch me from the lions’ jaws, and from the horns of these wild oxen. Then I will declare the wonder of your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among all your people.’ There is a full expectation of rescue from the terrible suffering, and a prediction of joy, not just for the sufferer but for future generations: ‘Let all mortals—those born to die—bow down in his presence. Future generations will also serve him. Our children will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those yet unborn. They will hear about everything he has done.’ It’s as if Psalm 22 was written precisely to be Jesus’ guide and comfort on the cross. It describes his unbearable suffering, his unshakeable faith in God’s coming rescue, and his anticipation of the glorious future that will be attained by this suffering.
  • Truly, this was the Son of God’—in his death, Jesus fulfills his own prophecies and those of the Old Testament prophets and psalmists concerning the Messiah. Yet almost none of the Jews recognizes him. A gentile soldier, however, clearly sees who Jesus is in the moment of his death.
  • ‘They had been followers of Jesus’—all of the apostles have run away, and when they do it clears the stage a bit and we are able to see that a whole group of women have also been Jesus’ disciples. These women remain even when the men have run away.
  • ‘an honored member of the high council, Joseph from Arimathea (who was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come’—apparently not all of the council approved of Jesus’ death. Maybe they were left out of the secret night trial, or maybe they are the ones who pointed out the contradictory testimony, but to no avail.

Taking it Home:

  • For you: Meditate for a moment on Psalm 22. It is easy for us to pretend our suffering isn’t there, to try to avoid it, or to fall into despair. Jesus took a Psalm 22 attitude toward his suffering: he felt its terror, but he trusted in God’s rescue and redemption. Ask Jesus to give you the ability to imitate him in his suffering.
  • For your 6: The soldier who is crucifying Jesus has a moment of sudden clarity: he sees that Jesus is the Son of God. Pray that your 6 will have such a moment of clear insight.
  • For our church: At this climactic moment in Jesus’ life, all of a sudden his woman disciples come to the forefront. The woman with perfume and the widow are exalted as examples of faith and devotion, and when all of the men have run away the women remain with Jesus at the cross. It’s a pity that in the history of the church, these faithful, devoted, and courageous women have so often been ignored, and women who follow in their footsteps have been suppressed. Pray for our church, that it would be a place where women are consistently called to the front and their gifts, strengths, and contributions are acknowledged and affirmed.