This morning we come to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I am somewhat uncomfortable with doing the crucifixion on the same day as our Thanksgiving dinner. We may have 200 people here tonight to celebrate Thanksgiving. But then, I thought, what better thing to be thankful for than the sacrifice our Lord made to lead us to life. The life we share in the Spirit was pioneered by Jesus on the Cross. Wow, I am thankful. So, I am... synchronized.
Those who were here last week know that we reached the climax of the Gospel of Mark in chapter 14 verse 62. The high priest knew Jesus’s trial was going poorly, so, in frustration, he straight up asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ? Just tell us!”
Mark 14:62 And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."
In one sentence Jesus reveals the Messianic Secret. What has been kept quiet through his life is announced at this trial. In one whooper of a statement the high point of Mark is reached. It is no longer a secret! This is the message we are called upon to proclaim!
After this climax, Jesus quickly goes to the cross. In a series of seven snapshots, Mark quickly shows us the crucifixion of Jesus. I think Mark is focusing on 14:62. The crucifixion highlights the “I AM”.
Here is the interesting part of Mark’s account of the crucifixion. Mark doesn’t show us much of Jesus; very few words, no description of his suffering, Jesus is hardly mentioned. The focus of these seven snapshots is, rather, on all those others who surround the crucifixion.
Let’s look at the seven snapshots of the crucifixion.
Snapshot #1 – Barabbas
Barabbas sits in the dark of a Roman dungeon waiting for his execution. Barabbas shivers as he suspects his crucifixion is near; maybe today. He squirms in the dark regretting his capture. He is a rebel. He hates Rome. He wants them out of his Israel. Barabbas, wanted nothing more than to kill some Romans and even die in battle as a martyr; but not die on a cross. That is failure.
Barabbas sits in the dark of a Roman dungeon when he hears his name being called by a crowd, “Barabbas, Barabbas.” And then just a few moments later the crowd screams, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” “On, no. Today is the day”.
Minutes later he hears the jingling of the keys as his jail cell is unlocked. Barabbas repeats to himself, “Be brave. Be defiant. Don’t show your fear. It is a good day to die for Israel.”
The Centurion grabs Barabbas. The Roman Centurion shoves him out the door, “Get out of here, pig.” “What?” You are free.” “Free?” “You can go. Pilate has released you. Pilate is killing the other one.”
Mark 15:6-15 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, "Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, "Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?" And they cried out again, "Crucify him." And Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Crucify him." So, Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
Barabbas is released.
Snapshot #2 – Soldiers
“Another stupid rebel is going to a cross. This one claims to be the King of the Jews. Big whup. Come on boys, let’s honor this king!” The soldiers find a sticker bush in the corner of the courtyard. “Let’s give the king a crown.” They twist together the vine with its nasty thorns. The soldiers shove the mock crown onto Jesus’s head. They laugh as the blood flows down his face. “He needs a scepter.” They smack him with a club. “Throw this purple cloak on him.” “Hail, King of the Jews. Hail king of Nothing!”
Mark 15:16-20 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
The soldiers are callous.
Snapshot #3 – Simon
Alexander and Rufus sit in their own Roman dungeon. The year is 64 AD. Nero arrested them for arson. Alexander and Rufus are scheduled to be crucified today. As they sit in the dark of their Roman dungeon, they remember, again, for the 100th time, the story their dad told them. Their dad, Simon, had been there, by chance, he got to carry the beam of the cross up to the place of the Skull. Alexander and Rufus quote together their favorite Jesus saying... "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Mark 15:21-22 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull).
Simon takes up the cross of Jesus.
Snapshot #4 – Casting Lots
“Come on... snake eyes. Mama needs a new pair of shoes. Or maybe a robe.” The detachment of Roman soldiers laugh at the bad joke, as they gamble for Jesus’s robe. It wasn’t a bad robe. It was all made in one piece. It was something, some compensation for this miserable job of killing Jews.
Little did these Romans know they were fulfilling Psalm 22.
Psalm 22:16-18 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet- I can count all my bones- they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
“Snake eyes! I win! Give me the king of Jews’ robe! Look I am a king too!”
Mark 15:23-27 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews." And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.
The guards are indifferent.
Snapshot #5 – Chief Priests
“That’ll learn him. Where are all his snappy comebacks now?” The chief priests come by to gloat. “All those people you saved, save yourself and then we will believe you are the I AM, ths Son of man sitting at the right hand of God. You are right hand of scum.” The chief priests feel... haughty. “We win. You lose.”
Mark 15:29-32 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!" So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
The chief priests are vindicated... for the moment.
Snapshot #6 – Eloi
“Wow. Look, it’s getting dark.” "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" These are the only words Jesus speaks in Mark’s account of the crucifixion... and even these words are misunderstood. “Why is he calling for Elijah? Does he really think that Elijah is going to come back from heaven to save him?” Give him something to wine, so we can see if Elijah will rescue him.
Mark 15:33-36 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders hearing it said, "Behold, he is calling Elijah." And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down."
The bystanders misunderstand Jesus.
Snapshot #7 - Centurion
Passovers occur on the full moon. So, in the darkness which has settled over the whole land, the moon shines brightly. A beam cuts through the clouds and illuminates the cross. The Roman Centurion who is in charge of this lousy detail realizes... something is wrong. Something is different. This isn’t just another imposture. The darkness, the light of the moon, his loud cry, the way his last breath left his body... changes everything.
Mark 15:37-39 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"
“Wait, wait, flashback... remember the opening line of Mark...
Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
--Remember the voice at his baptism, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
--Remember the voice at the transfiguration when the cloud spoke, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him."
--Remember the parable of the wicked tenants...
Mark 12:6-8 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally, he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.
The Centurion, in a moment of enlightenment, speaks words of truth... “Truly this man was the Son of God!"
And now at last, not the high priest, not a leading rabbi, not even a loyal disciple, but a battle-hardened thug in Roman uniform, used to killing humans the way one might kill flies, stands before this dying young Jew and says something which, in Mark’s mind, sends a signal to the whole world that the kingdom has indeed come, that a new age is being born, that God has done something the news of which will spread around the globe. --N. T. Wright
Seven snapshots... each one a different reaction to the crucifixion.
--Barabbas is released by the cross. “I’m alive!”
--The soldiers are callous to the cross. “Another joke of a Jew.”
--Simon takes up the cross of Jesus. “I picked up his cross and followed him!”
--The guard is indifferent to the cross. “Snake eyes, I win.”
--The chief priests are vindicated by the cross... “We win. You lose.”
--The bystanders misunderstand Jesus on the cross. “Did he say Elijah?”
--The Centurion speaks enlightenment from the cross. “This is the Son of God!”
People react differently to the cross, even today. Mark wants you to evaluate what your reaction to the cross. I pray you are... thankful for the cross. The cross releases us to join life! As we take up our cross, as we live sacrificial love; we speak the words of truth... “Truly Jesus is the Son of God!"
November 12, 2017
Los Alamos Church of Christ