We continue our Lenten Journey through Mark 14 and 15 with this fourth sermon starting with Mark 15:22. Preached in the North Peace March 21, 2021.
Mark 15:22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.
With Simon from Libya carrying Jesus’s cross, this weak and silent man is brought to the place of the skull. He was offered wine mixed with myrrh, a preparation for death and to deliver the pain. Jesus received myrrh at his birth but not at his death. He was true to his Word, because God is a faithful God, not to drink wine again until the fulfillment of his kingdom, until the end of the age. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. They nailed his hands and his feet, without any pain relief, and gravity forced these nails to drag on his flesh and bones. Above him was a notice that read the king of the Jews. This is our God, one who recognizes the cruelty and jealousy of his creation and puts himself in it and under it. This is our God who came to take the depths of our suffering up into his body. This is our God who came to show us what a king is, to show us who he is, and to claim us as his own. Behold our King upon a cross.
27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. 28And the scripture was fulfilled, which says “he was numbered with the transgressors” 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
Jesus was crucified by Roman soldiers, but it was at the behest of the corrupt religious leaders of Israel that they considered doing so, and it was the cries of the crowd to crucify him that gave Pilot no escape route. Jesus the King is suffering to save his people, fulfilling the prophecy Caiaphas though not in the way Caiaphas thinks. Here a righteous perfect man, the only sinless man, is suffering and paying a debt all of us owe, and none of us can pay. He is suffering for us, and yet our impulse is to insult him, to deny him, to entertain ourselves by his plight. The charge is repeated that he said we would destroy and rebuild the temple in three days. He didn’t say that. Jesus said that they would destroy the temple of his body, but in three days it would raise again, built not with human hands. The temple is the place where God’s presence is. Jesus’s body is the body of God, he is the place where God’s presence is and they are tearing it down for fear of Rome. We can fear worldly things that have earthly power and we need to be careful that that fear does not lead us into this place. They deny Jesus, they hate him, because he threatens the compromises they have made with the world for fear of it, they forget that his authority and power is far greater than the world’s. The world is passing away, but not a word from Jesus’s lips will ever pass away. James says: You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.(James 4:4). Lord have mercy upon us. They ask Jesus for a display of power on their own terms. Jesus does not let them define him, he has come with a purpose, this is his coronation. Let the secular and religious leaders take note: this is leadership, this is power, this is what a King looks like.
33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
A star guided the Magi to Jesus’s birth. An eclipse marks his death. The heavens and the earth bow before their king. It is a dark hour, an hour when the Accuser of humanity seems to have one, seems to have made the beauty and freedom and favoritism of humanity into a mockery, seems to be vindicated in his claim that we are not worthy, that we are cruel and wicked, that we are to be ever cast out of paradise and the presence of God. He seems to have won, and yet it is a trap. It is in this moment that the Accuser’s power is overthrown, and he is cast out of heaven to his temporary ragings here in earth, it is in Jesus’s death where in the heavenly courts an Accuser is replaced by one who has come as Advocate and Judge to take our very humanity into the presence of God, to pay the price of our sins, to ransom us from the power of the Devil which is passing away. Jesus calls out from the cross with a Psalm, the first line of Psalm 22 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” So much of that Psalm is fulfilled in Jesus death, his clothes are torn and shared and gambled for, he is taunted and insulted and scoffed at, his bones are exposed, he thirsts, he suffers. The Psalm ends with two proclamations. First- all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. (Psalm 22:29). There is no hope in death before Jesus, death is return to the dust we came from, or eternal gloom and lifelessness. But Jesus at his death proclaims hope, and reason to worship, in death. Second-He has done it (Psalm 22:31) or it is accomplished which are the last words Jesus says before his death. Many don’t understand what Jesus is saying, they think he is calling for Elijah to save him. Jesus pays no mind to their confusion, he accomplishes what he came for in his suffering.
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Two powerful things happen at Jesus’s death. The curtain or veil of the Holy of Holies was torn in two. This is a sign of how this is the end of an age. To be in the presence of God was hazardous, deadly. The high priest only went there once a year after much ritual purification to pay the blood price for the sins of Israel. The curtain split, and noone died, access to the presence of God was made possible, and the place of the temple and of the worship of God was transformed. Jesus breathed his last and let out his spirit, the Spirit of God, or breathe of God, that would now make a home in all who received Jesus as their king. Christians now are the temple of God, we are the place where the presence of God dwells, a place where worship, praise and prayer are offered and answered, a place where sin is forgiven, a place where the people of God are gathered together. Your body is literally a temple. Humanity through Jesus’s blood may come into the presence of the living God. And a cruel gentile, who may have beat Jesus, may have gambled for his clothing, sees how Jesus dies, and his heart and eyes are opened, and he proclaims something none of us can see without the Spirit at work in us: Truly Jesus was the Son of God.
40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.
Its interesting that Jesus’s ministry was appreciated and supported by so many women, praise God for them and the work they did and do. Joseph, who was among those who had sentenced Jesus to death, was moved to go to Pilate and ask for Jesus’s body. Joseph was living in expectation of the coming kingdom of God, and he takes Jesus’s body, and the women prepare his body with linen from Joseph and in other gospels ointments from Nicodemus, and they lay his body in a stranger’s tomb. They seal it and it lays closed for a time. But we know this is not the end of the Good News.