Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Mark 15:21–32

Mark 15:21–32 (ESV): The Crucifixion


As the soldiers lead Jesus toward his crucifixion, they have to compel a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, to carry Jesus’ cross for him. I’m presuming that Jesus had been so severely beaten in the previous passage that he is simply not able to do it himself. Interestingly, not only does the Bible tell us Simon’s name, it even tells us the names of his childrenAlexander and Rufus—so he at least got a bit of recognition for his work.

They offer Jesus wine mixed with myrrh—the ESV Study Bible tells me that this mixture was intended to have a mildly numbing effect—but he refuses it. They also divide his clothes amongst themselves, casting lots for each article.

When they crucify him, they put an inscription above his head saying “The King of the Jews.” (The text says “the inscription of the charge against him read …” which makes it sound like an inscription was a normal practice for crucifixion.)

They crucified two robbers along with Jesus, who mocked him, as did everyone else who was crucified around him. (We are told in Luke 23:39–43 (ESV) that one of the robbers actually came to faith in Jesus, before he died, so he either started by mocking Jesus and then changed his mind, or else the other gospels just don’t consider that part relevant to the point.) The people who passed by also mocked Jesus: if he was claiming he was able to tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days, shouldn’t he be able to save himself from the cross? (It’s kind of amazing what kind of legs this “I’ll tear down the temple” rumour got! Everyone is repeating it.)

And finally the religious leaders mocked him, 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” (verses 31b–32 (ESV)).


The ESV Study Bible had an interesting thought on Jesus’ inscription, “The King of the Jews,” which is that Pilate was both justifying his action (Jesus claimed to be a king, which was treason), but was also provoking the Jewish authorities. This is backed up when we read about the same incident in John 19:19–22 (ESV):
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
The only other thought I had on this passage is that the religious leaders had no idea how right they were, when they talked about Jesus saving others but not being able to save himself. In truth, he couldn’t save himself because being sacrificed was the only way he could save others. It’s a concept they were familiar with—they were, after all, in the middle of celebrating Passover, in which a lamb had to be sacrificed in order to save the children of Israel (see Exodus 12)—but they couldn’t recognize Jesus as that lamb, to their destruction.

It’s kind of strange that I don’t have more thoughts about this passage. This is, along with the resurrection, the most important event ever to have happened in world history—it is, literally, the exact reason Jesus came to this planet in the first place—but I think it’s become so ingrained into all other aspects of my life, and certainly to all of my posts here, that it’s difficult to think of something deep about the actual event. (Not that my purpose in writing a post is to “think of something deep.” I’m just capturing my thoughts.)

If you’re not familiar with the gospel, just a quick summary: God is a Holy God; He cannot abide sin. When He created us, He did so intending that we be sinless, so that we could have fellowship with Him—but knowing that we wouldn’t live up to His intentions, and that we would sin. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, it introduced a fundamental problem for the human race: we are now sinful by nature—our very nature has been altered—but God demands sinless perfection in order to have a relationship with HIm. There’s no “good enough,” there’s no grading on the curve, absolute perfection is required. If you’ve ever told a lie, if you’ve ever disobeyed your parents, you’re no longer sinless: it’s all or nothing. You are either perfect, or you have sinned. But this is a bar that humans aren’t able to reach, and God knows this, and he knew it right from the beginning when He created the world. So He already had a plan in mind: His Son would be born as a human—his perfect, sinless Son, the only human who ever lived a life without sin—and would take the punishment for us. This is something none of us could do on our own, because we deserve our own punishment, and I can’t do it for you, because I have my own punishment that I deserve, but Jesus didn’t deserve punishment—for anything—so he could be the perfect, sinless sacrifice. By trusting in him, He took my punishment on my behalf; my sin was “imparted” to him, and his righteousness was “imparted” to me. Now, when God looks at me, He sees not my sin, but Jesus’ righteousness, and therefore we can have a relationship.

Since God knew from the beginning what He was going to do, you can see examples of it all through the Old Testament; the sacrificial system was a picture of Jesus’ sacrifice to come; the Passover that we’ve already mentioned was another picture of Jesus’ sacrifice. The entire Old Testament is full of “reverse metaphors”—metaphors for things that were still to come, rather than metaphors for things that had already happened.

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