GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 54
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2011|
|How Jesus Christ stands up in the face of suffering and persecution to demonstrate His complete obedience to the Father in order to glorify God so that you and I will live in a way that we demonstrate that same kind of obedience today in our own lives.|
A Lamb Before the Wolves
The title of the message this morning is A Lamb Before the Wolves. In 1865, William Booth met great opposition when he began his mission work. Gang members destroyed the tent he was staying in early on. He moved into a warehouse. Then drunks in the town found out where he was, so they would light fireworks and shoot them in the building at him. If that wasn’t enough, hoodlums in town began to hurl mud and sling rocks at him in order to send a message that they weren’t interested in the mission work that he was doing in their city. They began a paper. It’s called The War Cry and it shows us basically the battle that they were in. Booth started the Salvation Army—you may be familiar with—in 1879. By 1899 he has received threats and 669 volunteers at that point hat been assaulted. Many of them were injured permanently. Some even died for the sake of the gospel. They were constantly reminded of the words of 2 Timothy 3:12 that says, Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. They were comforted by the words of Paul to the church of Philippians to which Paul said, for it has been granted to you for the sake of Christ to not only believe in Him but to also suffer for His sake.
This morning, I want to show you from the text how Jesus Christ stands up in the face of suffering and persecution to demonstrate His complete obedience to the Father in order to glorify God so that you and I will live in a way that we demonstrate that same kind of obedience today in our own lives. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Mark 15:1: “And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole Council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate.”
I want to take us on a journey of rejection basically this morning by different groups who come against Jesus. The first one is this. Write it down. We see in the text that Jesus is rejected by the leaders. He’s rejected by the leaders. Now, there are two different categories of people. The first one is the group of the Sanhedrin. You see in the text, 15:1, the chief priests, the elders, the scribes and the whole council came against Him, and that’s the Sanhedrin’s demands. They’re demanding that Jesus be crucified, tried for a crime that He didn’t commit.
Now, if you remember what happened just a few moments earlier, the high priest has Jesus in the courtyard and he asks Him a question. Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed? Are you the Christ? And Jesus responds with these words: I am He and you will see me coming on the clouds of heaven. And at that moment the high priest did what? Do you remember? He tore his garments apart and he said, What more do we need? We don’t need any further witnesses! This man has committed blasphemy!
The leaders wanted Him dead. Over and over again Jesus had judged their hypocrisy by turning over tables in the temple. He had judged their false teaching by calling them out over and over. He condemned them with their words. At this point, the power brokers of Israel had had enough of Jesus. They were seeing Jesus take away the focus and the fame from them and put it on Jesus. They were done. So, basically, the night before they had legalized Jesus’ crime. Now they needed someone to carry it out. That’s why they went to Pilate. They needed a Roman authority to sentence Jesus to death. That’s why they bring Him to Pilate. At this point Jesus has been held captive from around 3 a.m. until daybreak. It’s starting to break through with the sun at this moment if you can imagine. So we see first of all the Sanhedrin’s demands.
Secondly, we move into Pilate’s dilemma because he’s in a dilemma here. Look at verse 2: “And Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ And he answered him, ‘You have said so.’ And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, ‘Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.”
I think a good question at this point is, who is Pilate? Pilate was the legal representative of the Roman law in Judea. He carried out the law of Rome. In fact, Pilate at this point had been over Jerusalem or Judea for ten straight years. It shows us that he was in good standing with Rome. But on the flipside, the Jews hated him. They despised Pilate for two reasons. The first was this: Pilate was the only magistrate that would come into Jerusalem, when he would bring his procession in when he would enter with his soldiers carrying poles, and on top of the poles was perched an eagle. To the Jews that was idolatry. Josephus the historian writes about that the Jews despised this so much because of this false idol on the pole that there was a riot that ensued forcing Pilate to take it down. He was the only one of the magistrates to do that.
But that wasn’t the only thing that caused them to be in an uproar. In addition to that, what Pilate did was he decided to build a water filtration system for Jerusalem and he was going to fund it by taking money out of the temple treasure of all things. So he was going to steal from the Jews in order to build this filtration system. They rose up against him as well in rage. They would never forget this sinful act that Pilate did. So that’s kind of the scene behind the scenes that happening.
So Pilate sees Jesus. I want you to imagine what Jesus looks like. They’re claiming that He’s the king of the earth, that He’s the King of the Jews. I want to paint the picture. Jesus Christ at this point is covered in His garments with sweat and blood after being punched and bruised by the high priest, if you remember the story. In addition to that, Jesus has not wiped His face or washed His brow so He has spit that is probably caked on His face at this point. There’s great sarcasm in the question that Pilate asked. In fact, he’s not really asking the question. He’s saying in the Greek you are the King of the Jews, right? I mean, there’s irony and sarcasm in the question. You mean to tell me you’re the King of the Jews? Then Pilate asks Him again, Why don’t you say something, Jesus? Why don’t you defend yourself, prove yourself?
He was in a dilemma. He was in a dilemma for two reasons. The first one is this: the Jews had painted Jesus as this rebel, as this man who was leading an insurrection against the Roman government, and yet when Pilate questions Jesus, standing before him is this calm, mild-mannered, humble, passive, quiet man. So he’s dumbfounded. And then secondly, the dilemma increases because Jesus doesn’t retaliate. You know, most people when they’re convicted of a crime they didn’t do, they’re yelling, they’re screaming. I was framed! They turned me in! Jesus doesn’t do anything. Jesus is standing there. In fact, he doesn’t even say a word. Pilate is blown away.
Now, I want you to know, at this point Pilate believes Jesus is innocent. In fact, in John, the book of John, you can notice in John 18:38 it says after he interrogated Jesus, Pilate went out to the people and told them, I find no guilt in this man. He’s done nothing wrong. So the question is why is Jesus quiet? Why is Jesus silent? My friends, he’s fulfilling scripture and He’s following the will of God. Isaiah 53:7, He (the suffering servant) was oppressed and he was afflicted yet he opened not his mouth. Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep before it’s shearers is silent, so he opened his mouth not. Jesus Christ was laser focused on fulfilling the will of the Father.
Now at this point, in less than six hours—I want to paint the scene for you again—Jesus Christ was sold out by Judas. He was denied by Peter. He was rejected by the Sanhedrin. And as we see in a few moments, he will be turned in by Pilate. The drama is building as we move from the rejection of the leaders, secondly, to desertion of the crowd. Write it down if you’re taking notes. The crowd deserted Him.
Verse 6: “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’s the key word, circle it] 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.”
Ancient sources tell us that governors would release a prisoner on the Passover at the people’s request as a sign of mercy. So once a year, he would come before the people and he would say, Who do you want me to release? So he brings out a notorious criminal, as Matthew calls him. Mark says he’s a rebel and a murderer. Luke says he’s a murderer, a robber. So he has this notorious criminal on this side and Jesus on the other side. Now, at this point I want you to know the crowd thinks Jesus is innocent. There are two reasons I believe that—verses 9 and 10.
Look at verse 9. Pilate asked the question, almost reiterating what the crowd expects. Look at verse 9. When he asks them, Do you want for me to release for you the King of the Jews? He’s expecting them to say what? Yes! Then he goes on to verse 10, for he perceived that the only reason they wanted Jesus condemned was because the chief priests, out of envy, wanted to deliver Him up. The key word there is envy. That word envy means to have displeasure aroused by seeing someone else having what you do not want them to have. Jesus was taking the focus and fame off of them and putting on Him and the chief priest had had enough.
All of a sudden when Pilate is asking these questions, someone taps him on the shoulder. Now we have to go to a different Gospel, the book of Matthew, to see this. Go to Matthew 27. I want to show you the interruption that we miss in Mark. At this moment he’s interrupted. Matthew 27:19: “…while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.’” So his wife, from the night before, wakes up and she had a dream. God spoke to this woman and said Leave this man alone. Pilate is interrupted.
While Pilate is dealing with the note, the chief priest sees the opportunity, go back to Mark 15:11, and they stir the crowd up to have him release for them Barabbas instead of Jesus. They start spreading lies to the people, starting the crowd to become in an uproar at this point. So Pilate turns around and he says Okay, not knowing what just happened, who do you want me to release to you, Barabbas or Jesus?
My friends, the fickle crowd is inconsistent in their support of Christ. See, just moments earlier, Jesus comes into town on an untamed donkey. They’re waving palm branches. They’re throwing cloaks on the ground. They’re yelling Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us, Jesus! They were following Him, right? When Jesus was raising the dead, they’re there. When Jesus is giving sight to the blind, they’re there. When he’s unstopping clogged ears, they’re there. When He causes the lame to walk, they are there. But the moment Jesus seems helpless, they turn their back on Him. It’s the what have you done for me lately mentality, right? That doesn’t just happen with the crowd in that day. How often does it happen to us today?
But you know the point here? The point is it shows us that the crowd is ignorant of the scriptures. It shows us that these people knew about the scriptures, but they didn’t understand the scriptures. They should have known, being raised Jewish, Genesis 3:15. They should have known Isaiah 7:14. But they didn’t. They should have comprehended because they were exposed to passages like Micah 4 or Zechariah 6 or even Haggai 2. These passages highlight the peace and providence of Messiah, the suffering and the salvation of the coming king, but they didn’t know it. And because they didn’t know these passages, it led to their compromise.
So out of nowhere, Pilate is caught off guard. The crowd yells out crucify Him! What? Crucify? What do you want me to do with this man? They yell out again, Crucify Him! Saddest words in the life of Pilate. Look at verse 15: “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd [Do you see it?], released for them Barabbas.” You know what the crowd probably said to him? We don’t have it on record. I imagine it happened. If you don’t listen to us, we will tell the emperor you have allowed treason against the government. Pilate, if you don’t do what we want, we’re going to tell Rome you’re letting a man lead an insurrection against the government, against Rome! He calls Himself a king and you are doing nothing about it. So Pilate cracks under the pressure.
You want to know what the point of this message is about? It’s about compromise. It’s about people cracking under the pressure. I want you to notice more weakness of Pilate. He knew Jesus was innocent. He knew the Jews were seeking to kill Him because they envied Him. And instead of standing up for the truth, Pilate caves under the pressure. In the kingdom of God, God never allows compromise when it comes to His Son. Period. God never allows His people to compromise when it comes to one’s allegiance to Christ.
I don’t want you to miss what’s happening here. Jesus Christ is not on trial this morning. Pilate is. Pilate is not determining if Jesus is right or wrong. Jesus is trying Pilate at this point and He’s basically saying, Pilate, which side are you going to choose? When forced to take sides, Pilate stands on the wrong side. Jesus talked about this often. Matthew 12:30, He who is not with Me is against Me. In Mark 9:40, He said he who is not against us if for us.
On the day of judgment, my friends, there will only be two groups, not three. Did you know that? There will be one group on this side, those who have stood for the Lord Jesus Christ, and they will go before the Bema Seat or the Judgment Seat of Christ. The only people in this line are believers. On the other side will be another line of unbelievers going to the end, which will be the Great White Throne Judgment, where the sentence in this line is always eternal damnation into the lake of fire according to Revelation 20. There are only two sides to choose. Let me ask you this morning. Which side will you choose? There’s no middle ground in the Kingdom of God.
It reminds me of an African chief who visited a mission station. As he went to this mission station, he saw this mirror that the missionary had hung on a tree that he used to get ready in the morning. The African had never seen a mirror before. So he walks up to the mirror and he says, who is this horrible looking figure here? Not realizing he’s looking at himself. The missionary says, oh no, it’s not in the tree. He says, it’s in the tree. Let me see. He’s trying to pull the mirror out. He says, no, no, it’s not in the tree. It’s actually a mirror. The missionary looked at him and the man was bothered and so he grabbed the glass and he said, I must have this glass. How much will you sell it to me for? The man said it’s not for sale and the African started to get rowdy and started to cause problems. So the missionary, fearing for his life, said I’ll sell it to you. So he made a price and he bought the mirror. When the African took the mirror, he started yelling I will never have this mirror make faces at me again! And he threw it on the ground and he crushed it. He thought that would get rid of it.
My friends, I want you to know that’s exactly what the religious leaders did to Jesus. They destroyed the mirror to their soul by condemning Him to the cross thinking that would get rid of it. But it only magnified their own sin. Did you know we, as believers, are a reflection of Christ to a lost world? That when people see Christ in us, it is a reflection on their own sinfulness and a conviction that they need Christ? My friends, there are only one of the two sides to choose. We’re either for Christ or against Him and if we’re not for Him, guess what? We are against Him.
We see in the text the rejection of the leaders, which leads to the fickle crowd in turn where they deserted Him. So we see the desertion of the crowd, which leads to the final aspect of the text, which is the humiliation by the soldiers, which is probably the hardest one for us to bear. Verse 15: “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.”
Scourged is another word for flogged, which always or usually preceded crucifixion. One commentator described the abuse of a flogging. The Roman scourge consisted of a short, wooden handle to which several thongs were attached. The ends were equipped with pieces of lead or brass and with sharply pointed bits of bone. The strips were laid especially on the victims back bared and bent over. Generally there were two men who employed and administered the punishment, one lashing the victim from side, one lashing the victim from the other side with the result that the flesh was at times lacerated to such an extent that deep seated veins and arteries, sometimes inner organs, were exposed from the flogging. On some occasions men died from the flogging alone.
After the beating , verse 16, “the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion.” Six hundred men marched in that day, the entire battalion. The cohort was there and they believed at this point that Jesus was disillusional because He was making these false claims that He was the Messiah. And it was their point to demoralize our Lord and to disgrace the Lord Jesus Christ. John MacArthur says the soldiers thought Jesus was a village idiot, a lunatic who was deluded in His way of thinking. How could they think He was a king? I mean, look at Him? He doesn’t look like a king to us! And that’s why they mocked Him.
Verse 17: “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.”
Jesus was stripped of all His clothes in Mark 15:15 when they flogged Him. You can imagine the lacerations on His back. Then they placed those clothes back on His back as the blood seeped out. They started to stick. Then they brought Him into the governor’s palace and they started to flog Him and beat Him again so they ripped His clothes off again and they put this robe on His back, this scarlet robe. It was probably an old soldier’s robe, a faded robe. They put this coarse robe made of wool. I want you to imagine how sticky and rough and scratchy and stiff this robe was as they put it and wrapped it around the lacerated and bruised back of our Lord.
Then the soldiers found some thorny twigs on the ground and began to weave together this crown of thorns. As they ridiculed Jesus, as Jesus was down, they pressed it into His skull, as the blood ran down His forehead, cheeks, and neck. Then they started to mock Him by saluting Him and striking Him on the head and then spitting one by one in His face over and over and over again. If that wasn’t enough they fell to their knees and acted like He was a king, saluting Him, Hail King of the Jews!
And all the while, Jesus is there and He doesn’t say a word. He takes it all. It reminds me of Obadiah Holmes, who was arrested in 1651 in Boston for preaching Baptist doctrine. On September 6, 1651, he was taken to the Boston Commons. They stripped and ripped off his shirt. They tied him to the whipping post. He commented on his own beating. These are the words of Mr. Holmes. As the man began to lay the strokes upon my back, I said to the people ‘Tho my flesh should fail me, God will not fail me.’ So it pleased the Lord to come in and fill my heart and tongue. As they beat me, with an audible voice I broke forth praying unto the Lord not to lay this sin against their charge. In truth, as the strokes fell upon my back, I had such a manifestation of God’s presence like I’d never had before nor felt nor can fleshly tongue express. The outward pain was so removed from me that indeed I am not able even to declare it to you. It was so easy for me that I could well bear it and in a manner felt it not although it was a grievous to me. The man striking with all his strength, spitting on his hands three times as many affirmed, with a three-corded whip, gave me thirty different strokes. When he loosed me from the post, having joyfulness in my heart and cheerfulness in my countenance I told the magistrates ‘You just struck me with roses.’”
The beating was so bad that it permanently disfigured his body. The blood dripped from his back so much that his shoes were overflowing with blood. One friend commented on his beating, Holmes, Whipped with thirty stripes in such an unmerciful manner that in many days, if not some weeks, he could not rest but lay on his knees and elbows not being able to suffer any part of his body to touch his bed. His suffering was not in vain, though. He would go on after this to start the first Baptist church in Massachusetts and he would be instrumental in leading Henry Dunster to the Lord, who would go on to be the president of Harvard University.
My friends, as bad as Obadiah Holmes’ beating was, it fades in comparison to our Lord’s. See, Jesus is being beat for a different reason. Jesus is enduring the beating for something different. So the question we have to ask ourselves is, why is Jesus enduring the beating from the soldiers when at any moment He can call down twelve legions of angels to wipe them all out? Why would He do that?
Now, the first response and I’ve heard this from people, is that Jesus did it all for me. Jesus went to the cross for me, right? There’s even a famous song that says He took the fall and thought of me above all. While that’s somewhat the case, that’s not the reason Jesus went to the cross. My friends, it’s deeper than that. It’s greater than that. Michael Lawrence talks about it in his book Biblical Theology. He wants us to know that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was not about us alone. We are not the centerpiece for the story. In fact, Jesus willing endured pain and persecution and suffering to glorify God. That’s why He did it.
Lawrence says this, God’s grace and glory is seen as He walks through the animals that were cut in two in Genesis. It’s seen as He provided a ram for Abraham’s son, Isaac. It was seen as he provided the Passover lamb for the Israelites. All this that He provided for His people was but a foretaste of His ultimate provision, His one and only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, sacrificed on the cross for sinners, bearing the judgment they deserved that God’s glory might be displayed in salvation and in mercy. It is the cross that God’s glory is clearly seen in the suffering of Christ, in the sacrifice of Him who is most worthy for those who are not worthy at all.
Jesus Christ, my friends, went to the cross and endured the shame for the glory of God. That’s why it says in Hebrews 12:1, Since we’re surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside the weight that entangles us and the sin that easily besets us and let us run with endurance the race that is marked before us looking to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith [here it is] for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning the shame and is now seated at the right hand of the Father.
The question that we have to ask ourselves is, what was the joy? The joy set before the Lord Jesus Christ was to do the will of God. Oh, how I long that I would be that faithful to God! That I everything I do would be filtered through the lens of is this going to please God? Is this going to carry out the will of God? Let me ask you. How different would your life be if everything you did was to please the Father? How different would your life be if you said God, not my will but Thy will be done! That’s what Jesus did. Jesus was the greatest example of the complete and utter obedience to the Father. What changes and what steps need to be made in your life today—come in real close—in order for this to happen? My friends, I want to simply leave you with this. What would your life look like if you would deny yourself, pick up your cross daily and follow Christ?