GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 55
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2011|
|Mark 15:21: There are four progressions in this text. We’re going to take two sections of scripture today.|
The Confirmation of the Savior
The title this morning is The Confirmation of the Savior. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Mark 15:21: “And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country [he just made it there] 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).”
There are four progressions. We’re going to take two sections of scripture today. The first one is—write it down if you’re taking notes—we see in the text the cruelty of the crucifixion, the cruelty of the crucifixion. Normally a condemned man going to the crucifixion would carry his own crossbeam. But as we have seen, Jesus has already been beaten and whipped and on the verge of death. He’s not able to do this. Plutarch said once every condemned criminal carries his own cross on his back. Well, Jesus is not able to do that. So they enlist a man, they compel a man, if you will. It’s the same word that’s used to compel a slave to do work instructed by a master. So they compel Simon of Cyrene.
Now, we don’t know much about Simon of Cyrene. We do know where Cyrene is. It’s on the coast of Africa, the northern coast. We don’t know much about him, but we know something about his sons. It says in the text he had two sons, Alexander and Rufus. Now, Mark rarely talks about multiple people in one sentence but he does here. We don’t know much about Alexander, but we do know about Rufus. Now, this also does something pretty interesting. It affirms and confirms the fact that Mark is writing to a particular audience. Who is Mark writing to, and I’ll show you where Rufus is located. Who is he writing to? He’s writing to the Romans. So it makes sense that in Romans we look for a clue as to who Rufus is. Go to Romans 16:13. I want to show you quickly. Most of us don’t read the ending of a book to look at the greetings from Paul, but there’s a clue as to who Rufus is.
Verse 13, “Greet Rufus [pretty obvious], chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.” We can deduce from this text that Rufus was a member of the Roman church in the mid ‘50s and we can assume that because of this event, Simon of Cyrene, who was an African, prior to coming to this event was an unbeliever. We can assume that because of this event he put his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and it not only affected him but his whole family came to know the Lord. It also affirms that Mark is writing to the Romans.
Look at Mark 15:23: “And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.” This is an allusion to Psalm 69:21 of the righteous man who was suffering and the psalmist writes, they gave me poison for food and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink. The sour wine was a primitive narcotic in that day that they would give the sufferers on the cross to diminish the pain. They tried to give Jesus this to alleviate the pain, but Jesus refused it. Because He refused it, He was in His right state of mind the entire crucifixion, which shows us, folks, that Jesus Christ in His physical body bore the full force of the pain and the suffering on the cross. He’s in His right state of mind.
They lead Him to a place called Golgotha, which means the skull. The question is, why do we call it the Hill of Calvary? Calvary’s from the Latin word calvariae, which means bald or scalp, and it’s actually what we refer to as that mountain. So it’s Golgotha or Calvary.
We see the cruelty of the crucifixion but it gets worse. We see, secondly, the condemnation of the crowd. Look at verse 24: “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.’” The Romans and the Jews required that the charge be plastered to the cross. So here’s Jesus’ charge. He’s claiming to be King of the Jews.
“And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.” Mark notes that the crucifixion happened at what hour? Did you catch it? What does it say? The third hour and if you’ve been following the life and death of Jesus with us over the past two years, you’ve noticed that the number three is over and over in the life of Jesus. We see this number three to prove a point. And, my friends, it’s no accident. Jesus Christ brings three disciples to follow Him into three periods of private prayer. Peter denied Jesus how many times? Three. Three predictions from Jesus that He would die—Mark 8, Mark 9, Mark 10. Jesus is brought to three different trials—Ananias, Caiaphas, and in front of the Sanhedrin. He goes before three political trials—Pilate, He sees Herod, and then He comes back to Pilate again. He’s crucified next to two crosses which makes it three different crosses. He’s crucified at the third hour, and He’ll be raised on the third day.
What God is showing us over and over is that His designed plan is displayed in the death of Christ but also in the life of Christ to show us that Jesus’ death is not by happenstance. It’s all part of the plan of God. Don’t miss this. God is completely in control of these events.
But I want to describe the scene to you. Up to this point, Jesus has not eaten for 13 hours. He has not slept approximately 29 hours. He has walked from the prayer Garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion, over 2½ miles. It’s safe to say our Lord is worn out. And then they take Him to the crucifixion site. They take the crossbeam off of His neck. They put it on the other beam. They nail it together. Then they lay Jesus back on these two beams.
Three nails are used during the crucifixion. One will go in each wrist, and then another one will go in His feet. The nails would through the palms like we’ve seen in many of the pictures because the weight of the body is not able to be sustained in the palm. So it has to go through the wrist. The wrist bone holds the weight of the body up. Then they would place both feet together, one on top of the other, and the nail would go through the top of the foot. Underneath the feet was a small wedge. It was a platform where the crucified man would be able to push himself up on the cross to breath. The reason they did this was it prolonged the pain. It went on and on again.
I want to describe to you the pain that Jesus experienced. The nail passing through His wrist would have crushed the median nerve in His body. This type of injury would have eliminated sensory and motor function, crushing the median nerve and destroying all the nerve fibers would send excruciating, searing pain up His arm. Both arms would experience that pain. And, if that’s wasn’t enough, we move to the nail in His feet. The nail would pass through the metatarsal. It would not crush the bones nor injure the vascular veins. However, it would crush the nerve. Because it crushed the nerve, it would send searing and shoot pain up both of His legs. I want you to imagine the excruciating pain our Lord is in as He is hanging on the cross.
He’s hanging next to two criminals. It says in the text in the Greek, it’s kind of an interesting rendering. Look at the text. It says He hung between one from the left and one from the right. Now that’s interesting in the Greek. Go back to Mark 10:37. I want to remind you of two other men who wanted to sit one on the left and one on the right. Mark 10:37. James and John, you remember before Jesus is arrested said, Jesus, we want you to do for us whatever we ask. Okay, what is it you want Me to do for you? Notice what it says in the text. We want to sit [look what the Greek says] one from the right and one from the left, the same terminology there. It almost shows us in a mysterious manner that these thieves occupy the place that James and John requested. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus is hung between two robbers because it speaks about it in chapter Isaiah 53: 12 when it says He will be numbered with the transgressors. Another prophecy fulfilled with the crucifixion of Christ.
Go back to Mark 15:29: “And those who passed by derided him,” that’s a key word there; you can underline it, “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.’ [Jesus, show us a sign and we’ll believe!] Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.”
The crowd mocked and taunted Him. That word derided is from the root word “blaspheme.” It means to speak evil against a person. It means to slander a person. The crowd challenged Him over and over. Jesus, if you’re the Messiah, come down from the cross and prove it to us. I want to show you something. If Jesus comes down from the cross, it doesn’t prove that He’s the Messiah. It actually proves that He’s not the Messiah. Why? God predicted in the Old Testament that the Messiah would die and be raised from the dead after being crucified. So if Jesus comes down from the cross, He disproves the saying of God. However, if He remains on the cross, it affirms His identity as the Messiah. Jesus told them over and over again don’t look for a sign to prove belief, and this is exactly what the crowd is doing. What are they saying? Show us a sign, Jesus, and we’ll believe. Jesus says over and over not to come down from the cross. What does Jesus say? Take up the cross and follow Me.
We see the crowd is condemning Jesus. We see the cross is cruel to our Lord. But notice, three, we hear a cry from the cross. Jesus breaks the silence in verse 33: “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”
All three of the synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—all record a darkness over the land from 12 o’clock to 3 o’clock. From Mark, the darkness is ominous. It reminds them of the plague of darkness back in the book of Exodus when the children of Israel were leaving Egypt. Do you remember that story? On the night plague, the whole sky went black and then the tenth plague was the killing of who? The first born son. The readers and those in the audience who were keen to this would have understood that something was connecting back to the book of Exodus. It also reminds us of the prophecy of the Amos 8:9. Go back to the Old Testament. Let me show you a pretty amazing reference. “‘And on that day,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. [Sound familiar?] I will turn your feasts [as this one is the Feast of Passover] into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.’”
Except for the affirmation that Jesus said to Pilate, I AM, Jesus doesn’t speak throughout the entire trial but He breaks the silence here with these words: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” is what He says, “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.’” They are continuing to mock our Lord.
Now, many are divided over why Jesus said these words on the cross, and to be honest with you we may never fully comprehend the meaning behind the cry. This morning I want to offer two suggestions to you, two different camps as to what this means and why Jesus says it. The first camp is this that Jesus is crying out to the Father because God has abandoned the Son. That’s what some commentators believe. Jesus, because He bore the wrath of God that was meant for us, He feels as if God is abandoning Him, and so He cries out to God, Why have You forsaken Me? Mary Ann Tolbert explains this sentiment when she said, the content of Jesus’ cry from the cross, His expression of abandonment by God, stands as an assurance to His followers that the worst desolation imaginable, cosmic isolation, can be endured faithfully. What is separation from family and betrayal or denial by friends in comparison to that timeless moment of nothingness when God’s Son was deserted by God.
Friends, we know that the Son of Man would be rejected and abandoned by men; however, the Bible never speaks of God abandoning His Son. In fact, some have even said that the darkness signifies that God turned back on His Son. While all these are possibilities, I want you to think about something that is puzzling. Jesus refers to the Father not as My Father or Our Father. He refers to Him as what? Look at the text. My God, my God. One hundred seventy times Jesus addresses the Father as Father, as God His Father, and 21 times He addresses Him as My Father. The only time in scripture where Jesus addresses God as My God is here on the cross.
I want to submit to you today, could it be that Jesus Christ as a rabbi is still teaching from the cross? Jesus is hanging there and still teaching His followers. What if Jesus’ words were not formed by Himself but they took on the form of the psalmist that He’s quoting. Could it be that Jesus Christ, moments before going to the cross was meditating on Psalm 22 and now as He’s hanging on the cross, He speaks these words saying that I am the fulfillment of the righteous one who is suffering in Psalm 22. What He does is He doesn’t quote the whole psalm, He only quotes the beginning of the psalm. By Jesus quoting this verse, my friends, I think what He’s doing here is He’s equating that He’s the one that is talked about in Psalm 22.
Let’s turn there and look at it. Psalm 22 starts off bad. It starts off discouraging, as you’ll see. But it ends in victory. Notice how it begins: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” Verse 6. “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me.” Does it sound familiar? “They make mouths at me; they wag their heads.” We just read that. ““He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
Verse 12: “Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.” Because I’m hanging on a cross. “My heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws.” Because I am thirsty. Verse 16: “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.”
Now verse 27 switches. It starts off bad. Watch this: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.” Verse 30: “Posterity shall serve him. [Here’s the key.] It shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn [that is us], that he has done it.”
My friends, I think what Jesus is doing here is this: Jesus is actually teaching from the cross. And what He’s saying is this psalm is about Me. It looks bad now, but there is victory in the end. Now some have discounted this and said these words: Well, if Jesus was quoting the psalm, why didn’t He just quote the end? Why did He just quote the beginning? That’s what they say. Why did He just quote the beginning? That’s what they say. What did He just quote the first few words, “My God, my God?” Why didn’t He go to the end?
I have two reasons to discount that. The first one is this: Jesus could barely breathe, much less speak. You have to understand, as He was experiencing the overwhelming pain of the cross, many people at that moment died of asphyxiation. As He hung on the cross, His arms would have been bent in the form of a Y. In order to speak, because He couldn’t speak or breathe at this point, He would have to push up on that small block to get to a T to speak and breath and then He would lower Himself back down again. That’s the reason when Jesus only says seven sayings from the cross, they are short phrases. The reason is He can’t breathe. He can’t speak. So the entire time on the cross is this combination of moving from the Y to the T, from the Y to the T, all the while all the while trying not to open up the lacerations on His back as they scraped against that scratchy, wooden cross.
The second reason why I think Jesus only quoted the first part of Psalm 22 is because He was a Jewish rabbi. Jewish rabbis taught that way. You have to understand, the Hebrews didn’t have chapters and verses and numbers like us. They had just the text. In order to cue you in on what text they wanted you to know, they would quote a beginning phrase or a key word in that text. So Jesus, as a Jewish rabbi, says My God my God why are you forsaking Me? He’s not asking a question, He’s making a statement here. He’s saying, go to the psalm! It looks bad but it’s going to end in victory.
What He’s saying here is this: Jesus is saying and assuming that the Jewish audience would have known the scriptures so well that they inherently had it memorized that they could go to that place and understand what He’s talking about. They weren’t strayed away by television or by the movies or by sports. They knew the Word of God. Jesus knew that they knew that. But the hearers misunderstood Him. They think He’s calling for Elijah.
What is this all about? Why would Jesus call for Elijah? In 2 Kings 2, we know that Elijah, in addition to Enoch, was the only one who was taken from earth to heaven. He did not die. So there started this time in the Jewish tradition where they believed that Elijah would come to rescue the righteous man in his moment of trouble. In the moment of trouble, the righteous man could call out to Elijah and he would step in and redeem him in his time of pain. So they think that Jesus, when He calls out to God, He’s calling out to Elijah. If Jesus really is the Messiah, then surely Elijah would spare Him.
My friends, don’t miss this. Although the crowd misses His identity and although the Sanhedrin and the high priests miss who He is, there’s one man in the crowd who gets it. He’s the most unlikely man. We see the cruelty of the crucifixion. We see the condemnation of the crowd. We see the cry from the cross. And finally, we see the confirmation of His claims. Verse 37: “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!’”
Two things happened simultaneously. The first is this. We see the tearing or the ripping of the curtain in the temple. The curtain that separated man from God in the temple is torn in two. Matthew adds there’s another thing that happens at this point. There’s an earthquake. Then there’s the tearing of the veil in the temple. The veil separated God from man. And what happened is this: Jesus’ death purchased not only our freedom from the law, Jesus’ death ended the entire sacrificial system. By Jesus dying and the curtain ripping, it’s saying that we no longer have to go through the high priest to have access to God. Jesus Christ, as 1 Timothy says, is our mediator between God and man.
There’s something else that happens. There’s the confession of the centurion. The ripping of the curtain, we see the confession of the centurion. Matthew 27:54 says, When the centurion and those with him keeping watch over Jesus saw the earthquake when it took place, they were filled with awe and said ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’” Now, this is a Christological term that Mark uses all throughout his Gospel. In fact, it’s the climax of the book of Mark. If you remember, Mark started his book with the very same phrase. Go back to Mark 1. He starts his book with that phrase and he ends the book with that phrase. I want to submit to you that everything in between is Mark’s way of showing us that Jesus is the what? The Son of God.
Look at Mark 1: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Who is the first person that says Jesus is His Son? God. Mark 1:11. Look at it: “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved [What?] Son; with you I am well pleased.’”
Mark 3:11 we see this phrase again, but it’s not spoken by a man or God. It’s spoken by a demon. The demons say you are the Son of God.
Mark 5:7 we see it again. Another demon cried out, “What have you to do with us Jesus the Son of the Most High?”
Peter gets it right when Jesus takes him to Caesarea Philippi on that mountain. He says, Who do people say that I am? Some say you’re John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets. Who do you say that I am? Peter stands up and says, You’re the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And Jesus says to him, What? You couldn’t have known that. God had to reveal that to you.
Then we see it one more time. Mark 9:7. Jesus brings the disciples up to the Mount of Transfiguration and God again, Truly this is my Beloved Son. Listen to Him.
Now here we go to the cross. The centurion is evoked by the passion and the suffering and the death of Christ on the cross. God gives him divine revelation and he says these words: Truly this man is the Son of God.
I want you to understand something. This is the first Gentile ever to affirm, because of the death and the burial of Christ and the crucifixion that this man is the Son of God. This is a profound statement. You have to understand how many people missed this up to this point, and this man actually gets it. Now, you have to understand his mind. This is not his first crucifixion. In the ancient world, suffering and death did not equate to someone being the Son of God. This is a paradox, and the centurion sees this. God opens his eyes and he says, This Man is the Son of God.
So the question is, what do we do with this text? What is our response to the death of Christ? Pastor John Ogilvy offers a challenge. I want you to feel it this morning, if you will. Let it happen to you if you dare. Take the most precious friend in your life, the person with whom you’ve known joy and fun and sorrow, with whom you share deep bonds of caring with. Place him upon the cross and watch him twist in pain and suffering. The nails driven into those beloved hands are driven in to our hands. The muscles excruciatingly stretched are our muscles on the cross. The terrible burning of his tongue and mouth is our tongue and our mouth. Can you feel it? We feel it as if we were there ourselves because the most precious person in all the world is there on our behalf. Feel it. Experience it, if you will.
See, friends, you and I, like Barabbas, should have died on the cross that day. It was our sin that put Christ on the cross that day. We were sinners just like he was. And as we contemplate today the wondrous cross of Christ; the question we ask ourselves is why? Why would Jesus willingly go to the cross? As we ponder that question, it shows us the greatest act of love, the greatest act of love that God would wrap Himself in human flesh and come to the earth to live obediently to the Father and to die on our behalf. I think the more we ponder it, the more we’re gripped by the sacrifice of Christ for us
I want to ask you. What are you going to do with that? Have you surrendered your life to the Lord this morning? Have you completely surrendered it all to Christ because of what He has done for you? Let me ask you. Are you in this place today and you don’t know the Lord? You don’t know the God of the Bible. You don’t know the Christ who died on the cross? You’ve come up with a Jesus of your own imagination and you’ve been challenged with the scripture today. Have you trusted in Christ and Christ alone? If you haven’t, I challenge you this morning to repent and believe in Him.