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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Our Saviour Jesus goes to the cross for our salvation
Text:Mark 15:21-32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Suffering
 
Preached:2013
Added:2013-07-01
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 133
Psalm 97:5
Psalm 22:1,3,6
Hymn 38
Psalm 134

Scripture reading and text:  Mark 15:21-32
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Saviour Jesus,

The gospels have sometimes been described as passion narratives with extended introductions.  “Passion” here refers to suffering.  The gospels are stories of Christ’s suffering and death with extended introductions.  Finally, after fourteen chapters of extended introduction, here in Mark 15 we come to Golgotha and the pivotal moment of redemptive history. 

As we look at this passage this morning, we must not do so as detached observers.  We can’t consider what Mark tells us about Jesus’ last hours in a clinical, detached fashion.  The Holy Spirit has given us this account to direct our hearts to our Saviour.  He wants us to hear and read these words and again look to Christ alone for everything.  The suffering here is intense and it reflects two things.  It reflects the love of our Saviour for us.  He did all this in our place.  But the intensity of Christ’s suffering here is also a reminder of the great sinfulness of sin.  Our sin is so offensive to God that it took this terrible suffering to pay for it.  Let’s keep those things in mind as we see how our Saviour Jesus goes to the cross for our salvation.

We’ll see how he goes: 

1.      With some support

2.      With much scorn

3.      With total silence

Events on that Good Friday happened quickly.  In the early morning hours, Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin.  They found him guilty of blasphemy and then beat him.  Shortly afterwards, he was before Pontius Pilate.  While Pilate didn’t find any reason to put him to death, he acquiesced to appease the Jews.  He released the murderer Barabbas and sent Jesus to the cross.  However, before going to the cross, there was the traditional Roman scourging.  Our Saviour was physically beaten and whipped to a bloody pulp.  The soldiers then took him away and had some fun with him.  Giving him a robe and crown of thorns, they mocked him as a King.  They too physically abused him, striking him on the head repeatedly.  By the time this was over, our Saviour was a mess.  He would have hardly looked human for all the bruises and blood. 

He had suffered enormously already.  But the worst was yet to come, physically and especially spiritually.  It was time to set out for the place of crucifixion.  The way this normally worked with the Romans was that they would force the condemned person to carry the cross-beam of the cross to the chosen spot.  He wouldn’t carry the whole cross, just the cross-beam.  They would make a spectacle out of it.  They would have a little parade with the person who was going to be executed.  He would carry the cross-beam through the city and by that the Romans would advertise their power.  They would be saying, “This is what happens with rebellious people.  This is what we Romans do with serious criminals.”

So Jesus was expected to carry his cross-beam too.  He didn’t get very far.  He wasn’t able to do it.  That tells us something of the vicious nature of the scourging and beatings he had received.  They had made him so weak that he wasn’t able to carry the cross.  And so the Romans take a passer-by named Simon and they force him to carry the cross for Jesus.  This Simon appears to have been a Jew from Cyrene, which is in present-day Libya.  Mark mentions that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus.  Rufus is mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans as one of the members of that church.  Mark probably wrote his gospel for the Roman church.  So what he’s saying is, “The man who helped Jesus, you know his sons Alexander and Rufus – they’re members of your church.  It’s that Simon.”  This detail about Simon reminds us that what Mark is recording here is history – this really happened on that Good Friday.  

This Simon of Cyrene was compelled to give some support to Jesus as he traveled on the way to the cross.  Christ didn’t have the physical strength to do it.  In this, you can see the humanity of our Saviour again.  At this moment too, he experienced pain and fatigue in his body.  He has been to the point where physically he just couldn’t go on.  Loved ones, that’s not a piece of Bible trivia for you.  That should encourage you, especially those of you who live with pain.  You have a Saviour who understands fully what you experience.  He’s been drained, he’s hit rock bottom too.  Today you can go to him and find a compassionate and sympathetic ear.  You have a Saviour who knows first-hand the burden you carry.  He can and will give you the strength to go on.

With Simon carrying the cross-beam, they finally arrived at the place where Jesus would be crucified.  The name in Aramaic is Golgotha and it means “place of the skull.”  No one knows for certain why it was called that.  It could be because of the way the place looked or because of what the place was used for.  Also, no one is totally certain as to where Golgotha is.  The one thing that is certain is that it was outside the gates of the city of Jerusalem.  Hebrews 13:12 says, “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.”  He was put to death outside the camp, so to speak, because he was regarded as unclean and unholy.  In this too, he took on our status.  We should be the ones cast out of Zion like filthy garbage.  Instead, Christ was cast out of the holy city in our place.  He received what we deserved so that we can be welcomed into the holy city of God in the new heavens and new earth.  Even in the location of Golgotha we can see the gospel! 

Verse 23 has Jesus at Golgotha about to be nailed to the cross.  I don’t think we have any real idea of how painful that would be.  There was a saying from those days that the person who was crucified died a thousand deaths.  This was a physically painful ordeal.  It began with the iron nails being driven somewhere around the hand, probably through the wrist.  The Romans were experts at this procedure.  They knew just were to drive the nails so that the body would be supported and so that the person being crucified would not rapidly bleed to death.  In other words, what was about to happen was excruciatingly painful.  If given the opportunity, most people would have taken a pain-killer.  And actually an ancient pain-killer was what they offered Jesus.  Someone (we don’t know who) offered him wine mixed with myrrh.  Myrrh has analgesic, pain-killing qualities and when mixed with wine, it would dull the pain.  Most people would have taken this.  But not Jesus.  Why not?  Because he knew that he had to go to the cross with a clear mind.  His suffering and death were to be experienced fully, with no dulling.  Everything had to be intentional and self-conscious.  A dulled Jesus could not be our Saviour.  A knocked out Christ would not experience the physical and spiritual pain of our Redeemer.  While he takes the support of Simon in carrying the cross, he refuses this support.  This is a burden he must carry.  And it’s a burden that he chooses to carry out of his great love for us.  With the name of every believer on his heart, he says, “No, no pain-killers for me.  If I kill this pain, I kill my mission and I redeem no one.”

With that, they nailed him to the cross.  That would have been done with the cross laying on the ground.  There would be a hole next to the cross on the ground.  They would have nailed Jesus to the cross, probably two nails for his hands and one through his feet, and then they would raise up the cross and tilt it into the hole in the ground.  As the cross dropped into the hole, it would have violently jarred his body.  Then came the most intense part of his suffering for us – the hours spent on the cross.  Verse 25 tells us that it began at the third hour – 9:00 in the morning.  If we skip ahead to verse 34, we find that Jesus died around the ninth hour – 3:00 in the afternoon.  That means he endured hellish agony on the cross for six long hours.  For six hours, the burden of God’s wrath against our sin bore down on him. 

The scorn and ridicule he suffered only intensified as he began hanging on the cross.  Verse 24 tells us what the Roman soldiers did with his clothes.  Jesus wasn’t going to need them anymore, so they had a gambling game to see who would get what.  While Mark doesn’t mention it, this reminds us of the prophetic words of Psalm 22:18, “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”  What’s really important here is that we sense the humiliation that Christ is experiencing.  We have to get a grip on the shame that he endures before men and before God.  It’s not so much what Mark says here as what he doesn’t say.  When he says that the soldiers gambled for his clothes, what’s not said is that Jesus is hanging on the cross completely naked.  Portrayals of the cross scene always miss this detail – no one wants to draw a picture of a naked Jesus.  It seems impious.  It’s shameful.  But that’s exactly the point.  Jesus hung on the cross entirely naked.  He had nothing to cover him.  He was completely exposed to shame and ridicule. 

To put this in context, we need to think back to the beginning with Adam and Eve.  Remember that when they were created, they were naked and unashamed.  But after the fall into sin, shame enters the picture.  They realize they are naked and they want to put something between themselves and God.  Here is the Second Adam and he has his clothing removed.  There is nothing between him and the fierce wrath of God.  He has nothing to protect him.  His clothes are going to some Gentile soldiers, while he hangs on the cross with nothing. 

What’s the relevance of this?  Does it make a difference for our salvation?  Well, loved ones, without Christ, we would be exposed to the wrath of God.  There would be nothing to protect us.  In a real sense, we would be naked.  Christ has come and suffered in our place.  Because he was crucified naked, we will be clothed with his righteousness.  Our filthy sin clothes are removed and we have the white robes of Christ on us.  Our shame and guilt are removed through what he goes through here on the cross.  He hangs there naked so that we can be clothed.  Brothers and sisters, it’s a difficult thing to contemplate, isn’t it?  It’s horrible to think that Jesus was hung out in public with no clothes, exposed to this shame and humiliation.  But the struggle we have in thinking about it connects to the way we think about sin or should think about it.  Your sin, my sin, is so terrible, so sinful, so vile, that it caused the pure and holy Son of God to hang naked in public.  It was the only way to pay for your sin.  And recognizing this should make us all the more indignant and angry about our sins.  It should make us hate our sins all the more and want to fight against them and kill them.  Reading this should make us react:  “You miserable sin, you made my Jesus hang naked before all those people.  You stinking terrible sin, you caused my beloved Saviour this awful shame and humiliation.  I’m done with you, I’m going to kill you.  You have no place in my life.”  That’s the way the Holy Spirit wants us to respond to what we read here. 

The rest of our text accentuates this scorn even more.  When the Romans crucified criminals, they would typically put up a sign over them indicating what they had done wrong.  Sometimes the sign would be carried by them or before them as they paraded out to the site of the crucifixion.  Jesus’ sign read, “The King of the Jews.”  This was Pilate’s idea.  Jesus thinks he’s a king, eh?  We’ll give him a throne.  The cross had a little piece of wood on it called a sedicula.  The crucified person could briefly prop himself up on that, it was like a little seat.  The idea was to give a bit of relief and then extend the person’s suffering.  So here’s King Jesus on his throne and we’ll give him a sign to advertise his kingship.  Of course, this was also a not-so-subtle jab at the Jews.  He was mocking them too.  The only king the Jews can come up with this is this poor specimen of humanity hanging on a cross. 

Not only did the King have a throne, he also had consorts.  He had his right-hand man and his left-hand man, just like a king should.  Except these companions were violent criminals, robbers.  We find this in verse 27.  Now if you have your Bible open, you may notice that verse 28 is missing from the main body of the NIV text.  It skips from verse 27 to verse 29.  But if you look at the bottom of the page there is a note with verse 28.  It says that “some manuscripts” include verse 28.  Like in other instances with our Bible translation, this is not the full picture.  The truth is that verse 28 is found in the vast majority of Greek New Testament manuscripts.  Up till modern times, verse 28 was found in every Christian Bible translation.  I’m not going to go into all the technical reasons, but I’m convinced that verse 28 should be considered part of the canonical text of Mark. 

And what does verse 28 say?  Simply that what happened with Jesus and the two criminals at either side of him was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.  In Isaiah 53:12, the suffering servant is numbered with the transgressors.  People see him as being part of a rebellious group.  There hangs Jesus on the cross with criminals on either side.  The sign says “king,” but the scene says “criminal.”  He was numbered with the lawless, though he himself never broke a law.  He identified with sinners and law-breakers like you and me – to save sinners and law-breakers like you and me.                                 

Everything in this scene at Golgotha smells of humiliation.  Jesus was crucified in a public place.  The Romans always wanted it this way.  Executions were supposed to be public affairs to serve as a deterrent:  “Don’t mess with Rome.”  As the morning dragged on that Good Friday, many people walked past Golgotha and saw the three men on crosses.  But it was the one in the center that really drew their attention.  They shook their heads as they walked by in disgust.  They hurled insults at him.  I wish you all could read Greek to see how vividly Mark portrays this mockery of our Saviour.  Our translation does a fairly good job, as long as you get the tone right when you read it.  The way these people speak does not have an ounce of respect for Jesus.  To them he’s a piece of human garbage, a filthy common criminal.  Mark isolates one of their insults.  It had to do with what he said about the temple.  This saying of Jesus is recorded in the Gospel of John.  In John 2:19, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”  Jesus was speaking about his body.  But the Jews misunderstood.  They thought he was speaking about the physical temple.  Now his words become the occasion for mockery.  “Is he coming to come down from the cross and destroy the temple?  Ha!  Not likely anymore.  If he’s really so high and mighty, then he should come down from the cross and escape this fate.”

There’s deep irony here in this mockery.  The irony is that the temple is being destroyed on the cross.  The temple of Jesus’ body is being levelled at this very moment as they mock him.  And in three days, he will rebuild it!  But these mockers can’t see that.  They don’t believe that.  They don’t understand the mission of our Saviour.  So they just go on hurling their insults.  They isolate Jesus from fellowship with humanity and just make him the object of scorn.  No one will defend him, no one will stand up for him. 

The Jewish religious leaders get in on the mockery too.  They mock Jesus among themselves – they don’t actually speak to him.  He’s so repulsive to them, that they would never dignify him with words spoken to his face.  They just joke among themselves, “He helped others, he rescued them from their afflictions, but now look at him, he can’t even help himself.  He’s just a naked, weak, bleeding criminal.”  Then they knock their mockery up a level.  “This Christ, this King of Israel, let him come down from the cross and then we’ll believe in him.”  Here too, brothers and sisters, the irony is so thick.  They mock him as the Christ, the Messiah.  If he’s really the Messiah, he should come down from the cross.  What they don’t understand is that for him to be the Messiah, he must stay on the cross.  It’s only if he abandons his messianic calling that they will believe that he is the Messiah.  These are men who are supposed to know the Bible.  They had forgotten Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.  They had no understanding of what the Messiah was called to do in the place of sinners.  For them the cross was a place of weakness and shame.  They couldn’t see that this was the way for salvation.  For us, loved ones, we can look at the cross as a place of strength.  This was the place where our Saviour’s love for us was so strong that he refused to listen to these taunts.  He doesn’t turn away or abandon what he needs to do in our place.  At the cross, our Saviour puts up with all this mockery because he wants to bring us near to God in fellowship.                                       

Then there were the criminals crucified with Jesus.  Mark relates that they too joined in.  You’d think that since they were sharing his fate, they’d be a little more sympathetic.  But no.  They join right in, apparently figuring that they could get a few last laughs in before the end came.  We know from Luke’s gospel that one of them had a change of mind.  One of them eventually repented and believed.  Mark doesn’t go into that.  His emphasis is different.  His emphasis is on the scorn Jesus endured while on the cross.  In Mark’s portrayal, there are no bright points once that cross gets put in the ground.  Jesus has the entire world against him.  The Lord of creation has all creation ganging up on him and beating him down.  

And how does he respond to that?  That’s the remarkable thing here.  He doesn’t respond.  From Jesus there is total silence.  If we were being mocked and insulted like this, we would probably feel the need to speak up and defend ourselves.  We might say, “Listen, you crowds, you’re misrepresenting what I said about the temple.  You chief priests and teachers of the law, you’re missing the point on some key passages about the Messiah.”  But he says absolutely nothing in response to this mockery.  He just bears it in silence.  He’s verbally attacked, but does not defend himself.  He takes it because he’s taking it in our place. 

It’s tempting to look at our passage and only see what is taking place on a human level.  There’s Jesus’ physical pain in his human body and there’s the mockery of other human beings towards him.  Where is God in this picture?  Is he in this picture?  Brothers and sisters, the suffering of Jesus on the cross was an endurance of the wrath of God against sin.  Everything he experienced on the cross, whether physical pain, mental anguish, or the jeers and scorn of others, it all has to be seen in connection with God’s wrath against our sin.  Sinners deserve everything that Jesus receives in our text.  That includes the mockery and scorn.  We deserve to be mocked into eternity.  In fact, in Psalm 2, God says that he will do that to his enemies.  He scoffs at them, he ridicules them, laughs at them.  The human mockery and ridicule in our text is an echo of that.  Jesus is bearing what we deserve for our sins.  We don’t merely deserve human ridicule, we deserve eternal divine mockery and ridicule, shame for ever because of our high treason against our Creator.  That’s what Christ is taking for us here.  He’s in our place and it’s that fact which keeps him silent.  It’s the deep love that he has for you and me that keeps him on the cross, silently bearing everything our sins deserve.    

Where this all has to lead us is faith.  Brothers and sisters, this is the Saviour in whom we must trust if we will be saved from the coming wrath.  Today we must turn from our sins again.  We have to see the horror of what our sin did to Jesus and hate it.  We must rest and trust in our Lord Jesus and in him only.  Where this all has to lead us is worship.  Loved ones, this Saviour deserves your praise today.  His name should be lifted up with eager voices.  This is the King of kings and Lord of lords, once crucified in your place but now risen and glorified.  Where this all has to lead us is love.  People of God, this is your Saviour who had your name on his heart when he made his sacrifice, just like the High Priest in the Old Testament had the names of the tribes of Israel on his heart as he made the sacrifices.  This is amazing love.  When you see that love of your Saviour, how can you not love him in response?  The crucifixion may be an ugly scene, but it proclaims a precious gospel and a praise-worthy Saviour.  AMEN.

Prayer:

Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,

For us you endured scorn and ridicule.  For us you took the insults of men.  For us you bore the cross, despising its shame.  We trust in your sacrifice made for us on that cross.  We believe that it is the only ground for our salvation.  All our hope is in you.  We worship you and praise your great Name.  You are worthy of our loudest songs of adoration.  Saviour, we love you for this great love with which you loved us and gave yourself for us.  We ask for the help of your Holy Spirit so that we would be more impressed with you.  Let your Spirit help us to be more deeply committed to you.  May he work in us so that we always have our eyes fixed on you, that we’re steadfast in wanting to serve you.  Help us too so that we see the sinfulness of sin.  Open our eyes more and more to the vile nature of our sin.  Please help us to hate it and to want to fight against it.  Lord, we pray that none of us would become indifferent to our sins, we pray that we would never become careless about our sins.  Please give us strength instead to make war and to kill our every wicked desire, word, and act.  We want to do that for your glory, because you are our great Saviour and Lord. 

     




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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