Sunday School Lesson 5 - Mark 15:27-39 - THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD
INTRODUCTION: Last week, in Mk. 5:21-24, 35-43, we saw Jesus demonstrate His power over sickness and death, from which we learned the truth that Jesus has the power to bring salvation even to most hopeless situations. Now, this week as our Easter Sunday lesson, in Mk. 15:27-39, we'll cover the story of Jesus' crucifixion-truly the greatest story ever told. All of us have studied this many times, but we need to examine it again-to renew our understanding and more importantly, our gratitude of what Jesus had to endure when He died for you and me. After three years of public ministry and a week of victorious debates against Jewish religious officials, Jesus allows Himself to be arrested and taken into custody. The Sanhedrin-the Jewish religious council-think they're triumphant because they will soon see Jesus dead-problem over! The disciples, who fled at Jesus' arrest, are in hiding and convinced that their plans to reign in Jesus' new kingdom are finished. Jesus, however, is completely resolved: this is what He came to earth to do. Although His work on earth is almost finished, His never-ending kingdom about to begin.
Read Mark 15:21-24 - THEY BROUGHT HIM TO THE PLACE GOLGOTHA
21 And they *compelled a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to carry His cross. 22 Then they *brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. 23 And they tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it. 24 And they *crucified Him, and *divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man would take.
v. 21: "And they *compelled a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to carry His cross" - Jesus, because of His scourging and beatings, was far too weak to carry the cross, which is estimated to have weighted over 300-lbs. "Simon" is a Greek transliteration of the OT Heb. name Simeon, which tells us that this Simon was a Jewish pilgrim visiting Jerusalem for the Passover. "Cyrene" was a Greek-speaking Roman province located in present-day Libya. Simon, maybe on a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage, is probably stunned to find himself suddenly thrust into the middle of this horrible spectacle. Mark also identifies him as "the father of Alexander and Rufus," who are thought to have become figures in the early church. Though not by choice, Simon has become the first person to take up His cross and follow Jesus.
v. 22: "Then they *brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull" - According to both Jewish and Roman law, Jesus had to be taken outside the walls to be crucified. Tradition puts the place of Golgotha (skull) on a hill, though the Gospels make no mention of one. The name may have been derived from the fact that it was the site of so many executions.
v. 23: "And they tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it" - Although they aren't certain, scholars think that that myrrh, a spice, was mixed with the wine to deaden pain and the senses. It was the custom of Romans to offer wine to a condemned man to supposedly take the edge off what was about to happen to him. But Jesus, who has come to take all of the world's sin and suffering upon Himself, refuses the drink.
v. 24: "And they *crucified Him, and *divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man would take" While Mark skips the most explicit details of this form of execution, we need to remind ourselves of what Jesus voluntarily endured for us. Crucifixion was a Roman form of capital punishment that was intended to remind onlookers not to rebel against Roman Rule. The victim was nailed to the cross with heavy wrought iron spikes driven through the wrist and heel bones. The Soldiers in charge were experts at doing this and knew exactly where to place the spikes. Depending on the victims' physical state, death could take two days or more. If the victim lingered too long, the soldiers typically broke his legs to hasten death by suffocation. For the soldiers, this job could be very boring because they were required to guard victims day and night against the possibility that relatives and friends might try to rescue them while they were still alive. Victims were nailed to the cross either naked or wearing only a loincloth, so that dividing up a victim's remaining clothing would have been one of the soldiers' routines to pass the time, and the casting of lots determined who got what. With a little luck, they might even make some money on the sale.
Mk. 15:25-32 - SAVE YOURSELF!
25 Now it was the third hour when they crucified Him. 26 The inscription of the charge against Him read, "THE KING OF THE JEWS." 27 And they *crucified two rebels with Him, one on His right and one on His left. 28 [1 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "He was numbered with transgressors."] 29 Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, shaking their heads and saying, "Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save Yourself by coming down from the cross!" 31 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, "He saved others; He cannot save Himself! 32 Let this Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe!" Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.
v. 25: "Now it was the third hour when they crucified Him" - This would be 9:00 a.m. Matthew and Luke don't list a time and John gives a later time. However, it's really immaterial because all of the gospel accounts agree on the relevant facts and general sequence of events that day.
v. 26: "The inscription of the charge against Him read, "THE KING OF THE JEWS" - It was common for crucifixion victims to be paraded with a sign listing the crime they committed, which would be nailed above them after they were placed on the cross. Jesus' inscription actually had two meanings: To the Jewish leadership it meant blasphemy, based upon His claim to be the Messiah; but to the Romans, it was treason, because He claimed to be a king that they didn't appoint, a rival to Caesar. Pilate intended the sign as a political affront to the Jewish leaders who had demanded Jesus' death.
v. 27: "And they *crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left" - Since crucifixion was the penalty for a capital offense, which robbery wasn't, scholars suggest that these two men may have been insurrectionists in addition to being robbers.
v. 28: [1 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "He was numbered with transgressors"] - This verse, which quotes the last phrase of Isa. 53:12, is in brackets because it wasn't included in the original manuscripts. Mark, who characteristically did not cite OT Scripture, simply left it out.
v. 29: "Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, shaking their heads and saying, "Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days" - Crucifixions typically took place along a busy road as a means of humiliating the victim and advertising a grim warning to any onlookers. The head wagging was a Jewish gesture of contempt and disrespect. Although witnesses at Jesus' trial falsely testified that He made this statement about the Temple (see Mk. 14:48), there is no record of Him ever saying this anywhere in the gospels.
v. 30: "save Yourself by coming down from the cross!" - To any other crucifixion victim, this would simply be an empty insult, something they were powerless to do. In Jesus' case, it's a legitimate temptation. But Jesus has dealt with and resisted temptation before this. During His 40 days in the wilderness, Satan offered to give Jesus dominion over the world without the cross (Mt. 4:8-11).
v. 31: "In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, 'He saved others; He cannot save Himself!'" - Like the previous verse, this one is infused with irony. Though He had the power to do so, Jesus cannot save Himself and come down from the cross without abandoning His mission to save a lost world. He had previously fought and won this battle it the garden of Gethsemane (Mk. 14:32-41).
v. 32: "Let this Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe!" - The argument of this verse is completely invalid: their challenge for Him to come down from the cross so that they could believe in Him simply showed a lack of faith on their part-real faith does not require such signs.
v. 32b: "Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him" - Even the robbers join the others in heaping insults on Jesus. Mark doesn't mention that one of the robbers later repented and believed, which is reported in Luke 23:42. This was third round of the mocking of Jesus by the doubters, the chief priests, the scribes, and the robbers.
Read Mark 15:33-39 - TRULY THIS MAN WAS THE SON OF GOD
33 When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "ELOI, ELOI, LEMA SAVAKTANEI?" which is translated, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?" 35 And when some of the bystanders heard Him, they began saying, "Look! He is calling for Elijah!" 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, "Let us see if Elijah comes to take Him down." 37 But Jesus let out a loud cry, and died. 38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw that He died in this way, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"
v. 33: "When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour" - The darkness signified that God had taken away his presence from His son., at which point Jesus was bearing the full judgement of God for our sins (hear that? Our sins). Jesus suffered spiritual the spiritual agony of separation from God that no mortal human can understand. The darkness from noon (6th hour) until 3:00 p.m. also alludes to Amos 8:9: "And it will come about on that day," declares the Lord God, "That I will make the sun go down at noon, And make the earth dark in broad daylight. It was likewise reminiscent of ones of the plagues of Egypt, where God caused darkness to fall over the land, the kind of darkness that could both be seen and felt (Ex. 10:21). This was an eschatological sign, signifying the judgment of God, not just on Jesus or Jerusalem or Israel, but on the whole earth.
v. 34: "At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "ELOI, ELOI, LEMA SAVAKTANEI?" which is translated, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?" - Jesus' anguished outcry at this instant expressed the reality of what He had feared most at Gethsemane-spiritual separation from God His father. The words came from Ps. 22:1, which Mark quoted in Aramaic, then translated into Greek. The Psalm is a lament (a crying out) that expresses an extreme level of spiritual loneliness but at the same time imparts the great hope that God would deliver Him (and He did in fact). BUT Jesus knew why He was suffering God's forsakeness, just as He knew that His death was would not be the end.
v. 35: "And when some of the bystanders heard Him, they began saying, "Look! He is calling for Elijah!" - Bystanders either misunderstood the words "Eloi, Eloi" or decided to mock Jesus again by re-phrasing the words to mean Elijah, a person who is supposed to help people in times of distress.
v. 36a: "And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying - Sour wine was the common drink of soldiers. In John's version, Jesus next to last words on the cross were, "I thirst" (Jn. 29:28), after which they gave Him wine in a sponge. One of the effects of shock caused by blood loss is extreme thirst. Also, when Jesus said, "I thirst," it alluded to and fulfilled the prophecy of in Ps. 22:15, which states: "My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death."
v. 36b: "saying, 'Let us see if Elijah comes to take Him down'" - The remark about Elijah was just more of the same mockery. The irony in this is that Jesus previously made it clear in Mt. 17:11-13 that John the Baptist was the latter-day embodiment of Elijah, so how could "Elijah" possibly come to His rescue when he had previously been murdered by the sword of Herod.
v. 37: "But Jesus let out a loud cry, and died" - Most crucifixion victims grew weak to the point that they lapsed into unconsciousness; yet, this verse tells us that Jesus remained conscious and alert until the moment of His death-which He marked with a loud cry. Mark doesn't report what He said, but in Luke 23:46 they were "Father, into Your hand I commit my Spirit!," and in John 19:30, "It is finished." Both statements confirm that He had completed the Godly work He had been sent to do.
v. 38: "And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" - This was the immense curtain that separated the holy place and the most holy place (i.e., the presence of God). Access to God has been provided by the sacrifice of Jesus, which rendered the OT sacrificial system (i.e., atonement one day a year) over-obsolete. A great new era had been ushered-in to replace-an era of direct access to God.
v. 39: "And when the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw that He died in this way, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" - The centurion (commander of 100 soldiers), is not responding to the signs (the darkness and the tearing of the veil), but to Jesus Himself. As captain of this detail, he's seen many, maybe hundreds of men die, but he sees Jesus' death as something like he's never seen before: He rightly identifies Him as the Son of God. Whether this centurion did in fact have a complete understanding of Jesus' identity and mission remains uncertain; however, Mark records his testimony as to show that he saw something truly amazing and different about the death of Jesus.
1. The true significance of Jesus' crucifixion is not how He was put to death but Who He is and why He died. None of the gospel accounts go into great detail as to the manner of Jesus' death. From a purely humanistic perspective, Jesus was simply a man who died because the Jewish religious leaders plotted against him, Judas Iscariot betrayed him, Herod Antipas and Pilate tried him, and the Roman soldiers executed him. However, from God's point of view-the theological perspective-He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross in order to take the penalty for humanity's sin in our place so that we could be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life in God's heavenly kingdom. This is the true significance of the crucifixion and everything else is secondary.
2. Contrary to those who mocked Him during His crucifixion, Jesus did have the power to save Himself. But Jesus could not save Himself and come down from the cross unless He completely abandoned the mission He was sent to do: To die on a cross in order to save a lost world. He had already fought and won this battle through prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.
3. When darkness fell over the land during the crucifixion (v. 33), it was a symbol of God taking away His presence from His Son. Since sin cannot exist in God's presence, God took His presence away at that moment because all of humanity's sin had been transferred to Jesus. Likewise, Jesus' anguished exclamation, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?," (translation: 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?) symbolized the extreme pain he endured at the moment of this separation when He experienced the last full measure of human sin.
4. The tearing in two of the veil in the Temple symbolized admission to God's presence for those who believe in Jesus. Humanity had been separated from God's presence since the fall of Adam. You might think of this as the inverse and the result of what Jesus was forced to suffer on the cross. The tearing of the veil signified that access to God had been provided by the sacrifice of Jesus, which rendered the OT sacrificial system (i.e., atonement one day a year) over-obsolete. A great new era, a new covenant with God had been ushered-in to replace the old-an era of direct access to God.
Easter 2021 Prayer
Lord God, our heavenly Father,
We give You all of our thanks and praise for this day-a day in which You allowed Your beloved and only Son to die horribly on a cross in order to pay the penalty for my sin and for every other person who believes that He died for them.
We also thank You for this church, Lord-which is Your church-and everything you have done to guide us, restore us, and encourage us this year. I pray this morning that you will fill many normally empty seats in the sanctuary. And as we walk out of this room, I pray that You will guide each one of us to make a new friend today who will become a Friend in Jesus.
I pray for the message we will hear Pasto JR preach this morning and ask that You will use it to convict those who are being led to become a part of this church. But most of all, Lord, I pray for any here today who need to make a decision to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Call them, dear God, as only You can.
I humbly and boldly ask these things in the Name above all names, our precious Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, AMEN.