The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark
As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things.
Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom.
Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!”
Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort.
And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.
Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.
The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”
And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left.
Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”
Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
(Mark 15:1-39, )
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem.
Lo your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious is he, riding on an ass, and upon the colt, the foal of an ass.
The whole impact of that joyful statement, that prophecy of Zechariah was that the king was coming in peace. In Palestine, the ass was not a despised animal, but a noble one. When a king went to war he rode on a horse. When he came in peace, he rode on an ass.
The last verse of a G.K.Chesterton poem, about the animal that carried Jesus, says,
Fools, for I also had my hour,
One far fierce hour and sweet;
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day, he came as king, but as the king of peace.
And in doing so, he contradicted all that people had hoped for and expected.
People wanted to give a conqueror’s welcome to Jesus. It was reminiscent of the welcome given to Simon Maccabaeus, a hundred and fifty years before.
They shouted, ‘ Hosanna!’ then, as now. This is a word that is quoted and used as if it simply means ‘Praise,’ but it is a cry to God to break in and save his people now that Messiah has come.
They thought they had a military leader here, in Jesus, someone like Simon Maccabaeus.
They are wrong of course.
When a king came in peace, he would ride a donkey.
Later, we read, that Jesus went into the Temple and looked around.
You see, Jesus is deliberately summing up what he has to do, and assessing the strength of the opposition. He is not an impetuous man. He prepares carefully.
He then returns to Bethany with the Twelve. Bethany is where Jesus can find a few moments of peace. It is a time when he can commune with his Father, before he continues his fateful journey.
Note that the twelve are still with him. Even though they know he is going to die – willingly – and they probably think he is suicidal – they are still with him. It says something for them, that as little as they understood what was happening, they still stood by him.
They haven’t yet been tested.
It’s fine to stand with a winner and bask in his glory. Sharing in his struggle, is a different matter.
They will desert him, but later, much later, some of them will give up their own lives to tell others about him.
Then we move to the trial of Jesus. The Jewish leaders have already tried him, of course. They did this during the night, against their own rules against secret trials.
And they have condemned the Son of Man.
They won’t tell Pilate that he is a blasphemer, which is what they have accused him of, because the Romans wouldn’t care. They tell Pilate that he counseled people against paying taxes to Rome, which is, as we know, a direct lie.
Even religious people, even people who obey the law scrupulously, even they, will lie when they feel the very structure of their lives threatened, as it was by the coming of the man Jesus.
He was against the hypocrisy of the religious leaders at the time. But more than that, he has come to show a clear way to God. He has come to make things right between mankind and God. He has come to strip away the mystery of worship. And condemnation for sin.
They don’t want that. Do they? They are going to be out of work. And out of power. And out of the money
Pilate sent Jesus to be flogged. Men would die after such a flogging. It was said that such a flogging, a scourging, would lay bare the very bone.
We have read about such punishment, of course. But the reading of it goes by without a real idea of what it does to a person.
When I saw Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, and that awful scene of the flogging, it brought it home to me what Jesus really suffered.
After that ordeal, Jesus was too weak to carry the cross on his own, so the soldiers pressed a passer-by into service, they compelled a man called Simon, to help him carry the cross.
Palestine was an occupied country. Anyone could be impressed into Roman service for any task. A tap on the shoulder with the flat of a Roman sword was all that was required.
When that happened, you did what was asked without question.
Simon was from Cyrene in Africa. He may have come from that far-off land for the Passover. He may have saved for a long time to make the trip of a lifetime, and then this happens to him.
He had to do it. He may have taken the cross, resentfully, fully intending to get rid of it as soon as he could. Get to Golgotha and then fling down the thing and get away.
Has it ever happened to you that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and got lumbered with a job you didn’t want? And you did it resentfully?
And how did it turn out?
Let’s see how it may have turned out for Simon.
Simon is described as the father of Alexander and Rufus. Now it is highly possible that Mark wrote his Gospel first for the church in Rome. In Paul’s letter to Rome, 16.13, he mentions: Rufus, eminent in the Lord, Rufus – son of Simon – was such a Christian that Paul called him ‘eminent in the Lord.’
Rufus’s mother was so dear to Paul that he called her his own mother.
Something must have happened to Simon, Rufus’s father, as he carried that cross with Jesus, to Golgotha.
Could it be that Simon’s enforced service to Jesus, carrying his cross to Golgotha, bound him for ever to Jesus? Did seeing the man Jesus, his suffering, and his death on that cross, open his heart, to the love of God, as it was shown so explicitly, that day in Jesus?
And also led his family to Christ’s service?
I have been asked to do something, and accepted it with little grace, and then found after doing it that I had actually enjoyed the experience, and received much more than I put in to it.
Do you know what I mean?
Now Jesus is hanging on the cross.
There was a company of loving women in Jerusalem who came to every crucifixion and gave the criminals drugged wine, to ease the terrible pain. Jesus refused it – resolved to taste death at its bitterest, and go to His Father with open eyes.
Then the Son of God was taunted and mocked by none other than the chief priests and scribes.
The idiots. They can’t see that the end is in sight for them and their fellow hypocrites.
I don’t know if you remember anything from the US invasion of Iraq. We all want to forget it, really.
But as the battle raged and American soldiers were in the suburbs of Baghdad, and everyone in the world knew the end was imminent, the Iraqi Information Minister was still on television saying that Sadham’s army was beating back the invaders. It was ludicrous.
I half expected a US Marine to look over his shoulder and wave home to his mother, while this minister was talking.
These people standing by the cross have seen and understood nothing. Like that Information minister, they want to go on doing what they have been doing for so long, and ignore the reality of a new era dawning on the world.
Temple worship is finished.
Priests controlling access to God is finished.
Temple bureaucrats telling people how to worship, and what to sacrifice, and what price to pay for the sacrifice, and punishing people for petty infractions of the law, are history.
God is now available to all.
Forgiveness of sins is now available to all.
But there they are. “Come down off the cross, they said, and we will believe you.”
What sort of half hearted sacrifice would that be? If he had come down from the cross?
It would have shown that there was a limit to God’s love – that he didn’t love us enough to suffer and to die, for us.
Jesus went the whole way, because there is no limit to God’s love for us,.
He even sacrificed his own Son for us.
Jesus’ actions tell us “God loves you with a love that is limitless. There is nothing which He is not prepared to suffer to have his children turn back to him.
Not even death on a cross.
How can we gaze upon that awful, yet lovely sight, and not want to love him in return?
How can we?
How do we?
Truly this man was the Son of God.