I. Jesus, the Holy One, was crucified by pagans between two criminals.
A. Jesus had gradually seen every point of support for him humanly slip away.
- After the beautiful time at Passover (punctuated by the leaving of Judas to begin the execution of his betrayal), he had seen his most intimate circle of friends fall asleep during the tense time of prayer in Gethsemane.
- Judas arrived, knowing where Jesus would be, with a mob, “some officers” as recorded by John, sent by the chief priests and Pharisees, to arrest Jesus (an event that Jesus saw as a direct fulfillment of Scripture (14:49).
- He was tried before a prejudiced council who brought in false and inconsistent witnesses and finally was convicted of blasphemy when he came forth clearly with the truth of his Messiahship (14:62-64).
- Immediately he is beaten and mocked for his status as consummate prophet ((14:65). This kind of treatment Jesus received for the truth of his relation to the offices he occupied as Messiah constitute a major reason that he was hesitant to allow every person toward whom he showed mercy and power to spread the knowledge of his work indiscriminately.
- Then one of the sleepy inner-circle, Peter, who earlier had confessed his true identity, now in the throes of pressurized trauma, denied knowledge of Jesus (14:71).
- The clear-sighted (15:4, 5, 10) but cowardly (15:15) Roman procurator Pilate scourged him and handed him over for crucifixion.
- Mark omitted the interlude of mocking and contemptuous treatment he received before Herod (Luke 23:6-12) in which Jesus’ kingship was ridiculed.
- Likewise, the soldiers in charge of leading him to crucifixion, to whom Pilate relinquished him, made sport of him first, giving him a crown of thorns and a purple robe, bowing before him with hard blows to his head and putrid spittle to his face.
- Then they led him out to the place of a skull, Golgotha, to crucify him. Upon crucifying him, they divided his clothes between them (the spoils of their exalted position as executioners), cast lots for the exquisitely woven seamless robe, having attached the sign above his head dictated by Pilate “The King of the Jews.” A more ironical combination of disrespect and truth could not be imagined.
B. The society he enjoyed in his crucifixion, among whom he was centered as the chief offender, were convicted criminals, both of whom initially ridiculed him. They picked up the insults from the surrounding crowd and hurled them at him (Matthew 27:44). Seeing Jesus’ lack of retaliation, but instead only words of mercy, kindness, patience and perfect resignation, one of the thieves concluded that these insults were actually true claims and that Jesus was the only righteous person present at the scene and the one who held the keys to the kingdom of God (Luke 23:39-43).
II. Jesus, the Holy One, was ridiculed by sinners. They manipulated words of his and claims he had made into the substance of their abusive, venomous railing. The world has never witnessed such a radical moral distance between the evil of the accusers and the goodness of the accused as in these hours at Calvary.
A. They ridiculed him for his claim to raise the destroyed temple in three days. Jesus, on the first occasion of his cleansing of the Temple, had said, defending his authority over the temple and all matters of divine worship, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” They had leveled this accusation at him during the trial in 14:58. John explained, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken” (John 2:21, 22).
B. When they said, “Save yourself and come down from the cross,” they showed their complete (and hostile) ignorance of the nature of the redemptive work of the Messiah. He came to give himself that others might be saved. This taunt was extended by the mocking words, “He saved others. He cannot save himself.” This is true, but a mere ridicule in their mouths justifying their rejection of the signs of power, authority, and compassion he had performed. Since he came to “give his life a ransom for many,” had he saved himself, he could not have saved others.
C. “Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down . . . that we may see and believe.”
- They knew that in both his actions and his words he laid claim to the position of the expected Messiah. No matter how strong the evidence, they would not believe.
- They knew that he claimed to have a kingdom that would soon be manifest, but they had no concept of the nature of an internal rule in the hearts by grace that would culminate in a powerful visible rule at a final judgment.
- Again, they show their complete lack of knowledge that the Christ would die for the sins of others (Isaiah 53:5 – “We esteemed him smitten of God and afflicted, but he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement that brought us peace was upon him”) to save them and had he come down, they could not believe for there would be nothing in which to believe. It is, in fact, Christ’s righteousness, including his obedience unto death, that brings about the entire sphere of faith: “To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).
III. Jesus, the Holy One, was abandoned to holy wrath and bereft even of common graces on the cross. The descent of darkness (33) implied that even natural mercies available to all—“He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good” (Matthew 5:45)—were removed from him so that he is treated as one who is evil- “But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness” (Proverbs 4:18, 19).
A. Other gospels fill out the picture of how Jesus responded to different phases of his time on the cross.
- Jesus asked for forgiveness for the drivers of nails (Luke 23:34).
- Jesus made sure that his mother would be cared for (John 19:26, 27).
- Luke records words of assurance to one of the thieves whose heart was changed in knowledge of his personal sin and the messianic innocence of Jesus (Luke 23:39-43).
- After his cry of abandonment, he said, “I thirst,” (John 19:28), indicating that now relief from the physical torture was possible—the price had been paid. Earlier (15:22), Mark records that they offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh and he refused it. He could not deaden any of the physical aspects of his suffering. Mark in verse 36 probably has this request of Jesus in mind when they gave him a drink of sour wine on a sponge.
- His verbal confirmation of the completed redemption came in the words, “It is finished” (John 19:30). It could be seen as, “The purpose has been brought to completion.” To this as well as the next word Mark condenses into the words, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last” (39).
- Then he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). The body would be committed to the tomb to await his resurrection, while his spirit he committed immediately to the Father, where he would await also the believing crucified thief. The words in the Apostles’ Creed, “He descended into hell, crucified, dead, and buried” were fulfilled during his suffering on the cross as he underwent the full range of propitiatory and expiatory suffering for the forgiveness of sin. His body being committed to the grave showed that he had taken death upon himself and was now positioned to show his triumph over it.
B. Mark ended the saying of Jesus with the statement of abandonment: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” That in this moment the ransom had been paid (10:45) Mark wanted to emphasize in Jesus’ own experience. After that verbal indication, an exquisitely mysterious and ineffably painful moment of realization, of which Jesus had keen unsuppressed sensory experience, Mark brought his narrative of the crucifixion to a quick end.
- Every aspect of Jesus’ suffering, both physical and spiritual, was necessary for the full satisfaction of sin’s penalty. When the unsaved are assigned their just judgment to hell, the suffering will be both in body and soul. For Jesus’ suffering to be propitiatory, he must endure this aspect of substitution in its full measure. This moment, however, brought the most severe, poignant, and necessary aspect of his work to culmination.
- Jesus was expressing his conscious awareness that active divine wrath was now at its most intense fulfillment of his appointment to die the just for the unjust. Active wrath surrounded him, supported by no common mercies.
- Yet even in this, Jesus testified to his acknowledgement of God as the one inflicting this wrath. It was just and the very thing that God had determined before the foundation of the world would take place. This God, even in this moment, was His God–the very one with whom he had consented eternally to shed his blood that he might reconcile sinners to him (Hebrews 13:20, 21).
- The “Why” contains, not a doubt, but a genuine request that some demonstration of the reason for this abandonment would be given. Unto what end has this wrathful abandonment taken place?
IV. His suffering bore the fruit of salvation. This is the demonstration of purpose for which Jesus asked.
A. The veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom. The veil with all its multicolored hues of purple and red represented his body, now torn in death, as providing an entry into the holy of holies for all sinners who would be purged and made righteous by his blood (Hebrews 10:19-22).
B. The confession of the centurion, “Truly this man was the Son of God,” comes from one for whom Jesus had prayed in the first moments of the crucifixion. His confession showed that he heard and understood the words of Jesus on the cross, how he had the authority to ask forgiveness for others, why he refused but later accepted the offered drink, How addressed God as the chief perpetrator of the events of the cross, and how he addressed this God as his Father. Also, that he knew when the purpose of this horrific event had been consummated impressed him with the eternal truth intrinsic to these events. This centurion was “standing right in from of” Jesus, and “saw the way he breathed his last.” The words of completion and the words in which he surrendered physical life for the presence of Father moved him to his final reception of the truth. He had confessed with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, and soon would hear and believe in his heart that “God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9-13).