Reflections From Mark’s Gospel: Chapter 15

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Nearing the end of Mark’s gospel, there’s the exchange of Barabbas a murderer for Jesus the preacher to be crucified as demanded by the Jewish people before Pilate (vv.1-15); Jesus is then mocked and beaten by the Roman soldiers (vv.16-21); he is crucified (vv.22-41) and finally Jesus is buried (vv.42-47).

This section is deeply moving to me, and yet I sense a hard heart within as I wrestle to engage the text intellectually and with passion, with my mind and heart. There’s much to reflect on but the following observations are what caught my eye.

What first intrigues me is Pilate’s amazement at Jesus’ silence before his accusers (vv.2-5).  The tense situation had even Pilate rattled, not wanting any more unrest in the region.  And now this ruler has to deal with THE KING OF THE JEWS who has been harshly abused.  Lord, you kept silent because you entrusted yourself to the Father who judges all men justly, and though you kept silent it was heard loud and clear in the soul of this ruler.

Second, I’m amazed that your accusers preferred to release Barabbas—a murderer—and chose to brutally murder you—the giver of life.  Their hatred was deep, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”(vv.6-15), but the irony is that in order for murderers to be truly set free, you had to die in their place.  As the hymn reflects, “Why should I gain from His reward, I cannot give an answer, But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom”.  What a savior!

Third, the way you were mocked by the soldiers through; spitting, punching, robing you with royal attire, and giving you a crown of thorns before being sent off to be crucified is difficult to consider.  As their mocking continued, “Hail King of the Jews”, it’s as if the Roman soldiers were saying, “Yeah, you’re a king all right, of a defeated people who know they’re conquered evidenced by us killing you today!” (vv.16-21). The irony here is that you actually were the king of glory, and only through your death would death finally put away.  You are the King of glory who pursues us with your love.

Fourth, the inscription for why you Jesus were put to death, “The King of the Jews” is true.  This inscription is loudly proclaiming, “Do you see, do you hear, do you understand?!”  This is no ordinary monarch you are killing, but the One who rules not just the Jews and the Romans, but all the nations the reality of which will be completed in the eschaton.  What is he accomplishing through his death?  Jesus is gathering many sons and daughters in order to have table fellowship with them.  Who knew?!

Moreover, the manner in which he was crucified fulfilled the scriptures—he was numbered with the transgressors (Ps.22:7) and his last cry (Ps.22:1) demonstrated God’s promise revealed to be faithful.  How is his faithfulness shown?  It’s demonstrated by the Father forsaking His own Son for our good, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?!” (v.34). The answer is so that many sons and daughters may be gathered by grace alone into the kingdom of Gods mercy and grace.  God will never leave nor forsake his redeemed children.

Fifth, this last cry convinced the centurion standing by that Jesus was the Son of God indeed (v.39).  What manner of emotion did he hear, what sound from the gut did he hear?  It was the sound of Jesus, the Lord of Life, breathing his last.  This culminated the day’s events where both his enemies and friends witnessed Jesus die (vv.34-39).

Sixth, Jesus was definitely dead and they lay him in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (vv.42-47).  As the stone was rolled over the opening, one can imagine that life stood still for those who hoped in Jesus.  Their dreams and aspirations were now dashed to the ground.

Jesus was born to die as God promised long ago in the prophets.  He fulfilled everything the Father intended Jesus to do and while the plot line is both painful and glorious, it is nevertheless true.  Many years later I sit writing at my table, reflecting on these incidents which came about at the fullness of time penned in Mark’s gospel.  It’s as if time stands still and I’m able to peer into the wonders of God’s amazing grace.


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