(PODCAST) DAVID’S STORY, ARRESTED FOR EVANGELIZING
CHURCH MEMBERSHIP, IS IT MORE THAN A FORMALITY?
I have been a member of various churches over the years and am currently one now! Sadly, most of the churches I was a part of over the years didn’t do very well at teaching the members of those churches how important being a “good” church member was.
Sure, they occasionally taught about the value of church membership, i.e., community, accountability, sacraments, and voting rights, but not so much how to be a faithful, engaged church member.
I feel cheated. Cheated out of so many years in which I could have prospered in my walk of faith personally as a member, I also feel a sense of loss for the opportunities I might have had to bless other members in fulfilling my proper role as a member.
I am not sure what your experience may have been like. Perhaps you are on the other side of the spectrum and have benefited from sound teaching on church membership. Maybe you have had good and faithful role models in your church that were outstanding examples of effective church membership. I hope so.
That is my motivation for this post. I want to discuss with you, the reader, what good and healthy church membership looks like in the life of a believer.
I will not be exhaustive on the topic; you’re welcome. But I hope what I share with you will be instructive and encouraging. I pray that we will take these truths to heart and prayer so that we will grow in this area of our Christian walk.
The first and most important aspect of being a good and flourishing church member is SALVATION!
Redemption creates a distinction between God’s people and not God’s people. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. I am NOT saying the church, any church, can save you. Only repentant faith alone in Christ alone can redeem a person from the depth of their iniquity.
What I am saying, however, is that the church was instituted for God’s people, redeemed people who have been justified by the blood of their Savior Jesus Christ.
It is not the gathering of the unredeemed but THE redeemed! The local church is the place where other redeemed sinners gather to worship, pray, participate in its sacraments (baptism and communion), and serve one another. It is where they are edified and equipped for their work of service to the Lord throughout the week.
So, for a Christian to become a member of a local church body, it should be observed is not a decision that he/she should take lightly.
“Church membership is about a church taking specific responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian for a church. It’s about “putting on,” “embodying,” “living out,” and “making concrete” our membership in Christ’s universal body. In some ways, the union which constitutes a local church and its members is like the “I do” of a marriage ceremony, which is why some refer to church membership as a “covenant” (9 marks).
So before we say “I do,” we must ensure we have the gospel right.
You and I live in a world God created (Genesis1-2). As such, He deserves and is worthy of glory and honor (Revelation 4:11). He made human beings in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:27, 21-25) and put them in charge to be fruitful and multiply the earth and subdue it, they were created to live and rule the creators’ world under His loving authority. As the creator of mankind and all that mankind enjoys, He is the supreme authority over all His creation.
But sadly, Adam and Eve fell into sin. Eve bought into the lie of Satan and ate of the tree in the garden and then gave it to her husband, who did the same (Genesis 3:1-7). Now the sad testimony, ever since, is the fact that through our first parent’s sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12). In rejecting God, Adam, and Eve made a mess of their lives (Genesis 3-4), and the lives of all those who follow after them. They rejected the loving creators’ authority and instituted one of their own. Sadly, we are all like this too. We all rebel against our loving creator and seek to do what we desire, not what He desires. And as a result, we make a terrible mess of our lives.
Even though we rebelled against Him and have sought our own way, not His, He is gracious towards us in that He will not let us rebel forever. God, our creator, will give us all justice, what each of us deserves. God takes our rebellion against Him seriously. He is not indifferent to the way we treat Him. It would be horrifying to fall under the sentence of God’s judgment. This reality all of us as sinners will face (Hebrews 9:27).
Because God so loved us and was not willing that any should perish (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:8-10), He sent His one and only son, Jesus, to pay the debt we owe; the righteous for the unrighteousness, the innocent for the guilty (1 Peter 3:18). He became our substitute, died in our place thereby taking on our punishment and purchasing our forgiveness with the Father, our creator (Philippians 1:5-11).
But the story does not end there. Jesus rose to life again, conquering death, and because He lives, we too will live, with Him, forever, our Savior (John 20-21; 1 Peter 1:3)! God accepted Jesus’ death as the total payment for our sins, and He is now seated by His right hand in power (Hebrews 12:2; Romans 8:34). So, now because of Jesus, we can have peace with God (Romans 5:1)!
Take Him at His word, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord, will be saved (Romans 10:13)!” Talk with Him. Acknowledge your guilt and ask for forgiveness.
This is the essential aspect of being a healthy church member. With this as our foundation, what should we consider next?
The second aspect of being a flourishing church member is YOUR PERSONAL GROWTH.
Really? Why does it matter whether or not I’m growing spiritually? It matters a lot. You are not the lone ranger church; you are involved with a group of people that make up your local church.
As the wedding analogy mentioned earlier, you have become one within your church body. The well-being of the church begins with each member.
Guard your heart against pride – this sinful pleasure will lead a person away from humility before the Lord and others. Pride stifles our ability to truly comprehend greater biblical truth while hindering us in our service to the church body. It gives us a false assurance that we “know” what we need to know while falsely judging others around us.
Apathy- “Spiritual apathy, coldness, or indifference can affect even the most sincere Christian at one time or another. Human emotions being as fickle as they are, feelings of apathy or disinterest can sometimes replace the fervor we once felt for the things of God.”
Guarding against apathy is vitally important. Such indifference will draw us away from faithful attendance. It will pull us away from acts of service to others within the church. But if we find such a coldness within our hearts, overcoming apathy is necessary for continuing our walk with God.
Unconfessed sin- Proverbs 28:13
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
“We are called to live by the standard of Scriptures, walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). With the presence of the Spirit, we experience conviction when we sin overtly and neglect our duty. Often we are convicted for our attitudes and thoughts.
Sin always leads to pollution, disintegration, and perversion; worse, it hinders our fellowship with God. While we are disappointed and hurt when believers sin, we should not be surprised that it occurs. The Christian life is a struggle against the temptations of the flesh, the world, and the forces of Satan. We are all familiar with the internal war we feel as we seek to live by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:13-21).
In short, the remedy is confession (1 John 1:9- Erwin Lutzer)
We may be tempted to hide our sins. Sometimes, we secretly hold onto a particular form of sin that we enjoy. “If we choose to remain in our sin, then we choose the consequences that go with that choice. Broken fellowship and lack of growth result. However, those who persist in sin need to reexamine their true relationship with God (2 Corinthiansofpture is clear that those who know God do not continue a lifestyle of unrepentant sin (1 John 2:3–6; 3:7–10). A desire for holiness is a hallmark of those who know God. To know God is to love Him (Matthew 22:37–38). To love Him is to desire to please Him (John 14:15). Unconfessed sin gets in the way of pleasing Him, so a true child of God wants to confess it, change it, and restore fellowship with God” (got questions.com).
Short, honest accounting with our Lord regarding our sins will be a blessing for us personally in our relationship with Him and our relationships with others!
A third aspect of being a flourishing church member is YOUR PRAYER LIFE
Our prayers shouldn’t be an afterthought, a last resort when nothing else has worked. Prayer should be our default mode, our day’s most crucial and sought-after conversations.
Prayer is how we converse with God and how our relationship with Him blossoms. Through prayer, our heavenly Father works in our hearts and lives, aligning them with His will.
Prayer strengthens us against temptation. Matthew 26:41
41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Our praying is being obedient to God.
18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Praying is the pathway to godly wisdom
“James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. Through prayer, we access God’s wisdom, which is unlike that of the world. It comes to us through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13).” Internet
In the local church, we are allowed to be obedient to the Lord in this way corporately! Praying together encourages other believers, comforts them, and plays a part in strengthening them thru their struggles.
For you and I to have a steady walk with the Lord; for the local church that you are a member of to flourish and be helpful in gospel ministry, it has to be a praying church. Prayer not only changes things, it is the main thing!
I hope these words will be found to be beneficial in your Christian life, especially regarding your life in the local church in which you are a member.
Much more could be added, but I leave that precious time to study for you. What may be some things that you have found necessary for a Christian’s life regarding their flourishing in the local church?
(PODCAST) SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS
THE BODY OF JESUS
I don’t want us moving forward in our study of Mark and his writing on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus simply gaining a broader cognitive understanding of how all the events played out. Instead, I want us to grasp the “facts” evident in Mark’s account that reveal to us, the reader, the gospel to be believed.
Paul shared with the Corinthian believers the gospel to be believed in (1 Corinthians 15:1-8); Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day. Over 500 people witnessed his rising from the grave! But whether or not a person saw that tremendous event as it happened, they are still held accountable for believing those facts of the gospel to be born again (John 20:27-29)!
The first two of those three facts are attested to in the section we will be looking at today.
42 When evening had already come, since it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself also waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.
FOCUS ONE: It was evening (42-43)
The designation “evening” refers to the hours between 3 PM and sunset when Friday ended and the Sabbath began. Since no work was allowed on the Sabbath day, Friday was used for preparing for it.
Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, goes before Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. He witnessed the gruesome event, and after Jesus cried out and breathed His last, he mustered up some courage to stand before Pilate.
“*Under Roman law the release of a crucified man’s corpse for burial was determined only by the imperial magistrate. Usually such a request by a victim’s relatives was granted, but sometimes a body would be left on a cross to decay or be eaten by predatory animals or birds and the remains were thrown into a common grave. Jewish law required a proper burial for all bodies, even those of executed criminals. It also dictated that those hanged were to be taken down and buried before sunset” (Deuteronomy 21:23).
This is most likely why Joseph of Arimathea goes before Pilate. We are told two exciting facts about this man:
- He was a prominent member of the Council
- He was waiting for the kingdom of God
The “Council” is another name, a non-Jewish name, for the Sanhedrin. He appears to be a devout Pharisee but disagrees with the Sanhedrin’s decision to kill Jesus (Luke 23:51). He regarded Jesus as the Messiah. However, he did it from a distance, so to speak, as he was a “secret disciple (John 19:38). But, as we see in these scriptures, he publicly risked his reputation and even his life in asking Pilate for the body of Jesus! No longer in the shadows of faith, but now in headlights of transparency!
Sadly, many professing Christians worldwide can relate to Joseph’s dilemma-being a secret follower of Jesus Christ. Many Christians fear their lives, families, and underground churches. We can only hope and pray that, like Joseph of Arimathea, they, too, will find the courage to stand up, face their fear, and walk boldly for the glory of Jesus Christ.
What Joseph did was no light thing. But he does it anyway! “*He was not related to Jesus; his request was a favor that would likely be denied on principle because Jesus was executed for treason; he risked ceremonial defilement in handling a dead body; his request amounted to an open confession of personal loyalty to the crucified Jesus which would doubtless incur his associates’ hostility.”
This makes me think about many Christians here in America who, in one way or another, are walking on “eggshells” regarding their faith because of the position they hold in this toxic culture that envelopes us. Teachers in public schools, those working for the government, and others feel the same woe, much like Joseph did. But will they stand up and step out, courageously identifying with Jesus Christ when there is no option but flat-out betrayal?
Thankfully, Covid 19 and the lockdowns have given us some wonderful testimonies of people facing this dilemma and boldly standing for Christ and His morality amid much vitriolic opposition. If they are Christ’s, they will be given the courage, just like Joseph of Arimathea! So be encouraged.
44 Now Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And after learning this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb which had been cut out in the rock, and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
FOCUS TWO: Preparing the Lord’s body (44-46)
Joseph of Arimathea’s plea seems to have bewildered Pilate. Pilate wondered if he was already dead. Most often, crucifixion victims suffered for days before death became mercy. So, Pilate summons the centurion; oh yeah! The same centurion stated, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (v. 39). He asks if Jesus is already dead, and the centurion confirms that He is (cr. John 19:31-35). Pilate grants Joseph’s request for the body.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the three facts that need to be believed to be saved, i.e., Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the third day. Dear reader, what is being testified to here and in the other gospels is that Jesus did die, and His burial officially confirmed His death. As mentioned earlier, this was an essential point of the church’s teaching on the atoning (finished) work of Christ Jesus.
It is unlikely that Joseph would have been able to take Jesus off the cross by himself or move His body to the tomb. It makes sense then to assume that he had some others help him. A quick preparation would need to be done and finished later after the sabbath (cr. 16:1). “*After Jesus’ body was removed from the cross, it was probably washed (Acts 9:37) before it was wrapped tightly in strips of linen cloth with aromatic spices placed between the wraps. All this was in accord with Jewish burial customs” (John 9:39-40).
He is laid in a tomb, Joseph’s grave in a nearby garden (Matthew 27:60). The tomb is then sealed shut by rolling a large flat circular stone in front of the entrance. Usually, the stone was “rolled down a sloping groove till it was securely in front of the entrance to keep out intruders. To roll the stone back up again would require the strength of several men.”
47 Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses, were watching to see where He was laid.
Mark tells us that two women that had witnessed Jesus’ death witnessed where His body was laid too! Perhaps the other women were still grieving at the crucifixion site or went back home. Who were here women? Mary Magdalene was the woman that was delivered from seven demons (Luke 8:2). Mary, the mother of Joses, is also described as the “mother of James the less” (Matthew 27:56).
These two women, along with Salome, are the first to get to the tomb on resurrection day! That will be our focus next time.
*The Bible Knowledge Commentary
(PODCAST) SBC EXPELS CHURCHES OVER FEMALE PASTORS
Mark 15: 16-41
Jesus is mocked, abused, tortured, and ultimately left to die on a cruel cross. How horrible it must be to watch someone die, not only die but also to be tortured and abused for an extended period before death finally becomes a long-sought-after mercy for the person. We witness this through the gospel writer’s testimony in general, Mark’s account in particular.
Was Jesus a failure? Is God’s Word unreliable? Did evil triumph over good? Hardly! What appears to be a colossal blunder is, in actuality, a fulfillment of prophecy and a great victory over death, hell, and the grave for all those who have been born again through the atoning work of Jesus on that cross!
I don’t mean to make lite of this “divine” event. Yes, it was a divine event planned in the mind of the Triune Godhead before the earth’s foundations were laid! So, let’s dig into it a bit deeper.
16 Now the soldiers took Him away into the [a]palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they *called together the whole Roman[b]cohort. 17 And they *dressed Him in [c]purple, and after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; 18 and they began saluting Him: “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they repeatedly beat His head with a [d]reed and spit on Him, and kneeling, they bowed down before Him. 20 And after they had mocked Him, they took the [e]purple cloak off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they *led Him out to crucify Him.
21 And they *compelled a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to carry His cross.
FOCUS ONE: The mocking (16-21)
The soldiers take Jesus to the “praetorium.” This place was the governor’s official residence in Jerusalem. Most likely located in the Fortress of Antonia. The soldier’s escorting Him there call together the cohort, around 600 men, stationed there for what appears to be a straightforward reason to mock Him!
They proceed to do several things to Him before He is led away to be crucified:
- Dressed Him up
- Twisted a crown of thorns and beat it into His head
- Spitting on Him
- Kneeled and bowed before Him (redressed Him)
- Led Him out to be crucified
It is one thing to mock a person, even by dressing Him up and making light of His testimony of being “king of the Jews.” But it is quite another to make and place a crown of thorns onto His head and then continually beat His head with a reed. “*A reed long enough to make a mock scepter would be firm enough to be extremely painful, about like a broom handle.” This crown was most likely made from long spikes (up to 12 inches long), which would have penetrated deeply into His skull. I can’t imagine how painful this would have been for Jesus.
But I think it bears noting that the crown of thorns also has a symbolic meaning. “When Adam and Eve sinned, bringing evil and a curse upon the world, part of the curse upon humanity was. . .cursed is the ground because of you; in pain, you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you. . .” (Genesis 3:17-18). The Roman soldiers unknowingly took an object of the curse and fashioned it into a crown for the one who would deliver us from that curse.”
As they led Jesus away to Golgotha, where He will be placed on the cross, Simon of Cyrene (father of Alexander and Rufus) was made to carry the heavy cross beam for now bloodied, sleeplessness, and weakened Jesus. It appears that he was chosen at random by the guards to take the cross beam the rest of the way. But the qualifier “father of Alexander and Rufus” is interesting.
Why the qualifier? Mark, by divine leading, is pointing out to his readers a very encouraging fact amid seemingly discouraging news. Simon was the father of Rufus, a prominent church member in Rome (Romans 16:13).
Think about Christ’s effect on the people witnessing His dying on the cross (initiating the gospel). These two “boys” witnessed and, to some extent, were made to be involved in the events that day, and through them came to trust in Jesus!
Think about the centurion as well who watched Him die that day-“truly this man was the Son of God” (15:39). According to tradition, this centurion did become a believer (Matthew 27:54).
What Satan meant for evil, God used for good! Just as Genesis 3:15 states!
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 [a]lots for them to decide [b]what each man would take. 25 Now it was the [c]third hour [d]when they crucified Him.26 The inscription of the charge against Him [e]read, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
27 And they *crucified two [f]rebels with Him, one on His right and one on His left.[g] 29 Those passing by were [h]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; [i]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.
33 When the [j]sixth hour came, darkness [k]fell over the whole land until the [l]ninth hour. 34 At the [m]ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabaktanei?” 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, “[n]Let us see if Elijah comes to take Him down.” 37 But Jesus let out a loud cry, and [o]died. 38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who was standing [p]right in front of Him, saw that He [q]died in this way, he said, “Truly this man was [r]the Son of God!”
40 Now there were also some women watching from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of [s]James the [t]Less and Joses, and Salome.
FOCUS TWO: The crucifixion (22-40)
With Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross beam for Jesus, they bring Him to Golgotha (Place of the Skull). After they arrive, He is offered wine mixed with myrrh. Why? “Gall” refers to something bitter. It was a narcotic. “The Jews had a custom, based on Proverbs 31:6, of administering a pain-deadening medication mixed with wine to victims of crucifixion, in order to deaden the pain. Tast was, Chris victimsthirsty, ‘was unwilling to drink,’ least it dull His senses before He completed His work. . He neededdulls full mental faculties for the hours yet to come. It was necessary for Him to be awake and fully conscious, for example, to minister to the dying thief (Matthew 27:34; Luke 23:43).”
So they nailed Him to the cross on the (3rd hour-9 AM) and divided up His garments, fulfilling Psalm 22:18! This appears to have been a “right of passage” to gain the “customary spoils” of execution (John 19:23).
The crime for which a condemned person was executed was written on a wooden board and fastened above his head on the cross. The inscription for Jesus was written in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek, stating: “The King of the Jews.” The chief priests were unhappy with what Pilate had written and demanded that he change it. But Pilate refused, “what I have written I have written” (John 19:21-22).
When the 6th hour arose (around noon), the halfway point of Christ’s six hours on the cross, darkness fell over the whole land until the 9th hour (3 PM). This darkness was a statement of divine judgment. This was when the father turned His head away, as Jesus suffered the penalty for all sinners. We can see that Jesus felt this abandonment very deeply (v. 34). Perhaps you understand the depth of pain and misery that comes from someone abandoning you on a human level. As bad as that experience is, it can never match what Jesus felt on the cross when God’s wrath was poured out on Him as the substitute for sinners!
At this point, someone ran to Him with a sponge filled with sour wine; they put it on a reed and gave it to Him to drink. This sour wine should not be confused with the wine mixed with gall given earlier. I will touch on this point more in our fourth focus point. Jesus utters a loud cry and breathes His last (v. 37). Many commentators point out that His “loud cry” demonstrated amazing strength for a person at this point in his crucifixion. It is truly astounding to think about the intense suffering He endured up to this point.
John tells us that after the loud cry and before Jesus breathes His last, He states, “it is finished” (John19:30). Jesus completed the will of the Father. “The entire work of redemption has been brought to completion! Jesus then, according to John’s account, “gave up His spirit” (v. 30). No one took His life from Him; He voluntarily and willingly gave it up (10:17,18).
5 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, “[n]Let us see if Elijah comes to take Him down.” 37 But Jesus let out a loud cry, and [o]died. 38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who was standing [p]right in front of Him, saw that He [q]died in this way, he said, “Truly this man was [r]the Son of God!”
FOCUS THREE: The verbal abuse
So, as you can see, I continue to focus on the same scriptures as in the last section. My focus now is on the verbal abuse that Jesus endured during His crucifixion. Mark tells us that some were wagging their heads at Him and saying, “Haha save yourself” (v.29). The chief priests and scribes were mocking Him (v. 31); even those two men that were being crucified with Him were insulting Him (v. 32).
People walking by said, “you are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself.” The chief priests and scribes said, “He saved others but can’t save Himself.” Those crucified with Him insulted Him, saying the same things (Matthew 27:44). What’s the common denominator? They all implored Him to “come down from the cross” (v. 30, 32, cr. Matthew 27:44). Would that have brought them to repentance? Probably not.
This appears to be a final demand from the Jewish leaders for a miracle, a sign. They claim that if He would do this and come down from the cross, they would believe, but it was a lie (v.32). Jesus did many miracles, healed many people, and still took Him to the cross.
37 But Jesus let out a loud cry, and [a]died. 38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who was standing [b]right in front of Him, saw that He [c]died in this way, he said, “Truly this man was [d]the Son of God!”
40 Now there were also some women watching from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of [e]James the [f]Less and Joses, and Salome. 41 When He was in Galilee, they followed Him and served Him; many other women came up with Him to Jerusalem.
FOCUS FOUR: Jesus dies (37-41)
In the 9th hour, Jesus cries out with a loud voice in Aramaic the words of Psalm 22:1. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me.” As our savior, God’s only begotten Son, hangs on that cruel tree as a substitute for sinners, bearing all the weight of our sin against His Father, He feels the abandonment of His Father as He carries the guilt of the world. He is offered sour wine. What’s the difference from the first offer of wine (v.22). This wine did not have a narcotic mixed in with it. Instead, it was a cheap wine commonly consumed by soldiers and everyday workers. Some say it could have been an act of mercy to refresh Him, while others say it may have been intended to prolong His suffering.
The people mock Him as if they are looking for Elijah to come to take Him down. “* In effect they meant, let the forerunner come and save this so-called Messiah.”
Jesus utters a loud cry and breathes His last. “It is finished” (John 19:30). The veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Is that important? What does it signify? The book of Leviticus describes the veil of the temple as a massive curtain that separated the Holy of holies from the rest of the sanctuary (Exodus 26:31-33; Leviticus 16:2). “The tearing of the veil signified that the way into God’s presence was now open to all through a new and living way (Hebrews 10:19-22)! The fact that such a veil was split from “top to bottom” showed that no man had split the veil; God did it!
Please don’t miss this -How awesome is it that one of the two crucified men with Him repented and was saved! After mocking Jesus and everyone else, this man’s conscience was pricked, and he repented. “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:39-43). “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” He said to him, “truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
How amazing that Christ graciously affirmed this man’s salvation (v.43). But it goes beyond that. The centurion believes now as well. “Certainly this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47). “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). Perhaps some of the soldiers with him believed too (Matthew 27:54).
Jesus had just been falsely accused of blasphemy, blindfolded, spit at, beaten, and bound; they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate. Pilate is the representative of the civil government, and whose guilty verdict was necessary to crucify Jesus. The Jews did not have such authority at this time.
“*The resolution (15:1) by the Sanhedrin in the final stages of its meeting was to accuse Jesus before the civil authority, not of blasphemy, but of high treason. The Roman government would not have considered blasphemy a punishable crime.” John tells us (18:30) that these religious leaders wanted Pilate to hand over a death sentence solely based on their accusations against Him. Still, Pilate refused their urgent request and began questioning Jesus for himself.
Mark does not give any information about who Pilate is or why he is in Jerusalem at this time. Perhaps he assumes his readers would already know this information. “1 Pilate was the Roman procurator (governor) of Judea from A.D.26-36. His official residence was in Caesarea, but he was in Jerusalem for Passover.” This man, Pilate, was placed in the awful position of placing judgment upon Jesus, the “king of the Jews.” And even though he “found no guilt in this man” (Luke 23:4) and knew that the chief priests were doing this out of envy (Mark 15:10), he handed their messiah over to be crucified.
This is the moment in time we observe through the pen of Mark. Let’s dig into it. Ready? Let’s begin!
15 Early in the morning, the chief priests with the elders, scribes, and the entire [a]Council immediately held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led Him away, and turned Him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate questioned Him: “So You are the King of the Jews?” And He answered him, “It is as you say.” 3 And the chief priests started accusing Him [b]of many things. 4 But Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You offer nothing in answer? See how many charges they are bringing against You!” 5 But Jesus said nothing further in answer, so Pilate was amazed.
FOCUS ONE: JESUS BEFORE PILATE (1-5)
Mark says that this decision of the Sanhedrin happened early in the morning, most likely around daybreak, between 5:00-6:00 a.m. Jesus was led to the palace of Herod, where Pilate was residing at the time. This was located in the northwestern section of the city. It was there where the bound prisoner, Jesus, was delivered to Pilate. As mentioned above, Pilate refuses to hand down a judgment against Jesus based solely on the Sanhedrin’s verdict, so he begins questioning Jesus for himself (15:2).
Pilate’s questions are twofold: First, he asks Him directly, “are you the king of the Jews” (v. 2). This being his very first question; the one of most importance to him, seems to stem from the fact that the charges against Jesus were probably made known to him already.
“Mark gives us only a summary of the trial. According to Luke, the Sanhedrin brought before Pilate three charges against Jesus (1) He is subverting our nation; (2) He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar; and (3) He claims to be Christ, a king (Luke 23:2). And it is the last charge that Pilate was interested in! Why? Because if true, it would make Him guilty of rebellion against Rome.
Jesus answers the question from Pilate. “It is as you say.” In other words, Jesus acknowledges that He was Israel’s rightful king. His answer, although a positive acknowledgment, appears to be somewhat a “qualified one” as well. “I am, but not exactly in the way that you are thinking.” So this leads Pilate to ask another question: “Do you not answer? See how many charges they bring against you?”
Jesus did not reply, and that amazed Pilate. Most people would aggressively deny the charges against them or make some emotional plea, but Jesus did neither, and that not only surprised Pilate but also baffled him. However, observing that the questioning was not in their favor, the Chief priests took the lead and began harshly accusing Jesus (v. 3). “Jesus made no further answer.”
6 “Now at the Passover Feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. 7 And the one named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the rebels who had committed murder in the revolt. 8 And the crowd went up and began asking Pilate to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. 9 Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead.”
FOCUS TWO: PILATE BEFORE THE CROWD (6-11)
The custom refers to releasing a prisoner at the Passover Feast. It appears to have been a Roman custom. Luke tells us that there was an uprising in the city and that Barabbas was involved in it and even committed murder during the uprising. “*Barabbas was probably a member of the sect of Zealots, who deeply resented the Roman occupation of Palestine.”
The crowd began “asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them” (v. 8). “1 Pilate undoubtedly saw this annual custom as the way out of his dilemma regarding Jesus.” But it seems that most of the crowd had come to Pilate’s tribunal to ask for Barabbas to be released. But, even if that is true, the chief priests felt they needed to stir up the crowd and incite them to ask for Barabbas to be released, not Jesus.
Pilate’s first question: “do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?” The leader’s response: Release Barabbas. So Pilate asks another question. “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the king of the Jews?” The crowds damning response: “Crucify Him!”
We already know that the plan to kill Jesus was hatched earlier in His ministry (11:18), but here we are told their motivation for His murder- envy!
12 “And responding again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted [a]back, “Crucify Him!” 14 But Pilate said to them, “Why, what [b]evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” 15 Intent on satisfying the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified.”
FOCUS THREE: THE CROWD BEFORE JESUS (12-15)
How sad, no, how heartbreaking it is to read that Jesus was rejected for a murderer. Pilate’s final attempt to save Jesus leads him to ask, “why, what evil has He done?” But the crowd “*now a mob, ignored his question (v. 14). They had reached a stage where they were beyond reason.” Only crucifixion would satisfy them. Death was not enough for the unruly mob; he had to suffer immensely.
“Crucify Him, Crucify Him” was their mantra, shouted so loudly as to drown out any other plea. We can get a picture of how this scene looked by reflecting on the riots of recent days. Crowds gather to protest, and some people with “other” motives join the group. The volume rises, violence erupts, and there seems to be no sense or reason to it anymore, just pure anarchy. And the loud, violent crowd gets its way! Jesus is scourged and handed over to be crucified.
But don’t miss out on one of many testimonies to the innocence of Jesus throughout the passion narrative. Pilate’s testimony of Christ’s innocence is seen in his statement, “why, what evil has He done.” Also, “I find no guilt in this man” (Luke 23:4). And again, “having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him” (Luke 23:14).
Sadly, Pilate was a “man pleaser.” He desired to please the Jews because of fear and political reasons. “To save himself from Rome’s displeasure” is what ultimately overcame his desire to set Jesus free!
So, the guilty go free and the innocent to the cross! But do not forget that God was in control of all of it. None of this was a surprise to Him. It was all told to us hundreds and even thousands of years before through the prophets!
Take time to read these scriptures:
Isaiah 53:3-John 1:11: Luke 23:18
Psalm 41:9-Luke 22:47-48
Psalm 35:11-Mark 14:57-58
Isaiah 50:6-Matthew 26:67
Zechariah 12:10-John 20:27
*The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg. 773
1. MacArthur Study Bible, Mark footnotes
ACCUSATIONS AND DENIALS
The time in the garden has ended. Jesus’ petitions to the Father are complete. Betrayed by a kiss from one of His own, the violent crowd seizes Him and takes Him to the high priest. How crazy is all of this? Conflicted with thoughts and overwhelming emotions, the disciples fled the scene. Christ is taken to the first of two trials that He will face. The first is before the religious leaders; the second is before the political authorities. That is where we begin our study today as Christ is taken to stand before the high priest.
53 “They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes *gathered together. 54 And Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the [a]officers and warming himself at the [b]fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the entire [c] Council were trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. 56 For many people were giving false testimony against Him, and so their testimonies were not consistent. 57 And then some stood up and began giving false testimony against Him, saying, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this [d]temple that was made by hands, and in three days I will build another, made without hands.'” 59 And not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.”
FOCUS ONE: THE ACCUSERS
I want to zoom in on the two groups present at this mock trial: the high priest and all the chief priests, elders, and scribes (The religious authorities) and the false witnesses they brought to testify against Him.
The Council against Him gathers, which appears to have included the seventy-one members of the Sanhedrin. The religious trial, as well as the civil one, involved three stages. The religious trial we are discussing now began with the preliminary hearing before Annas (only reported in John 18:12-14, 19,23); the trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin; and the trial before the same group just before daybreak (Mark 15:1).
Their sole purpose in holding this hasty trial was to obtain false testimony against Jesus to kill Him (v.55). The unexpected problem they faced was that the false witness’s testimonies were inconsistent (v. 56). That created a serious issue for these leaders. “*According to the law (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15), it was necessary in cases that required the death penalty to have two witnesses.” But these witnesses were inconsistent and thereby frustrated their malicious intent.
Eventually, a misunderstood claim of Jesus relating to “this temple” and “building another in three days without hands,” surfaced, and from this came a formal charge against Him. But in that particular instance, Jesus was not referring to the physical temple but to His body (John 2:19-23). That statement that the disciples remembered after He was raised from the dead caused them to believe Him! But, so disjointed were these testimonies that even they were not consistent! This leads the high priest to question Jesus directly.
60 And then the high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not offer any answer for what these men are testifying against You?” 61 But He kept silent and did not offer any answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and *said to Him, “Are You the [e]Christ, the Son of [f]the Blessed One?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 Tearing his clothes, the high priest *said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him as deserving of death. 65 And some began to spit on Him, and [g]to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists and say to Him, “Prophesy!” Then the officers took custody of Him [h]and slapped Him in the face.”
Based on the verses above, the situation had become very intense. When it became evident to Caiaphas that the false testimony of the witnesses failed to bring about any useful charges against Jesus, He interjected himself into the hearing. “Do you not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against you?” What was Jesus’ response to this? “But He kept silent and did not answer” (v. 61).
What an unusual response, at least to us. You and I would feel pressure to say anything to vindicate ourselves. We might argue our innocence or scream accusations back at those accusing us. But our Lord did not respond that way. He gave no reply!
We might be able to say that He “pled the fifth!” that means that a person exercises his 5th Amendment right by refusing to answer a question, especially in a criminal trial, because you might incriminate yourself. I know this is America and not Jerusalem, but it does appear to me that this was His reasoning at the time. “*Caiaphas apparently wanted Jesus to respond to the charge made against Him in the hope of provoking an incriminating answer.”
“How do you respond when you are wrongly accused? We all have the identical natural response. We become extremely defensive; we seek to justify ourselves; we might lash back and attack our attackers; we marshal all the evidence that could possibly support our claims. But Jesus responded differently. He endured more intense injustice than we could ever imagine. But He never lost His poise. And He never lost His compassion” (Paul Apple).
There were several illegalities involved in these trials from the perspective of Jewish law:
No trial was to be held during feast time.
Each court member was to vote individually to convict or acquit, but Jesus was convicted by acclamation.
If the death penalty was given, a night must pass before the sentence was carried out; however, only a few hours passed before Jesus was placed on the Cross.
The Jews had no authority to execute anyone.
No trial was to be held at night, but this trial was held before dawn.
The accused was to be given counsel or representation, but Jesus had none.
The accused was not to be asked self-incriminating questions, but Jesus was asked if He was the Christ.
With no response from Jesus, the high priest again engages Him with another question (v. 61). 1 “‘The Blessed’ is a reverential circumlocution to avoid the pronunciation of the name of God and stands in opposition to the title ‘Christ’ or ‘Messiah.’ ‘Son of God’ was understood by the Jews of Jesus’ time solely in a messianic sense; and since the Messiah in Jewish expectations was to be a man, the question of the high priest was about Jesus’ claim to messiahship and had nothing to do with deity.”
The high priest may have thought that since no useful accusation has come out against Jesus through the false witnesses, perhaps His testimony would condemn Him! This time Jesus answers the high priest, “I am.” With that short but direct reply, Jesus brings together Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1, Old Testament scriptures that speak of the Messiah and His “eschatological coming!”
This question from the high priest proved to be “a stroke of genius.” Christ’s answer leads the high priest to tear his clothes, and quite possibly out of relief that they finally have evidence (supposed) against Him, He asks, “what further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?
The gathered crowd responded by “condemning Him to death” (v. 64). And with that, it appears that they let out all their pent-up frustrations and hatred on Jesus (v. 65).
66 “And while Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the slave women of the high priest *came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and *said, “You were with Jesus the Nazarene as well.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” And he went out onto the [a]porch.[b] 69 The slave woman saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them!” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “You really are one of them, for you are a Galilean as well.” 71 But he began to [c]curse himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak!” 72 And immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And [d]he hurried on and began to weep.”
FOCUS TWO: PETER’S DENIAL
We read back in verse fifty-four that Peter follows the crowd at a distance right into the high priest’s courtyard (v. 54). That is either very courageous or very stupid of Peter. Remember that he just used his sword against the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear (v. 47)! But here he is, “warming himself by the fire with the officers.”
“And he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire – Jerusalem is elevated about 2500 feet above sea level and it can become cold at night in the spring. Sitting with the officers was a daring ploy in a dangerous place as he would soon discover. These officers would not have been Roman soldiers but were the “Temple police” under Jewish jurisdiction. At the fire is literally “toward the light” (fire is the word phos = light) or facing the fire. This small detail means that even though it was dark, his face would be well illuminated which would lead to discovery of his identity described in Mark 14:67. Not smart Peter! But Jesus had given the prophecy and God took care of the details.”
“As Peter was below in the courtyard” signifies that the apartments around it were higher than the courtyard. As he stands there, a servant-girl recognizes him. So much for stealth! Some think that she might have been the same gatekeeper (John 18:15,16) who admitted Peter and was suspicious of him and so followed him to get a closer look.
What begins to unfold now is the very thing Jesus predicted would happen with Peter-he would deny Him. We see in these scriptures just how that unfolds:
Peter was questioned by servant-girl /1st denial (vv.66-68).
Peter questioned again on “porch”/2nd denial (v.69).
Peter was accused by bystanders/3rd denial (vv. 70-71).
The rooster crows a second time! (V. 72).
As bad as all this is, Peter’s response to what he had just done should stand out to us among all the horror of the events taking place.
- 1. He remembered how Jesus told him that he would deny Him three times.
- 2. He began to weep
In contrast to Judas Iscariot, who only felt “remorse” for what he had done and ultimately hung himself, Peter was deeply sorrowful over what he had just done and immediately evidenced a repentant heart!
Is there any application for us regarding Peter’s denial?
“*The importance and relevance of Peter’s denial for the church to which Mark writes is obvious. To a church under severe pressure of persecution it provided a warning. If denial of Jesus Christ was possible for an apostle, and one of the leaders of the apostles at that, then they must be constantly on guard lest they too deny Jesus.”
But it also assures us.
“If anyone did fail Jesus under duress of persecution, there was always a way open for repentance, forgiveness, and restoration” (Mark 16:7; John 21:15-19).
*The expositor’s Bible Commentary
1 William L. Lane, the gospel according to Mark