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).