The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Near the Cross

“Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshipped Him” – Mark 15:19

Read that verse, “Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshipped Him.” What an incredible picture. Striking and spitting are not words we commonly associate with worship. Of course their worship was a mockery. But if we pause a second maybe it will lead us to some self examination. And maybe when we are examined we will see that  our worship is sometimes mixed with things in our life that have no place in the same sentence with worship too. Worship is a way of life and our lives are too often anything but worshipful.

I want us to take a look at the scene around the cross of Christ. The cross is central to the Christian message; to the gospel. Without the cross there is no gospel. God in His word tells us that at the cross Jesus satisfied the just requirement of God to justify the forgiveness of sin. Jesus atoning death on the cross is the basis for God to justly forgive our sin.  Jesus paid the debt of all sin for all humanity on the cross. God passed over Old Testament sins in His foreknowledge of the cross (Romans 3:25). When we are born again through faith in Jesus and walk in the light of God’s word we walk in a place where our sins are cleansed from us (1 John 1:7, 9). The glory of the cross of Christ is that He paid a debt He did not owe for those who owed a debt they could not pay. Jesus became sin for us so that we could receive His righteousness by grace through faith in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). We are saved at the cross.

But we are also sanctified at the cross. The cross has an ongoing application in the Christian life. The cross humbles us and helps understand the depth of God’s love in Christ. And it is in the cross that we are to identify. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” ( Galatians 2:20). The cross is Gods revelation of our salvation, but it is also His revelation about living. We have to see ourselves and others in light of the cross. How do we do that? The first step is to go to the gospel account themselves.

When we look at the account of the cross we see a juxtaposition of scenes, a melting pot of people, and really, people that are representative of those throughout history, even us. When we look at the cross and the people gathered around it God uses the scene to convict and challenge us.  Therefore, that’s what we we look at now, the people around the cross at the crucifixion. We will look at them and connect them to their representative group. And as we look at these people we should ask if we are like them in any way and assess the good and the bad and where we stand with Jesus at the foot of the cross. That is how the cross begins to work in us. We will be looking at the account in Mark 15.

Mark 15 (NKJV)

15 Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.

First, the Political Religious Professionals – Mark 15:1 – They sought to maintain their position at all costs; even crucifying an innocent man. Are you willing to sacrifice others to get what you want?

Then Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

He answered and said to him, It is as you say.”

And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing. Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!” But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.

Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion. Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them. But Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.

11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. 12 Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”

13 So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!”

14 Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”

But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!”

15 So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.

Second, the Pragmatic Secular Politician – Mark 15:2-15 – Pilate was willing to do anything to maintain the peace; even crucify an innocent man. Pilate was baffled at Jesus’ silence before His accusers. He was baffled the people would choose a murderer for release over a clearly innocent man. But he was unwilling to do what he knew was right. The peace in order to keep his position was his priority. What is your priority? Are you willing to sacrifice others to get what you want?

Third, the Political Radical  – Mark 15:7 – Barabbas was a political soldier willing to murder for his cause. He was willing to spill blood, fight not talk. He was past diplomacy and willing to take matters into his own hands to get what he wanted. How about you?

 Fourth, the Easily Persuaded Crowd – Mark 15:8-11 – Are you a part of a crowd that is easily stirred and steered by emotions?

 16 Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison. 17 And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, 18 and began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him. 20 And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.

 Fifth, the Pitiless Soldiers – Mark 15:16-20 – They welcomed Jesus as a Lamb for their slaughter. They took pleasure in grinding the crown of thorns into His brow. They were twisted. They turned worship into something perverse. They got their pleasure to the degree they inflicted pain on others. How about you?

21 Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.

Sixth, the Compelled Public Person – Mark 15:21 – Simon of Cyrene was just another face in the crowd probably just curious about the commotion. Until he was unexpectedly compelled to carry the cross of Jesus. His encounter with Jesus was sudden and unexpected, but so shocking that it changed his life forever. How about you?

 22 And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. 23 Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.

24 And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take.

25 Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.

Seventh, the “Place of the Skull” People – Mark 15:22-25  – These are the nameless people who simply go with the flow of injustice and cruelty. They are simply doing their job not caring or convicted that what they are involved in is sadistically and satanically sinful. Their prime interest is deciding how to divide the spoils for themselves. They don't care enough to question let alone refuse to participate or, heaven forbid, resist. They are walking dead people and their office is rightly “The Place of the Skull.” Because of their mindless and heartless participation they facilitate humanities greatest sin. Are you involved in sinful activity?

Eighth, the Sentimental People – Mark 15:23 – There were at that time women who would try to ease the pain of the crucified with an anesthetic concoction. They didn't realize Jesus had to experience the full brunt of the suffering to fully atone for sin. These are people who mean well but their sentimental intrusions actually run counter to what God is doing.  We do this when we try to soften the conviction of the Spirit or discipline of God in someone's life. How about you, focused on someone’s pain instead of God’s overall plan for them lately?

26 And the inscription of His accusation was written above:


27 With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. 28 So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”

Ninth, the Properly Guilty People – Mark 15:26-28 – The two robbers were actually getting what they deserved. They were actually guilty and suffering justly. There was no getting down from the cross; no escape. How about you, are you guilty and suffering justly?

 29 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”

31 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.

Tenth, those Who Attack the Vulnerable Viciously – Mark 15:29-32 – Crucifixion was a bloody site. And keep in mind that, unlike what has been frequently displayed as a cross removed up on a hill away from the crowds, crucifixion was done on street level for all to view. When the people in these verses blasphemed and mocked Jesus they did so viciously face to face. And they did this as Jesus was helpless before them. In these people we see deep hatred, total in-love, and the basest form of the sinful nature. How about you, kicked anyone while they were down lately?

33 Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

35 Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” 36 Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”

Eleventh, the Spiritually Shallow – Mark 15:35-36 – These were curious to see something supernatural, an “event,” something spectacular, a show. They were clueless about the true significance of what was happening before them. They totally missed the point and purpose of the cross. How about you, are you missing the point God is making because of your pursuit of an “event”?

 37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.

38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

 Twelfth, those Who See and Believe – Mark 15:39 – The gentile Roman centurion watched the crucifixion and though he had likely seen many others crucifixions, he had never seen one like this. He was open to the impression God was making in Christ. He didn't know the theology, but what he did know was, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” How about you, would you make that admission?

 40 There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, 41 who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

Thirteenth, the Women Looking on – Mark 15:40-41, and 47 – These were women who had believed in Jesus and though they didn't fully understand, they followed Jesus to the end, even to the cross. How about you, will you follow Jesus to the end, even if it leads to a cross?

 42 Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. 45 So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.

 Fourteenth, the Fearful Follower Who Steps Up – Mark 15:42-46 – Joseph of Arimathea was a secret follower of Jesus. But following Jesus secretly isn't really possible. At some point you're going to have to step up and step out into the light and align with Jesus. Joseph stepped up and was blessed with having his tomb to burry Jesus in but more importantly, to have Jesus resurrect from. Because he stepped up God greatly used him. All he had to do was take courage by faith and align with the Lord. Jesus did the rest. How about you, is it time for you to step up and see how Jesus will use you?

Fifteenth, the Conspicuous by Their Absence Disciples - Where are the disciples? There are women present who followed Jesus to the end. And John mentions he was in close proximity to the cross as Jesus instructs him to watch over His mother (John 19:26-27). But for the most part the disciples are conspicuous by their absence. They retreated in fear. They valued their lives more than following Jesus. How about you, are you conspicuous by your absence when the cross of sacrifice is in view?

Sixteenth, the Savior Jesus – Mark 15 – Jesus refused to be intimidated by enemy accusations (15:2-5). Jesus peacefully and courageously went along with the Father's redemptive plan, even when injustice after injustice was perpetrated against Him (15:6-15). Jesus took the blows and blasphemies (15:16-20). Jesus refused to take anything to reduce His pain or lighten the load of sin (15:23). Jesus did not resist being crucified (15:25). Jesus didn't defend Himself even though the enemy attacked a Him at His most vulnerable time (15:26-32). Jesus cried out the opening words of the great redemptive Messianic Psalm 22 as He fulfilled His mission and breathed His last (15:33-34). How much are you and I like Jesus as God fulfills His mission in and through us?

They struck Jesus, spat on Him, mocked and blasphemed Him and desecrated worship of Him (Mark 15:19). And yet these were part of God’s ingredients of redemption. They are the colors chosen by God to paint the picture of His love for sinners (e.g. Romans 5:8). As we draw near the cross we will likely grow more and more uncomfortable as we begin to see more and more that we are too much like the enemies of Jesus and not enough like His friends. But no matter where God has shown us to be, we need to remember those climactic victorious words of Psalm 22 –

For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted [Jesus];

Nor has He hidden His face from Him;

But when He cried to Him, He heard.

My praise shall be of You in the great assembly;

I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied;

Those who seek Him will praise the Lord.

Let your heart live forever!

All the ends of the world

Shall remember and turn to the Lord,

And all the families of the nations

Shall worship before You.

For the kingdom is the Lord's,

And He rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth

Shall eat and worship;

All those who go down to the dust

Shall bow before Him,

Even he who cannot keep himself alive.

A posterity shall serve Him.

It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation,

They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born,

That He has done this.

(Psalm 22:24-31)

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