Mark XXVII: The Crucified King - Mark 15:16-47

Irony has been scattered throughout the gospel of Mark, but at the end it’s everywhere: Jesus’ enemies constantly mock and scorn Him, and yet they keep uttering more truth than they know. In Mark’s account of the crucifixion in 15:16-47, Jesus is repeatedly scorned by both Gentiles and Jews for being a mockery of a king at the very moment of His greatest kingly act. They do not see that the only king who can save the world is the crucified king.

To them, a crucified king is an embarrassment, and so the charge that is inscribed above His head forms the basis for their scorn: He is condemned to die as “the King of Jews.” What kind of king is rejected by his own people? What kind of king wears a crown of thorns? What kind of king has a cross for a throne?

For Rome this is excusable; they know not what they do. But for the Jews, especially their leaders, it is inexcusable as well as heartbreakingly sad that they cannot recognize their king even when he walks right out of the pages of Psalm 22, Psalm 69, and Isaiah 53. They demand to see so that they can believe; but as Jesus has shown time and time again, they must believe so that He can open their eyes, so that they can see. But they will not believe, and so they cannot see.

After enduring the cross and despising the shame for six hours, Jesus cries out twice; first, He screams out the first words of Psalm 22 in what has become known as the cry of dereliction – God has forsaken Him. What this means is that even though He is innocent, because He has taken on Himself the sins of the world, God will not come down and rescue Him. Instead, He will die under the judgment of God.

Jesus’ second cry may have been the triumphant “It is finished” from John, maybe His committing of His spirit into His Father’s hands as in Matthew, possibly a wordless shout, or all three. Mark’s attention is simply on the fact that He cried out and breathed His last. But when this final cry rings out, amazing things happen: apparently, the light of the world came back on, Matthew tells us that the foundations of the earth shook, Hades started to leak departed saints back into the world, and the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom.

And something about the way that Jesus breathed His last so affected the centurion in charge of the crucifixion that he utters the verdict about Jesus that Mark has been preaching to us all along: “Truly this man was the Son of God.” This passage has been full of moments when people spoke more than they knew, and that’s probably happening here too. The centurion’s awestruck confession of honor is Rome’s final word on Jesus in Mark’s gospel, and his testimony in v. 44 probably played a key role in Pilate’s decision to allow Jesus to be taken down and buried in honor rather than tossed into a mass grave like a criminal.

This confession also begins to unravel all the mockery and scorn that’s been heaped up on Jesus. Now Joseph of Arimathea steps forward, now we see the faithful women who have stayed close to Jesus ever since Galilee, even when the men ran away. Although they could not save His life, His followers seek to honor Him with a noble, even kingly, burial.

In the crucifixion of Jesus, we see the heart of the Christian faith. Everything depends on what happened at the cross. Mark records this history, because history matters. If the history is not true, then none of the theology of the cross that comes later is true either, because the Christian gospel is the gospel of the Crucified King. If anything less than the utter defeat of evil and sin and death were at stake, then Jesus would have come down from the cross to defeat lesser enemies by lesser means. But it is by dying on the cross, forsaken by God, abandoned by friends, and shamed by enemies, that our King defeats our greatest enemies and makes eternal peace for us by the blood of his cross.

By the cross, Jesus subdues our rebel hearts, rules over us in love, defends us from God’s wrath, restrains Satan’s hatred, and conquers all His and our enemies. Only by means of the cross, and most fully, shockingly, wonderfully at the cross, is Jesus the Crucified revealed to be the Son of God, the King of kings, and the Savior of sinners. Look to the cross, and behold your King.

Posted on Wednesday, October 03, 2018 by CJ Bowen