Opening reading of Mark 15:15–32.
“Suffering is everywhere, unavoidable, and its scope often overwhelms.” That’s how Tim Keller begins his book on suffering. In just a minute I’m going to pray, and I’m going to pray for God to work in three situations.
Haiti’s earthquake 2 weeks ago: The magnitude 7.2 quake, centered under the country’s southwest peninsula, killed at least 2,207 and injured 12,268 people. About 130,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Prayer for three pastors we heard about through our connection to Acts 29 in Latin America—Pastor Marc, Pastor Missou, Pastor Louinel. Our church has given money to them.
Eli Martin in Afghanistan, where a volatile situation turned deadly on Thursday when a suicide bomber killed 13 American soldiers and almost 200 Afghanis.
And then Hurricane Ida (Cat 4) and the state of Louisiana. 16 years ago today hurricane Katrina (Cat 5) hit New Orleans. Right now hurricane Ida is coming ashore with 150 mph winds and will certainly cause extensive damage.
And then there’s the individual suffering we’re going through. A bretrayal that will change the rest of our life. Chronic pain we can’t stop thinking about. Distracts us constantly. Loneliness. These leave us asking, “Where are you, Lord? Why are you doing this?”
Once again, “Suffering is everywhere, unavoidable, and its scope often overwhelms.”
Martin Luther felt this, too, the abundance of suffering. As help for us he talked about a “theology of the cross.” We find help in our sufferings when we see how Christ suffered WITH US.
But Luther knew that Christ’s sufferings aren’t just to help us suffer better. They are the reason we’re saved. We do need to see how Christ suffers WITH US. But even more we need to seehow Christ suffers FOR US. The cross invites us to dwell on both of these.
Our passage is written by Mark.
Sermon: See 3 things in the cross of Christ. See: (1) The Rejection of the Christ (vv.15–32); (2) The Forsaking of the Son (vv. 33–37); (3) The Triumph of the Christ (vv. 38–41).
Prayer: Eli in Afghanistan, Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Ida and Louisiana
We start with the Rejection of the Christ.
A whole parade of humanity will join in this rejection.
Right before Triumphal Entry Jesus prophesied:
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:33–34)
All will take place exactly as Jesus prophesied.
But their joking is FILLED WITH TRUTH.
“Scourged” (15:15) and delivered
“Soldiers” = non-Jews hired. Not likely Romans though representing Rome.
“Whole battalion” = 1/10 of a legion of 6k.
Mocking him as King: “Hail, King of the Jews!” (15:18)
Gambled for his clothes—to fulfill Psalm 22:18.
The mocking inscription for crime of treason: “The King of the Jews” (15:26)—all these events taking place with this caption over them all. A statement of fact for the world to see.
“Those who passed by” (15:29)—
Rejected by “Chief priests with the scribes” (15:31–32)
Rejected by the Thief who “reviled him” (15:32)
This is where the TORMENT of the cross provokes a response in Jesus. This is the true agony of the cross.
The physical agony is real. But it’s what he experiences in his soul that provokes the response in Jesus.
Read Mark 15:33–37.
Darkness as a theme for God’s judgment. 9th plague in Egyt, last one before the final devastation was a plague of darkness. “Pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt” (Exod 10:22). And it was in the middle of the night when the angel of death went through Egypt to kill the firstborn in households that weren’t marked by the blood of the Lamb.
Darkness in the prophets. Amos 8:9. A prophet to the northern kingdom in the years right before it fell to Assyria.
“And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. (Amos 8:9)
It’s important to compare Jesus’ death to the death of other martyrs and even sages like Socrates. Plenty of martyrs have bravely faced death and not cowered under the thought of it. They spoke bold words of faith even while their bodies were burning. But Jesus collapsed in Gethsemane and sweat drops of blood.
And on the cross he cries out with what’s been called the “cry of dereliction”: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus’ REACTION to his death is different from all other Christian martyrs—because his DEATH is different from all other Christian martyrs.
No Christian martyr in his or her dying was ever forsaken by God—but Jesus was.
Attempts to minimize the idea: He wasn’t truly forsaken but only FELT forsaken. Ps 22 is really about the end of the Psalm and not the feeling at the beginning.
But the problem is what’s being accomplished at the cross. The cross is about an objective achievement, not about modeling something or the man Jesus simply experiencing something. What was being accomplished was the Father pouring out his wrath upon the Son.
In this cry we learn Jesus is experiencing “GODFORSAKENNESS.” Not just the feeling of it, but actually being forsaken by the Father.
“In the cry of Jesus we are dealing not with a subjective but with an objective God-forsakenness: He did not feel alone but had in fact been forsaken by God” (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 3, 389).
John Calvin: “Unless his soul shared in the punishment, he would have been the Redeemer of bodies alone” (Institutes, 2.16.12).
We need to be careful here. The Trinity isn’t severed here. Neither are the two natures of Christ.
15:37, “uttered a loud cry” =
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
15:37, “Breathed his last.” What we must never say: “God died.” At best it’s confusing, at worst it’s blasphemous.
“Son” (John 3:16). Jesus died. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). 1 John, “he died” (3:16). The Christ died (Rom 5:8; 1 Cor 15:3). The Son of Man died (Mark 10:45). Jews “who killed the Lord Jesus” (1 Thess 2:15)—the only verse in the NT I could find that had “Lord” being killed. Since it’s modifying “Jesus” it’s a little different.
God dying isn’t found.
Even Acts 20:28, sometimes used to speak in these ways is more ambiguous: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” “His own blood” in the Greek is slighty different, διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου. “The blood of his own” seems more accurately to be elliptical for “the blood of his own Son.” This is the reading in the margins in the ESV (without “Son” added). And why the NET Bible has, “the blood of his own Son” in the main text. ESV Study Bible notes that it’s also possible to read “church of God” as a reference to Christ and so the reference to blood at the end is a reference to “Jesus’ own blood.”
That’s why occasionally we change song lyrics. John Wesley wrote, “Amazing love, how can it be, that though, my God, shouldst die for me?” Likely he meant, “Jesus the God-Man,” and changing it to, “my Lord,” as we and others have, isn’t perfect. But it’s an attempt to keep our thinking on Trinity straight.
The shame of Jesus’ death on the cross:
“In the second century, an unknown graffiti artist daubed a picture on a wall at the heart of the empire, in the ‘eternal city’ of Rome. It depicted a man in a posture of worship, standing in front of a crucified figure who had been given the head of a donkey. Under the piece of mockery obviously directed against the Christian message was daubed the slogan, ‘Alexamenos worships his god.’”
*****But God’s wrath, the Father forsaking the Son, the death that he died—all these are FOR OUR SALVATION.
In all of these HE TOOK OUR PLACE.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa 53:5–6)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)
On the cross Jesus experienced God’s wrath so that we will never have to.
“Christ in truth bore unspeakable distress, sorrows, horror, and hellish torment on the cross in order that he might redeem us from them.”
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics
This is the Christ suffering FOR US—to SAVE US!
Read Mark 15:38–41.
As soon as Jesus dies the redemption he accomplished begins to undo the curse on this world. It brings an immediate change.
The full triumph of the Christ must wait for his resurrection and ascension. But his triumph begins right here.
Massive curtain. Either the outer curtain at the front of the holy place or the inner curtain in front of the most holy place.
It’s announcement that “The Way is Open!”
The body and blood of Jesus have been given for us:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:19–22)
“The title has come to the surface at several points in the narrative, but this is the first time it has been uttered with conviction (as opposed to the High Priest’s skepticism, 14:61) by a human witness” (France, 650). “The centurion’s exclamation is the climax of the crucifixion scene, and one of the christological high points of the gospel….There is no new christological content here, but what is new si the source from which the declaration comes, the first human witness to describe Jesus as huios theou and mean it, and that witness not a disciple or even a Jew at all, but a Gentile army officer with no previous connections with Jesus” (France, 659). On the grammar: “For the centurion the definite article would probably have meant little and mattered less. It is Mark’s readers for whom it matters, and for them, after so many and varied declarations already in this gospel that Jesus is the Son of God in a unique sense (1:1; 1:11; 3:11; 5:7; 9:7; 12:6; 13:32; 14:61–62), there can be no question” (France, 660). It is 1:1 and 5:7 that are the most relevant, the other passages having the definite article: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1); “And crying out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?’”(5:7).
“The inarticular expression huios theou is regularly applied to Augustus on coins and in other inscriptions and documents. Since Julius Caesar [100-44 BC] had been divinized after his death, and Augustus [63 BC–AD 14, reigned 27 BC–AD 14] was his adopted son, it was logical that Augustus began to use the title ‘son of God.’ His successors kept the Augustun mythology alive by continuing proclaim his divine sonship. When the centurion cried, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God,’ this was a remarkable usage indeed. He was taking a revered and exalted title that belonged only to Augustus, and applying it ot the crucified man who had just breathed his last there in front of him. He can only be saying, ‘This man, not Caesar, is the Son of God!’—this crucified man. In Mark, Jesus is portrayed as a rival to Caesar” (Peter Bolt, The Cross from a Distance).
We’ll hear from them again soon.
1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. (Luke 8:1–3)
Luther called Jesus' cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" "The greatest words in all of Scripture." Because...They reveal that "In Christ, the God-forsaken sinner has a Savior who has taken on himself the full depths of human estrangement from God—and overcome it" (Rittgers, The Reformation of Suffering, 117).
Luther tried to build what he called a "theology of the cross" and not a "theology of glory." He even said, "the CROSS alone is our theology." We start with God revealed at the cross and go deep with what we can learn there. We don't start with speculating on the divine essence of God that is unknowable and incomprehensible to us.
For Luther, Jesus' words to Philip are critical: He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). And this is especially true of Jesus the God-forsaken Savior on the cross. (See Rittgers, 115–117).
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:15–16)
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. (Heb 5:7–9)
Heidelberg Catechism Q37
Q. What do you understand by the word “suffered”?
A. That during his whole life on earth, but especially at the end, Christ sustained in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race. This he did in order that, by his suffering as the only atoning sacrifice, he might deliver us, body and soul, from eternal condemnation, and gain for us God’s grace, righteousness, and eternal life. Heidelberg Catechism, Question 37
Prayer and closing song
 Tim Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (Riverhead Books, 2013), 1.
 Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 373.
 Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 373.
 Peter Bolt, The Cross from a Distance, NBST (InterVarsity, 2004), 114.
 Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 3, 416.
 Scholars are not sure. Both are possible. Either way the meaning would be the same, as communicated clearly by Hebrews 10:19–22.
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