Why The Cross Matters (Mark 15-16)

8:15 Gathering

10:45 Gathering


Easter is for everyone.

  • Christians enjoy Easter because it’s the reminder of hope; because no one wants to be hopeless.
    • “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” Shawshank Redemption
  • You may not be a Christian but perhaps you will consider becoming one.
    • In spite of knowing one; working for one; married to one…
    • In spite of doubting God or feeling distant from God (for whatever reason)
    • à The foundation of Christianity is not Christians or circumstances but Christ.
    • à The message & movement of Christ should have died when He died… but He rose.

This message will share 4 steps we can take toward the message and the Man, Christ Jesus.

Easter 2015 graphic

EXAMINE   Mark 15:1-20             4 reminders about the cross

We can respect Jesus because the cross was public (Mark 15:1).

A lot of people may doubt Jesus existed, though all one would need to do is search the history. Mark’s Gospel points to the consultation between the chief priests, the elders, scribes, and the whole Council, and the Roman Governor Pilate  (Mk 15:1); not to mention crowds, Roman soldiers, and the apostles who many later give an oral-written account.
Ex Illus: We may have never seen Abe Lincoln, Thomas Edison, or George Washington Carver, or MLK Jr. But we know they existed because the impact of their lives continues today.

à The public nature of Jesus should cause us to pay attention to history and the life of Jesus.

The Jewish religious leaders delivered Jesus to Pilate because they wanted Jesus to die on a cross, considered a cursed form of death by Jews (Deut 21:23; Gal 3:13). Jews had no legal authority to commend such a capital punishment, which is why they involved Pilate. Their charge went beyond the religious nature of blasphemy to the claim of being King of the Jews (note Mk 15:2, 9, 12, 18, 26, 32), a challenge to Caesar’s rule.

In all, Pilate’s role appears non-committal and non-cooperative with Jewish leaders. He viewed Jesus as a Jewish rebel but saw no need for his involvement with Jesus. Pilate plotted the release of one prisoner, Barabbas or Jesus. Barabbas was indeed a nationalist rebel and murderer. Interestingly, his name bar (son of) abbas (father), so he was the son of an unnamed father, whereas Jesus was the son of God the Father.

The trial before Pilate was like a public spectacle of Jesus. “Then what shall I do with the man you call King of the Jews?” The crowd cried out ‘Crucify him…” So, Pilate seeks to placate the crowd (Mark 15:15).

A Roman band of soldiers (perhaps 200-600 men[1]) surrounded Jesus where they would give His public flogging, mocking, and eventual crucifixion.

à The public nature of Jesus’ execution should remind believers today the social cost of following Jesus.
Christianity is personal but not private… if lived out you will experience persecution (2Tim 3:12).


We can rely on Jesus because the cross was planned (Mark 15:1-5)

Reading the text may bring one to shock that Jesus – the Son of God – would allow Himself to suffer and be slaughtered to death. Yet, we must remember the context that Jesus’ crucifixion and death were no accident. There were at least two plans for it to occur.

The first plan was that of human perspective. One of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, planned to betray Jesus (Mark 14:10-11; 14:43-44). Judas cooperated with the religious officials who wanted to remove the influence and power Jesus was gaining. Their exchange is well known that many people today who are betrayed call their adversary a “Judas”. The religious leaders coerced Judas to exchange the Savior for thirty pieces of silver.

à Do you realize there is someone today planning your downfall: devastation to your family; destruction of your life; damnation of your soul???

1Peter 5:8 “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

The second plan for the cross was that of God’s perspective. God is in control even when evil events occur. Matthew’s Gospel notes Jesus’ birth account with divine announcement for the baby to be called “Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (1:21). The name Jesus means God saves/delivers or God is our salvation. From the purpose of God to the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth was the plan for Jesus to die on the cross to save us from sin. More, Jesus was very aware and predicted his death and resurrection several times.

Mark 10:33-34 “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. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Acts 2:23 “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God”

à God’s sovereignty over the cross to bring about the resurrection reminds us that even when we face difficulty, we can rely on God to bring us through to the other side.

We can relate to Jesus because the cross was a painful punishment (Mark 15:17-20).

Mark’s Gospel reports the mockery of Jesus’ kingship by wrapping him in purple cloth and twisting a crown of thorns on His head. The soldiers gave Jesus sarcastic salutes and continuous (imperfect verbs) striking with a reed and spitting on Him. After time they crucified Jesus. Mark states a single word of crucifying (σταυρόω) but it was much more than that.

Crucifixion was the worse form of capital punishment and reserved for the cruelest of criminals.[2]  Jews viewed crucifixion as being under God’s curse.[3] The ancient Roman philosopher Cicero asked that decent Roman citizens not even speak of the cross because it was too disgraceful a subject for the ears of decent people. The agony of crucifixion is due to the fact of its prolonged means of death. Those crucified would often hang on a cross for days, passing in and out of consciousness as their lungs struggled to breathe, while laboring under the weight of their dying body. Due to the fact that timber was so expensive, the wood of the cross was typically recycled wood, therefore layered with the blood and sweat of many others.

The crucifixion process was started with the victim being stripped naked, humiliated and then attached his hands and feet across a wooden beam to expose the victim’s bare back. A Lictor, a professional executioner, would yield a whip with tentacle-like straps having heavy scraps of metal, bone and glass attached to the end of the straps. Often there would be two Lictors taking turns lashing the victim on both sides of the back.

The intention of the Lictor was to tenderize the flesh of the shoulders, backs, buttocks and legs of the victim. Skin would be lacerated and muscles and tendons were shred apart. On occasion, body organs would be exposed and even bones ripped off the victim. Most would die from this scourging itself.

After this scourging, there was placed on Jesus head crown of thorns. Long thorns that would pierce into his forehead, ears, brow and even skull.

All of this was done publicly, thereby bringing utter shame and making an utter spectacle of the victim. Sweaty, sun-baked, nailed naked to a cross, bloodied and body fluids oozing was an atrocious sight. The crowds gathering around this sight today would be like viewing an execution in front of a local mall. Females were mostly withheld from this form of execution but when such they were turned to face the cross so the public did not have to view a woman’s facial expressions, as it was harsher to see females suffer. In fact, today we have the painful word – excruciating – which literally means “from the cross”.

On this cross, nails/spikes were driven into Jesus’ hands and feet – the most sensitive nerve centers on the human body. He was then lifted up as the cross was placed into a pre-dug hole. Further mockery would take place as the crowd hurled insults and spat into his face.

Jesus’ suffering means He can relate to us. He identifies with every heartache, sadness, tear, and pain.

Our world has enormous amounts of sorrow and suffering. The reality of pain does not erase God’s care but instead shows us His efforts to gain our attention. Will we seek recovery & reconciliation in Him or elsewhere?

– – Some debate that Jesus did not resurrect from the dead because He never died. The Roman executioners were grimly proficient and practiced at crucifixion. In fact, the Roman soldiers ensured Jesus’ death by thrusting a spear in His side with a mixture of blood and water pouring out (John 19:34-35). His body was wrapped in linens and spices which following the beatings, floggings, crucifixion and a pierced heart would have killed him by asphyxiation; not to mention three additional days without medical attention or food and water. There simply is no credible theory that Jesus survived the cross and was placed alive in a tomb to exit after healing or recovery.

– – – Ultimately, Jesus’ death was an exchange. The purpose of Jesus’ death was not for His own sin or crimes but for those of humanity. Mark’s Gospel speaks of Barabbas being the first to experience a form of pardon. Yet, the Gospel’s show a more significant divine pardon occurring in fulfillment of Scripture.

The prophet Isaiah said “he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed… the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:5, 6). The Apostle Paul says in another place, “[God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Corinthians 5:21). Also, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The Apostle Peter says “[Jesus] bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1Peter 2:24). It is very clear that Jesus’ death was substitutionary for us that we might have hope in life, forgiveness of sin, and restored eternal life in the presence of God.

à Jesus’ death reflects God’s devotion to redeem and be in relationship with us.
Illus: There’s a story of a fire in a building and the building was burning profusely. A little boy was too high up and would soon be engulfed. However, there was an external pipe that one of the firemen used to climb up in an attempt to rescue the boy. The pipe was blistering hot. Even though he had gloves on, his gloves were smoking. Despite the extreme heat, the fireman got to the boy and then climbed back down that same pipe. When they got to the ground, the fireman immediately removed his gloves and rinsed his hands in water to relieve the pain that he was experiencing from climbing up and down on that pole that was so hot.

The boy had been brought to safety but he sadly lost his parents in the fire. Some months later, he came up for adoption.

– There was a professor who came into the courtroom and said, “I can make this boy a genius. I want to adopt him.”
– There was an business man who said, “I want that kid, I want to adopt him.”
– Then there was a third man who came in.
– The boy looked at him, and said, “Your honor, can he have me?”
The judged asked, “Why?” “Because I see his hands and I know who he is.”

It’s nice to have an engineer or educator as a parent, but when somebody loves you enough to burn their hands, when they love you enough to share your pain, when they love you enough to hurt when you hurt, ache when you ache, and be there when life is falling apart, when they can show you their hands, and you know they paid the price, then they ought to have the privilege of the relationship. If you want to know who loves you, look at the hands. Jesus Christ has paid the price, and He alone deserves the relationship.

We can relish Jesus because the cross was a prelude to the resurrection.(Mark 16:1-8)

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus predicts His resurrection at least six times (8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 14:25; 14:28; 14:62). Mark’s ending is unique in showing female disciples discover the empty tomb (Mk 16:1).

Jesus’ resurrection is true.

  • His tomb was empty. Every other religious leader from Buddha, Confucius, to Mohammed or Joseph Smith are all enshrined in a tomb and a place of worship for their movement. Not Jesus’ tomb – it’s unexciting and empty!
  • His resurrection occurred on the third day in accordance with Scripture.
    • Prophecies from OT (Psalm 16:10; Ps 22; Jonah/Mat 12:40; Isa 25:8, 53:8-12; Hosea 6:2)
    • Prophecies from Jesus (Mat 12:38-40; Mk 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34; Jn 2:18-22).
  • His resurrection testified by apostles and over five-hundred witnesses (1Cor 15:6)..
  • His resurrection first testified by females. In the first century and prior, a woman’s testimony was not accepted as valid. Early Christians were mocked for the resurrection noticed first by Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, Salome, Joanna and other women (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10-11;). This vital historical fact shows 1) the Scripture’s accuracy in simply stating what happened and not attempting to shape the narrative for its own theological ideology, and 2) Christianity would liberate the role of women to equal value of genders.
  • His resurrection has been testified throughout history from the martyrs and writers of the first century to many whom are persecuted today. Some died and some live today for this sake.
  • His resurrection assures our resurrection. As believers, we are united to Him and He to us. Therefore, we can live with the very same confidence that Jesus had while He walked on earth.
    Romans 6:5 “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
    1Corinthians 15:19-20, 22 “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.”

Wolfhart Pannenberg, German scholar at Tubingen “The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: First, it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.” [4]

Just as Jesus’ crucifixion was public, personal, and powerful, so too was the resurrection.

à The resurrection is God’s reminder that suffering & sickness, disease & death do not have the final world. There is an expiration date for all that is broken in this world. Jesus will return to make all things new.

– All things can include you!

APPLY/THINK                     2 final thoughts:

We can receive hope because the cross brings peace with God.

Whereas the cross was used as a symbol of death but today it also communicates love and peace. The cross reflects both vertical and horizontal peace.

Ephesians 2:13-14 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”

Where there is division or separation, the gospel brings hope for peace.

à Every broken individual can be redeemed and forgiven of sin if they rely on the grace of God.

à Every broken relationship can be repaired and reconciled if persons rely on the grace of God.

The cross can be precious.

This statement may sound odd considering the gruesome nature of crucifixion. Even more, the cross cannot be precious if it’s the conclusion of the message. If Jesus is dead then He cannot help anyone and Christianity is a hopeless cause. Yet, Christians know the future of the book.

1Peter 1:19 “knowing that you were ransomed… with the precious [τίμιος = honorable, valuable, costly] blood of Christ”

Christ becomes precious when you participate in His life.

Closing Illus: Our appetite leads us to a restaurant. After looking around you see servers bringing food to other tables and you hear people talking about how good their food tastes (mmmm!). Your taste buds begin to salivate.

Then a server arrives at your table to overview and explain the menu in detail. They offer you to ask questions and ask you to order when you are ready.

At that time, no one leaves the restaurant talking about how great the menu looked or how great the server did in explaining the food choices. The reason you came to the restaurant was to taste and experience the food.

Many come to church to observe others and read from the menu w/o ever partaken of the invitation to eat.

Don’t go home hungry this Easter.

[1] James Brooks, Mark, New American Commentary.

[2] Much of the following information on crucifixion comes from Mark Driscoll’s Death by Love pp 17-34, and his sermon “The Cross: God Dies”, along with John Stott’s book, The Cross of Christ.

[3] Deuteronomy 21:23

[4] Quoted in Erwin Lutzer, Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible. p. 113

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