Sunday, November 6, 2011

“Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Sunday's messages have really been hitting me lately. Last Sunday, Mickey taught from Mark 15:16-41. It was a sobering message. The cross should always cause us to pause for a moment and truly think about the gravity of what happened there and what it means for our lives.
Mark 15:16-41 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
The cross is God's means to take us from separation to reconciliation and restoration and from reviling to recognition.

Take notice of the factual manner in which this passage is communicated. It isn't melodramatic, it's very to the point. There are no details of the goriness of the cross to get caught up in or to make us feel emotional. It's not a philosophy...this actually happened. This is a moment in history.

Verses 16-20 speak of the mocking of Jesus. They laughed at him, they shoved a crown of thorns into his head, they bowed to him, and they made him carry his cross...

Something really cool about this story is Simon. Through this particular moment in history, Simon's eternity is set. The seeking and saving love of God found Simon in a very strange way that day. I'm quite sure that Simon didn't wake up and decide to go carry Jesus' cross for him...but then again I don't think any of us found God in a "normal" way. God finds each and every one of us in a way that will speak to us individually.

They tried to give him wine mixed with myrrh. This mixture was probably used as a pain killer. But he refused it...he bore the full weight of pain and sin upon himself.

Verse 24...pause and read slowly...

And. They. Crucified. Him.

It's so simple and yet so powerful. There is no detail added to this statement but the weight of this statement is so heavy that we can feel it even though it's not stated. These 4 words speak of the weight of sin being forever lifted from our shoulders...the love of God being poured out over humanity...the chasm between God and us being filled...this statement means so much for our lives.

In verse 33, darkness descends...the darkness is God's separation and judgement upon Jesus. God is light and in him there is no darkness. It is at this moment that the Father turns his back on his beloved Son. This is the moment where God's wrath was poured out upon Jesus.
The loud cry that Jesus uttered is significant because at that moment, most would not have even have been able to muster the strength to whisper let alone a loud cry. The cry makes it clear that God's judgement is falling on Jesus.

When Jesus dies, the curtain was torn. Since the first sin in the Garden of Eden there has been separation...our relationship with God was broken.
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
 Only in dealing with sin can he do anything about our separation. It had to be an equivalent payment - death for death. Jesus was our atoning sacrifice.

Hebrews 9:22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Isaiah 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The curtain in the temple separated the holy place (where offerings were made) and the most holy place (where God dwelt). The way to God is cleared by God himself. This sacrifice was brought to God through the curtain - and there will never again need to be sacrifice or separation
Hebrews 9:12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
John Stott in his book The Cross of Christ says: "Reconciliation with God, then, is the beginning. This is the meaning of 'atonement'. It alludes to the event through which God and human beings, previously alienated from one another, are made 'at one' again.
Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
His separation became our reconciliation.

The crowd continued to mock and torment him. They showed a lack of normal human pity for suffering because they had a lack of understanding for who he is. When they called for him to save himself, they don't understand. He could have saved himself...he had the ability to. But...he could not save himself while saving others. If he had come down, we would all be lost.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

Jesus is only recognized for who he is by a gentile soldier. As he died, the Centurion in charge testifies to Jesus' identity. This Centurion had probably seen thousands of crucifixions...his attention to Jesus is unusual. He'd never seen a crucifixion like this before...something about it was different. The gospel happened in front of him. What a be there in that moment and understand what was happening. "Surely this man was the Son of God!"

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