Mark 15:22-39

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

March 28, 2013

 

1.      The essence of Christianity can be stated in a single sentence.  The Apostle Paul did it with remarkable clarity and simplicity when he wrote to the Corinthians, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised again according to the Scriptures.” [I Cor. 15:3].  That is the good news, the gospel.  That is the word on which we have staked our lives, the word which we believe with all our hearts, and the word which we are commissioned to proclaim to our world.  And unfortunately, it is very easy for us to lose sight of that and spend too much time, energy, and other resources focusing on lesser things.

2.        In book The Bible: A Sustaining Presence in Worship there's an interesting account about a conversation between a pastor and a friend of his who happened to be a psychiatrist...in the conversation the psychiatrist mentioned he was no longer attending church...when the pastor asked why not, the psychiatrist made rather shocking statement...said he would go back to church when the church started talking about God again...they pastor asked what they talked about at the church the psychiatrist had attended and here's what he said:  "Oh, I hear advice on how to be friendly, how to vote, how to have a happy marriage, how to feel better about myself.  It's all good advice, but it's not different from the advice I get anywhere else.  I don't think I need more advice; certainly I don't need more information ...[but] I can't get it out of my head that I need God." [Brian's Lines, Mar/Ap, 1996, p.24]

3.      For the next two weeks we’re going to focus the key events of Christianity—the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus...and these events have much to say to us about our need for God and God's response to our need...today, as we focus on the passion, the suffering of Jesus, I want you to hear the crucifixion story as told in the Gospel of Mark...so that you can really hear the story and not be distracted by that which is around you, going to ask that you close you eyes and focus on this incredible event...(text – Mark 15:22-39)

 

T.S. – Mel Gibson’s popular movie, The Passion of the Christ, has been seen by millions of people across our nation...and one of the positive things about that movie is that it has got many people talking about and asking questions about the suffering of Jesus and specifically the crucifixion...want to address this session three questions which I have heard over and over again in relation to the crucifixion of Jesus

·         Did the crucifixion really happen?

·         Who was responsible for Jesus’ death?

·         Why did Jesus have to suffer as He did?

 

DID THE CRUCIFIXION REALLY HAPPEN?

1.   One reaction I have heard from some quarters to Gibson’s portrayal of Christ’s sufferings is simply a denial that it ever happened in the first place...some people insist that the whole story of Jesus and His death is just a myth and that it has no basis in historical fact...

2.   And in recent years, even some people who claim to be Christians have begun to minimize the historical facts of the gospel...some have even gone so far as to assert the reality of the historical facts surrounding gospel do not matter...they say only the general principles which arise out of the gospel story are significant...that kind of thinking reduces Christian­ity to nothing more than a system of philosophy which is unrelated to the historical person and work of Jesus...

3.   And that is not at all how NT presents gospel...presents gospel in terms of specific, concrete events which happened in history...

·         That's why biblical writers, when reporting the death of Jesus, mention historical names such as Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, and Caiaphas the Jewish high priest...names which appear not only in the Bible but in literature outside the Bible...

·         That's why so much detail is given concerning the events surrounding the crucifixion...Mark dedicates about a chapter and a half or about 10% of his gospel to that one event...and the biblical description of the crucifixion is corroborated by archeological evidence found in tombs of other victims of crucifixion and by other historical documents...

4.      It is important to understand that the Bible is not primarily a textbook of religious philosophy...not primarily book of theology...it is first and foremost a record of what God has done in history...

 

1.      W.T. Connor was an extremely gifted theologian...not  privileged study under him, had died long before I  entered seminary...have read some of his writings...want share something he wrote about importance of  historical foundation Christianity: "Christianity  consists of Christ and what He did for men.  What He did involves certain facts with their meaning...And we cannot have the meaning apart from the facts. The redemptive significance of Christ and His mission lies first in something that He did.  It was a deed in time." [The Gospel of Redemption, 80]

2.      What's point of all that?...point is if lose sight of  the historical reality of death of Jesus, if forget that on a specific day in history, at a specific point in time, in specific geographical location Jesus died on cross...if we forget those things, in process begin to lose sight of meaning His death can have for us...apart from its historicity, death of Jesus on cross  becomes just another story...might be an interesting...tragic...captivating...motivating story, but just a story none-the-less...the life  changing power of it will not be there...we must never forget cross is fact of history...it really did happen!

 

WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR JESUS’ DEATH?

1.   No doubt you have heard the furor raised by some who assert that Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the crucifixion is anti-Semitic because of the role Jewish religious leaders in the 1st century played in orchestrating Jesus’ death...just this past week came across an Associate Press story about three Jewish brothers who requested that a court in Paris ban Gibson’s moving in France on the grounds that it is anti-Semitic...[AP, Monday, March 29, 2004]

2.   Such criticism ignores the fact the first disciples were all Jewish and that Jesus, Himself, was Jewish...the reality is that neither the Jewish leaders who orchestrated the crucifixion nor the Romans authorities who carried it out are ultimately responsible for the death of Jesus...in the broadest sense, all humanity is responsible for His death...He died because of human sin...

3.   And the same sinful acts and sinful attitudes which caused the 1st century Jewish leaders and Roman authorities to nail Jesus to the cross are still at work in our lives today...what were some of those sinful attitudes which resulted in the death of Jesus, attitudes which are still prevalent in our lives today?...I want to mention just a couple:

·         Being more concerned with process than people – The Jewish leaders of the 1st century had their religion down to a fine, well-tuned process...they had rigid schedules of when to pray and how to pray...they had a myriad of rules and laws about the right and wrong way to practice religion...to their way of thinking, no person was as important as their laws and rules...and into that system Jesus came teaching just the opposite...He taught that no law was as important as a person...and when He violated their petty religious system in order to help people, they began to seek ways to destroy Him...(Aren’t we sometimes just like that?  Don’t we sometimes put our desires, our tastes, our preferences before people?  Anytime we

o   Allow our traditions to become more important than people...

o   Value things more than we value people...

o   Use and manipulate people for our selfish purposes...

o   Become negative and critical toward some person, always looking for the worst in that and being impossible to please...

 we are displaying the same sinful attitude which sent Jesus to the cross...)

·         Petty jealousy – The Jewish religious leaders were insanely jealous of Jesus ...they were supposed to be the religious experts...the authorities on the things of God...but Jesus burst on the scene talking about God in fresh, new ways and the multitudes flocked to Him...this deeply wounded the pride of the 1st century religious leaders...and their wounded pride and bitter jealousy drove them to destroy Him...(And isn’t it easy for that same spirit to well up inside of us?  When another person gets some position or some relationship or some recognition we desire, instead of rejoicing with and for that person, don’t we find it easy to be jealous and petty?  And when we do that, we are displaying the same sinful attitude which sent Jesus to the cross...)

5.      And that point of all that is it is disingenuous for us to blame the Jewish leaders of the 1st century for the crucifixion of Jesus when we have in our hearts the same sinful attitudes they had...

 

WHY DID JESUS HAVE TO SUFFER AS HE DID?

1.   One of the criticisms of the movie The Passion of the Christ is that it over dramatizes the physical suffering of Jesus...there may be some validity to that criticism because the gospels in the NT do not dwell on the physical aspects of the crucifixion...when it comes to the actual crucifixion they simply say, as Mark does in v.24, “And they crucified Him...”...it’s been suggested that they report the event that way because they must assumed their readers would be fully aware of the physical horror involved in death by crucifixion...after all, the Romans crucified their victims in public places to discourage others from breaking Roman law...anyone who lived in the Roman world would have seen many victims dying in that horrible way and no further explanation was necessary...

2.   But it’s also been suggested that the gospel writers don’t dwell on the physical suffering of Jesus in order to highlight His spiritual suffering...the cross was that moment in time when Jesus took upon Himself the full weight of the sins of the world...and that was a terribly difficult time for Him...it was that time when, as the Apostle Paul put it, when God “...made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” [2 Cor. 5:21]

3.   And the enormity of Jesus’ sufferings is the result of the enormity of our sin...as the prophet Isaiah put it hundreds of years before His death, “...He was pierced through for our transgressions.  He was crushed for our iniquities...” [Isa. 53:5a]

4.   Shared with some of you several years ago a story from Terry Young’s book Compelled by the Cross...the story is about a carpenter and his family...this carpenter was one of many carpenters who were compelled from time to time to make crosses for the Romans to use in executions...one day the young son came home greatly distressed...between sobs and tears he told his parents that Jesus had been crucified... the family had heard Jesus teach and preach and were greatly impressed by Him...the entire family was saddened at the news of his death, but they couldn't understand why the boy was so distraught...but as boy continued talking, they understood...boy told them Jesus had died on cross which they had made in their carpenter shop...when asked him how he could tell it was their cross, said because he had written his name on bottom of one of the crosses they had made...said, "As Jesus came by carrying the cross, I saw my name on it!"

5.   And if you look at the cross of Jesus Christ through the eyes of faith, will see your name somewhere on it...all of our names are there...He went to the cross for the sins of the whole world...and that explains why the suffering was so great...

Conclusion

1.   Next week we will gather to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead...but there is no way to get to the resurrection without walking the road which leads to the crucifixion...this coming week, as we move toward resurrection Sunday, remember that on a specific day in a specific place at a specific time in history, Jesus died on the cross because of and for our sins... and by trusting our lives to Him, and only by trusting our lives to Him, do we find cleansing, forgiveness, and life abundant and eternal...

2.      Paul said it well, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures...”

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