crucifixion02Mark 15 Continued

25.  Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.

The Jewish days began with twelve hours of night starting at 6:00 PM by our reckoning, and then were completed with twelve hours of day starting at 6:00 AM by our reckoning.  Thus, the third hour of the day would be about 9:00 AM by our clocks.  The Lord was no doubt held by the Romans until morning, for they would not have tried to crucify someone at night.  It is interesting to note that, according to God’s law, the third hour was the hour of the morning sacrifice.

26.  And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS.

This was the only accusation brought against our Lord, and the one for which He died.  This was really no accusation at all, since there was no law against being the King of the Jews.  Herod was a usurper on the throne of Israel, not being a descendent of the line of David, and yet the Romans were not crucifying him.  Yet the religious leaders had rejected the Lord, the true King of the line of David.  By dying on the cross, however, He acted as their King in a more profound way than anything else He could have done, including freeing them from the Romans and starting His Kingdom.  To die for the sins of His people was the act by which He freed them from what truly held them in bondage: their own sin.  Once they were free from sin, He would be free to reign over them in righteousness.  This inscription of His accusation bore testimony to what it was that He was really doing.  He was truly being their King!

Notice that this does not say that this was what was posted over His cross.  This was the inscription of His accusation that Pilate made.  If we confuse this with what was written over His cross, we will think there was a discrepancy, for that was something different.  If we carefully note what is said, however, we will see that this was not what was written over His cross, and thus we will remove all problems.  There are no true contradictions in Scripture, if we are just willing to see it!

27.  With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left.

Now, two robbers are brought out and crucified with Him, one on His right and the other on His left.  These robbers are the same as the two mentioned in Matthew, who both reviled Him.  These are not to be confused, however, with the two “criminals” mentioned in Luke 23:32, for they were led out and crucified with the Lord, unlike these robbers, who were crucified after the parting of His garments (Matthew 27:35.)  These were different men from the criminals.  If they were crucified later, and were crucified one on each side of the Lord, they naturally would have been crucified outside the two criminals, and would have been further from the Lord.  Notice that the Lord does not have intimate conversations with them, as He does with the criminals crucified right next to Him in Luke.  Of these men, the criminals, only one reviled Him, whereas the other believed in Him.  There is no contradiction between the gospels on this point, if we truly search the matter out.

28.  So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”

The Scripture mentioned here is Isaiah 53:12.  All this continued to happen in accordance with God’s plan.  These things had to be this way, for this is how He wanted it!

29.  And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha!  You who destroy the temple and build it in three days,

Remember, this was the false accusation brought against Him during His trial.  This was not something that the Lord had actually said, but a perversion of His words.  He had been speaking of the temple of His body, and told them that if they destroyed it, that He would raise it again in three days.  He had never said anything about destroying any temple Himself, either the literal one or His body.  Thus, since these men knew of this false accusation that had been used to accuse Him, we must conclude that those who thus mocked Him while passing by were His enemies, the very same ones who opposed Him at His trial, or else friends of theirs who had learned the story.  We must not place this on all Israelites, as if every one of them had done this.

30.  “Save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”

Of course, if He did this, then He could not raise the temple of His body again in three days, as He had promised them He would do!

31.  Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.

This was a nonsensical conclusion.  Of course, One Who had power to heal all sickness and cast out demons at a word could have easily saved Himself from the cross.  The chief priests and scribes act like the Lord was just a charlatan, and that His miracles never really happened.  But of course, they did happen, and the Lord did certainly have the power to save Himself.  The reason He did not was that He did not want to do so.  This was all according to His plan to die for our sins.

32.  “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.

These were empty words.  If the Lord had descended from the cross, they still would not have believed in Him.  This is clear from the fact that He rose from the dead, and they still rejected Him!  Surely if they rejected that, they would have rejected Him had He descended from the cross.  These are merely the words of wicked men crowing over what they view as a great victory.

These people mocked the Lord, but He did not answer them.  Often wicked men mock the righteous when evil befalls them.  We should not be surprised if this happens to us, for it happened to our Lord before us.  Remember, though, that their mocking did not change the victory which Christ’s death actually accomplished.  We do not need to fear the reviling of men, even when they mock our misfortunes.

33.  Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

This darkness that fell would have been from Noon to 3:00 PM, normally the brightest part of the day.  This eclipse was not natural, but a symbol of the great weight of sin that was being taken upon our Lord as He died on the cross.  Heaven itself was darkened, as the Father refused to look on the Son as He took the sin of the world upon Himself.

Notice that this ended at the ninth hour, or 3:00 PM.  This was the hour of the evening sacrifice.  The Lord began His crucifixion at the time of the morning sacrifice, and ended it at the time of the evening sacrifice.  He truly was the fulfillment of all these sacrifices God had given in the law!

34.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

At the ninth hour, as the time for His suffering draws to a close, the Lord cries out with a loud voice.  What He said is given in Aramaic, and then is translated to Greek.  Our English translators have left the Aramaic portion as Aramaic, and have translated the Greek portion to English for us.  The truth is that Christ probably conducted all His ministry in Aramaic, since that was the common language of the people of Israel.  The Bible usually gives us His words translated to Greek.  Here, however, the Holy Spirit saw fit to preserve the actual words He said in the language He said it.

Some have noted that this verse forms the first words of Psalm 22, whereas “It is finished” are the last words of that same Psalm (in the original Hebrew.)  These have suggested that Christ perhaps quoted the entire Psalm at this time.  There is no way of knowing for certain whether He did or not.  That Psalm certainly was speaking of this period of time, however, when the Father turned His face from His Son as He took upon Himself the weight of all our sin.

35.  Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!”

Apparently those spoken of in this verse who stood by and heard this were not Jews, since they did not understand Aramaic, and mistook Eloi, which means “God,” for Elias, which is the Greek for “Elijah.”  This means that this verse probably refers to the Romans who were there, as the Israelites would have known exactly what He was saying.

36.  Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”

This would have been an amazing sight indeed, to see an ancient prophet coming to rescue the Lord.  Thus, the Romans decide to simply sit by and see if such a thing will happen.  Of course, it did not, since that is not what the Lord had really said.

They also respond to His words by giving Him drink to comfort Him.  What they give Him, however, is not good drink.  “Sour wine” is actually vinegar, which is hardly a wonderful beverage.  Even their “kindness” was cruelty when it came to those who were crucified.

37.  And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.

Although we do not have what words He cried out with here, we can find them in the other gospels.

We note from the surprise of Pilot that He should not have died this soon in the crucifixion.  In spite of what a terrible torture it was, crucifixion was meant to keep its victims alive as long as possible, and some could even survive for days on a cross.  Yet Christ died unusually soon, and by this, His statement that “No one takes it (My life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself,” (John 10:18) can be clearly seen to be true.

38.  Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

This veil was the great curtain that divided the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.  This was symbolically indicating the fact that the way was now open to God’s Most Holy Place, as the great sin offering had now cleansed all people who were authorized to come into His temple.  Notice that only the curtain in the Holy Place was ripped, however.  The Gentiles who were not even allowed into the Holy Place were still to stay in the outer courts.  We cannot say that Gentiles entered in at this time.

This curtain was huge, perhaps three inches or more thick, and could not have been ripped by human strength.  Moreover, it was very tall, and no man could have ripped it from top to bottom.  This was a miracle, and the direct work of God.

The words “from top” are anothen in Greek, the same word that is translated “again” in the phrase “born again.”  Clearly here, anothen could not mean “again to bottom,” but has to mean “from above to the bottom.”  Anothen does not mean “again.”

39.  So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

The centurion actually called Him “a son of God” in Greek, as He would not have understood the concept of THE Son of God as we understand Him to be.  The centurion well knows that many who are hung on a cross wish that they could merely speak a word and die, and yet they are unable to do so.  He had no doubt seen this many times.  The centurion realized, upon seeing the miraculous way He dismissed His own life, that this One Who had died before him had to be Divine.  The fact that the Lord could speak a word and die showed him the kind of power the Lord really has.

Many wonder, “How could God die?”  The answer for us is here: because He said so!  When God commands, no power in existence can stop what He says from coming to pass.  Thus, if He said He should die, then He died, and there was just no question about it.  But, in the same way, when He said that after He died He would rise again the third day, that too happened, and again no power in existence could stop it!

40.  There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome,

These women, the faithful followers of the Lord all through His ministry, now follow Him even to this terrible end, and watch from afar as He dies on the cross.  Let none say that the Lord had no faithful female followers, or that no women were among those who loved Him!  Where were the twelve at this point?  Yet here were these women, still with Him.

This is the only place in the Bible where “James the Less” is mentioned.  “The Less” is similar to what we would mean when we would call someone “Junior.”  It is most likely that this name is given to him here to distinguish him from the James who was one of the twelve.

41.  Who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

These women were the ones, as we learn elsewhere, who were actually financially supporting Him during His ministry.  These women did not mock Him, nor did many of His followers who no doubt stood by.  These women were all Israelites, remember.  All of the Jews did not reject Him at this time, as many like to accuse them of doing.  Only the religious leaders did, along with those few who had for some reason or other of their own rejected Him.

42.  Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,

The day of Passover was also the Preparation Day for the feast of Unleavened Bread, which started immediately on the day after Passover with the first day of the feast.  That first day was a High Sabbath Day, as is indicated here.  This was not the weekly Sabbath, as no preparation was needed for that, but rather the Sabbath starting the feast wherein no leaven could be found in the houses of the Israelites.  No doubt most of Passover Day was spent sweeping out houses and removing everything that might contain even a crumb of leaven from them.

43.  Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

Joseph was one of the rulers, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, but he had apparently not been in on the plot to execute Jesus.  We read that he waited for the Kingdom (or Government) of God, a good thing for anyone to do, and not at all changed by the death of the King.  We read that he took courage, which indeed must have been a difficult thing to do considering how many of his fellow rulers hated the Lord Jesus so much.  There are times when we all need the courage to stand up to even those considered to be great religious men when we realize that they are wrong.

Joseph goes in to Pilate to ask him for the body of the Lord Jesus.  If he had not done this, the Lord would have been buried with other criminals, as was traditionally done with those who were crucified.  Joseph could not stand to see the Lord further dishonored in this way.  Thus, by doing this, Joseph not only honored the Lord as best he could, but also helped fulfill Scripture, which predicted that He would be buried among the rich.

44.  Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time.

Pilate marvels that He is already dead.  Crucifixion did not usually kill someone this quickly.  He is so incredulous, in fact, that he calls the centurion to confirm the truth of this, and to find out how long He had been dead, this being so unusual.  Again, this is evidence that He laid down His life.  It was not taken from Him.  But if that is so, how can the Jews be called “Christ-killers”?  They did not even kill Him, but He laid down His Own life!

45.  So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.

Pilate confirms that the Lord is truly dead by talking with the centurion.  Thus, he grants to Joseph his request.  Remember, Pilate had no desire to execute the Lord.  No doubt he felt that the Jews had forced him to it, and anything he could do to get back at them, like giving Joseph the body to be honored rather than dishonored, he was very willing to do.

46.  Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen.  And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.

Instead of treating Him as a criminal, Joseph treats the Lord with high honor.  He wraps Him in fine linen to take Him down from the cross.  He also lays Him in his own tomb, hewn out of the rock, a place where normally only rich people would be buried.  Then, he rolls the stone against the door of the tomb.  Such a stone would have been hewn out of the rock, as it says here, usually in a place where it was balanced above the tomb.  Thus, with only a little more chiseling, it could be made to break free and roll down over the door of the tomb.  It would be large enough that it would take a considerable number of men to move it, and thus would discourage the casual grave robber from being able to enter and desecrate a tomb without considerable help.

47.  And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.

These women were no doubt in a great state of grief, but took careful note of the exact tomb where He was laid.  They were no doubt planning to come back to honor Him at some time in the future.  Though they saw the huge stone rolled before the tomb, they were apparently not thinking clearly for their sorrow, since they did not think at this time what a great task it would be to move this huge boulder to get to His body when they came to decorate it with spices later.