“And They Crucified Him”
By Don Ruhl
Have you been in the church a good amount of time? Do you read the crucifixion thoughtlessly? I believe that there is a danger associated with hearing it many times, and I want to address that concern. The implication is not that you are flippant in regard to the crucifixion; but that mature Christians need to remember the crucifixion as they did the first time they heard about it.
Once I read Mark 15:1–25 and noted some things along the way, pausing and thinking about them, but as I came to the end of the reading I read over it casually and quickly and did not give it much thought. Then I realized what I had done, and I backed up and reread the last two verses and meditated upon them. I want to show you what I saw and hopefully you will not make the same mistake that I did initially.
The silence of Jesus (Mark 15:1–5)
In verse 1, Mark shows Jesus delivered to Pilate, “Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.” To be surrounded by men who hate you and want to see you dead is a very frightening experience.
In verse 2, Pilate interrogated Jesus, wanting to know if He was the King of the Jews, “Then Pilate asked Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ And He answered and said to him, ‘It is as you say.’” It did not matter what Jesus said. Therefore, He went along with Pilate, not as a smart-aleck, but it was the truth.
Verses 3–5 reveal the astonishment of Pilate that Jesus could be silent in the face of accusations, accusations which could prove fatal, “And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing. Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, ‘Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!’ But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.” Pilate was not used to seeing a man take such strong accusations silently. Even after prompting Jesus remained silent, moving Pilate to marvel. How could a man not answer such accusations?
A murderer instead of a Savior (Mark 15:6–15)
Mark wrote in verses 6–8 the custom of Pilate of releasing any prisoner the Jews desired, “Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow insurrectionists; they had committed murder in the insurrection. Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them.” Pilate had established a custom of releasing a prisoner, and so the people used this as an opportunity to have someone else released, and not Jesus, which means that He had to be turned over to the Roman government. The man they wanted released was a murderer, but since the murder had been committed in an insurrection, the uprising must have been against Romans. He was their kind of guy. They did not want the Man who brought God’s kingdom in God’s appointed way, but they wanted a man who would bring in a kingdom in their own way.
Verses 9, 10 show that Pilate could see that Jesus was innocent of the charges against Him, and that the chief priests were envious. Therefore, Pilate attempted to release Jesus, “But Pilate answered them, saying, ‘Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?’ For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.” While Pilate knew how to play the game of politics well, he also had a conscience. He knew that Jesus was innocent, so Pilate could not bring himself to fulfill the Jew’s wish of crucifying Jesus, at least not yet. For the moment, the Roman governor had moral fortitude, ethical backbone. He had insight into the true motive for the proposed execution.
However, verses 11–15 reveal that the crowd persisted in demanding the crucifixion of Jesus, and so Pilate gave in to their demands, “But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. And Pilate answered and said to them again, ‘What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?’ So they cried out again, ‘Crucify Him!’ Then Pilate said to them, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ And they cried out more exceedingly, ‘Crucify Him!’ So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.” Pilate considered the life of one Man as expendable to keep the peace rather than allowing a riot to form and many people dying. Pilate knew the truth about the innocence of this Man, but not His divine identity; nevertheless, the greater number opposing Jesus and their insistence persuaded Pilate that he should turn Jesus over to crucifixion.
They mocked Him (Mark 15:16–20)
From verse 16, you will learn that the whole garrison took part in the mockery, “Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison.” When one person ridicules you it is bad enough, but to have a whole group only intensifies it. Do you know how many soldiers were in a Roman garrison or band? Every time that I have seen paintings of this episode depicted a few soldiers are shown. Now before I tell you how many Roman soldiers participated in this mockery of the Son of God, picture in your minds how they mocked Him according to verses 17–19, “And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and began to salute Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him.” See a quiet and harmless Man standing there with a purple robe on and a crown of thorns on His head. Then imagine the soldiers saluting Him as a joke, calling Him a King, but not really believing it. Now watch as they hit Him on the head with a reed, actually on the crown of thorns. They insult Him by spitting upon Him, and worshiping Him whom they think is just a poor Jewish carpenter from obscure Nazareth.
Do not see in your mind a few men doing this, nor a dozen, nor 50, not even 100. Now be ready for this, see 600 of the strongest, best-trained, well-equipped and battle-experienced soldiers in the first century world doing this!
In verse 20, the Roman soldiers finished playing and finally they led Him out to the crucifixion, “And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.”
On to Golgotha (Mark 15:21–23)
Evidently Jesus was not able to carry the cross all the way, undoubtedly from not sleeping that night, being beaten several times and being scourged (which is not mentioned by Mark), so verse 21 tells us that Simon of Northern Africa, bore the cross for Jesus, “Now they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.” Did Simon know what was going on? Did he know the accusations against Jesus? Did he consider this an honor or a humiliation? Jesus hung upon the cross for every man and woman. What a blessed privilege Simon had of bearing the cross for Jesus. This man’s two sons were well-known in the church, so what their father did may have brought them into salvation (See Acts 19:33 and Rom. 16:13 for possible further connections.)
In verse 22, they reached the destination, and listen to how it was gloomingly referred to, “And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull.” It is called “Calvary” in Luke 23:33. Golgotha is Aramaic, and Calvary is Latin, both words meaning skull.
Verse 23 says that they tried to give Him something to drink, but He would not drink the wine mingled with myrrh, “Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.” He did not leave heaven and suffer what He did up to this point only to have the pain deluded. He willingly took on the pain.
“And they crucified Him” (Mark 15:24, 25)
Now listen and see with your mind’s eye what Mark wrote next, “And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take. Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.” They divided His garments, implying that they left Him naked, or close to it. This only added to the humiliation and mockery. It was the third hour. The first of two lambs that were offered daily was sacrificed in the temple at this very moment. The second lamb was offered at the ninth hour, when Jesus died.
“And they crucified Him.” There is a danger of reading over this quickly and casually. If we are not careful, because we have read it so many times before, we might fail to see the picture. We may grow accustomed to hearing about the crucifixion of Jesus and become callused to what He experienced. Consider how brief the two statements are: Verse 24: “And when they crucified Him…” Verse 25: “… and they crucified Him.”
What would you think, if…?
What would you women think, especially if you have been raped, if I was reading a story publicly about some men abusing a woman, and finally I came to the part where it says that they raped her and I read it nonchalantly? “and they raped her…”
What would you men think, if I was reading a story publicly about war, and with a careless and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude I read that your buddy voluntarily took a bullet and died saving your life? “and he took a bullet for John Doe…”
Undoubtedly, the women and the men would rebuke me for my lack of feeling and compassion. Now have you ever read Mark 15:24, 25 without picturing the horrors of a Roman crucifixion? There was the humiliation of having His clothes taken off. Then the awful pain of having nails driven through the hands and feet. When the first century Christian was convinced that Jesus was the Son of God, who had become flesh, and they read the last four words of Mark 15:25, “…and they crucified Him,” they immediately got a picture of a Roman crucifixion, even as a rape victim and the surviving soldier immediately picture in their minds the incident when it is read. Since we have never witnessed a crucifixion we have to research it and dwell longer upon the texts. Let us remember the Lord’s death with feeling and compassion.
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