And it was the third hour when they crucified him. (Mark 15:25 ESV)
Our series of expositions through the Gospel of Mark is winding down, with three more sermons left, each of which highlighting the three main aspects of Christ’s sacrificial atonement: his death (“Crucified”), his burial (“Buried”), and his resurrection (“Risen”!). As we come to the conclusion of this narrative, let us not lose sight of where we began: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Mark’s story is the gospel – good news – that Jesus is the Christ – Messiah – the Son of God!
Throughout the narrative, then, we should not be surprised that Mark pulls back the curtain from time to time to demonstrate how Jesus truly is the Messiah, the promised one of old, and how he truly is the eternal Son of God. His teachings, his miracles, his character – all these things are evidence that he is who Mark says he is.
In this particular text, we find Mark’s account of the bloody cross. Remember that his first readers – likely Gentile converts undergoing persecution and threats from the very Empire that killed Jesus – would have received this gospel account as an encouragement to stay faithful. For most of Mark’s story, they may have identified themselves with the disciples, followers of the Lord. And throughout the narrative, the disciples, who sometimes suffer from lack of faith, seem to be heading toward the finish line, even if by the skin of their teeth. However, as we have seen in our last few sermons, they don’t quite seem to make it. Their faith fails right before the climax.
This leaves us with Jesus. And that’s intentional. He is the one that Mark would want his original audience to look to, because he is the only one in the story that endures to the end.
But where does that endurance take Jesus? To the cross. Does that mean that his faithfulness was in vain? Well, if Jesus predicted that he would go – and must go – to the cross, and if Jesus faithfully followed as if all was going according to plan, and if Jesus didn’t even resist the cross when given the opportunity then maybe, just maybe, we can trust what he said, not only about his death on the cross, but about the other predictions he made about what would happen three days later.
Brothers and sisters, take time to meditate on the cross before you come to church. Read Psalm 22 in preparation for the sermon as well as this passage in Mark, and come prepared to behold the Son of God!