The King Crucified – Mark 15:16-47
In Mark 15, we are going to look at three characters that show us three things Jesus’ death accomplished for us. We looked at one last week:
I. Barabbas: Jesus stands in my place (vv.1-15)
Barabbas the guilty murderer stands as one who has taken a life. Jesus the innocent Savior stands as one who is going to give His life. Barabbas is a rightful prisoner. Jesus is truly innocent. Here’s the innocent and here’s the guilty. But switch them. Substitute them. Put the innocent where the guilty should be. Put the guilty where the innocent should be. Take the innocent one and punish him. Take the punishable one and treat him as if he’s innocent. And it’s not even like Barabbas is grateful and thankful for this free gift of grace walking away. Yet Jesus still physically takes Barabbas’ place.
Here we see an object lesson and one of the greatest truths of Christianity: Substitutionary sacrifice. Unlike Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games who substitutes herself for her younger sister, Prim, we have the only innocent person in the universe substituting himself for sinners, who are His enemies. Jesus was treated like Barabbas so Barabbas could be treated like Jesus. Secondly,
II. Scoffers: Jesus takes my shame (vv.16-32)
First we see that Jesus is scourged in v.15. Commentator Bill Lane says, “A Roman scourging was a terrifying punishment. The delinquent was stripped, bound to a post or a pillar, or sometimes simply thrown to ground, and was beaten by a number of guards until his flesh hung in bleeding shreds. The instrument…the dreaded flagellum, was a scourge consisting of leather [whip] plaited with several pieces of bone or lead so as to form a chain. No maximum number of strokes was prescribed by Roman law, and men condemned to flagellation frequently collapsed and died from the flogging. [Sometimes people were] scourged until their entrails were visible…[or] until his bones lay visible.”
Running throughout this section is not only the crucifixion, but notice also that Jesus is mocked, insulted, jeered at, laughed at, humiliated, and shamed. We see in vv.16-20 that the soldiers are making fun of him and spitting at him. Then in v.24, Jesus is literally stripped naked, of all dignity. I don’t know if you realize this, but He was crucified naked.
Then in verse 27, they mock Him with the title: the king of the Jews. That is the title of something you put over a throne but not over a man dying on a cross. Then you get down to vv. 29-30, and you have the people who pass by who are also insulting him. Then you get to vv.31-32 and you have the religious leaders mocking and insulting him. Finally in v.32, even the people crucified with him are even mocking Him. This is one long mock fest. This is never ending shame. Mark is clear to show us that Jesus not only gets killed here, but He is also publically humiliated.
What does this show us? It shows us that Jesus not only stood in our place, He also took our shame. In the Bible and in human experience, nakedness always means shame. Why? There’s one place in the Bible where nakedness does not refer to shame. Before the fall in the Garden of Eden, before we turned away from God, the Bible says in Gen. 2:25, “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Why? Because when we were in a perfect relationship with God, there was nothing to hide. You didn’t have to control what people see about you. We could be utterly transparent. We didn’t mind if people looked all the way down into us. Why? Because we weren’t afraid of being rejected. We knew even though we’d be utterly known, we would be utterly loved. This is at the heart of every heart: we want to be utterly known and utterly loved. And we had it in the Garden.
But the minute we turned from God, the minute we were going to call the shots in our own lives, immediately, we needed to cover up. Immediately, we needed to put on the fig leaves (Gen. 3:7). Why? Because instantaneously we knew there’s something to hide. The Siamese twins of shame and guilt were born.
John Ortberg observes, “…I hide because I’m afraid that if the full truth about me is known I won’t be loved. But whatever is hidden cannot be loved. I can only be loved to the extent that I am known. I can only be fully loved if I am fully known. When I hide parts of myself, I seek to convince another person I am better than I am. If I’m a good enough hider, I may get away with it. The other person may express affection and love for me. But always comes the voice inside me: Yes, but if you knew the truth about me, if you saw the hidden places, you would not love me. You love the person you think I am. You do not love the real me, for you do not know the real me.”
What is the difference between guilt and shame? Guilt is the thought “I DID something bad.” Shame is the belief “I AM something bad.” Guilt attacks a part of us (an action); shame assaults us for our very existence. Shame … is that sense of unease with yourself at the heart of your being (David Atkinson).Shame batters us at the very core of who we are deep down inside. We feel useless, worthless, and empty. Satan uses it to condemn us. And we hate it. 
If there’s anything about yourself you wouldn’t want the whole world to see, there’s shame in you.We know if we were known all the way to the bottom we’d be rejected. That’s what shame is. In that original story about nakedness and shame, the Bible also tells us about the fig leaves. Why are some of us perfectionists? Brene Brown adds that perfectionism is the thought that says “If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.'” It’s a fig leaf attempt to cover our shame. We make everybody miserable all around us, including ourselves. Why are some of us so obsessed with how we look and so obsessed with our weight?
Do you know what all these things are? These are fig leaves. We’re covering and trying to hide the real us, because we know if people really saw us to the bottom they wouldn’t love us. We would be rejected. So we have to control what they see with the résumés, the clothes, the status updates, funny personalities, etc. They’re all fig leaves.
One pastor asks, “Wouldn’t it then be incredible to get even a little bit of that original unashamedness back? Wouldn’t it be great to have an identity so unassailable, a certainty about your value so strong, a deep ease in the center of your being about who you are, that you wouldn’t care as much about what people think, that you could be much more transparent, that you wouldn’t be as driven. You wouldn’t be as worried about how you look. You wouldn’t be as angry about the way in which people have treated you? Wouldn’t it be great?”
The Bible says we can get that. How? On the cross Jesus Christ is being stripped naked. Hebrews 12:2 says he endured the cross, “despising the shame.” This means the shame of the cross did not stop Him from going to the cross. He came to take shame. The Bible says, “I did not despise the mocking and the spitting. I didn’t turn my face away from it.” He came to be stripped. He came to be humiliated. That was our most embarrassing moment. We can never be more embarrassed than the day when Jesus was treated shamefully for us. He was stripped and humiliated.
What does this mean? When you receive Christ as your Savior, your sins are taken away. He took our shame. Tim Challies adds, “At the cross the guilt of that offense was transferred to Christ. He took that sin—the full, objective, legal guilt of it—upon himself to such an extent that my sin became his sin. Jesus Christ took every hateful thought and adulterous glance and spiteful word and every other sin upon himself. He took that sin to the cross and suffered God’s wrath against it to the point that justice was satisfied. This means that the offense has been truly and fully paid for. It is gone. I am no longer guilty before God!
But Christ did more than that. Not only did he take away my guilt, but he also gave me his righteousness. This is the great exchange of the gospel that my sin was transferred to him and his righteousness was transferred to me. I am not only not sinful, but I am actually righteous. Because the guilt of the offense is gone, the shame is gone as well. The sin is no longer my own, which means the guilt is no longer my own, which means the shame is no longer my own. The guilt and the shame of that sin now belong to Christ.”
God now accepts us, not because of what we have done. If he looks all the way into our hearts like that, we would all be rejected. You know that, not just by God, by anybody. But instead of looking at us all the way to the bottom of our heart and rejecting us, Jesus was rejected as He took our sins upon Him. He then clothed us with His righteousness.
And in some twisted way, we constantly reject ourselves to pay for that guilt and shame. One of the scenes that always move me is found in Khaled Hosseini’s wonderful book back from 2003 entitled The Kite Runner. The plot boils down to two boys who grow up in Afghanistan in a shared household. One, Amir, is the son of a wealthy and somewhat westernized businessman. The other boy, Hassan, is the son of the businessman’s servant. Though clearly unequal in status, the boys are close. The boys are also talented at the Afghan game of kite running, involving boys chasing kites cut down by another kite in duels. Hassan has a great gift for knowing just where the kite will land. Hassan is very loyal to Amir, even standing up for him in front of these bullies.
Then, in one of the pivotal scenes, Kabul’s kite-flying competition which Amir so desperately wants to win in order to gain his father’s approval, show Hassan refusing to hand over to the bullies the winning kite he has fetched for Amir. His loyalty costs him dearly – he is subjected to a brutal, physical and sexual assault by the leader of the gang, a vicious sociopath. And this while Amir hides in the shadows, too afraid to stop the attack, and unwilling to risk losing the love and admiration of his father that failure to bring home the winning kite will mean. Amir is then riddled with guilt and feelings of unworthiness, contrasted strongly with Hassan’s sacrificial goodness.
On a hill north of Amir’s dad’s house, there’s an abandoned cemetery with a pomegranate tree. This hill is where Amir and Hassan often play together. Hosseini uses this pomegranate tree to impress upon us the closeness of Amir and Hassan’s friendship. But after the assault, things are not the same.
And in a fit of rage strikes Amir strikes his loyal friend with ripe pomegranates. The 2007 movie did this well, as you can see the crushed, blood-red flesh staining Hassan’s clothes. Amir wants Hassan to hit him back to punish him for his failing to be a good friend to him. I’ll let Hosseini describe the scene:
“Hit me back!” I snapped. Hassan looked from the stain on his chest to me.
“Get up! Hit me!” I said. Hassan did get up, but he just stood there, looking dazed…I hit him with another pomegranate, in the shoulder this time. The juice splattered his face. “Hit me back!” I spat. “Hit me back…!” I wished he would. I wished he’d give me the punishment I craved, so maybe I’d finally sleep at night. Maybe then things could return to how they used to be between us. But Hassan did nothing as I pelted him again and again. “You’re a coward!” I said. “Nothing but a…coward!”
I don’t know how many times I hit him. All I know is that, when I finally stopped, exhausted and panting, Hassan was smeared in red like he’d been shot by a firing squad. I fell to my knees, tired, spent, frustrated.
Then Hassan did pick up a pomegranate. He walked toward me. He opened it and crushed it against his own forehead. “There,” he croaked, red dripping down his face like blood. “Are you satisfied? Do you feel better?” He turned around and started down the hill.”
Amir tries to make amends for the rest of his life. But Hassan reminds me of someone. Someone who is so committed to us that He would rather take the punishment than punish us. Someone who has already settled the accounts and paid the debts and refuses to accuse and condemn us and let us do the same to ourselves.
Keller adds, “He [Jesus] has looked all the way into the deepest recesses of our soul. He has seen everything, and he still loves you. To the degree you know that and believe that, to the degree that actually grabs your heart, to that degree you will begin to experience a new kind of identity. You will realize you’re clothed in his righteousness.
You will lose that need to control what everybody sees. You won’t be as upset when you put on five pounds. You won’t be as upset at the fact that you haven’t been as successful this year as you want. You won’t be devastated by criticism. You’ll be free. There is a greatness. There is a poise. There is a supreme confidence that is not argued for. It’s not attained. It’s not scratched for and clawed for. It’s received as a gift. Do you know what it is? It’s resting in what Jesus Christ did on the cross for you. There he covered your shame.” The One who knows us the best, loves us the most! Satan uses shame to condemn us, but God uses it to invite us back to Him, the only One who can remove our sin and as a result the guilt and shame that come from it. Lastly,
III. The Father: Jesus suffers my punishment (vv.33-39)
Around 12pm (6th hour), when the sun is supposed to be brightest, there is instead darkness, until 3pm (9th hour). This is a supernatural darkness and there is no other scientific way to explain it. This was simply was a supernatural act of God. Luke writes interestingly that the “sun’s light failed”(Luke 23:45). God, who turned on all the lights at creation, now turns it off almost like He’s saying, “You don’t want to see what’s going to happen next.” Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12), the One who had a bright star flooding the sky at His birth, now faces darkness all around Him.
But why? Why the darkness? What is God saying here? Whenever darkness is mentioned in Scripture, it almost always refers to one thing: judgment (Isa. 5:30; 60:2; Joel 2:30, 31; Amos 5:18, 20; Zeph. 1:14–18; Matt. 24:29, 30; Acts 2:20; 2 Peter 2:17; Rev. 6:12–17). In Rev. 6:12, when God’s wrath is poured out on the earth, the text says the “sun became black.” So darkness is a symbol of judgment. God is light and if light symbolizes all that God is, then darkness symbolizes all that God opposes and what does God oppose? God opposes sin and everything that comes as a result of it. And sin is the only thing that God judges.
Notice what He cries out here, quoting Ps. 22. He does not cry out, “Peter, Peter, why have you denied me?” or “Judas, Judas, why have you betrayed me?” Or even, “My hands, my hands!” or “My head, my head!” Instead, “My God, My God.” John Macarthur notes, “And He is saying in effect by the personal possessive pronoun, ‘Your Mine. Where did You go?’” It’s the language of covenantal love and intimacy. It is like if I said, “My Jenny” you all would know who I’m talking about.
But this is probably the worst part that Christ had to suffer, to lose the presence of His Father. Jesus had felt sharp wounds, but the desertion of fellowship and intimacy from His Father was the sharpest wound there was. This is the only time of all His prayers that He uses the formal, distant word “God” rather than “Abba” or “Father.” It is one thing if the checkout girl doesn’t say hi to you and another thing if a close friend unfriended you on social media, but totally a whole different thing if your spouse or kids would never want to see you again. Because the closer the relationship, the deeper the sense of loss when that relationship is broken. The closest relationship in all of history is severed at this moment.
Max Lucado observes, “The King turns away from his Prince. The undiluted wrath of a sin-hating Father falls upon his sin-filled Son. The fire envelops him. The shadows hide him. The Son looks for his Father, but the Father cannot be seen… It was the most gut-wrenching cry of loneliness in history, and it came not from a prisoner or a widow or a patient. It came from a hill, from a cross, from a Messiah. ‘My God, my God,” he screamed, “Why did you abandon me!’ Never have words carried such hurt. Never has one being been so lonely. The despair is darker than the sky.”
People are confused, thinking He’s calling Elijah. In the OT, there was a prophecy that someone like Elijah would come before the Messiah to prepare the way. They missed that memo too, for it was John the Baptist. So they think He’s calling for His associate.
He dies thirsty, so we would never have to be. Philip Yancey says, “The One who made gallons of wine for a wedding party, who had spoken of living water that would quench all thirst forever, dying with a swollen tongue and the sour smell of spilled vinegar on His beard.” This is real darkness. Jesus was experiencing our judgment day. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It wasn’t a rhetorical question. And the answer is: For you, for me, for us. Jesus was forsaken by God so that we would never have to be. The judgment that should have fallen on us fell instead on Jesus.
Notice the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom. This curtain was a symbol of our barrier to get to God. Why not bottom up? To show us that God is the one ending the separation from Him and mankind. Man would rip it from the bottom up. God Himself rips open the way to Himself. We have access to God now. We can come to the throne of GRACE (Heb. 4:16), because Jesus has taken the throne of JUDGMENT.
What does this mean for us? This means one thing. Since God has forsaken His precious Son for our sins, He will never forsake those of us who have trusted in Christ for salvation! Praise God! You may feel forsaken at times. You may feel darkness all around you. But those darknesses are just shadows, mere darkness before the dawn because Jesus was plunged into the true darkness. The worst thing that can happen to us is to be abandoned by God. Sometimes we may feel like God has abandoned us, but the truth and promise of Scripture is that God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God’s presence is guaranteed!
Our God will never let us go, because He already let His Son go because of our sin. We deserve to be forsaken and abandoned due to our sin, but God cannot do it again. This is why Jesus can say, “If you come to me, I will not cast you out.” Why? Because Jesus was cast out already for our sin! He will never forsake you, for God forsook His Son on our behalf. God can never punish the believer, only wounding and disciplining us enough to wake us up as a result. Not only that, as Pastor Tullian Tchividjian says, “The gospel is the good news that God treated Jesus the way I deserved and he daily treats me the way Jesus deserves.”
Keller notes, “If you see Jesus losing the infinite love of his Father out of his infinite love for you, it will melt your hardness. No matter who you are, it will open your eyes and shatter your darkness. You will at long last be able to turn away from all those other things that are dominating your life, addicting you, drawing you away from God. Jesus Christ’s darkness can dispel and destroy our own, so that in the place of hardness and darkness and death we have tenderness and light and life.”
Two concluding applications here for us. First, how can we love sin? We must hate sin. Sin killed our Savior. I was truly convicted by Spurgeon here:
“What an accursed thing is sin, which crucified the Lord Jesus! Do you laugh at it? Will you go and spend an evening to see a mimic performance of it? Do you roll sin under your tongue as a sweet morsel, and then come to God’s house, on the Lord’s-day morning, and think to worship him? Worship him! Worship him, with sin indulged in your breast! Worship him, with sin loved and pampered in your life!
O sirs, if I had a dear brother who had been murdered, what would you think of me if I valued the knife which had been crimsoned with his blood? — if I made a friend of the murderer, and daily consorted with the assassin, who drove the dagger into my brother’s heart? Surely I, too, must be an accomplice in the crime! Sin murdered Christ; will you be a friend to it? Sin pierced the heart of the Incarnate God; can you love it? Oh, that there was an abyss as deep as Christ’s misery, that I might at once hurl this dagger of sin into its depths, whence it might never be brought to light again! Begone, O sin! Thou art banished from the heart where Jesus reigns! Begone, for thou hast crucified my Lord, and made him cry, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”
We have a great need for a Savior, we who love the sin, which killed Him. But at the same time, secondly, we have a great Savior for our sins. Listen to Phil Ryken use this example:
Most kingdoms do anything they can to protect their king. This is the unspoken premise of the game of chess, for example. When the king falls, the kingdom is lost. Therefore, the king must be protected at all costs. Another notable example comes from the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill desperately wanted to join the expeditionary forces and watch the invasion from the bridge of a battleship in the English Channel.
U.S. General Dwight David Eisenhower was desperate to stop him, for fear that the Prime Minister might be killed in battle. When it became apparent that Churchill would not be dissuaded, Eisenhower appealed to a higher authority: [the] King…. The king went and told Churchill that if it was the Prime Minister’s duty to witness the invasion, he could only conclude that it was also his own duty as king to join him on the battleship. At this point Churchill reluctantly agreed to back down, for he knew that he could never expose the King…to such danger.
King Jesus did exactly the opposite. With royal courage he surrendered his body to be crucified. On the cross he offered a king’s ransom: his life for the life of his people. He would die for all the wrong things that we had ever done and would do, completely atoning for all our sins. The crown of thorns that was meant to make a mockery of his royal claims actually proclaimed his kingly dignity, even in death.
He took our shame. He took our punishment. He exchanged it for His righteousness and His freedom. We can only agree with the hymnwriter,
Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give my self away
’Tis all that I can do.
Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 557). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Keller, T. J. (2013). Sermon “They divided my garments,” preached March 2, 2008. The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
Ortberg, John (2010-05-11). Love Beyond Reason (Kindle Locations 3351-3356). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Williamson, S. (2013, October 28). Is There Any Value in Experiencing Deep Shame? Retrieved April 10, 2014, from http://beliefsoftheheart.com/2013/10/28/is-there-any-value-in-experiencing-deep-shame/.
Brown, B. (2010, November 1). Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/11/01/give.up.perfection/.
Challies, T. (2012, September 5). Let Jesus Feel the Shame. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://www.challies.com/christian-living/let-jesus-feel-the-shame.
Mohler, R. A. (2007, December 19). Some Thoughts about ‘The Kite Runner’
Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://www.christianpost.com/news/some-thoughts-about-the-kite-runner-30558/.
Koeksister, K. (2013, August 12). Jesus, in Unexpected Places. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://korneliakoeksister.wordpress.com/tag/the-kite-runner/.
Shmoop Editorial Team. (2008, November 11). The Pomegranate Tree in The Kite Runner. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://www.shmoop.com/kite-runner/pomegranate-tree-symbol.html.
Koeksister, K. Ibid.
Hosseini, K. (2003). The Kite Runner (98). New York, NY: Riverhead.
Macarthur, J. (1988, March 27). A Closer Look at the Cross. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-48/A-Closer-Look-at-the-Cross.
As quoted in http://www.preachingtoday.com/search/?query=matthew%2027:45%20-%2054&searcharea=illustrations&type=scripture&x=39&y=10&start=41 accessed April 8, 2011.
Yancey, P. (1995). The Jesus I Never Knew (201). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 200). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.
Tchividjian, T. [PastorTullian]. (2013, Aug 19). The gospel is the good news that God treated Jesus the way I deserved and he daily treats me the way Jesus deserves. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/PastorTullian/status/369562894905532417.
Keller, T. (208). Jesus the King.
Spurgeon, C. H. (1998). Vol. 36: Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 36 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Spurgeon’s Sermons. Albany, OR: Ages Software.
Ryken. P. From the sermon, “Long Live the King!” Retrieved April 11, 2014 from http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2008/august/4081108.html.
Watts, I. From “Alas and did my Savior bleed?” Public Domain. http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/l/a/alasand.htm.