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Mark 15:1-41

"Turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 15.  You know, Mark 15 is a chapter in the Bible that's very familiar, certainly the story.  This time of history is very familiar to many of us.  And that can be a danger, when you come to something that's very familiar, sometimes you're not as apt to be open to hear from the Lord and to learn.  So let's say a word of prayer together, just asking the Lord to prepare our hearts as we look at the most tremendous event that ever took place in all history, just the basics of all that we are about.  That God would speak to us.that we would hear him, and exactly what he desires for us to understand this morning.  So let's say a word of prayer together.

          "Father, as we look at this text this morning, just going verse by verse through this book of Mark, and now we've come to just the most tremendous chapter--certainly the rest of the chapters have been leading to this very chapter that we're at today, and we would ask God that you would help us to hear your voice.  Help us to learn and understand all the more of what you've done for us.  And the love you have for us is so infinite and incredible.  I pray that Lord we would plumb the depth a little bit further today of what that means, what that love is.  You tell us, Paul exhorted us in Ephesians, that we would further understand and comprehend the depth and height and length of your love, which is so incredible.  We would pray today that we would have a greater understanding, in Jesus name, Amen."

          Let's look at the first five verses.  Mark 15:1-5, "Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole counsel.  And they bound Jesus, led him away and delivered him to Pilate.  Then Pilate asked him 'Are you the king of the Jews?'  He answered and said to him, 'It is as you say.'  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."  [Go back to the very end of the last chapter and read that Emanna I included at the very end.  It fits right here.  Jesus was being examined, just like the lambs were by the priesthood, before they could be sacrificed.  And Jesus, the Lamb of God, was pronounced by Pilate, as having nothing wrong with him--without a blemish.  The symbolism fits perfectly, as that Emanna message showed, right down to the way they sacrificed the lambs in the temple!]  You know, as we study the Bible, the Bible is very clear that everybody in this room, all of us, have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  We all are sinners, every man, every woman that's ever lived has been a sinner.  David shared the same truth in Psalm 14, he put it a little bit differently, he said, "The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.  They've all turned aside, they have altogether become corrupt.  There is none who does good, no not one" (Psalm 14:2-3).  He says, "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way."  The Bible says we all have sinned, we've all turned to our own ways, to go our own way.  We've altogether become corrupt. 

          And then we read in the Bible that the result, as stated in Isaiah 59, "But your iniquities have separated you from God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear."  We've all sinned, every one of us.  And the result of that sin, that corruption, that nature that we have, is separation from God.  Or as Paul put it in Romans, he says, "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23a), and that is the sum of it all.  This is our condition, not one of us can do anything about it in and of ourselves.  It's a helpless state that we learn about in the Bible.  Paul describes this state.  He says it's being without strength, unable to cure the problem or change the problem.  Not having the ability to get out of this situation, or to rectify the matter.  But incredibly, that is where the gospel begins.  The gospel begins with you in a helpless state [cf. Romans chapter 1 & 7], you and your sin, without strength, unable to do anything about it.  That is where the gospel begins.  "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."  And that's where we are today as we look at this chapter.  And then we begin to set the backdrop of the verses, that you and I were helpless without strength, and that's there, that Christ died for the ungodly, "for scarcely" Paul continues in Romans "for a righteous one will die.  Yet perhaps for a good man someone will even dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:6-8), helpless--but God has demonstrated his infinite love, I mean he had to go to his death for us, from his throne, to pull us out of our situation--demonstrating that his love for us is just tremendous, a love that if you and I just began to scratch the surface just a little bit this morning, a little bit more than we have, just let God illuminate that in our hearts--all the more we can join in with Paul as he exclaims "For I'm persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels or principalities, nor powers nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of god which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).   I do pray that as we look at these verses, simply, that we can say that all the more confidently with Paul, that no matter what comes my way in life, no matter what I go through, no matter what I can't seem to get out of, no matter what my family goes through or my community or my country, I'm persuaded that nothing for a moment can separate me from the love of God.  If I'm really persuaded of that I'm going to live like that, with assurance and confidence.  Consider, as we look at these verses, what God has done for you and for me, that God has died for us.  God has died for us.  The Son of God came, and he died for each and every one of us.  That is an amazing fact, so lofty, so wonderful, hard to even begin to scratch the surface of the depth of that.  But it's the truth of history.  Christ died for you and for me.  And as I look back upon that and I more apprehend that, man do I look at the future a little differently.  C.S. Lewis, he put it this way, "God as a host who deliberately creates his own parasites, causes us to be that we may exploit and take advantage of him.  Herein is love."  He just says, we're just parasites that God created.  Yet he created us, and then came down and let us beat on him, take advantage of him, use him, spit on him, kill him, and he says, "Herein is love."  Verse 1 if chapter 15 as we read it, it's now early in the morning.  Mere men, just these chief priests and scribes and folks, they've got the King of the Universe as a prisoner.  They've got him in their custody.  These men, have determined, as we've been seeing for weeks, have determined to put Jesus [Yeshua] to death, that is their goal.  But they're not able to do it because of the situation, the political situation they find themselves in.  They're underneath the Romans, so, they want to put him to death, they've determined to put him to death, but they can't do it unless they get approval, unless they get the government that they're underneath to do that--that is the Romans.  So, as you see there, they bind Jesus.  The fact that God would even allow them to do that to him, to bind him, or to put handcuffs on him or to tie him with a rope.  And they send him away, over to Pilate.  And you learn in the gospel of John that when this Jewish band goes to Pilate's palace, is that they do not go into it because if they go into it they would defile themselves, and the Passover is coming and they wouldn't be able to partake of Passover.  So they stay outside below the balcony of Pilate's palace, there's a balcony that he would come out upon.  You don't get that sense here [in Mark 15], but when you put the gospels together, that's the picture that you get.  When Jesus is inside, and he's there with Pilate, Pilate then leaves and goes out on the balcony and begins to address this group of Jews and says to them, 'Why have you brought this guy Jesus to me?  What's your purpose in bringing him to me?  What's your desire?'  And with that they began to bring accusations against Jesus, all sorts of false accusations.  Things we've already seen.  They accuse him of perverting the nation, causing trouble.  They accuse him of getting folks not to pay taxes and things like that.  Things that we know are lies, because he never said that [and Pilate I might add, knew Jesus never said that.  Anyone encouraging the Jews not to pay Roman taxes would have been reported right away to Pilate.  Pilate had obviously heard Jesus' statement "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" and been both amused and amazed.].  But they twist the truth and they falsely accuse him and try to, of course, win Pilate onto their side, to get Pilate to do the things they desire to do.  Well, Pilate after listening to their desires, returns inside, talks to Jesus--and that  is where you have verse 2 [of Mark 15], he says to Jesus "Are you the king of the Jews?"  Evidently, some of the accusations that they've drawn up include that.  He says "Are you the king of the Jews?"   And Jesus of course, replies and says "It is as you say, I am the King of the Jews."  You know, that's amazing to consider that, that God would leave his throne, the Son of God would come, from where he was [cf. John 1:1-11] that he would come here in such a humble state, such a low state, that he would be in a room where men would gather around and say "Are you really the king of the Jews?" in a condescending way, and question his authority--and he's the One that created the heavens and the earth [cf. Hebrews 1:1-2; John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6].  He's the One who put it all into motion.  Yet  he would come and become such a humble man, in such a state, that the folks around him would say "Are you really the king of the Jews?", and began to question even his authority.  That's a tremendous thing to consider.  Of course he's the King of the Jews, he's the King of kings and Lord of lords.  These folks are going to know it not too long from now when Jesus does come back on his white horse, in Revelation 19, and there on his side and on his robe it will be written: King of kings and Lord of lords.  But Pilate says "Are you the king of the Jews?"  He's talking to the King of kings, Lord of lords.

          Pilate, after that response, goes out before the Jews again.  As he's out there they continue to bring accusations against Jesus again.  They just try to get Pilate swayed to serve their purposes.  Jesus is there in the room.  Pilate goes back to him, and again Jesus will not defend himself, as you read there in verse 5.  It says there in verse 3, the chief priests continue to accuse him, verse 4, Pilate says 'Are you going to answer anything?  These guys are saying all these terrible things about you.  Are you going to say anything to defend yourself?'  But Jesus just sits there silently and it says that Pilate is just amazed that he would just sit there and not defend himself, not try to explain anything to him.  It's possible that a simple explanation from Jesus would have gotten him released from Pilate.  As you put all the gospels together, it isn't that Pilate wants to crucify Jesus.  That's not his desire.  So maybe if Jesus just shared a few things, "Well, here's the situation, I didn't tell 'em, I've not tried to get anybody to not to pay taxes, in fact I've told them to give to Caesar what is Caesar's.  That's the honest truth, and go ask my disciples, they'll tell you the same."  Maybe if he just began to explain some things Pilate would have said "All right, you can leave, here it is, man."  But Jesus just sits there quietly and that causes Pilate to go "Wow, what's up here, this is amazing."  Not only could Jesus have defended himself, let's face it, he could have called down fire, he could have ordered the ground to open up, swallow all these guys out there, just squish them.  If he chose to do it he could have taken care of every one of these guys and defended himself.  But he didn't do it.  And that's according to prophecy, he just sat there quietly.  Isaiah said, "He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.  He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.  And as a sheep before his shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7).  He sat there quietly.  They accused, they ridiculed, they mocked, he sat there quietly, as a sheep on its way to the slaughter.  You know, I read that and I think of that, and I say "Lord, you love me, because you could have easily stopped this whole thing for sure."  Another man in this situation, thinking maybe it would be good to go to the cross, would have gotten here and I'm sure he would have began to defend himself.  But your love for me is so great you just listened to these false accusations, as the King of the Universe--yet you continued to be quiet for my good and my sake.  You know, you can read this, it's important when we read chapters like this, that we get the whole effect of what God desires.  You know, I read this, I think of these chief priests, and I go, 'Aghh, these guys are terrible guys, I wish I could have been there to defend Jesus, I would have tried to defend Jesus, I would have tried to, you know.'  But the truth of the situation is, I may not have been there physically, 2,000 years ago, but I certainly was there, my presence was there.  And I was with this group below the balcony in one form or another, maybe not ridiculing Jesus in this fashion, at least I can't think of a time when I've done that.  Maybe you can't think of a time when you've done that.  But the truth is, we are here in one form or another.  I think of Jesus' words, Jesus said in Matthew, he says, "In as much as you did to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."  Now when I read that, I'm like, 'Wait a minute, you put it that way, I guess I was there.'  You know there's been times I certainly said things about people I shouldn't have said.  There's been times I've put question on their character.  There's been times where I didn't like somebody, I said something that wasn't appropriate.  "You put it that way, Jesus, and you say I've done it to you if I've done it to them, well now I know I was there."  I'm thankful that he just sat there quietly, knowing what he could have done if he chose to do it.  I'm thankful that he loved me that much that he sat there quietly.

          Let's look at verses 6-15, "Now at the feast, he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomsoever they requested.  And there was one name Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels, that committed murder in the rebellion.  Then the multitude cried aloud, began to ask to do just as he had always done for them.  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.  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd so that he should rather release Barabbas to them.  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?'  But they cried out all the more '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, as you look at all the gospels, couldn't find anything wrong with Jesus [fitting the OT requirement that Passover lambs be examined for blemishes, and that no blemished lamb be sacrificed].  And a number of times he, even in here, he says "What evil has he done?"  He's not done anything wrong, and he states that in a number of ways at different times.  'I can't find anything wrong with Jesus.'  [Turn back to the end of the study on Mark 14 and reread that "Emanna".]  But you see in verse 10, here he even understands the whole motive of this crowd before him, he understands the whole basis of what's going on, and that is the chief priests and the scribes are envious.  They're threatened by Jesus and they want to do away with him.  He (Pilate) understands that.  But sadly, he still goes ahead with it.  A note from his wife--his wife sends him a note and says 'Hey, Pilate, I've just had a tough time today in my dreams and just been burdened, this man is a righteous man.  Don't do anything against him, he's a good man.'  Yet even with that, sadly, he gives into the demands of the crowd.  It goes against his conscience, it goes against his heart and he gives into them.  You know, you wonder why would Pilate do that, what a weak man if he would give into these people when he knows this guy hasn't done anything wrong.  But you can learn a little bit from history as to why.  He does it to gratify them, he does it because he wants to please them.  And that's ultimately because he fears them.  And he fears them because of certain events that have just taken place prior to this that you can read about a little bit in other history books, books of history.  Pilate is especially on thin ice with Caesar.  And that's the thing that troubles him probably most at this moment.  When Pilate came into Jerusalem initially, when he first got started there, was sent there as governor, he came in with a group of soldiers.  And their soldiers had shields, and on these shields and standards they had these eagles, they were topped with gold and silver.  And Pilate had his soldiers, initially, go right into the temple area.  Well now, you've got these golden images, in the Jews eyes, in the temple, you can imagine what happened.  [Images, commanded against in the 2nd Commandment--their Old Testament Constitution for the Nation of Israel.  OK, in modern times, imagine marching into Jerusalem with shields and banners bearing Nazi swastika's on them--how do you think the Israeli's would react, similar I'm sure.]  Well, a riot broke out.  The Jews got upset.  Here's these golden images in the temple area.  Pilate then responded to the riot, in his first days in the city of Jerusalem ordered all the Jews that were rioting to be captured.  He brought them to an amphitheater outside Jerusalem, where he then ordered that they all would be slaughtered unless they repented.  Well, the Jews that rioted were pretty radical.  They told Pilate that "chop off our heads", they said, "but there will be 10,000 others that will take our place if you bring images again into the temple grounds."  And with that, Pilate backed away from his order and Caesar heard about it.  Here this guy gets started, a guy who Caesar put there, and already there's trouble in Jerusalem, riots.  Well, two years later, it was a bumpy road for Pilate, two years later he built an aqueduct to bring water from the north into Jerusalem, it was quite a project, needed money.  So where did he go to get money?--the temple, the temple treasury to get money.  And of course, you can imagine, the Jews got bent out of shape, a riot ensued and blood was shed.  And just a few months before we get to these pages here, Pilate ordered that new shields be made for his soldiers, but these shields had the face of the emperor Tiberias on them [and remember, in Roman mythology, the Roman emperor was considered a god--oops], and as they heard about that and they saw these shields, they considered that idolatry and therefore there was another rebellion and a riot.  With that, Caesar heard about it, Tiberias, warned Pilate, 'One more rebellion and you're threw.'  So with that, you understand a little bit more about where Pilate's at.  He's on thin ice with Caesar, here's a tense moment again with the's some folks before him, guys with a lot of clout in the community that want this man dead, and he [Pilate] understands that.  So, well unfortunately even with that, he still makes the wrong decision and gives into the fear of the people and does something--goes against his conscience.  You learn from history, less than a year later, he resigned as governor, went to Gaul, which today is Germany [western Germany & eastern France] and committed suicide.  But obviously his decision must have greatly bothered his conscience and heart.  During the feast, in verse 6, it was custom in the previous years, to release a prisoner whomever they requested, the folks requested, and Pilate's there on his balcony and Jesus is with him.  These chief priests incite this crowd and they get this thing going again, 'Hey, you've released someone to us each year, who are you going to release to us this year?  We want somebody released.'  So they get this thing going, and here we read in these verses that there's one particular prisoner, a notorious one, Barabbas, that everyone knew was in chains and some of his other rebels.  He had been an insurrectionist, he had caused some trouble and tried to, in one way or another, we don't know, overthrow the Roman leadership in the area.  In doing that he committed murder, you learn from the different gospels.  He's not the greatest guy to have on your team.  But due to the influence of the chief priests, sad to say, the people as they get Pilate going and Pilate says, 'Yeah, OK, I'll release to you a prisoner.  Whom do you want?  You've got Jesus, the king of the Jews, you've got these other guys.'--They said, 'We want Barabbas.'  And they actually choose Barabbas and they reject Jesus.  They choose a guy that was unsuccessful at delivering them from Rome, someone who had actually caused some trouble, and they reject the guy that would [and will] bring them victory and deliverance from Rome [literally, the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire--yet to come out of Europe (log onto http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/prophecies/2ndcoming_4.htm ].  But they reject, they deny Jesus and they choose this other guy Barabbas.  You look at that, it's a picture of our hearts, the heart of man all along through history.  When I was reading that initially I was thinking of the people of Israel back in the time of Samuel, they had a prophet.  God set up the nation of Israel, he was to be the King and God, and yet they weren't content with that, they wanted another king.  And they kind of pressured Samuel, and petitioned God for it and God eventually gave them what they wanted.  But they weren't content with juste having God as their King.  And you read these verses, you see in that a picture of man's heart, man's heart has been like that all along.  Our heart's been like that, never content really with the things of God and with God himself.  Seeking other alternatives, seeking other things or things apart from him.  But it's amazing as you meditate on it, that God gives us free choice.  It's amazing that God would create me and give me the ability to deny him, and give me the ability to not accept him.  And that tremendous thing in which you see here, people actually have the King of kings before them, they deny him and instead choose a Barabbas, an insurrectionist.  When you and I are rejected by folks, that can be a hurtful experience, especially when I'm denied by someone I care about or a family member.  That can be a tough time.  But here Jesus is denied by his own creation.  God is denied by his own creation.  I guess closest thing we could experience to that is having your kids grow up and having them completely reject you, having them change their last name and not wanting to be part of your life in any way.  And that's what happens here as Jesus is before them, yet they deny him, they reject him and they choose Barabbas instead.  If I was there, at this point, I'd say 'Alright, you don't want me, no problem, I'm going home.  I'm not going to go any further.  You don't want me?  I'm not going to go through with this.'  When you consider the fact that he was rejected yet he kept going through with this--man rejected him, yet he continued to go to the cross--that tells me much about his love.  My love is 'Well if you reject me, I reject you.'  That's my [human] love.  You deny me, I deny you--you're not nice to me I won't be nice to you, that's my love.  But here we see that Jesus goes to the cross, continues going even after he was rejected by man.  That's God's incredible love towards us.  We didn't want him but he chose us, he chose us regardless.  Well due to the insistence of the crowd, Pilate releases Jesus to be crucified, and just before that he has him scourged.  And the scourging, you may have heard about.  Scourging was knick-named 'a half-way death.'  It was such a brutal punishment that you'd just about die.  In most cases you didn't, but there were cases where guys would die, after they were scourged.  But it was performed with a flagellum, this whip that was a few feet long, had 12 to 13 thongs on it.  At the end of every thong-like strap there was a lead ball.  Between the ball and the handle along these leather straps there was glass and bone and metal imbedded into each one of these straps.  And then the prisoner that was to be scourged would be tied by the waist and hung a foot or so off the ground.  And while hanging there they would just give him a lashing with this device.  And of course it would just shred your back and expose bone and maybe other parts of your body.  And they called it half-way death, many folks did die, but if you lived you were wishing you were dead.  Well, Pilate has him scourged and sends him off to be crucified. 

          Verses 16-20, "Then the soldiers led him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison and they clothed him with purple and they twisted a crown of thorns and put it on his head and began to salute him 'Hail king of the Jews!'  And they struck him on the head with a reed and spat on him, and bowing the knee they worshipped him.  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."  Just incredible.  You think about it, this is the King of the Universe, this is the guy at the very top.  This is God's Son, who not long before this was sitting upon his throne [as YHVH, the Logos, or Word of God, cf. John 1:1-11].  And because of his love for you he's now become a man in a very humble state.  He's actually been scourged, and he's shredded apart, and now this group of soldiers, the entire garrison actually, take him and they take off his clothing, they put on a robe, they take some thorns, they make a crown and they press it upon his head, they give him a staff and they begin to mock him.  They began to spit on him, they began to hit him and strike him, make fun of him and rebuke him.  That fact that God would even let us do that to him and say, 'Ah, you king, great king, Ah, reverent are you', and then spit in his face.  It's amazing that God would do that, and he did that because he loved you, he did that because he loves me.  You read that, you might get angry, 'Ah, I wish I could be there and take care of these guys doing that.'  But again you read these verses, I think it's important just to realize that the reality of the situation is: I'm there, I'm not there physically, but I'm there because of my sin and things I've done in the past.  When I read that, I was brought back in my mind to sixth grade.  This memory came back from sixth grade.  And when I think back to this thought I wish it didn't come back to my mind, I'm ashamed at what I did.  But I was thinking back to my 6th grade class, the end of the year, there was this girl named Leah.  And Leah was one of these girls, I'm sure she is just a very beautiful person today, but physically she had some deformities and speech troubles and different things.  And with that, in a 6th grade class, she was made fun of, and unfortunately as a 6th grader I got involved with it at times.  And towards the end of the year it got pretty harsh and I remember actually a little bit in my defending her, but I got involved with it enough, just putting her down, not wanting to sit by her, not wanting to be near her, this poor 12 year old girl named Leah.  Then later, I think the last day of school I was called into the principle's office with my friend John Kerry and we had to sit there before the principle.  And the reason we had to sit there is because of Leah, she had gone to the principle and complained, and he called us into the office and gave us a tongue lashing and I don't remember all that happened, but I remember just sitting there.  And the memory came back.  And you know I read this and I go 'I wouldn't do this'.  But then Jesus says 'If you have done it to the least of them, you've done it to me.  Let me take you back to your 6th grade class.  This poor girl name Leah crying her heart out because of the things that you did, and broke my heart.'  You know we're all there.  You've all done it.  Maybe not verbally, but we've done it in our mind and our heart.  Jesus says 'If you've done it to them you've done it to me.'  He let little parasites beat on him, ridicule him.  It's a tremendous thing. 

          Verses 21-32, "Then they compelled a certain man, Simon the Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufas, who was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear his cross.  And they brought him to the place Golgatha, which is translated 'place of the skull.'  Then they gave him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but he did not take it.  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 [9am] and they crucified him.  And the inscription of his accusation was written above, 'The king of the Jews.'  With him they also crucified two others, one on his right and the other on his left.  So the Scripture was fulfilled which says 'And he was numbered with the transgressors' [cf. Isaiah 53:12].  And those who passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads and saying, 'Ahah, you who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself and come down from the cross.'  Likewise the chief priests also mocking among themselves and the scribes said, 'He saved others, himself he cannot save.  Let the Christ [Messiah] the King of Israel descend now from the cross that we may see and believe.'  Even those who were crucified with him reviled him."  Jesus' body is just greatly bleeding and injured.  He gets his cross, begins to take his cross along, as you remember from the other gospel accounts, he stumbles, he struggles to, so they grab a guy from the crowd, this guy Simon.  And Simon takes his cross and now begins to follow Jesus, and ahead of him is Jesus this man who is greatly torn apart and barely moving, that's heading to be crucified.  That is a great picture to think about.  Because it's possible that Simon came to Christ.  You look at some of the end of some of the letters Paul wrote, and there's reference to a similar guy.  You look at this and go, 'Well, maybe he came to Christ.'  You look at some of the names, it's a good possibility.  I would think he probably did.  [Alexander and Rufas are named in Paul's letters.]  But if he did, looking back at that, this experience, coming back to that, and then thinking of some of the Scriptures like "Pick up your cross and follow me."  He could tell you what it meant.  He could get up and testify "Let me tell you what it means to pick up your cross and follow Jesus, I did it.  I followed him.  I followed him to where he went.  I watched him, I carried that cross.  I know what it means to pick up your cross and follow Jesus."  I'll be real honest with you guys, I think we're coming into a time in our nation where we're all going to learn a little bit more what that means, to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.  I believe the writing's on the wall.  When Jesus went through that crowd and was being spat upon and mocked and kicked, and here Simon was behind him carrying this heavy load and having to follow him, he had a good sense of what it meant to be a believer and follow Christ.  And I think we're all going to experience a good taste of what that means in the days ahead.  And I pray by God's grace we begin to clue in today what it means to be a disciple and what it means to be a Christian, to truly have him as our Lord.  We're going to need it later, because we're going to go through our own cross, that's my personal belief.  You know, amazing, I shared it on Friday night at the concert.  I didn't even, I've read the Sentinel & Enterprise, yet I didn't understand how that could be.  I've been reading it all week.  We've actually looked through the paper looking for articles, listening to WBZ last week, during the storm, and I never even knew about it.  I don't have cable TV.  I guess you have to have cable TV to know about it or read a national newspaper, but I didn't even know about it.  And then Terry and Nancy told me and I said "What are you talking about?"  And then we were at a coffee shop and said "Let's go through the newspapers."  And we took three Sentinel & Enterprises and we went through the entire newspapers, from Wednesday through Thursday through Friday, there wasn't a single article on that shooting in Texas.  You mean, somebody goes in with a gun and starts shooting people up in a church in Texas, and our local newspaper isn't going to tell us about it?!?  That's just strange, isn't it?  Or is it just strange to me?  Seven people die in a church, seven others injured, and I don't know about it from WBZ?  I hear a lot about Floyd, I need to hear about Floyd, I guess I didn't when it went by and went through [a hurricane].  But you think that would be, that there would be more attention.  I wonder, I cannot but wonder what's up with that?  Why aren't they telling me that?  I think we're heading into a different time, I do believe that.  [Could be similar to the time the early Pilgrims found themselves in over in England in the early 1600s.  Log onto http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/history/saga.htm and read the first half of that history document to see how what they went through might prove to be a direct parallel of the times we're coming into.  It's sobering, when you see what they were going through in England, before they emigrated to Plymouth, Massachusetts.]  I believe the writing's on the wall.  And hey, last week, people are blowing away people in churches.  That just tells us we are in different times.  But you know we live for another Kingdom.  It's right here before us.  This picture may be gory and look unappealing from the human standpoint, but it's a most beautiful expression of love and joy and peace that you can ever even comprehend. 

          As they take Jesus through this city and they bring him to the place called Golgatha, which is translated 'place of the skull', then they give him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, and thankfully he doesn't take it, and this type of concoction really numbs you out.   You know, if I was there I'd want a couple doses, and then a few more, you know.  But he refuses to take this because of the myrrh and the wine mixed together, it was like a drug to numb you out.  But he didn't take it.  And then you read that they kill him, they crucify him.  And then they rob him.  They take his stuff.  And they divide, they cast lots and they each leave with parts of Jesus' belongings.  They've basically got his garments, each got a piece of it when they leave.  This is the God of the Universe, come down to man [cf. Hebrews 1:1-3].  And this is our hearts.  And this is what we did to him.  We killed him and we robbed him, we spat upon him and we mocked him.  But you know, he knew that, so he sat there quietly and took it all, and he knew what he was doing--and he was doing it for us.  He did this for the same people that were doing it to him, you and I.  They robbed him.  Will you say, "I haven't robbed God".  Read Malachi 3:8-12. [Log onto http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/gifts.htm]  Certainly we robbed him in many ways.  "I haven't killed Jesus" you may say.  The Bible says if you've hated anybody, you've killed them in your heart [Matthew 5:21-22], and if you've done it to somebody else, you've done it to him [Matthew 25:34-40, 41-46].  It all works it's way there. 

          And then, oh boy, the heart of man, he's on the cross, they put the sign up 'The King of the Jews', it's the third hour [9am], he's there for three hours and it's light [up to 12 noon], the Scriptures are fulfilled, he's numbered with the transgressors, he's got people that deserve to be crucified, according to Roman law, on both sides of him.  But then the religious leaders, the folks come out and they just look down their noses at him.   To them he's like a fly on a piece of flypaper, a fly that's just stuck there dying.  They're like, 'Hah! You said you'd do this, look at you there on the cross.  Ah, come down and rescue yourself, come down and save yourself.  You said all these things, ha, ha, ha'.  They were just thinking they were cool, they were big, they got him right there on the cross.  I'm glad we get to read on to Mark chapter 16 next week, because he doesn't stay there, that's for sure.  But all because there was love for you and I, he endured that--the mocking, the ridicule, the judging and even the physical death. 

          Let's look at verses 33-36, "Now when the sixth hour had come [12 noon] there was darkness over the whole land till the ninth hour [3pm].  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?'  Some of those who stood by, when they heard that said, 'Look, he's calling for Elijah.'  And 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's see if Elijah will come to take him down.'"  I mean, some of these guys hearts, they're admitting in their hearts that Jesus is somebody special, they're actually thinking, 'Well, let's just stand back, this should be cool, Elijah might come down!'  I mean, but you think, that kind of a warped heart.  And it says they're knowing they're doing something against God.  Because they realize in Jesus, whomever they think he is, he's somebody special, and that Elijah may very well come down and pull him off this cross.  That's a dark heart. 

          Verses 37-41, "And Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last.  Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to bottom.  So the Centurion who stood opposite him saw that he cried out like this and breathed his last said, 'Truly, this man was the Son of God.'  There were also women looking on from afar among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome (who also followed him when he was in Galilee), and many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem." 

          Let's look at 2 Corinthians 5:21.  Jesus is on the cross, for three hours and it's light outside.  People are ridiculing him.  He's doing it because of these men's heart, it's their own sin that put him there.  But then [at noon] it gets dark.  It gets dark for three hours.  And we know by all the Scripture that ultimately God has orchestrated this whole thing for our good.  And the darkness would symbolize separation.  When we have darkness, we don't have light.  And what Jesus was experiencing during those three hours was that full cup of the wrath of God.  That cup that's full of all the hideous sin in the world, your sins, my sin--think of maybe the worst sin in the world you can think of, that was upon Jesus.  2 Corinthians 5:21, "For God, for he, made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him."  So for three hours you see that taking place there as it's dark, and the sin is upon Jesus, your sin.  He became sin for us, cursed.  According to Deuteronomy, "Cursed is he who is hung upon a tree", and he became cursed for our sakes, for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a).  So he's there dying, paying the penalty for our sin on the cross.  It was dark from the sixth hour, from noon, to three o'clock.  And you see the sense of that, because in verse 34, at the ninth hour, at 3pm, just before Jesus dies, he cries out "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?", which translated is "My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?"  So there in the darkness the weight of the sin of the world is upon Jesus.  And sin is separation, and he's still part of the Trinity, but yet there's a separation.  In fact, there's this darkness upon him, the sin of the world, all the things that I have done, that I should pay the price for is upon him.  And he's paying the price, right there on the cross.  And, again folks [standing around] hear that and go, 'Ah, Elijah's going to come, let's watch.'  Someone runs and gives him some sour wine and offers it to him.  Someone else says "Let him alone, Elijah may very well come."  Verse 37, "Jesus cries out with a loud voice", and as he cries out breathes his last.  When people were crucified it was usually a long grueling process.  You probably heard stories on it, very long and grueling.  Sometimes for days they would be upon the cross.  Sometimes they'd give them props to help them even live a little longer by taking some of the weight, in some cases even give them a chair that they could sit on while they were up there so they wouldn't have to hang, basically being stapled to this cross and they would die so slowly.  But you see, it's only been a few hours [six hours, literally, which is bad enough], and Jesus cries out with a loud voice and gives up his breath.  And that would not be the way you'd die on the cross, you'd be there for many more hours, your energy would be depleted, you'd be so weak and feeble that you'd just die with a whisper.  And Jesus just lays out this real loud cry.  All stand in amazement, and then he breathes his last and gave up his spirit.  And with that this centurion who's standing there is like, "Wow!  This man is a godly man, he must have been the Son of God.  Do you see how it is dark?  He cried out so loudly, and then just died."  And at the same time, verse 38, I wish they had CNN in the temple back then, the veil that is in the temple, at the same moment, torn in two.  Now that veil was sixty feet tall, thirty feet wide and it was ten inches thick.  It was made of seventy-two braids, each braid consisted of 24 cords.  It was so heavy it took three hundred priests to put it up or to move it.  It weighed a lot, 300 guys.  We tried to move a piano recently.  We're like, 'How are we going to do this?  It's going to take a lot of guys to move this piano.'  Three hundred men to move this curtain.  And when Jesus breathed his last and gave up his spirit--RIP!!!  That ten inch thick curtain top-to-bottom just split, because God just went--RIP!!!--and split it.  And the whole purpose that he intended to accomplish is that there is separation between Me and my people whom I love--I'll send my Son, he will die, he will pay the penalty for that sin--and now there's no longer separation for those who believe in faith.  He just ripped that veil right down the middle.  You wonder about the love of God?  Let's conclude with Isaiah 53.  Mark records further that there were some women there that were watching as followers, and we'll pick up with them next week as they come back.  Isaiah 53, let's read this chapter together.  Isaiah 53:1-12, "Who has believed our report?  And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?  For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground, he has no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.  He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.  And we hid as it were our faces from him.  He was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.  Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way.  And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.  He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb [silent], so he opened not his mouth.  He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who shall declare his generation?  For he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people was he stricken.  And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.  Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him.  He has put him to grief.  When you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.  By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.  Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he has poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors.  And he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."  The more you and I just begin to let God plumb the depth of what he's already done for us, if you and I truly know and believe and apprehend what God has done for us, it completely changes your outlook for the future.  Paul said in Romans 8, he says 'You couldn't tell me otherwise, I am so convinced there's not a thing that ever, ever can separate me from the love of God.'  I tell you, in my life, something starts going wrong, I'm 'Oh God, you're judging me, you're judging me.'  Or 'Oh no, woe is me, how could this possibly happen?'  Paul says, 'I'll never believe that.  I'm so convinced, I'm so persuaded that God loves me, because I look at the cross.'  He loves me so much I can confidently walk every single day and I know that I'm in, bathed and basked in the love of God, because he's already proven it to me.'  God loved you so much that he came down and let you and I just beat on him and reject him and deny him and mock him, and then he paid the penalty of our sin, so that veil could be torn in two and we could have communion again with the Father."


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