“Be Amazed by the
Mark 15:16-20,33-34,37-39; 16:1-8
Tom J. Nettles
I. Mark 15:16-20 – The mocking from the Gentiles
A. Pilate, having consented to the crucifixion of Jesus, turned him over to the soldiers that they might finalize the preparations for this gruesome form of capital punishment. As this preparation proceeded they took advantage of such a lowly and hated commoner to give vent to their propensity for jest and crudity. After all, the subject was detested by his own people and on the verge of death. What was the harm of that?
1. They invited all the members of their battalion that were present in Pilate’s headquarters to join with them in this brief frolic. It could have been up to 200 men.
2. They engaged in a cruel irony. Already purpled in blood and bruises they robe him in a like color to mock his consent to kingship (15:2) and heighten the contradiction between this claim and his condition of helplessness.
3. Their salutes to him were in the form of continual striking and their shouts of mocking praise were perforated by their foul spittle.
4. The crown was not merely common and inglorious hay or branches but the positively cruel and painful tapestry of thorns, pressed on his brow; little did they know that they showed that he was indeed becoming a curse for us (Genesis 3:17b-18a; Galatians 3:13)
B. It is to this group that Peter refers in the sermon at Pentecost when he accused the Jews, “You crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” The idea of lawless men could mean their intrinsic spirit of refusing to be ruled by any external standard of legal procedure or of common decency, or it could mean specifically the Gentiles “who have not the law,” (Romans 2:14).
C. Paul refers to them as the “rulers of this age,” (1 Corinthians 2:8) who would “not have crucified the Lord of Glory,” had they understood the decree of God. The merciless and scurrilous behavior of the soldiers was natural to them, but God’s decreed purpose hid from them any knowledge of the ultimate purpose of God in these events. Had they perceived the overwhelming and majestic power of the glory of God as being worked out in the very events that they were executing, they would, out of a sense of fear and ultimate self-preservation, refuse to be anywhere near those events.
D. Though the entire incarnation constituted an emptying for the Son of God, it was peculiarly in these moments until the consummation of the spiritual and physical agonies of crucifixion that the greatest absence of the manifestation of his intrinsic glory and infinite dignity as Son of God took place. In the moments that were most strictly endured to the glory of God (Ephesians 1:6, 7; John 12:27, 28) and in demonstration of love to man (Romans 5:8), we find the most thorough hiding of personal glory.
II. Mark 15: 33, 34 - Forsaken by the Father
A. Verses 21-32 describe the wild, turbulent, and insulting scene at the cross. He refused to anesthetize his suffering in any sense for he must endure it all. They gambled for his garments, he is ridiculed by robbers, given a thick dose of scorn by the common rabble, and taunted sarcastically by the Jewish religious leaders. A contemptible parody of his claims was hurled in his face like verbal garbage with no sense of the monumental truth or the saving power of his true statements.
B. As a culmination of the intensifying nature of Jesus’ bearing of divine wrath, the moment of complete abandonment brought forth the words of Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As the man enduring the wrath in our stead, Jesus felt the loss of every vestige of the sustaining mercies of God; every common grace that supports every creature in all the world could not be found in the forty cubic feet of space occupied by the center cross, and the man on it knew palpably what it was to be completely abandoned.
C. But not only abandoned was he, but the recipient of the active wrath of God; he is set forth as a propitiation by the Father Himself, that he might save us from the wrath to come (1 John 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). His cry testified to the truth that “He himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree,” and that God, in Christ, was reconciling the world to Himself (1 Peter 2:24; 2 Corinthians 5:19). It was indeed true as the scribes had mockingly scolded, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.”
D. Note this, the forsakenness occurred toward the man Christ Jesus in his mediatorial role (1 Timothy 2:5, 6), not to the Son of God proper as he stands eternally related to the Father by generation. The Savior is one person, but exists in two distinct natures, “the distinction of natures not being taken away by the unity of the Person.” The divine nature itself that includes the distinct personhoods of Father, Son, and Spirit necessarily includes the eternal generation of the Son, a relationship that by its infinite, eternal, self-existent, and unchangeable nature could never cease to exist. The cry, therefore, is a recognition that in our nature, the Messiah is bearing the whole of wrath divine for his sheep and he will not fail to bring them to himself (John 10:14-16; 17:18-21).
III. Mark 15:37-39 - Jesus dies and the New Covenant begins – Mark records Jesus death, with a loud cry, and then two events that mark distinctives of the new covenant
A. Whether Mark has in mind, “It is Finished,” (John 19:30) or “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” (Luke 23:46), he wanted to show that Jesus still had vigor at the time of his death, for he uttered a “loud cry.” It was thus that his death was voluntary, not only, “for the joy set before him,” submitting to all the events in obedience to the will of the Father, but that he controlled the moment that he would breathe his last, even as he does of all other living things. None took his life from him but he gave it of his own accord (John 10:17, 18).
B. The rending of the veil of the temple signified the end of all the ceremonies and types that now were fulfilled in the person and work of Christ. (Hebrews 10:20 ; 9:15 ff) By the shedding of the blood of his body, Jesus opened for us a way behind the curtain that divided the people from the high priest on the day of atonement. This rending of the veil symbolized that no more sacrifice was needed, the way into the presence of God was now made clear through the sacrifice of Christ.
C. The testimony of the soldier is the immediate fulfillment of Jesus’ words, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.” The soldier saw the way that Jesus “breathed his last,” with strength still present and with resolve to lay down his life in this sacrificial event, and became the first, after the death of Christ, to give the confession of faith, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” He obviously knew the accusations put against Jesus by the Jewish political and religious powers, he had seen the patient suffering of Christ, had heard his words, and now, seeing the manner of his death is convinced that, in spite of all the ridicule and doubt of the accusers, Jesus’ testimony to himself is true. Jesus has begun gathering to himself by the certain efficacy of his redemptive death the people of every tongue and tribe and nation (Revelation 5:9).
IV. Mark 16:1-8 - Jesus Rises from the Dead; These verses appear to be the earliest manuscript evidence for the end of Mark. Verses 9-20 contain attempts to give an ending with more literary resolution by conflating other accounts of the events following the resurrection. As it stands, however, ending with verse 8, the ending leads the reader to bring into focus the single most credible explanation for all that has been said up to this point. Jesus, the ransom for many, the Son of God, has suffered as he predicted and has risen from the dead as he predicted (8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-34; 12:10 “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Mark 14:24-28). Thus all the claims, instructions, admonitions, and warnings that he connected with the resurrection are true, He is the cornerstone, he is the ransom for many, he is the Son of Man prophesied, and he is the Son of God.
A. Verses 1-3 - Having prepared spices for the buried body of Jesus, the women mentioned got an early start, before sunrise, and probably arrived just as light broke [look at the accounts in Matthew 28:1f;Luke 24:1 f, and John 20:1f]. Their affection for Christ outran their realism, for they knew that they had no access to the body in light of the largeness of the stone, but hoped that someone might be there that would allow them at least to anoint the body. The close guard of the tomb combined with the Jewish paranoia of the possibility of stealing the body increased the difficulty of their mission. They could not, however, simply dismiss the memory of Jesus with a sigh and a shrug and go about their business just as if he had never been there.
B. Verses 4-7 - What seemed to them the
first great difficulty had already been removed, for the stone had been rolled
back for easy entrance. In addition, the appointed guards had fled after
experiencing the biggest fright of their lives. Replacing the Roman guard as a
watcher of the tomb was an angelic presence [cf. Luke 24:2, John 20:12] that
announced that the one they sought was not there but, as he had told them on
several occasions, had risen from the dead. For verification he made sure that
they looked at the place where the body had been laid. The angel also reminded
them that he had told them to meet him in
C. The sudden change of perception so startled these women that for a time, they were unable to speak. The angel, however, had instructed them to tell his disciples, which eventually they did. Mark’s version is so compact that we need the other accounts to give a more detailed version of the entire phenomenon. Mark intends for us to sense the simple, startling, and astonishing impact of this first awareness that the crucified and buried Jesus had risen. He is not here, in the grave; he is risen.
V. This event puts in focus the details of the arguments that Paul enforces in 1 Corinthians 15 (the main point of which is a defense of the resurrection of the body as a reality using the necessity of the resurrection of Christ as the most powerful evidence for the resurrection of the body) concerning the centrality of the resurrection as the capstone of the redemptive power of Christ’s passion.
A. Paul mentions other appearances of Jesus in verification of the historical certainty of his resurrection: to Peter, to more than 500 at one time, to James, to the twelve, and to Paul himself.
B. Paul then argues for the resurrection of Christ by showing the implications of his not rising.
· The preaching that the Apostles did is vain, that is empty and meaningless.
· Their faith is vain, for faith centers on the worthiness of Christ’s sacrificial death and present intercession as the just means of a sinner’s attaining forgiveness and right standing before God.
· The Apostles misrepresent God in their preaching, for they preach Christ’s resurrection
· Sin is unforgiven
· The bodies of believers, in addition to their sensate spirits, will perish, so the hope of wholeness before God is gone.
· All suffering in the body in this life motivated by the hope of resurrection and of being like Jesus, seeing him as he is, is false and makes this present trouble a misery, not a joy.
· Death has been defeated and so all things have not been and will not be placed under the feet of Christ.
But none of these things need plague our thoughts, for HE IS RISEN!