Jesus is Crucified and Raised

 

Week of August 11, 2013

 

Bible Verses: Mark 15:33-39; 16:1-7; 1 Corinthians 15:17-19.

 

Lesson Focus:  This lesson can help you live each day in light of the realities of Jesus’ death for you and His resurrection from the dead.

 

Jesus is the Crucified Savior:  Mark 15:33-39.

 

[33]  And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. [34]  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" [35]  And some of the bystanders hearing it said, "Behold, he is calling Elijah." [36]  And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down." [37]  And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. [38]  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. [39]  And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"  [ESV]

 

[33-39]  During the crucifixion there was darkness over the whole land. For Mark, the darkness at midday is something ominous and evil. The emphasis on darkness covering the whole land has universal connotations: the whole earth is implicated in Jesus’ death, not just the Jews. The symbolism of darkness is found in numerous places in Scripture. It is often associated with an act of Divine judgment. In connection with the cry of Jesus, it could indicate God’s judgment upon human sin falling upon Jesus. For the first time since verse 2, Jesus cries out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Rejected and scorned by Israel, sacrificed as a political pawn by Rome, denied and abandoned by His own followers, Jesus is wholly forsaken and exposed to the horror of humanity’s sin. Its horror is so total that in His dying breath He senses His separation from God. Popular Judaism believed that Elijah had been taken bodily into heaven without dying and that he would return in times of crisis to protect and rescue the righteous. The bystanders invoke the name of Elijah at Jesus’ crucifixion, perhaps because they mistake Jesus’ call to God as an appeal to Elijah. Surely if Jesus is righteous, God will spare Him from suffering and death. The bystanders fail to see what the centurion first sees and understands – that Jesus fulfills God’s plan of redemption precisely in His suffering, by giving his life as a ransom for many [10:45] and taking the curse of humanity on Himself. Hoping to see a miracle of deliverance at the final moment, someone filled a sponge with sour wine … and gave it to him to drink. The sour wine was probably a mixture of vinegar with water and acted as a stimulant. Perhaps as a gesture of compassion, the drink is offered to Jesus. The death of Jesus is the cause of two exceptional events: the tearing of the temple curtain [38] and the confession of the centurion [39]. These two events signify that the death of the suffering Son of God is not a tragic end but an event of divine fulfillment and revelation. First, the curtain, which is rich in theological symbolism. There were actually two curtains in the temple in Jerusalem, one before the Court of Israel and one before the Holy of Holies. The Court of Israel, also known as the Holy Place, was the main sanctuary where Jewish men worshiped; it contained a seven-branch lampstand, a table with twelve loaves of bread on it, and an altar of incense. The curtain before the Court of Israel was a beautifully embroidered Babylonian tapestry, mystically depicting the earth, sea, and heavens. The second curtain hung before the unapproachable, inviolable, and invisible Holy of Holies, a cubicle some thirty feet square that the high priest entered once a year on the Day of Atonement. It is unclear which of the two curtains Mark intends in 15:38. If it was the curtain before the Holy of Holies then its destruction signifies that at the death of Jesus the veil between God and humanity is removed. The Holy of Holies, which was believed to contain the very presence of Yahweh, is made accessible not by the high priest’s sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, but by the atonement of Jesus on the cross. Other reasons, however, argue in favor of the main curtain separating the Court of Israel from the Court of Women. The outer curtain was the only curtain visible to all people. This tearing of the outer curtain could indicate God’s judgment upon the temple that results in its final destruction in AD 70. The second sign attending the crucifixion follows immediately on the tearing of the temple curtain. It is the declaration of the centurion. Like others since the arrest of Jesus, the centurion is a bystander, but rather than milling around he stood facing him. Unlike the previous bystanders who mock Jesus, the centurion sees and believes what they do not. At the death of Jesus he confesses, truly this man was the Son of God! The centurion is the first person in this Gospel to confess Jesus as the Son of God, and the confession is evoked by His passion – His suffering and death on the cross. The passion of Jesus on the cross is the crucial clue to the centurion’s confession, according to Mark. This centurion had doubtlessly seen other men die by crucifixion. But something in this crucifixion – in the very weakness and suffering of Jesus’ death – becomes revelatory. The suffering of Jesus on the cross, which utterly contradicts both Jewish messianic ideals and Hellenistic “divine man” conceptions, becomes, by an act of God, the window into the heart and meaning of Jesus, the significance of which is only captured in the confession the Son of God.

 

Jesus is the Living Lord:  Mark 16:1-7.

 

[1]  When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. [2]  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. [3]  And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" [4]  And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back--it was very large. [5]  And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. [6]  And he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. [7]  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you."  [ESV]

 

[1-7]  Mark concludes his Gospel with this paragraph concerning the visit of the women to the tomb of Jesus and the dramatic announcement of His resurrection. Two aspects of the truth are emphasized. First, there is no difference between the crucifixion and the resurrection on the point of historicity or factuality. The resurrection of Jesus is an historical event. On a given date in a defined place, the man Jesus, having been crucified and buried two days earlier, came forth from the tomb. Mark stresses the identity of the risen one with the crucified one in verse 6. Secondly, as an historical event, the resurrection of Jesus cannot be explained by categories open to human understanding. The reality cannot be incorporated into our history as if it conformed to our experience. Apart from revelation, it remains merely a mysterious event in history, unable to impart understanding. History can declare only that Jesus’ body disappeared, but this baffling fact fails to communicate the gospel. The event of Jesus’ resurrection is open to understanding only through a word of revelation received in faith. The focus of Mark’s account falls, therefore, upon the presence of the divine messenger and the disclosure of the truth [5-6]. The mysterious activity of God in the resurrection was accompanied by specific, knowable phenomena which can confront human experience and are open to human judgment. The purpose of these phenomena is not to create faith, but to inform faith of certain consequences with regard to the event. In Mark’s narrative the empty tomb indicates that the resurrection includes man’s past, and points to the continuity of the past, the present and the future in the perspective of redemption. The witness of the four Gospels is unequivocal that following the crucifixion Jesus’ disciples were scattered, their hopes shattered by the course of events. What halted the dissolution of the messianic movement centered in Jesus was the resurrection. At the conclusion of the Sabbath (i.e. after sunset on Saturday), the women who had witnessed the crucifixion and burial purchased aromatic oils with which to anoint the body of Jesus. Spices were not used for mummification, which was not a Jewish custom, but to offset the odors from decomposition. It is not uncommon to find in Palestinian tombs dating to the first century such funerary objects as perfume bottles, ointment jars and other vessels of clay and glass designed to contain aromatic oils. The desire of the women to anoint the body indicates that the oils were to be poured over the head. The preparations for returning to the tomb in performance of an act of piety show that the women had no expectation of an immediate resurrection of Jesus. Since in the climate of Jerusalem deterioration would occur rapidly, the visit of the women with the intention of ministering to the corpse after two nights and a day must be viewed as an expression of intense devotion. The time of the women’s visit to the tomb was immediately after sunrise on the first day of the week. Although the women had witnessed the burial of Jesus and the closing of the entrance to the sepulcher [15:47], they had no knowledge of the official sealing of the tomb by the Sanhedrin nor of the positing of a guard. This is evident from the fragment of conversation preserved by Mark alone concerning the rolling back of the stone from the entrance to the tomb. While the setting in place of a large stone was a relatively easy task, once it had slipped into the groove cut in bedrock just before the entrance it could be removed only with great difficulty. Mark’s account is characterized by great restraint. The evangelist makes no attempt to explain how the stone was rolled back, but records simply that the women looked up and saw that it had been removed. That the tomb was empty is clearly implied, but this is not stated until the startling announcement of the divine messenger in verse 6. Inside the large opening in the façade of the tomb was an antechamber, at the back of which a rectangular doorway about two feet high led inside. Small low doorways between the antechamber and the burial chamber were standard features of Jewish tombs in this period. The inner chamber where the body had been laid was perhaps six or seven feet square, and about the same height. When the women entered the burial chamber they were startled to see a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe. Careful study of the distinctive vocabulary has demonstrated that whenever the reference is to an angel, the text or the context makes the supernatural character of the young man explicit. The feature which shows that the evangelist means an angel is the factor of revelation [6-7]. God often uses visible means to reveal Himself, and the angel fits into this pattern. As frequently in the Old Testament and the Jewish literature from the later period, the angel appears as the divine messenger. This conclusion is supported by the detail of the white garment. In the color symbolism of the New Testament, white is primarily the heavenly color and is mentioned almost exclusively in eschatological or apocalyptic contexts. The presence of the angel underscores the eschatological character of the resurrection of Jesus and anticipates the Parousia when the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels [8:38]. The response to the angelic presence is described by a strong word which Mark alone among the New Testament writers uses. It introduces the note of dread which is woven into the theme until it becomes the dominant motif in verse 8. Confronted with the messenger of God, the women were terrified. The action of God is not always self-evident. For this reason it is invariably accompanied by the word of revelation, interpreting the significance of an event. The emptiness of the tomb possessed no factual value in itself. It simply raised the question, “What happened to the body?” God, therefore, sent His messenger to disclose the fact of the resurrection. The announcement of the angel is the crystallization point for faith. The women had been misguided in their seeking of Jesus. They came to anoint the body of one who was dead, but Jesus was risen from the dead. The reference to Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified allows no equivocation concerning the subject of the emphatic statements, He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. The resurrection presupposes the death and burial of Jesus, and both of these events are specified in the angel’s declaration. The statements which qualify the affirmation he is risen refer specifically to the shelf on which the body had been placed. They stress that the tomb in which Jesus had been laid on Friday afternoon was empty on Easter morning. In the Gospel of Mark the certainty of the resurrection rests solely upon the word of revelation. The empty tomb possessed no evidential value apart from this norm of interpretation. The fact that women were the first to receive the announcement of the resurrection is significant in view of contemporary attitudes. Jewish law pronounced women ineligible as witnesses. Early Christian tradition confirms that the reports of the women concerning the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection were disregarded or considered embarrassing. That the news had first been delivered by women was inconvenient and troublesome to the Church, for their testimony lacked value as evidence. The primitive Community would not have invented this detail, which can be explained only on the ground that it was factual. Having assured the women that Jesus was alive, the angel commissioned them to tell His followers that they would be reunited with Him in Galilee. Peter is singled out because of his repeated and emphatic denial of Jesus. He has not been mentioned by Mark since that shameful occasion, and his disloyalty might well be regarded as an extreme example of sin and blasphemy which disqualified him from participating in Jesus’ triumph. Yet he had been forgiven. The summons to Galilee provided the assurance that Peter had not been rejected by the risen Lord. The message that Jesus will precede His disciples to Galilee repeats the promise of 14:28. In the immediate context of that passage Jesus spoke of His violent death and prophesied that all of the disciples would fall away. When Peter vehemently protested his loyalty, Jesus announced that Peter would deny Him three times that night. The one note of comfort was the assurance that after Jesus’ resurrection the disciples would be regathered in Galilee. The fulfillment of the prophecy of failure and denial is to be redressed by the corresponding fulfillment of the promised restoration. Galilee is specified by Jesus, and by the angel, as the place where the disciples will encounter the Lord. The promise, there you will see him, implies a resurrection appearance to Peter and to the others.

 

Jesus’ Resurrection is the Basis of Our Faith:  1 Corinthians 15:17-19.

 

[17]  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. [18]  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. [19]  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  [ESV]

 

[17-19]  Faith’s validity is tested by the reality of its object. It is not just faith for faith’s sake, but faith in the crucified Christ that produces forgiveness of sins, and faith in the risen Christ that creates newness of life. But Paul’s main thrust in verse 17 is that the sin-problem remains unsolved, if Jesus did not rise from the dead. All talk of Christ dying for our sins in accordance with the scriptures becomes meaningless, if in fact He stayed dead. The unanimous testimony of the scriptures is that the wages of sin is death [Rom. 6:23]: death marks the end-result of that separation from God which sin inevitably produces. If Jesus stayed dead, there are only two possible conclusions: either He was not the sinless person everyone thought Him to be and His death marked His final separation from God; or He might have been without personal sin, but His attempts to atone for the sin of the world by His death did not meet with divine approval. Either way, we are still in our sins, cut off from God and facing His judgment, like everyone else. Another awful consequence of there being no resurrection is that death remains, not just the last enemy [26], but the one invincible terror. Death is not falling asleep in Christ and waking up to see His smile of welcome into the Father’s house: it is hard confirmation of the lostness of all men, that we are all doomed to perish without hope and without God. It is no coincidence that Paul almost casually, if not unconsciously, introduces the pregnant phrase in Christ at this point. As we shall see, this is the core of his positive teaching about the implications of the resurrection of Jesus; but it becomes empty words if Christ turns out to be nothing more than a dead guru. If Christ was not raised from the dead, any expectation of life beyond death with Him evaporates. We are then left with a pseudo-gospel which purports at least to give some meaning to our life here on earth. This presumably takes the form of doing the best we can to follow the example of Jesus Christ, assuming that we select Him as our mentor in preference to countless other teachers, wise men and leaders. Paul sees this attitude to Jesus as pitiable and pathetic [19]: if there is no such thing as resurrection, much of Jesus’ teaching falls to the ground and He is revealed to be a liar. Yet the Corinthian Christians had set their hope on Christ as Lord of life, death and eternity. If He was not raised from the dead, He is not Lord of anything. If life here on this earth is all there is, it makes no sense to base our hope on the groundless promises of one who made empty assertions about eternity. If the Christian faith is thus based on an empty gospel and a fraudulent savior, anybody is better off than the Christian.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.         What is the significance of the mid-day darkness? Why was Jesus forsaken by God? What is true of every believer because of this forsakenness?

 

2.         The death of Jesus is the cause of two exceptional events: the tearing of the temple curtain [38] and the confession of the centurion [39]. What is the significance of these two events?

 

3.         In 16:1-7, what two aspects of the truth of the resurrection does Mark emphasize?

 

4.         In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul emphasizes the critical importance of the historical resurrection to the Christian faith. In verses 17-19 what does Paul say is true about believers if Christ has not been raised?

 

5.         What difference does it make in your life that the resurrection of Jesus is a true, historical event?

 

References:

The Gospel According to Mark, James Edwards, Eerdmans.

The Gospel According to Mark, William Lane, Eerdmans.

Mark, Robert Stein, Baker.

1 Corinthians, David Garland, Baker.

Let’s Study 1 Corinthians, David Jackman, Banner of Truth.

The Message of 1 Corinthians, David Prior, Inter-Varsity Press.