Summary: Jesus is the King of the Jews; Christ the King of Israel. The Beloved Son is forsaken, but only to provide us with THE way of escape.
THE KING FORSAKEN.
After the Sanhedrin had delivered Jesus to Pilate, the first thing that Pilate asked Jesus was, “Are you the KING OF THE JEWS?” Jesus answered, “Thou sayest” (Mark 15:2). Beyond that, Jesus refused to answer any of the accusations brought against Him by His accusers.
Pilate had an arrangement with the crowd during the Passover, that he would release one prisoner to them. This was his opportunity to release Jesus without losing face. “Will ye that I release unto you the KING OF THE JEWS?” (Mark 15:9).
The chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. “What would ye then that I should do (unto Him) whom ye call the KING OF THE JEWS?” (Mark 15:12). And they cried out, “Crucify Him.” “Why, what evil has He done?” No answer but to cry out all the more exceedingly, “Crucify Him” (Mark 15:13-14).
Now Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent, and that the chief priests had delivered Him out of envy. Pilate also knew that Barabbas was guilty but, willing to content the people, Pilate released Barabbas to them, and had Jesus scourged and handed over to be crucified. Amongst other abuses, the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, mockingly similar in shape to the royal diadem of Caesar, and thrust that upon the head of Jesus, and they began to salute Him, “Hail, KING OF THE JEWS” (Mark 15:18).
At the third hour (9 a. m.), they crucified Him. The superscription of His accusation read, “THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Mark 15:26). Jesus was crucified between two thieves, in fulfilment of the Scripture which says, “He was numbered with the transgressors” (Mark 15:28; cf. Isaiah 53:12).
Passers-by, priests, and scribes all now mocked Jesus. “Let CHRIST THE KING OF ISRAEL descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32).
At the sixth hour (12 noon), darkness covered the whole land, for three full hours. Too long to be an eclipse. At the ninth hour (3 p. m.), Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Mark 15:34; cf. Psalm 22:1).
This is the only time when Jesus addressed the LORD as “My God” rather than “Father.” It is known as the cry of dereliction. Yet it is remarkable that, deserted though He may have felt, Jesus still knew God as HIS God. Believers can draw great strength from this, even at times when we too may feel bereft of the felt presence of God with us.
We may well ask the same question, “Why?” Why did Jesus have to go through all this? Why this momentary break in communication between the Father and the Son?
The answer is that it was Necessary. It was impossible for man’s salvation to be procured in any other way. Remember Jesus’ prayer in the Garden: ‘O my Father, IF IT BE POSSIBLE let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt’ (Matthew 26:39). There was no other way, so it had to happen like this.
There was no other way by which a holy God might be both ‘just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus’ (Romans 3:26). It was a perfect exchange: Jesus ‘became sin for us,” “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). A holy God cannot look upon sin (Habakkuk 1:13) so, for that long moment in history, the Father could not look upon His beloved Son.
The wonder is that the forsakenness of Jesus unites us to God. As Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost, “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Mark 15:37-38). Now, this veil was too large and heavy for any human hands to tear, and too high for them to reach. The fact that it was torn “FROM THE TOP TO THE BOTTOM” can only be by the hand of God Himself.
The significance of this is that this heavy curtain symbolised the barrier between God and man. No man might pass behind the veil in the Temple into the presence of God apart from the high priest, and that only once per year, on the Day of Atonement. Now the way into the very presence of God is opened to all, by the sacrifice of Jesus, once and for all and for ever.
As we step over the historical threshold represented by the rending of this veil, the first person to realise the full meaning of what has just happened was not one of the ‘religious’ people, but the Roman centurion. “Truly,” he announced, “THIS MAN WAS THE SON OF GOD” (Mark 15:39).
The Beloved Son was forsaken, but only for a season, that all might come in. There is no trial of His people in which He is not a present participant as THE way of escape (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13). To His Name be glory.