Summary: Life lessons from Christ's cricifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
SERIES: WALKING WITH JESUS
“THE VICTORIOUS SERVANT”
In November of 2001, after the Arizona Diamondbacks came back to beat the new York Yankees in the final inning of the final game of the World Series, the editors of Sports Illustrated ran an item called “The Top Ten Comebacks of All Time.” The list ran across quite a broad spectrum of events.
Elvis Presley was on it, as a result of his TV special in 1968 that revived his sagging career. Muhammad Ali made the list when he returned from his forced seven-year exile from boxing, to reclaim the world championship. Harry Truman made the cut, owing to his 1948 victory over Thomas Dewey when all the polls had him losing by a large margin. When Michael Jordan gave up baseball and returned to his first love of basketball, he found a spot on the top ten comebacks in history. Even humanity was on the list – after recovering from the Black Plague of the 14th century when 25 million Europeans died. Number two among the all-time comebacks was a tie between Japan and Germany, devastated in the Second World War but becoming world economic powers within a generation.
But the number one spot – named by the editors of Sports Illustrated for the greatest comeback of all time – “Jesus Christ, A.D. 33. Stuns Romans and defies critics by his resurrection from the grave.”
We started in January “walking with Jesus.” We’ve studied through the whole Gospel of Mark and we finish that study this morning.
The emphasis of Mark’s Gospel is on activity – the work of the Servant. Mark records only a few of Jesus’ sermons. Mark focuses on what Jesus did rather that what He said. The Servant came to minister to hurting, suffering people and to die for the sins of the world. This morning we see him finish his work and come back victoriously over death.
Last week, we left the story of Jesus at the point where Pilate ordered his crucifixion. He had Jesus flogged and then the soldiers mocked him.
The flogging was sometimes enough to kill a man. It was brutal and left the recipient with huge gaping wounds and sometimes even exposed internal organs. The soldiers then ridiculed Jesus by dressing him up in mock royal robes, cramming a crown of thorns on his head, and then taking turns, hit him with their fists and with a wooden rod and spat on him.
They then ripped the mock royal robes from him. The robes would have ripped more flesh from Jesus’ body because of coagulated blood and bodily fluids. Then they dressed him back in his regular clothes and marched him through the streets of Jerusalem to his place of execution.
Since both Jewish and Roman law required that executions be made outside the city, criminals were put to death on a hill outside of Jerusalem. Roman custom was to position places of execution near well-traveled roads so that people could easily see what became of those who opposed Caesar. This is where we pick up the story this morning.
Mk. 15:21 – “A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Jesus was most likely carrying what was called the patibulum – the cross-beam of the cross – which weighed anywhere from 50 pounds and up. After the severe flogging and the beating at the hands of the soldiers, Jesus had suffered loss of blood, physical trauma and shock, which led to physical exhaustion and the inability to carry his cross all the way.
Cyrene was a Greek settlement on the North African coast of the Mediterranean, in what is now modern Libya. It had a large Jewish population, and since “Simon” or “Shimon” is a common Jewish name, he had probably come to Jerusalem as a pilgrim to celebrate the Passover. The Bible says he was just a passer-by when he was recruited by the Roman soldiers to carry Jesus' cross for him. Most likely it was against his will but Roman soldiers had the authority to demand such things, and since he was able-bodied, he could not refuse.
Do you know what it is to have more on your shoulders than you can possibly bear? Jesus does. Through most of the Passion story we see him standing strong and bold and courageous in the face of the worst kind of abuse. And now, with the end so near, his body completely gives out. He cannot take another step in his own strength. When you come to the place in your life when you cannot take another step in your own strength, I
want you to know that Jesus has been there, too.