Summary: Jesus’ excruciating death opened the way to God.
Max Lucado wrote "[The cross] rests on the time line of history like a compelling diamond...History has idolized it and despised it, gold plated it and burned it, worn it and trashed it. History has done everything but ignore it...Never has timber been regarded so sacred.”
The cross of Christ is compelling evidence that you really matter to God. Jesus endured the cross to proclaim his love for you. We’ve been looking at the events of the last few days of Jesus’ life on earth in this series, “All for You.” We’re working through the last three chapters of the gospel of Mark, and we see what he did for us. Today is the crucifixion. Many of today’s insights come from David Garland in his commentary on Mark.
After his trial, Pilate handed Jesus over to the soldiers who took him into the palace. There they called together their comrades for a little fun. Mark says they called together “the whole company,” which would have been about 300-600 men. This was a big deal and they all wanted a piece of the action. Jesus had been condemned by the Jews for being a false Mes-siah. Pilate condemned him as a false king, the King of the Jews. So the soldiers gave him the “royal treatment.” They took an old cloak and put it over his bloody, mutilated shoulders and back as a royal robe. They grabbed some thorns growing there and twisted them into a crown for his head. Then, they made a mockery of honoring this regal King, bowing down and shouting, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They approached him like someone approaching a king to kiss him on the cheek, but instead of kiss-ing him they spit in his face. This mock homage probably ex-pressed as much contempt for Jews in general as it did for Je-sus. The Jews hadn’t had a king since Herod the Great, and the soldiers’ implied that this weak, pitiful figure is just the kind of king they deserve. There’s no question, Jesus was a different kind of king. He was anointed with spit, crowned with thorns, and enthroned on a cross. It’s no wonder they didn’t see his true royalty. I’m afraid that if I had been one of those soldiers, I probably would have done the same. When they finished mock-ing him, they jerked off the purple robe to which now blood had probably stuck and dried. So this ripped open the wounds on his back even more. They put his own clothes back on him and led him off to be crucified.
Crucifixion was a horrible means of torture and suffering. It accomplished a couple purposes. First, it prolonged the suffer-ing of the victims, often for days. They grew weaker and weaker until finally their lives flickered out from suffocation and exhaus-tion and dehydration and shock. If you wanted to make some-body really pay for his crime, this certainly did.
Second, crucifixion also served as a warning and a deter-rent to others. It was done in very public places, usually along main roads, where lots of people would see the victims. The im-plied message was, don’t cross Rome, or Rome will put you on a cross. The first century historian Josephus tells of the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman general Titus. When Jews were caught trying to sneak away from the besieged city, they were crucified. He says, “The soldiers out of rage and hatred amused themselves by nailing their prisoners in different postures; and so great was their number, that space could not be found for the crosses nor crosses for the bodies (J.W. 5.11.1 ss 449-51).
Now they take Jesus to crucify him. Normally the prisoner was forced to carry the horizontal cross bar to the place of exe-cution. There it and he were attached to the vertical post already in the ground. Jesus is so weak from the terrible flogging that he falls under its weight. The soldiers whip him some more, as if that is going to make him stronger. Finally, in impatient frustra-tion, they grab a passer-by, Simon, from a city in northern Af-rica, who is heading into Jerusalem just as the delegation with Jesus is going out. They put the cross on Simon’s back and or-der him to carry it. So Simon is drawn into this drama, and no doubt stayed to watch what happened when they got to the place of execution. Chances are, when he saw all that hap-pened, he became a believer. That’s why the gospel writers mention his name. Mark also mentions his sons, Alexander and Rufus. We don’t know much about them, but Paul does give greetings to a Rufus in his letter to the Romans. Mark’s original readers were also Romans, so this may have been a point of contact for them with Jesus’ story—the dad of one of their mem-bers carried Jesus’ cross.