A Note to My Readers -
I've decided to remove my Sunday posts from the weekly cycle. Although I hope they've been of benefit to some of you, they are necessarily secondary to my regular work of sermon preparation each week. I've found that having that extra post to write simply added to the burden of my work. For those readers who would still like access to my weekly work in Scriptural exposition, I would ask them to access the podcasts of my sermons (available through a link in the sidebar), since that remains the primary form of my Bible teaching each week.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Sunday Scripture - Mark 15:16-24

Mark 15:16-24

15:16-20 – In these verses, the Roman soldiers taunt and abuse Jesus (much as the Jewish Temple guards did in 14:65). Just as there was a potent irony in the name of “Barabbas” in the previous verses, so too there is an obvious irony here. They mockingly hail him as “King of the Jews,” but so he truly is—the heir of David’s throne, the promised Messianic King. They give him a purple robe and a cruel mockery of a victor’s crown—the traditional accouterments of triumphing generals and emperors in Roman culture; and they kneel down to pay him homage. This is not just irony that Mark is pointing out here; it’s also a clear prefiguration of coming things. This man, about to be executed as the lowest sort of criminal, is soon to have worshippers in Rome itself; and less than three centuries later, the emperor of the entire Roman world would be bending the knee before the crucified Christ.

15:21-24 – In v.21, we have Mark’s brief account of Simon of Cyrene being forced to carry the cross. This was simply a physical necessity—Jesus had been beaten so severely that at this point it would have been humanly impossible to complete the demanding task of dragging the cross out to Golgotha. The fact that Mark mentions Simon’s name and the names of his two sons is an indication that this family would probably have been well-known among the early audience of the Gospel, so it’s a fair guess that all three—Simon, Alexander, and Rufus—became believers in that first generation of Christians. There’s a symbolic element to Simon’s service here, too: Christ’s cross isn’t just his own; his disciples too are called to bear the cross, to share in Christ’s sufferings in the world, to live a cruciform life, shaped by the passion, suffering, and love of Jesus’ cross. The sequence of events that follows in vv.23-24—the offering of wine and myrrh (a pain-numbing agent, which he refuses), and the division of his clothes by lot, are both fulfillments of prophecies made in the Old Testament, as the other gospel accounts of the crucifixion make clear. More than that, though, all these elements speak to the level of pain and humiliation that Christ was forced to undergo--a pain and humiliation that he never chose to escape from, but rather to bear it all for our sake.

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