Remember three ‘Words’ about the fact, purpose and reasonableness of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Guilty. (Mark 15:1-32) Everyone from Pilate to the passerby convicted Jesus of being ‘the King of the Jews’. That is they mocked him for who he really was the King, the Messiah, the Son of God and convicted of that crime. When you think about it – that makes the human race guilty, not Jesus the King! Jesus was unwilling to ‘save himself’ because to do so would have damned the whole human race to perdition. He chose to stay on the cross. Thank God!
- Redemption. (Mark 15:33-41) Silence and darkness enveloped the cross as the Father turned away from His only beloved Son. Only one thing could have made him do that. The Father and Son had agreed on the price for ‘all you like sheep have gone astray; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him’ (Isaiah 53:6). When Jesus died the 60 foot high, 4 inch wide curtain was torn top to bottom. The Holy of Holies where God dwelled was now available to all. So, let us draw near, (Hebrews 10:21) ‘having our hearts sprinkled clean’. The cost of our sin is most clearly seen in the price God paid to redeem us.
- Faith. (Mark 15:42-16:8) There are some surprises here. The Centurion who oversaw Jesus’ crucifixion stands out. He was a hardened man, used to looking death in the face. He knew what it meant to send his men into battle. He knew what courage and sacrifice looked like. As he watched Jesus throughout the day, something told him that this man’s death was different. “When the centurion, who was standing right in front of him, saw the way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God’” (v39). This man played two parts in the passion play. (1) He declares Jesus dead to Pilate. Let there be no mistake. There was no breath left in his body. It was finished. (2) He declares that Jesus is the Son of God. Then there were those faithful women who were always in the background, even in Galilee. They stayed with him to the end. They watched Jesus’ crucifixion and would be back to anoint his body on Resurrection morning. Joseph of Arimathea also. ‘A well-respected member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus’ (15:43). People of faith hadn’t given up hope!
But perhaps the most surprising witness was the empty tomb. The stone was rolled away. The body wasn’t there. The angel said that Jesus was alive. I’ve got a thought here. What do you do when the eyewitnesses don’t seem to agree on the details? If you compare the gospel accounts you might ask yourself. Were there two angels at the tomb or just one? Were they inside the tomb or outside the tomb? Did they glow with a glorious appearance or did they just look like young men dressed in white? J. Warner Wallace, retired homicide detective, explains in ‘Cold-Case Christianity’ that the state of California instructs her criminal juries that, ‘two people may witness the same event yet see or hear it differently’ and hence their testimony must not be discounted. In fact detective Wallace says, ‘I would rather have three messy, apparently contradictory versions of the same event than one harmonized version that has eliminated some important detail. I know in the end I’ll be able to determine the truth of the matter by examining all three stories.’ I’m not saying that the gospel accounts are contradictory. I’m saying that some details appear contradictory. If we had more information we could answer all the questions. But what we do have is a front row seat, from four different angles of the greatest event in world history, beyond reasonable doubt!
One final thought. I love the way Mark ends his gospel. “They (the women) went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). Mark is a master historian-story-teller. He wants the reader to feel the same astonishment these ladies did. He wants the reader to understand that the reality of Jesus risen from the dead is enough to blow one’s mind. He wants the reader to be overcome with the wonder of the cross and the empty tomb! We could do worse! J