The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: Mark 15:21-47, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: Mark 15:21-47, for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.
Mark 15:21-47, His Crucifixion, Death & Burial
- Here we are, the climax of the Gospel. Let’s read and get straight into it as we cover the specifics of Christ’s crucifixion, death & burial, which prepares us for the Resurrection on Sunday!
1. Christ’s Crucifixion:
- Text – v21-32
- Explanation – Now Jesus was walking what is commonly called the Via Dolorosa (vv. 21–22). This Latin phrase means “sorrowful way or way of suffering!” How it works was, those condemned to death were required to carry the bar of the cross to the place of crucifixion. It weighed roughly 40kg, which made it an exhausting cross as you would have to travel about 600m.
- Usually the march to the place of execution was deliberately the long way around in order to send a message to those tempted to defy Rome. It served as a warning. Now when it became clear that Jesus was unable to bear the burden, Simon from Cyrene (Libya) was compelled by the soldiers to carry the cross.
- Now by the time they reached Golgotha, which was a slight hill that looked like a skull, Jesus was offered a kind of numbing agent. But He rejected it, for He had come to suffer and die, even the horrific death of the cross (Philippians 2:5–8).
- He would not allow Himself to be tempted to escape it. He chose to be clear-headed so that He might bear the full weight of suffering on behalf of our sins. In fact, in this sober state, Jesus continued to minister to the dying thief whom He took to paradise.
- Illustration – Perhaps the last thing on one’s mind is to evangelize when there are nails through your arms and feet, but our Saviour came to carry that burden. You might also find it interesting to note that another reason for rejecting the cup was because at the Last Supper, Jesus said that he would not drink of the cup until he would “drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
- Anyway, back to our text, it was customary for four soldiers to accompany a criminal and carry out the actual crucifixion. And as payment for services rendered, they would share in whatever belongings that person left behind. In this case they were gambling for the garments of God’s Son. And all this took place by 9 in the morning.
- Application – Now what was the purpose of the inscription? It was customary in a crucifixion that a sign stating the crime would be placed atop the cross. Prior to that, on the march to the cross, a soldier would carry the sign so all could see and be warned.
- And the supposed crime for which Jesus was being executed was treason: He claimed to be “the King of the Jews.” The charge was both true and false. It was true because Jesus was God’s appointed King of the Jews. The charge was false for Jesus was not the kind of King most people think of.
- Conclusion – And so the point is that what they meant for mockery, scorn, and political manipulation was, in ironic fact, true. The King was in their midst and yet they could not see. Additionally, as everything was going according to plan, verse 27-28 tells us, “the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “He was numbered with the transgressors.”
- Fulfilling Isaiah 53:12, as Jesus died with sinners, in the place of the sinners who will acknowledge they are sinners in repentance and faith, as King. Just a side note, verse 28 wasn’t part of the original letter. Those who made the copies added it from Luke 22:37.
- Bridge – None the less, Jesus was taunted further: “Save yourself and come down from the cross!” Here’s the thing, if Jesus chose to come down from the cross, those the Father gave to him would be eternally lost. Without a Saviour, the sheep were hopeless. But because Jesus Christ chose to lose his life, not only was his life saved in the end, so is ours. Hence…
2. Christ’s Death:
- Text – v33-41
- Explanation – When the sixth hour came, it would be around 12. Jesus had already spoken three times. By now He has said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” which informed the thief on the cross that forgiveness was available if he asked for it, which he did, and received it.
- And then He said to John, “Behold your mother,” indicating that John was going to have to care for Mary since Jesus could no longer do that and since His brothers were unbelievers in Him. And the third thing He said was to the repentant thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
- By now the blazing sun is beating down, the day was at its brightest, and then boom; darkness! This would last until the ninth hour. The darkness isn’t a natural eclipse or satanic darkness. It is God who is at the scene. But the truth of the matter is this is God coming on the scene.
- If you know anything about Scripture, God is often spoken of as light. Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” But the expressed darkness refers to judgment. It is a scene like that described by Joel 2:10, “The earth will quake, the heavens will tremble, the sun and the moon grow dark, and the stars lose their brightness.” So it is the darkness of God’s presence, and for 3 hours, God unleashed the full extent of everlasting punishment on His Son.
- Illustration – This was the cup that Jesus anticipated in the Garden, the cup of wrath. This is why it was such a revolting anticipation that made Him sweat drops of blood because in those three hours, Jesus suffered the eternal weight of sin.
- The darkness is not the absence of the Father, is His full judgment. It is in those three hours that He bore in His body our sins. It is in those three hours that He was made sin for us. It is in those three hours that He took the curse. And at the ninth hour, 3pm, it ended.
- Mark records the fourth statement of our Lord, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” How are we to understand that? What does that mean? Didn’t we just say God was there? This is very difficult for us to understand.
- Maybe for just that moment, when He might have expected comfort and compassion and sweet fellowship in the unimaginable, incomprehensible exhaustion of having just suffered. But friends, that’s the weight of eternal punishment; it is punishment without comfort, without compassion, sympathy, and without relief?
- Application – I want you to notice that He cried out with a loud voice. After the massive amount of physical pain and the difficulty in breathing had been inflicted upon Him, He cried out with a loud voice and asked where the Father was in the moment when He needed comfort.
- But the people began saying, “Behold, He’s calling for Elijah.” It was in mockery that they said, “Oh, He’s calling for Elijah.” Why would they say that? Because Malachi 4:5-6 taught that when the Messiah came, Elijah would be present. Yet, it’s in mockery that they continue.
- It gets worse. Verse 36, “Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave Him a drink, saying, ‘Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.’” This is a cheap wine vinegar consumed by soldiers and they though “let’s give Him something to drink. That’ll prolong His life a little bit.”
- John 19:30 says that after Jesus was given the sour wine, “when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said,” – and here’s what He screamed – “‘It is finished.’” Finally, He lays down His life on His own accord.
- Mark tells us of two immediate events. The first one is in verse 38, “The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” This curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. The Holy of Holies, into which no one could go but the high priest once a year, to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat, on the Ark of the Covenant, to make atonement for the nation on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
- This symbolized the sinners’ separation from God. The high priest was only allowed once. But the New Covenant of salvation was in place the moment Jesus died. The temple was nullified. The priesthood was voided. And all sacrifices became pointless because the only true and saving sacrifice had been offered.
- And when the veil was split from top to bottom, it couldn’t have been done by man, it had to be done by God. It was God’s exclamation point on the death of His Son. And what it said was the way into the presence of God is wide open for anyone. What does the death of the Lord Jesus accomplish? It opens the way.
- Secondly, Mark doesn’t tell us, but Matthew does, that there was another miracle that happened at the time the veil was torn. Matthew 27:51 says, “The earth quaked and the rocks were split.” Not only does darkness refer to judgement, so does earthquakes in Scripture.
- Additionally, “the graves were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the graves after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” The veil is torn. The earth begins to shake. Earthquakes take place. Graves are opened. Dead people come back to life and proclaim the truth after the resurrection of our Lord.
- I mean, guys, this looks like the end of the road. It even gripped the centurion. Who was he? He’s involved in the execution, guarding Jesus, overseeing the execution. He probably played a key role in the arrest and everything else that went on.
- Bridge – But he is an eyewitness of everything, and it led him, according to Luke 23:47, to praising God and saying, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Suddenly it isn’t funny anymore. The crowds realise the seriousness of the actions. Yet it is not too late for them. However, the day has ended.
3. Christ’s Burial:
- Text – v42-47
- Explanation – There’s an issue here. The Jews are preparing for the Passover Sabbath. They don’t want any dead bodies ruining their festivities. Yet Jesus was already dead. And so the Jews asked Pilate to break the legs of the other two in order to speed up the process. So along comes Joseph of Arimathea.
- He’s a prominent member of the council. He’s a member of the Sanhedrin. Luke said: “He was a good and righteous man.” And “He was waiting for the kingdom of God.” Luke 23:51, it says, “He had not consented to their plan of action.” The plan to trap and kill Jesus. Either he was there and didn’t consent or he was absent.
- Illustration – So Joseph actually takes the risk of taking Jesus’ body. It was a risk because of his position. And, the Romans would typically give the body, if it was requested, to the family. Criminals who had no such family, were thrown into the dump to be burned.
- Remember, all the disciples left, the women were around but fearful. Now Joseph had to prepare the body, most likely removing Him from the cross, taking the crown off His head, and so on. For what reason would Joseph go through all this effort? I think he believed, and wanted to honour the Lord.
- Application – Joseph wanted to give the burial fit for a king. To lay Him at a place that has never been used. If it wasn’t for this, perhaps His body would have been discarded on the pit and burnt with the rest. But Isaiah 53:9 says, “His grave turned out to be with the rich.”
- Now get ready for this, according to John 19:38 tells us that Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus. And guess who joins him in preparing the body? Nicodemus. The Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night and had the discussion about being born again. He came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, with enough for a king’s burial.
- Conclusion – Finally, they rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. It was all to honour Christ, from loving followers, and to prevent thieves from getting into the tomb. Grave robbing was a big deal. And that was the Lord’s funeral. Only two there, they most unexpected pair.
- Yes the Mary’s followed in the distance, they wanted to see what was happening. Mark doesn’t tell us anymore, but Luke 23:56 says “They returned to their homes and prepared their own spices.” They weren’t going to be outdone by a couple of strangers. They wanted to have their moment to show their love to the body of Jesus.
- Bridge –But they couldn’t come back on the Sabbath. They could only come back on Sunday. And, boy, were they in for a surprise when they arrived. However, until then, please notice the gems in Christ’s actual crucifixion.
- A thief saved on the cross was saved. Some Roman soldiers saved. Joseph, a Sanhedrin member, whole heartedly believed. Nicodemus, who was afraid and original came to Jesus at night, risked his position as he prepared Christ’s body.
- It is so unexpected, but that’s the power of the Gospel, the Lord saves whom He saves. And He can save those whom you least expect. So as you consider the crucifixion, death & burial; consider the effective work of Christ – there truly is salvation in Him alone!