So Mark chapter 15, and we're beginning to read at verse 21, and we'll read down to the end of the chapter now: "Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross. And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take. Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS. With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'And He was numbered with the transgressors'. And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, 'Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!'. Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, 'He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe'. Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him. Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' which is translated, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'. Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, 'Look, He is calling for Elijah!'. Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, 'Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down'. And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, 'Truly this Man was the Son of God!'. There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem. Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid".
Could we pray for a moment? I have been asking you on each occasion, as we bow in prayer before coming to the word of God, to bring your heart to the Lord - to come and ask Him to minister to your need, whatever that may be. I don't know, He knows and you know, or maybe you don't even know yourself - but you know you have need, and every one of us have some sort of a need. So why not come to the Lord now, and say: 'Lord, here I am' - why not pray this prayer? - 'I really want to see Jesus. I really want to have a revelation of His glory and His Majesty'. There's no better place to see that, really, than the cross and the resurrection - for the Lord, even when He prayed to His Heavenly Father, before He went to the cross, He said: 'Glorify Me'. This was His glorious hour.
Father, Abba Father, we come to You now in that name which is above every name, the matchless name of Jesus, the Lord and the Christ. Lord, we have been so blessed walking with Him in His last week of life on earth. Lord, we pray that we will not for one second take for granted the sights that we have gazed at, the sounds we have listened to, the taste of the bread and the wine. Lord, give us spiritual eyes to see even deeper tonight, to really understand what went on at that centre cross on Golgotha's hill. I pray for any unbelievers in this place tonight, that this would be the night when they would have a revelation of Jesus to their soul, given by the Spirit. We ask that the Holy Spirit, who would take of the things of Christ and show them to us, would do His work now - glorifying Jesus, shining the spotlight on Jesus. As we gaze upon Him, may the Holy Dove come down, for His glory we pray, Amen.
Now maybe this is your first night - it's unfortunate you should come really at the last night, but we're glad to see you nevertheless - but we have been following 'The Final Countdown to Calvary', the last week in the life of our Lord Jesus. Now I'll not recap all the days, as I have been doing, save to say that: traditionally speaking we have reached Friday, we have known it as 'Good Friday'. But having said that, and I have left this to the last night just to shoot it across your bow, there is a great debate over this final week of the life of the Lord, over the days of the week - particularly understanding how there are three days, and what is often said 'three days and three nights', just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale, so would the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights, the Scripture says. Scholars, for ages, have tried to work out how you get three days and three nights between Friday and Sunday. Now, I have deliberately avoided this: one, because I'm not sure myself; and two - I have my thoughts on it mind you, but I wouldn't be dogmatic on it just yet - but two, particularly because I think you really miss the wood for the trees if you get bogged down in all that detail. Therefore I felt it was more necessary to concentrate on the subject matter, rather than the chronology, rather than the timescale.
The subject matter of this last week could be best summarised in the words of Jesus in John 17 and verse 4, in His High Priestly prayer, as we have come to know it. He said to His Father: 'I have glorified You on the earth, I have finished the work which You have given me to do'. That's what this last week was all about, that's why Mark - Mark's gospel is the gospel of the cross - he uses this disproportionate amount of his gospel, in comparison to the life of the Lord Jesus, to describe His walk to Calvary, the last week of His life - why? Because this was the work the Servant of Jehovah had come into the world to do, this was the reason He came to this earth - and, praise God, we can triumphantly proclaim tonight: He finished the work that God gave Him to do! Can I ask you tonight, believer: will you be able to say that at the end of your days? Whether you're like David's friend, who is 96, or whether you go early in life, will you be able to say: 'I finished the work that God gave me to do on this earth'? There's not many people can say that, primarily because some of them don't even know, even believers, what the work is that God has them here for - do you? Well, find it out, and do it with all your might - that you can say: 'I have finished the work'.
Cecil Rhodes devoted his life to the British expansion in South Africa, and he also made his fortune out of diamonds. He was not yet 50 years of age when he died, and his last words were these: 'So little done, so much to do'. So little done, so much to do - will you say that? Will I? Isn't it wonderful that Jesus cried: 'Tetelestai! It is finished! I have finished the work that You give me to do!'.
So we're going to see this finished work tonight. Having been betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He is taken - we saw this morning - to face the Sanhedrin in trial. Then He moves from three trials, really, before the Jewish religious bodies, on to the Roman Imperial authorities. He faces Pilate, and then Pilate sends Him to Herod Antipas, and then Herod Antipas sends Him back to Pilate again, and Pilate sentences Him to crucifixion. We see Him in verse 20, we read it this morning, 'And they led Him out to crucify Him'. Now, traditionally, the victims of crucifixion had to bear the cross-bar of the cross. We have often seen the films and the portraits of Christ with the cross over His shoulder, but that may not be accurate. What they did was they put the cross-bar, that great beam of wood which was about 75-125 pounds, they strapped it and tied it with ropes to the arms of the victim. The upright of the cross, and all the uprights of crucifixion, were permanently fixed in the ground in visible places around the outside of the city walls of Jerusalem. Now this is a remarkable thought: it must have been the case, it just must have been, that many, many times Jesus passed those upright crosses - knowing in His heart that one day He would hang there.
In verses 20 and 21 we see that Jesus must have been very weak. This morning we saw Him being scourged, and the purpose of scourging was to weaken the victim in order that they would not last too long on the cross. However, the Romans wanted to keep the victim alive long enough for it to be a good advertisement for Roman justice. Any would-be rebels, as they walked by a cross and saw a man hanging on it, dying his last, what a warning not to transgress the Imperial laws! Now, for that reason, though Jesus must have been very weak, they implored Simon of Cyrene to take His cross. Cyrene was a Greek colony in the north of Africa. Some surmise that Simon may have been black, he might have been, he may have also been a Hellenistic Jew, he may have been Greek - certainly he was more than likely a Jew, being in Jerusalem at Passover. More than likely, coming from Cyrene in North Africa, he wouldn't have known who Jesus was - and all of a sudden he is accosted by a Roman soldier, and made to carry the cross-beam of this crucifix.
Now, I imagine Simon initially would have resisted and resented this humiliation. Yet I believe that in later life, I don't know how long, this would become one of the most precious moments for Simon of Cyrene in the whole of his life, when he eventually learned the significance of the cross of Jesus and the good news of the gospel story. Now, you say: 'You're reading a lot into Simon of Cyrene' - well, I'm not, look at verse 21: 'Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross'. The Holy Spirit does not put superfluous information into the word of God, He puts things in there for our attention. Why on earth would we be interested that this stranger to us, up until now, Simon of Cyrene, is the father of Alexander and Rufus - and who are they? Well, they certainly must have been known to the early church in Rome, to whom Mark was writing this gospel. In all likelihood, when you turn - you don't need to do it tonight - to Romans, the Epistle to the Roman Church, chapter 16 and verse 13, we read of a Rufus there - and more than likely this is the same Rufus. So it seems that initially here Simon the Cyrenian was compelled to take the cross of Jesus, but later in his life he chose - he chose - to take up the cross and follow Christ.
Probably his sons followed him in that direction, and they may well have become leaders in the early church of Rome - but it seems obvious that Simon became a well-known Christian. Maybe you're here tonight and the cross of Jesus means nothing to you. Maybe it is a source of humiliation to you, you resist it and you resent it - and preaching that you're hearing tonight even grates against your grain. But can I say to you tonight: if you could encounter the real Jesus Christ, and you could really understand in your mind and heart the wonderful good news of what He accomplished for us on that centre tree, your life would be changed just like Simon's - transformed, revolutionised, and even your family would be turned upside down for Christ!
Well, while Simon Peter - we saw this this morning - who boasted that he would even go to his death following Jesus, while he had forsaken Him and was warming himself by the fires of the world with Christ-beaters, Simon of Cyrene, a stranger to Jesus who didn't even know Him, carried His cross. That must have been a rebuke to Peter, do you not think? But you know, Simon carrying the cross speaks to all of us of all of us. You see, Simon, really, is a representation of everyone. What I mean by that is simply that we are all guilty. Jesus was not guilty, He did no sin, He knew no sin, He was separate from sinners, He had no sin - but it's almost, as Jesus walks the Via Dolorosa, that we get a flash of reality here and the Holy Spirit breaks in and shows us: 'Look for a moment, this is the way it ought to have been, a sinner carrying the cross - not the spotless Saviour carrying the cross'. Let's be honest: all of us should have been carrying that cross.
In verse 22 we read: 'And they brought Him to the place Golgotha'. Now please note the difference, look at verse 20, it says first of all: 'They put His own clothes on Him', after scourging Him, 'and they led Him out to crucify Him' - they led Him out, He walked out of the Praetorium Himself. But now in verse 22: 'They brought Him'. It appears now that He can hardly walk, and they have to bear Him to Golgotha, the Place of a Skull. 'Golgotha' is an Aramaic word meaning 'Skull', the Latin name for this place is 'Calvary', and perhaps it was called 'The Place of a Skull' because of executions - some secular historians tell us that it was a place littered with the skulls of men. Some people believe it was called 'The Place of a Skull' because of the shape of the hill, and for that reason some think that Gordon's Calvary is the true Calvary - and there's a great debate about where that place actually is. But wherever the spot is, one thing is absolutely sure: it was a place outside the city walls, which spoke of a place of rejection. Hebrews testifies to this: 'Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach'.
Wherever the place was, Golgotha, there they took Him and they crucified Him. Verse 23 says: 'Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it'. Now tradition tells us that some respected women of Jerusalem provided a narcotic drink for people who were condemned to death by crucifixion. It was a sort of charitable, benevolent act. This was a drug to dull the pain, the excruciating pain of crucifixion. Now we have a precedent to this, at least in principle, in the book of Proverbs. We read there, Proverbs 31:6-7: 'Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more'. So this was given to the victim of crucifixion for anaesthetic purposes, but Jesus refused - look at the verse - He did not drink it. He refused a pain-dulling anaesthetic. Why? Now, please, this is remarkable, let it sink in: our Lord was determined, absolutely determined, to bear our sin in full consciousness. He wanted to feel it all. His faculties, hanging on that cross, must be unclouded. Someone put it like this: 'He refused the cup of sympathy, that He might drink the cup of iniquity'. He had to know everything that it was to bear our sins in His own body on the tree. That should mean something. It should mean everything.
When you think about it, and you understand what happened when He rose again and He ascended to heaven forty days later, and the book of Hebrews tells us all about His High Priestly ministry, that He has been made a perfect and merciful High Priest who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities because He was tested in all points as we are, apart from sin - how could He be a perfect, merciful High Priest if He shirked the sufferings of Calvary by taking anaesthetic? No! He bore it all! Wonderful!
In verse 24 we read that: 'They divided His garments', in fulfilment of Psalm 22 and verse 18, 'casting lots for them to determine what every man should take' - and He was naked. Perhaps, being sensitive to Jewish sensibilities, they allowed Him a loincloth, we don't know - but imagine, the One who clothed the universe stripped bare and hanging on a cross. In verse 25 they said it was the third hour when they crucified Him. What does it mean to be crucified? Well, this was a method of execution that wasn't invented by the Romans, but it was popularised by them as a method of putting criminals to death. There was the scourging - Isaiah says His back was like a ploughed field. There were the nails, square, rusty Roman nails hammered through, most likely, the wrists - we read in Psalm 22: 'They pierced my hands and my feet'. Then, as those nails went in, the nerves were severed and there was a searing pain that went throughout the whole body. As the victim hung on the cross, bones were disjointed. The victim could die of various effects of crucifixion: massive blood loss, acute shock, dehydration in the Mediterranean sun, and even suffocation as they have to keep heaving themselves, pushing themselves against the nails in their feet, to get a breath. All of those could cause death. What a death crucifixion was. We get our English word 'excruciating' from the Roman term 'out of the cross'.
Mark's readers were familiar with crucifixion, that's why he doesn't go into an awful lot of detail here, they would have seen it on a regular basis. But I believe there is another reason why Mark, and indeed all the gospel writers, do not go into too much grotesque deaths in describing this most heinous and horrific of deaths. Simply because the Holy Spirit, God's Spirit who inspired these pages, was not concerned in giving us a blow-by-blow analysis of the death of the Lord Jesus, what He wanted to do was cause us to look beyond the physical and see the spiritual significance of why Jesus died this death. But let me say in passing, understanding a little bit of what crucifixion means, how heinous sin must be in God's eyes to require such a sacrifice of His Son.
In verse 25 we read that it was the third hour, that's nine o'clock our time, and in verse 26 we read that, as was the practice - victims often wore placards around their necks, perhaps indicating the crime for which they were paying - well, Pilate himself, or at least he gave the order for the sign to be written and placed on the cross above Jesus' head: 'THE KING OF THE JEWS'. Now, Mark does not give us the full quotation, we read it from the other Gospels: 'This is Jesus of Nazareth, THE KING OF THE JEWS' - and it was written, we are told, in Hebrew, and in Latin, and in Greek.
Then in verses 27 through to 32 He is ridiculed again, let's read it: 'With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'And He was numbered with the transgressors'' - a fulfilment of Isaiah 53 and verse 12, associated with criminals in His death. Then we read: 'Those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, 'Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!''. Now I want you to notice that term in verse 29, 'those who passed by'. Passers-by in Jerusalem at Passover season were more than likely Jews who had come from all over the empire to worship the Lord at Passover season in the holy city. Here they are in the holy city to slay the lamb, to celebrate God's deliverance, and they are passing by mocking God's Paschal Lamb, the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. In verse 29, again they misquote Him saying that He claimed He would destroy the Temple and build it in three days - He didn't, He was talking about His body, and we saw that this morning from John chapter 2 and verse 19. But what is most staggering to me is verse 31: 'Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, 'He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe'. Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him'.
It says in verse 31 that the chief priests and the scribes, they mocked Him. Now understand the import of this: they were not just satisfied in driving Him to His death through an illegal trial, breaking all their own laws to do it, getting a traitor and an insurrectionist, Barabbas, released in the place of the Prince of Peace - that did not satisfy them. They had to follow Him all the way to Golgotha, how they must have hated Him! Not content just to drive Him to His death, they went out to Golgotha to mock Him! They mocked Him as prophet, verse 29, 'You said You'd destroy the Temple, and in three days You'd raise it again' - they mocked Him as prophet. They mocked Him as Saviour, verse 31; 'He saved others; Himself He cannot save'. They mocked Him as King in verse 32: 'Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross'. But as Christians, we believe that it's precisely because He did not descend from the cross that we have believed in Him, we have trusted Him, we have staked all upon Him because He didn't come down! He could have come down. He could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set Him free, but He didn't come down because He loved us - but He did something far greater than coming down: He died and He rose again!
In one sense, the statement in verse 31 of the chief priests and the scribes was true: 'He saved others; Himself He cannot save'. He couldn't have saved anybody if He had saved Himself. That's not how they meant it, but it's a lovely way for us, who are saved now, because of His death and resurrection, to look upon it. If He had saved Himself, we could never have been saved. We read at the end of verse 32 that even the thieves who were crucified with Him reviled Him. But you know, it's wonderful - and Psalm 76 verse 10 tells us this - that God is able to make even the wrath of men to praise Him! And He did, because you know from the other Gospels, don't you, that one of these thieves who was mocking Him repented and believed, and Jesus turned to Him in His great grace and said: 'Today you will be with Me in Paradise'.
But more than even that, we read in Acts chapter 6 and verse 7, listen to this - the early church, after the ascension of the resurrected Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we read: 'The word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith'. A great many of the priests, these priests, believed in Jesus! I wonder were any of them those who vocally mocked Him - I don't know, but isn't God's grace great, isn't it? To save a thief who ridiculed the dying Lamb of God, to save religious hypocrites who were party to the crucifixion of His own Son, God is so great in His mercy and His grace, His lovingkindness. There is nothing like the grace of God, it is greater, insurmountably, eternally greater than all our sin - and what an example of this grace these characters are! A thief, and chief priests, mocking Jesus: 'He saved others; Himself He cannot save' - and that means this: you're not too hard for God tonight. Your sin is not too great for Him to forgive. Praise God, Jesus says: 'All manner of sin and blasphemy may be forgiven of men' - all! I love that word 'all'! We know now that the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin. I say to you tonight - I might never preach to you again, I might never meet you on this earth again - I say to you, whatever your sin is, get it cleansed in the blood of Christ this very evening, for it can cleanse you!
Verse 33: 'When the sixth hour had come', the sixth hour in our time is twelve noon, 'there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour', that's three in the afternoon. A darkness shrouded the whole land, it was just like a shroud for the dying Son of God. Ancient historians record an eclipse of the sun, several of them do, at this very time - but this was not a mere eclipse, this was a miracle. Here's the reason why we know this: because at Passover there was a full moon, and an eclipse of the sun is impossible when there is a full moon. This was God darkening out the sun, and I'm sure it reminded some of these religious Jews of the first Passover they were celebrating at this Passover season. During the ninth plague there was a three-day darkness that came upon all the land of Egypt - and do you know what followed that three-day darkness? The last plague: the death of the firstborn. God was shrouding the land in darkness, because His Firstborn Son, the Paschal, Passover Lamb of God, was giving up His life for sinners. The earth became black in mourning for her Creator's suffering. In those three hours of darkness, between noon and three in the afternoon, Jesus was bearing the full judgement of God against our sin.
Do you know that that's what the cross is? He was drinking the cup, we saw last Sunday night in Gethsemane what that cup was - it was the wrath of God against our sin, and no mortal mind can understand what happened when He was made sin for us. We read here in verse 34: 'And at the ninth hour', after those three hours of a divine transaction between God and Jesus, 'Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' which is translated, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?''. Now those words are Aramaic, the spoken language of the Jews during Jesus' day. Now Jesus was quoting from Psalm 22 and verse 1, showing that He was fulfilling this prophetic Psalm in all of its minutiae. You read that Psalm, Psalm 22, the agony of Calvary and even the triumph of it.
We know from the other gospel writers that there were seven cries from the cross in total, but Jesus, we read in Mark, cried this out: 'Why have You forsaken Me?'. He had suffered so much mentally, emotionally, physically, but now what we are touching on in these three hours of darkness makes those other sufferings pale into insignificance: this was the spiritual suffering of Jesus. Now I want to just slow down here for a moment, lest anyone not be aware that we are on the holiest ground of all here when we witness Christ crying: 'Why have You forsaken Me?' - 'tis mystery all. I don't believe that you can fully understand this cry, I certainly can't. I have to say I have heard some disturbing and inadequate explanations of what went on when Jesus was forsaken. I'll just warn you, and I warn myself in saying this: we do well to say what Scripture says and say nothing more and nothing less. Some of the greatest names that have ever been have been completely bamboozled with this statement. Luther, who was no mean intellect, said: 'God forsaking God, who can understand it?'.
It doesn't require our speculation, what it requires is our wonder and our worship. What we do know is that for our sakes, Christ in some way was forsaken of God that we might never be forsaken of God. That, surely, is enough: that during those three hours He was bearing our sin. We read it last week in 2 Corinthians 5:21: He was being made sin for us, He was being treated as if He were the sinner. Galatians chapter 3:13: He was being made a curse for us, because of the broken law we incurred a curse, but He was taking our place and taking the curse for us. It was in those senses that He was forsaken of God in that - being made sin, being cursed - in that He was being forsaken of God by bearing God's wrath. Isaiah prophesied it hundreds of years before the event: 'He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The punishment for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; but the LORD', Jehovah, 'laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You made His soul an offering for sin' - there it is! He's the sin offering, He's exhausting and enduring the wrath of the eternal God in our place. He's assuming the place of the sin bearer before the Holy Judge of heaven.
Maybe you're not understanding what this means, but let me explain it this way, and surely this should make sense. Stay with me now: whatever it means for every soul that has ever lived to suffer an eternal hell of God's wrath, that was compressed into three hours of darkness at Golgotha and laid upon Jesus. He was paying the penalty for identifying with you and identifying with me. That's why He was baptised, you know, not because He had any sin, but He wanted to identify with our sin - and He had a baptism at the cross in the wrath of God that He had to be baptised with, and that's why He went to Calvary.
Yet again, as He cries 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?', they misunderstand Him as crying out for Elijah. Then in verse 37 we read: 'Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last'. Can I say to you: Jesus was not murdered. Well, on a human level murder was involved, but Jesus was not killed - oh yes, they put Him to death, the Bible even describes men as having slew Him - but what you've got to see is past all the physical realm of crucifixion to understand that Jesus was the willing Lamb of God, that's why He come into the world. He went there Himself. We read a sign of this in verse 37: 'He cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last'. Luke put it like this in Luke 23: 'When Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, 'Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit'. Having said this, He breathed His last'. He committed His Spirit to God first, and then He breathed His last. John, in John 19:30, put it like this: 'When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!'. And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit'. He cried out with a loud voice: 'Tetelestai! It is finished!', which literally means in ancient Greek 'Paid in full!' - the cry of a winner!
But note: when any of us die, we will die and then we will bow our head - isn't that right? We will die, the life will go from us, and then our head will fall - but He bowed his head, in absolute control, and gave up the ghost. There was no involuntary collapse here, do you understand? We've seen this in the whole last week of the life of the Lord: He is orchestrating it, He is moving, God is in this, for God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself! God is doing all this, it's for God to be reconciled to us - and Calvary, though it is for us, it is primarily for God so that He can turn round to sinners with open arms and say: 'Be reconciled to Me, for I am I reconciled to you!'. Oh, it's wonderful!
He had done what He came to do, and I love this bit: when He cried, 'Finished!', He did not hang on on the cross needlessly. It was time to go! He did what He came to do. Augustine said: 'He give up His life because He willed it, when He willed it, and as He willed it'. Jesus said: 'No man takes My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself, and I take it again'. Now two remarkable things happened when He died. We read in Matthew 27 that there was a great earthquake, Mark doesn't record that, but he does record in verse 38: 'The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom'. Now that's significant, it wasn't torn from the bottom to the top - this wasn't man's doing - it was from the top to the bottom. This was a curtain that ordinary men couldn't have torn, it was so strong - but God tore it, and showed it was Him by tearing it from the top right to the bottom, to show that there is now a new and living way via the blood of Jesus into the Holiest Place of All, where we can have intimate fellowship face-to-face with the living God through the living Christ because of Calvary. There was a new era of nearness to God that had never ever been, and will never be surpassed. If you want to read more about that, read Hebrews 10.
Then in verse 39, a wonderful testimony - and wouldn't this have meant so much to Romans reading this epistle? Incidentally, if you look at centurions in the word of God they are often, if not always, seen in a positive light - noble men. Verse 39: 'When the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, 'Truly this Man was the Son of God!'' - that would have put him against the Romans, and it would have put him against the Jews, but this man who had seen perhaps hundreds and even thousands of men die of crucifixion saw that this Man was different. This Man was unique, this Man was the Son of the Living God! Do you see Him as different tonight? Oh, I hope you do.
Verses 40 and 41, women be encouraged tonight for the women often outshine the men: 'There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem'. When the men were scared for their safety - where were they? Apart from John? They had all disappeared in fear! - the women risked all they had, even their lives, in devotion to Christ. You know it's the same today that's why, I still believe, today that most missionaries are women - and by the way, do you see going around meetings in the last couple of years? I find that the people with the most inquisitive spiritual questions - and, I have to say, spiritual thirst - are women, not the men but the women. It's lovely to think that women were the last at the cross and the first at the tomb.
In verses 42 to 47 we read of the burial of Jesus. Now we'll not go into this in detail, but let me say this: if the Spirit of God had not led Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea to do this with Jesus' body, to take it from Pilate and to bury it in the hewn tomb - probably Joseph's own tomb, for it seemed to be the tomb of a rich man - what they used to do with bodies of criminals, having been executed, is they would have dumped them on rubbish tips. God wouldn't have that, because God would not let His Holy Son see corruption.
Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, we don't read an awful lot about them in the scriptures. They are often called 'secret disciples' - I don't know whether it's a correct and accurate description of them or not, but there were many things that these two men did not do for the Lord Jesus Christ, but be encouraged: they served the Lord here in a way that no one else did. Isn't that lovely? You may not be able to do everything that everyone else does for the Lord, but they were able to do something that no one else did do or could do.
But we cannot end there, can we? It's Friday, but Sunday is coming! Chapter 16, let's just read verses please, verse 1: "Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, 'Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?'. But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away; for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples" - and I love this - "and Peter" - problematic Peter, the Lord wanted to single him out, that He wanted Peter to know that He was risen. Tell the disciples and Peter, and here's what He told them and it wouldn't sink in - you remember a couple of Sundays ago we were studying it: "That He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you'" - they had forgot about it! "So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid".
Do you know something? A dead Saviour can't save anyone - but He lives! He is alive now in the power of an endless life. The resurrection of Jesus is as much a part of the Gospel as the cross. If we didn't have the resurrection the cross would be worthless - but both are the historical basis of our Christian message. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15: 'I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures'. The resurrection proves Christ is who He claimed to be - Romans 1 and verse 4: 'God declared Jesus to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead'. The resurrection was God's full stop, God's period, to the cross! That's why we see in the Acts of the Apostles that, as the early church went out to preach, they give primary place to the preaching of the resurrection: He's alive!
I hope you have seen Him, have you? If you haven't seen Him, if you haven't met Him in a fresh way in these meetings - do you know what? I've failed and wasted my time - now I know only God can truly make you see Him, only God can. You know, all this week I couldn't get a hymn out of my mind. I know I've shared several old hymns with you lately, but here's another one, and it's beautiful. It was written by a German man, Paul Gerhardt, and he translated it from someone else - we don't know who it was. It encapsulates everything that Christ has done for us, and everything He should mean to us. Listen carefully, even close your eyes please, there's only three verses and with this I close. Listen now, and with your mind's eye try to view Golgotha:
'O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish which once was bright as morn!
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners' gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour! 'Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favour, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love for Thee'.
Let us pray. If you have never trusted Christ, it's time you did tonight. If you're far away from Him, it's time to get right close up to Him. Peter is an encouragement to you, and the resurrected Christ speaks to you and says: 'Tell' - put your name there - 'Tell... I'm risen, and if they meet Me at Galilee' - in other words, if they meet Me after their failure - 'I'll meet them' - but you've got to meet Him. I think you've met Him tonight. Deal with Him.
Father, Lord Jesus, what language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend, for this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? Lord, we have a debt that we're not expected to pay back, except in thanks, in wonder and worship, in gratitude, in adoration and praise for what You have done. All You want us to do is accept it, and lavish in it, and enjoy it, and share it with others, and live it out. Oh God, it seems at times we can't even do that! We've been given the most unspeakable, immeasurable gift, and we thank You, Lord Jesus - Lord Jesus, I thank You for dying for me! I thank You for rising for me, and living for me, and ascending for me, and sending the Holy Spirit for me, and one day You're going to come for me! We can all say that: we thank You that we can make it personal, and we can say 'Twas for me, yes all for me'. Lord, if anybody here tonight can't say 'It was for me', may this be the evening, may this be the moment. Lord, if there are Your children here tonight who have lost the personableness of it, the intimacy of it all - may seeing the Lamb freshly slain tonight and risen, now exalted and seated at Your right hand, Father, given a place that is higher than any other place in heaven; may they bow the knee tonight and say, like the doubter: 'My Lord and my God!'. Lord, we thank You for dwelling with us these days, and we thank You for drawing near again tonight. May the fragrance of Your sweet presence not leave us. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered in Ards Evangelical Church, Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifty-sixth recording in his 'Studies In Mark' series, entitled "Golgotha" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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