Jesus is Crucified
March 17, 2021 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Midweek Lent 2021: The Passion According to St. Mark
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 15:21–15:32
Midweek Lenten Worship
March 17, 2021
“Jesus is Crucified”
And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
Many historians and scholars agree that “death by crucifixion was one of the cruelest and most degrading forms of punishment ever conceived by human perversity, even in the eyes of the pagan world” (The Gospel According to Mark, by William L. Lane. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974; pp. 561). The noted Jewish-Roman historian, Josephus, “described it as ‘the most wretched of all ways of dying’” (Ibid). Within the confines of polite Roman society, the topic of crucifixion was not even to be mentioned because it was so horrible. The famous Roman statesman, scholar, and lawyer, Cicero (106 – 43 B.C.), wrote: “Even the mere word, cross, must remain far not only from the lips of the citizens of Rome, but also from their thoughts, their eyes, their ears” (Ibid, quoting Cicero, Pro Rabirio V.16). We still carry vestiges of this into our own day in the English language with the word “excruciating,” which means to be in intense pain or agony, to the point of being unbearable. “Excruciating” comes from the Latin root word, cruciare, meaning to crucify. Our Lenten journey this evening takes us to the crucifixion of Jesus.
So weakened was Jesus by his scourging, that he was unable to carry the heavy crossbeam through the streets of Jerusalem to the place of execution outside the city walls. A bystander was forced by the execution squad to carry this for Jesus and he is named: Simon of Cyrene. Cyrene was an ancient Greco-Roman city in north Africa on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It would be located in the present-day nation of Libya. We know nothing of Simon except that he is mentioned here as the father of Alexander and Rufus. At the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans (16:13), the apostle extends greetings to a certain Rufus, who may or may not be this same person. The actual place of execution remains a topic of discussion among scholars, but ancient tradition holds that the place of Jesus’ crucifixion was in what is now the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. In first-century times, this would have been “outside the northern, or so-called second wall” of the city (Ibid, p. 563). The “Place of the Skull,” or Golgotha in Aramaic, speaks of a bare, rocky area. The word, Calvary, has come down to us today as this same place. The origins of this are from the Latin, Calvaria, based on calva, meaning skull.
It is reported that “respected women of Jerusalem provided a narcotic drink to those condemned to death in order to decrease their sensitivity to the excruciating pain” (Ibid, p. 564). Myrrh was one of the plants used to make such a drink, but Scripture records that when offered this, Jesus refused it, choosing instead to suffer in full awareness everything that was appointed for him to endure. And being thus nailed to the cross, suffering pain that defies description, Jesus fulfilled what was written of him by the prophet Isaiah: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace; and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Can we even begin to comprehend all that Jesus has done for us? All that he endured for us? Our thankless hearts of stone should melt in humble and true repentance at the tremendous price Jesus paid for our salvation.
Crucified between the two criminals, the charge of political subversion “(“The King of the Jews”) hanging above his head, Jesus is suspended between heaven and earth while bystanders and onlookers ridicule him. “Wagging their heads” (Mark 15:29) hearkens back to the righteous sufferer who is reviled in the Psalms (Psalm 22:7; 109:25); who endured mockers wagging their heads at him in the midst of his suffering. Abuse is heaped on Jesus in the midst of his helpless vulnerability there on the cross: “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” (Mark 15:29-30; see John 2:19). And the religious leaders join in saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:31-32). And they almost got it right – almost. It’s not “he cannot save himself,” but “he will not save himself.” Jesus chose not to save himself, so that he could save you and me instead. Jesus endured the agony of the cross so that we might know the joy of forgiveness, life, and salvation through his sacrificial offering. All this, Jesus has done for you and for me. A thousand lifetimes could never repay the debt of gratitude that we owe to our suffering Savior Jesus Christ.
Join us for Midweek Lenten worship next Wednesday evening when we will hear of Jesus’ death (Mark 15:33-41). May the Lord who has begun this good work among us bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Amen.