The Cross of Christ
Introduction: Review & Pivotal Moment.
We set out 3 weeks ago to begin a journey of exploring the exclusive claims of the Christian faith. Every religious and non-religious make exclusive claims, therefore to give a religion a fair hearing means we need to examine those exclusive claims. If someone wants to truly examine the exclusive claims of Christianity then we must start with Jesus Christ, so we have been exploring the Gospel of Mark.
In week one we looked at the authority of Jesus Christ. Week two was on how Jesus’ authority is coupled with His deep loving care. Then in week three we saw how the rugged, sacrificial grace of God was put on display through Jesus Christ.
Before I get into what this week’s message I what to ask a question. What would you say is the most pivotal moment in history? Perhaps for the atheistic scientific mind one might say the day those cells came together and formed the universe. For the Muslim it might be the day the prophet Muhammad came out of the cave of Hira with his first revelation from Allah. It might be something tragic like the 911 terrorist attacks. Or perhaps it is a personal event like your wedding day, the day you finally got the job you worked so hard for, or the birth of a child. Well, for every Christian the most pivotal moment in world history, and personal history, is the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today will be only examining the Cross of Christ. I would summarize the meaning of this message on the Cross as such…
Theme: The Cross of Christ demands we live radically different.
1. The Depression of the Darkness—Mark 15.33-34; cf. 11.18; 14.1-2.
Historically Christians have celebrated the week leading up to Easter as Holy Week. It is hard to imagine, but Mark 11-16 was the first Holy Week.
The religious leaders during Jesus’ time had the biggest problems with Him. They knew his teaching, influence, popularity, and power was undermining their hold over the Jewish people. They were steadily trying to find ways to discredit Him. Mark 11.18 tells us, “And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.” We also see in Mark 14 something similar:
It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”—Mark 14.1-2
All their dark scheming comes together in Mark 15. But they circumvented the Mosaic Law to make sure they can take Jesus out quickly and quietly. Dr. Daniel Akin says:
In the case of our Savior, not only was life unfair; His final hours were unjust and illegal…It is difficult to count up all the violations of Jewish law. For example, in capital cases like Jesus’, trials at night were forbidden…a charge of blasphemy could not be sustained unless the defendant cursed God’s name, and then the penalty was to be death by stoning, not crucifixion. In Jesus’ case no formal meeting of the Sanhedrin ever took place in the temple…which was the proper location for a trial. Nor was Jesus provided or even offered a defense attorney.—Akin, p. 338
But not only were these times dark because Jesus’ enemies are closing in, but they were also depressing. In Mark 14 Jesus shares the final meal with His closet friends, and tells them one will betray Him and all will abandon Him. He tells His strongest willed friend (Peter) he will deny he even knows Jesus 3 times. When Mark writes, “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,” (Mark 15.33) this description is literal and symbolic. It is literal because it really happened, but it is symbolic because of what darkness means all throughout the Bible.
When we go back to Genesis 1 the earth is described as, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep” (Gen 1.2). Darkness is a symbol of chaos, disorder, and separation from God. Darkness feels like rejection, extreme loneliness, or disconnectedness. Ask anyone who has felt the supreme heavy weight of depression will tell you depression feels chaotic, lonely and dark. As someone who has had those dark seasons of the soul I can testify to the truth of this. The writer of Isaiah gives us such a detailed description of Jesus’ depression and death. Isaiah 52.14 tells us Jesus would be so “marred” that He was unrecognizable. The person who is struggling with depression can feel like this, and seen like this to others. The darkness Jesus is experiencing is the worst depression any human soul has every experienced. Let me explain why I think it is the worst.
2. The Devastation of the Death—Mark 15.21-37.
If you have ever faced extreme physical pain then you it takes a toll on your soul and others around you. You are not just suffering physically, but emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. There are countless works written on the severity of the physical torture Jesus endured in the events leading up to the Cross, and during His crucifixion. What I want to focus on is the devastation Jesus faced that those who are Christians will never have to face. Once again Dr. Akin is helpful:
“Jesus endured our condemnation and bears the full wrath of God on our behalf. The ‘cup’ of the cross is not primarily physical suffering: it is spiritual suffering. Jesus was not a martyr on the cross; He was a Savior who experienced divine wrath and satisfied the holiness and justice of God.”—Akin, p. 351
We must never forget what the Cross of Christ symbolizes. The Cross of Christ is best encapsulated by Mark 15.34, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The worst thing God can do is give us over to ourselves. Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that the wrath is fully on display when He gives over to own passions—“If you don’t want me have it your way” (Rom 1.18-26). The hard thing for Christ is He never wanted to be separated from the perfect joyful harmonious relationship with the Father and Spirit. No, Jesus endured this for people like you and me. Jesus is willing to be cast out from the perfect loving community of the Trinity so we don’t have to be. In a very real sense is going through hell for us—that is the devastation of His death.
3. The Demand of the Destruction—Mark 15.38-41.
In this final section of Mark 15 we see some really significant things happening after Jesus breathes His last breath. The first is found in verse 38—READ Mark 15.38. What does this mean? In the Temple there was a place called the “holy of holies.” It was the most sacred place in the entire Temple—the place where the presence of God would dwell. Only one priest could enter, and essentially had to be sinless. In fact, tradition tells us these priest would have a rope tied around their ankle just in case they died and they had to drag him out. For the curtain to be torn down meant the sin keeping us from God’s presence has been removed. We can now come into the presence of God without dropping dead.
The second significant thing is found in verse 39—READ Mark 15.39. A Gentile proclaims what Mark set out to prove in Mark 1.1. What this demonstrates to us is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. The wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile has been destroyed. All the nations are beginning to blessed. People from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation are going to celebrate who Jesus Christ is and what He has down.
The final significant piece is found in verse 40-41—READ Mark 15.40-41. I think this is something significant because in the ancient world women did not have much a place. But here we see women persevering and boldly following after Christ when most of the men abandoned Him. It will be women who are the first to see the resurrected Christ and proclaim the full Gospel to others. What we see here is another worldly concept being destroyed.
If we are beginning to see things like this being destroyed then this demands that we live different. For those who follow after Christ we all have been called to be priest. We regularly stand in the presence of God pleading on behalf of others. No longer are we separated by races, but the Gospel is for all. In the church we should have space for the marginalized to flourish in our communities like the women did during Jesus’ time. This demand calls us to die with Cross. Because here’s the thing friends, if we really do things like this people will not like it. Therefore, Christ’s Cross is a call or demands we come and die with Him.