Crucifixion of Jesus (Mark 15:21-32): The Climax of the Upside down Theology of Jesus
The events described in versus Mark 15:21-32 are well known to all of us. We have probably heard many sermons on these verses in the past.
Today I would like us to focus not on the events itself, but the message that the events bring to us. If you look at Jesus’ life and teachings you will see that his teachings are not in conformity with the worldly teachings. His teachings are paradoxical. He taught that in giving is receiving, in weakness is strength, in poverty is richness, in death is life, first shall be last, love those who hate you, rejoice in pain and persecution, etc. Jesus starts his journey to the cross with the demonstration of his upside down servant leadership theory, to lead you have to serve.
When you look at the cross, and understand the passage that we are studying now, we can continue to see the paradoxes. That is why I have titled the message as “the Climax of the upside down theology of Jesus”.
Let us look at some of the paradoxes that Jesus’ crucifixion highlights.
Strength in weakness V 22-23: I want you to picture this. Jesus has been under torture for some time by now. He is badly bruised, he is wearing a crown of thorns, his cloths are soaked in blood, he is tired, his eyes are swollen, his face is completely disfigured. This is no heroic pose, this is not how superheroes face death. This is utterly human. This is how a common man would face death after some long torture. Jesus is openly exhibiting his weakness as a human being here. But this weakness is a willing weakness, because he is willingly doing this. And that is his strength. That is why he is able to refuse the drink of the painkiller that is offered to him. He turns this to his strength because he was resolved to taste the death and the punishment at its bitterest, so that he could completely drink and drain the cup that was His fathers will.
Glory out of Shame and Clothing out of Nakedness V 24-25: As I explained in my last sermon on the power of the cross, let us remember that Romans reserved the cross and crucifixion for criminals and slaves. It was the most excruciating method of execution that was used. This form of punishment was chosen for Jesus to make sure that the shame is complete. And to make matters worse, the only possession he had, his clothes were also taken away and gambled for. The shame was complete. But in doing this Jesus made the Cross his own. He made the cross into a glorious symbol of eternal life. The man who did not own anything owned the cross, and made it his own, and thus we can sit today under the shadow of the cross and be glad that he was there to convert the cross from a symbol of shame to a symbol of glory (Phil 2:8-11)
Testimony out of Mockery V 26-32: We see three groups of people mocking Jesus in these versus. Let us take Pilate first. He mocks him and hangs the words “The King of the Jews” above him. It was done to mock him, no doubt, but what a testimony it turned out to be. He turned out to be the true King of not only Jews but of the whole world. The second group that mocked him were the angry, hate-filled, hostile mob. They mocked him quoting his own prediction of destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days. They concluded that he was utterly powerless to save his life, let alone rebuild anything. How wrong they were!! Their mockery turned into prophecy. When he gave up his life on the cross, he did destroy the manmade temple, he did tear down the curtain between common men and the holy of holies. And in three days he did rebuild the temple, through his own resurrected body. The third group that mocked Jesus was of course the chief priests, his bitterest enemies. They mocked him by saying, he saved others but cannot save himself. Are we not glad that their mockery was right, are we not glad that he did not think of saving himself, but thought only of saving us through that act? That mockery became the gospel truth.
Then there is last paradox, (which by the way appears first in the text at V21; a case of first becoming last): This is where Loyalty comes from Anonymity. An unknown man, a tourist who had no idea of what is going on here, is forced to carry the cross of Christ. When Jesus needed that human help, it was not the boasting disciples who were at hand, it was not Peter or John who was available at hand, it was not James , who wanted the first place who was there, it was an unknown man by the name of Simon of Cyrene. And what a privilege it turned out to be for Simon!
So here is the message that I would like us to go back with, this morning, based on these paradoxical, upside down message that come from the cross. Jesus does not need us, yet he needs us. He can feed the multitude, yet he needs the little boy with his five loaves and two fish. He can present himself as King, and yet he needs a donkey to present himself on. He can die carrying the sins of the world, yet he needs someone to carry the cross for him. He can save the world, yet he needs you and me to spread the gospel message of forgiveness, love, hope and eternal life.
I don’t know in what stage your relationship is with Jesus Christ this morning. Some of you might be already trusting in him completely. Some of you might be having doubts and still asking questions. Some of you may be here for other reasons. It does not matter. It is a good day to accept him completely as your personal savior and be available and willing to carry his cross, and the upside down message of the cross to others. Make a commitment today to Jesus. This is Good Friday. Make it Good for you and for the world!!