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The King of the Jews

The King of the Jews
11th August 2013

The King of the Jews

Speaker:
Passage: Mark 15:1 - 47, Isaiah 53:4 - 6

Mark 15
The King of the Jews

What I learned as a child
When I was in school, I wasn’t really into English as a subject, but the bits of English I did like, were the quirky poems I came across. Banjo Patterson’s Mulga Bill’s Bicycle, ‘twas Mulga Bill from Eaglehawk, who caught the cycling craze,
He turned away the good old horse, that served him many days,
I won’t go on, though I could!
There was another one I learnt, written by Spike Milligan, of the Goon Show fame. It was called “My Sister Laura”, and I enjoyed it, because as some of you know, I have a sister named Laura.
It goes like this:
My sister Laura’s bigger than me,
And lifts me up, quite easily,
I can’t lift her, I’ve tried and tried,
She must have something heavy inside!
Needless to say, my older sister Laura was never too pleased when I recited that in public!
But those were some of the words I memorised as a child.
Jesus, devout, obedient Jewish boy that he was, also would have memorised some words as a child,
Not meaningless, mildly amusing poetry, but God’s Word, what we call the Old Testament.
These were words that God had spoken about the day when he would intervene once and for all in human history, to bring an end to the pain and brokenness that flow from sin and rebellion against God.
Words about God’s king, who would deliver his people, by standing in their place,
Jesus died in fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures.
And we find lots of these words, either quoted or referred to in Mark 15,
Words like Amos 8 verse 9 In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
Words like Isaiah 53: 4 – 6 Surely he took up our pain
  and bore our suffering,
  yet we considered him punished by God,
  stricken by him, and afflicted.
 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
  he was crushed for our iniquities;
  the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
  and by his wounds, we are healed
Words like those in Psalm 22
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?,
they pierce g my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
These are the words the boy Jesus would have learned.
Words that Mark points to here in chapter 15, as he demonstrates that Jesus’ died in fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Can you imagine, what it must have been like, for Jesus, to read, and learn, and memorise, the predictions of his death?
To recite these words,
To hear them read in the synagogue,
To teach his disciples, the crowds, these promises from God, all the while knowing exactly how they would be fulfilled.
It’s important that we understand, that Mark sees Jesus’ death as the fulfilment of the Scriptures.
Because in chapter 15, it looks like God has lost control!
Our kids like to listen to a song called Opposites Day. And on opposites day, everything is the opposite of what it’s supposed to be!
Black is white – white is black
Yes means no – no means yes
It’s opposites day, things go the wrong way.
And things look so bad for Jesus in Mark 15, that we might be tempted to think, that just like in the kids’ song, things have gone the wrong way.
Jesus is bound verse 1,
Flogged . verse 15,
Mocked, beaten about the head, spat upon, verse 15,
Crucified between 2 rebels, verse 27, one on his right and one on his left.
Maybe the Muslim author Reza Aslan was right, when he claimed that Jesus was just a failed revolutionary!
It looks like things have gone so badly for Jesus, that one can almost understand the actions of a Kenyan lawyer, who this week is suing Italy, the state of Israel, King Herod and the Emperor Tiberius, in the International Criminal Court, alleging that Jesus was denied justice and executed unfairly!
True story!
But this was God’s plan, and Jesus died in fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Jesus suffers God’s judgment, so we don’t have to
So with that in the back of our minds, to help us make sense of this event, let’s see what else Mark tells us about the cross.
Jump all the way down to verse 33 if you will, At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon
An historian named Thallos, a non-Christian, pagan historian, writing around 20 years after Jesus died, refers to this darkness in one of his history books.
He’s not trying to back up the story of the crucifixion,
He actually refers to the darkness in a way that assumes everybody already knows about it, and so he uses this undisputed event, as a reference point, to talk about other dates and events
For Mark though, it’s not just history. He refers to the darkness because of what it symbolises:, judgment and punishment.
The darkness tells us that Jesus died under God’s judgement.
If you have your Bible there, look at the end of verse 33, and you’ll see a little footnote, referring to one of those passages from the Old Testament we read earlier.
In Amos chapter 8, about 800 years before Jesus, God speaks about a day, when the sun will disappear, as a sign that God’s judgment is being poured out.
In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
The idea of God’s judgement is a little off-putting to some of us, I think.
We often don’t like the idea of judgment,
But if we really stop and think about it, we desperately want and need a God who will judge sin and evil,
A God who will punish people who do wrong.
A grandmother in Callington gets murdered in her home
In the news this week, a convicted South Australian paedophile, breaching his bail conditions, to download child pornography.
We demand justice,
We demand that people are called to account for their actions.
You and I are upset when evil is committed.
Well, God is too.
You and I get angry when those we love are hurt.
God does too.
You and I believe that there must be justice.
God does too.
How could we think that God cares less about evil and suffering than we do?

A God who didn’t punish evil would be no God at all!
Who wants a God who lets the guilty go unpunished?,
Who lets the most violent criminals escape judgment,
Who turns a deaf ear to those crying for justice and relief?
I’m sure you don’t want a God like that.
We need God to judge sin and evil.
And just like in Exodus 10, when darkness falls on the land of Egypt, as a sign of God’s judgment,
Here darkness falls at midday, as a sign of God punishing sin and evil.
In Exodus, the darkness is the last sign, before the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, and the death of the firstborn sons.
And here in Mark 15, we haven’t really picked up the theme much in our time in Mark’s gospel, but the Scriptures tell us Jesus is the true Passover Lamb,
His is the sacrifice that all those other sacrifices looked forward to.
And the darkness falls, as this Passover Lamb is sacrificed,
As this first born Son dies.
Which makes it look like God’s judgement is being poured out on Jesus.
It’s not the guilty who are facing God’s judgment here.
It’s not the murderer, or the paedophile being punished here, it’s Jesus.
Jesus died so we don’t need to (v 6 – 15)
Because just like the Passover lambs of the Exodus, died as a substitute, so Jesus dies, so we don’t need to.

He didn’t have any sin or evil of his own for which to be judged.
But we do.
The Bible tells us that God doesn’t just judge the murderer, the terrorist, the paedophile,
As we’ve seen throughout Mark’s gospel, those kinds of acts are symptomatic of the sin that is within all of us,
The sin that is our rebellion against God,
The way we take good gifts from God’s hand, but we live in his world as if he doesn’t even exist,
And sure, some of the ways we express that rebellion, have more horrific and widespread consequences,
But we have all equally rejected God and his pattern for life,
Rejected Jesus, his chosen king,
And therefore, we deserve to be punished.
Our sin, needs to be judged.
That is the sin that God judges on the cross, as Jesus dies in our place.
Again, to understand this, it’s helpful for us to listen to those words from Isaiah, when God spoke about the one he would send to deal with humanity’s sin and rebellion.
Surely he took up our pain
  and bore our suffering,
  yet we considered him punished by God,
  stricken by him, and afflicted.
 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
  he was crushed for our iniquities;
  the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
  and by his wounds we are healed
(ISAIAH 53:4 – 6)
Do you see the language of swapping?, of transferring?
What we deserved, Jesus got.
Who is Barabbas?
And Mark highlights this substitution, by presenting Barabbas, this insurrectionist and murderer we meet in the opening section.
Why does this convicted criminal get so much attention?
Its’ because Mark sees in Barabbas, you! And me, and everyone!
Who is he?
Well, verse 7, he was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising
He’s a convicted criminal,
And he’s on death row,
He’s facing the due punishment for his crime.
And his name is of all things, Barabbas, which literally means, “Son of the Father”
And, verse 15, Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them.
He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Do you see the bitter irony?
The man called “Son of the Father” is set free, while the one who is the only Son of the Father, is condemned to die.
The guilty man gets to live, because the innocent man dies in his place.
Little wonder that all 4 gospel authors make a point of telling us this story!
Here is the good news of Jesus in a nutshell!
It is what Jesus offers to all humanity, played out in a very real sense, in the life of one man.
Jesus dies as a substitute, so other people don’t have to die.
Jesus dies in the place of people who deserve to die.
Many of you will be familiar with Charles’ Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and all of that! But in the book, we meet 2 men, Charles Darnay, a wealth aristocrat from revolutionary France, and Sydney Carton, an Englishman, lazy, alcoholic, self-indulgent.
Both men are in love with the same woman, but Darnay is arrested in France, and, convicted of the crimes committed by aristocratic family, he’s sentenced to death by guillotine.
The no-good, lazy Sydney Carton, realises that Lucie, the woman he loves, is in fact in love with Darnay, so he visits the prison, and drugs Darnay,
puts on the convicted man’s clothes,
and waits in the prison cell, as Darnay, now in disguise, is carried from the prison, eventually to escape Paris, with Lucie, the woman he loves.
The next day, Sydney Carton, still disguised as Darnay, is executed, standing in the place of another.
The triumph of the story, is that the righteous, noble man escapes, and the man who never amounted to anything, finally finds some significance, by dying in someone else’s place.
Of course, as the Scriptures present the story of Jesus dying as a substitute, the positions are reversed, aren’t they?
The guilty ones, stained with sin, go free.
And the spotless, righteous one, dies in our place.
Interestingly, some of the non-genuine stories about Jesus’ life, some of them written hundreds of years later, the so-called “Gospel of Peter” for example, these other writings speak of the darkness that accompanied Jesus’ death, covering just the land of Judea;, Jerusalem, and surrounds.
And the reason those authors limit it like that, is because they’re trying to blame the Jewish people for Jesus’ death.
But Mark uses a word, translated land in verse 33, but it doesn’t mean a geographic area, like we might say “the land of Australia”, it just means “the surface of the earth, the place where humans live.”
Mark’s point, unlike those later writers, isn’t to blame the Jews for Jesus’ death, but to implicate all of humanity.
Every single one of us deserves to face God’s judgement, just as much as Barabbas deserved to face the judgment of Rome.
Who is Barabbas?
He’s me.
He’s you.
The one who stands to benefit from Jesus’ death in his place.
Jesus was separated from God so we might not be (v 34 – 38)
Mark goes on, recording the utter forsakenness of Jesus, as he’s abandoned by his Father on the cross.
Look at verse 34, with me, at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
When sin first entered the world, way back in Genesis 3, we see that the consequence for throwing off God’s rule, and living as if we are in charge of our own lives, the just and right penalty for that, is death, and separation from God.
God is holy, and perfect.
It is impossible for us, who live as his enemies, to have anything to do with him, sinful as we are.
We would be utterly consumed, if we were to come into his presence.
The stain of sin has no place, in the presence of a pure and holy God.
Some of you are old enough to remember the 1966 Football world cup, and by football I mean soccer! England beat West Germany in the final at Wembley Stadium in London, to win their one and only World Cup!
The Queen was there, to present the cup to the winning side, and as the English captain Bobby Moore approached her majesty, he suddenly realised, that his hands were filthy dirty;, stained with sweat, and mud, and grass stains. And he notices as he approaches the Queen to shake her hand, that she’s wearing pristine white gloves!
And you can see in the television coverage, as Bobby Moore realises this, he frantically starts wiping his hands on his uniform to try and clean them! And when that doesn’t work, literally as he’s standing in front of the queen, he tries wiping his hands on the velvet drapes around the royal box!
I’m sure, for the whole length of that grand final match, the state of cleanliness of his hands, couldn’t have been further from Bobby Moore’s mind.
And yet, when he approaches the cleanliness and purity of her white-gloved majesty, he suddenly realises the utter incompatibility of his situation, with hers.
Magnify that, from the stain of mud, and grass, and sweat, to the stain of rejecting God and his king,
Of treating our creator God as if he were dead,
And we might grasp something of the total impossibility, of sinful people, being in the presence of God.
The consequence of sin, is separation from God.
And as Jesus substitutes himself, takes upon himself the sin of the world, he is utterly forsaken by his Father.
And it is that separation and abandonment that causes him to cry out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Many of us, I imagine, have seen Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ. I remember being almost speechless afterwards, at the brutal violence of Jesus crucifixion.
And for me to be speechless, that’s really saying something!
I think though, the violence in the film is probably quite accurate.
For example, in verse 15, Mark records that Pilate had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
The Romans used to call that flogging “half-way death”, that’s how the victim ended up, before they were even put on the cross, and it was quite common for the person to be dead, before they made to the crucifixion.
The physical agony was, beyond what I can imagine.
And yet, what Mark draws our attention to, is not so much the physical agony of the cross, but the spiritual agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Since the beginning of history, the Son of God had enjoyed a perfect relationship with his Father, but then, when he steps in as our substitute . to take the penalty for sin . that we deserve, that perfect relationship is torn apart.
We know how much a broken relationship can hurt, don’t we?, and our relationships are far from perfect!
Imagine the agony of a perfect relationship, that had endured for eternity, being torn apart!
The just and right punishment for sin is death – spiritual death and separation from God and his blessing.
And it’ the pain at that separation, that abandonment, that we hear in those words;, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
There are times, for many of us, when God seems far away, when it feels like God has abandoned us.
If you haven’t felt that, I’m sure you know people who have!
When we struggle with the effects of sin in our world;,
Suffering,
Death,
The frustration of your own failing in sin,
The dark moments of doubt, uncertainty, It can feel like God has abandoned us.
But friends, we have never known, abandonment by God.
We have never experienced what it is that we sing about in one of our songs, How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away.
That has never been our experience.
But if we do feel like this, even if our feeling is not exactly the reality, rest assured that Jesus knows just how we feel.
He did endure that abandonment.
He is able to sympathise and understand.
He was separated from his Father, so we might not be.

And so look at what Mark draws our attention to, a few hundred metres away, in the city of Jerusalem. Verse 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom
In Jerusalem stood the temple of God,
It was the centre of worship for the Jewish people. And the temple was designed, by God himself, as concentric courtyards around the inner-most room, which was called the “Holy of Holies”, or the “Most Holy Place”, and it was there in the Holy of Holies where God’s presence dwelled in a unique way.
Of course God wasn’t contained there, but it was a special place for God’s presence to dwell on earth.
I heard on the radio this week, about a Professor of “space.”
Not stars and planets and satellites, but physical space. And this professor’s area of expertise, was the virtual space, within first person shooter computer games!
If you don’t know what a first person shooter computer game is, don’t worry! It’s not important! That’s my point!
I couldn’t think of anything less important, than what we learn from the rooms, and walls and doors, within computer games!
But in the temple of God, what we learn from the rooms, and walls, and doors, is vitally important!
Around that Most Holy Place, was the space where people could gather,
In the Most Holy Place, was the space where God’s presence dwelt.
And those 2 spaces were separated. We saw already, sinful people can’t just waltz into the presence of a Holy God!
Separating, the space of the temple where people could come and gather, from the space where God’s presence dwelt, was an enormous curtain, close to 30 metres high, and the early Jewish literature describes it as being as thick as the breadth of a man’s hand.
One record says that it took 300 priests to move it, which is probably typical ancient Jewish hyperbole, but this was one big curtain.
And it was one big curtain, with just one purpose: It was a great big, 30 metre high “No entry” sign.
The curtain was a reminder, that sinful people are necessarily separated from a pure and holy God.
Only once a year, could the high priest enter the Most Holy Place, and only after offering a sacrifice, for the sins of the people.
Jewish tradition tells us, that even when the High Priest went in,
And even after he had offered sacrifices for sin,
Even then, they tied a rope around his leg,
So that if he were struck dead because of his unworthiness to come before God, they could drag him out, without anyone else having to risk the same fate by going in after him!
“No entry”
As Jesus dies, The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top, to bottom
The penalty for sin is paid,
Jesus endures separation from is a Father,
Taking upon himself the sin that keeps us far from God’s presence,
And God tears the curtain in two, from top to bottom. The symbol of separation due is torn apart, and God demonstrates, “I have made the way open for you to come to me.”
What does the cross say about our sin?
So, one question, that I think demands to be answered:
What does this episode teach us about our sin?,
The seriousness of our sin?
What should be, firmly planted in our minds when we’re tempted by sin’s appeal?
I’ve heard of parents, who have caught their young children smoking cigarettes, and so determined to stamp out this behaviour, they take their child outside, and make them smoke a whole packet of cigarettes, one after the other.
By the end of the packet the kid is throwing up all over the backyard, and they never want to see another cigarette in their life, let alone smoke one!
Now, I’m not recommending that as a parenting approach!, But the theory is, “expose your child to the full horror of what they’re dabbling in, and they will never want to even dip their toe in that again.”
Actually it’s the same theory as the graphic anti-smoking advertising, isn’t it?
Blackened hearts and lungs of dead 30 year-old smokers.
Show people the full horror what they’re doing, and they’ll want nothing to do with it.
Friends, in the cross of Christ, we get the full horror.
We see the full horror of sin,
Sure, every cigarette is doing you damage, but every sin, leads to this!
This is where living as if we know better than God ends up.
We might think so little of our coarse joking,
Or our seeking after the pleasures of this world,
We might be able to explain away our idolatries,
The seriousness of the way we treat our spouses, might not really rate on our scale,
We might think little of our addiction to pornography, or my self-righteousness that I’m not addicted to pornography.
It might be of little consequence to me that I live as if I am king and Jesus is not,
I might think it inconsequential, that I trust in my material wealth, for my security, rather than trusting in God,
Friends, you and I are very good, at thinking very little of our sin.
If we read and understand these words, that has to stop.
If we can get a glimpse, just a little, of what Jesus endured on the cross,
If we can glimpse the judgment of God at sin and rebellion, even just peeking through the keyhole, to get one tiny piece of the picture,
If we hear what God says to us today through his Word, that has to stop.
When we see the full horror of sin, and its effects,
We cannot treat our sin as if it doesn’t matter!
We cannot continue to live in God’s world, all the while ignoring God,
We cannot even give lip-service to the notion that Jesus is God’s king, and yet hold back some part of our lives,
Some habit,
Some relationship,
A pattern of behaviour,
The idolatry of money, or career, or family, or ministry, or whatever,
Because to do that is to reject the kingship of Christ,
And to reject the kingship of Christ, is to continue in sin,
To continue as a rebel against God,
To continue in that for which Christ endured this horror.
Friends, this is where sin leads!
This is the photo on the cigarette packet of sin.
But it’s not merely a blackened lung, or a diseased brain,
It is the ultimate horror of the judgment of a righteous and just God, who will, as we want him to, as we demand him to, he will pour out his anger at sin, but that includes our sin.
If we are ever tempted to think that our sin doesn’t matter,
That it’s OK to try and keep part of my life separate from the kingship of Jesus,
If we ever find ourselves thinking, that the polite respectable sins of middle-class South Australians like us don’t matter,
We look here, and see that that thinking, has to stop.
Jesus dies as king of the Jews

Let me highlight one more thing, as we finish.
Mark is absolutely determined that we understand who died, on this day. That sounds ridiculous, I know, but read with me, please!
Verse 2 Are you, the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
Verse 9, Do you want me to release to you, the king of the Jews?
Verse 12, What shall I do, then, with the one you call, the king of the Jews?”
Are you detecting a pattern?!
18, Hail, king of the Jews!
26, the written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews
Verse 32, Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross
Here is God’s king. The one the Roman centurion identifies as
the Son of God
It’s not just a man who dies, for others.
A martyr, a sacrifice, a great leader.
God’s own Son, his king, lays down his life.
That day in July 1966, when Bobby Moore shook hands with the Queen, he did his best, but really all he could do, in trying to clean himself up, was to smear the mud and grass stains around a bit.
What stopped that meeting being a moment of disaster, was the Queen, poised and unflappable, as she always seems to be,
She reached out her pristine white glove, and shook Moore’s hand, and got herself covered in the mud and crime that he carried.
Does that sound at all familiar?
The king, pristine, clean, innocent,
Willingly taking on the grime and filth of his subjects, because we are powerless to clean ourselves.