Points covered: The death of Jesus detailed. The confession of the Centurion’s faith. The confusion of the woman near the cross.
Mark 15:22-41 The crucifixion of Jesus
22They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. 25It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews. 27They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
The Death of Jesus
33At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34And 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?”).35When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. 37With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” 40Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
Today we are going to look at three features out of this account. First, we look at Jesus and His sacrifice. Then we look at the centurion and the confession of his faith. And then we look at the women and the confusion in their minds as the time permits both in the morning and night.
Jesus celebrated the Passover the previous night with his disciples and went over to the Garden of Gethsemane. His disciples slept but Jesus prayed that the cup be removed from him. Somewhere around midnight and early Friday morning he was betrayed arrested. He was tried the whole night and they abused Jesus and hurled insults upon him. He was tried in Jewish as well as Roman courts and found to be innocent. However the outcry of the people led by the Sanhedrin forced Pilate to sentence Jesus to crucifixion. It was mockery of justice.
1. Jesus and His sacrifice.
Mark 15:33-38 Here’s the highpoint of salvation history. This is the death of Christ. This is the long-awaited Lamb of God dying for the sins of the world. Words are inadequate to capture the supernatural reality of what is happening on the cross. At 9 am they crucified him on the cross.
The Lord by this time had already spoken three times on the cross.
a. Father Forgive them.
Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” This informed the thief on the cross and us that forgiveness was available if we asked for it, which he did and received it.
b. Today you will be with me in Paradise.
Luke 23:39-43 39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
c. Dear woman here is your son.
John 19:25-27 25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Since His brothers were unbelievers in Jesus then, John was given the responsibility to care for Mary. He put them in the care of each other.
Mark 15:33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. This is the sixth hour. The Jewish day begins at 6 am at sunrise. The sixth hour was always considered to be mid-day when the sun was at its zenith. Darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. What is this? Some say this is a natural eclipse. Others say this is satanic darkness. NO.
The truth of the matter is, this is God coming on the scene. Maybe you’ve never heard that. In the Bible God is often spoken of as light. Psalm 21:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation. Psalm 18, Psalm 26, Isaiah 2, Isaiah 60, many places God is spoken of as light and that in the sense of truth, wisdom, holiness, and righteousness. His presence is light. His presence is the Shekinah. When God manifested Himself to Moses on the mountain, He manifested as blazing light.
However, any reader of the Old Testament also knows that there were times when God is spoken of as darkness. And it goes all the way back to Genesis 15:12-13 12As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13Then the Lord said to him.
Exodus 10:21-22. At Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:16-18; Exodus 20:18-21. Isaiah 5, and Isaiah 8, and other places, God also was associated with darkness. The presence of God could be manifest light and the presence of God could be manifest darkness.
In particular, there is a theme in the Old Testament that darkness has to do with the day of the Lord, or an expression for divine judgment. And if we go to Old Testament passages that speak of divine judgment, we read things like this: Joel 1:15 Alas for that day! For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. What will it be like?
Joel 2:10-11 10Before them the earth shakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine. 11The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys his command. The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?
Joel 2:30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
All of that is referring to the final day of the Lord, the final judgment on this world. And it is a time when God is revealed in darkness and not in light.
Amos 5:20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light— pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
Amos 8:9 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight” In what day does the Lord do that? In the day of divine judgment.
Zephaniah 1:14-15 14The great day of the Lord is near— near and coming quickly. The cry on the day of the Lord is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry. 15That day will be a day of wrath— a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness.
And thus do the prophets speak of the events of divine judgment being times of darkness. Darkness symbolizes divine fury. Darkness symbolizes righteous wrath, final fury being unleashed. Darkness then is the ultimate form of God’s presence in judgment. That is why hell, which is everlasting subjection to divine judgment. The Bible says three times in Matthew that hell is a place of outer darkness. Matthew 22:13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ And it is the darkness of God’s presence. Psalm 139:7-8 7Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 8If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
So the darkness in the cross is God’s presence in judgment in hell from noon to three o’clock. For three hours, hell came to Golgotha as God unleashed the full extent of everlasting punishment on His Son.
Here He unleashes hell on His Son. This was the cup that Jesus anticipated in the Garden, the cup of wrath. This is why it was such a revolting anticipation that made Him sweat drops of blood, because in those three hours, think of it, Jesus suffered the eternal hell for all the people through human history who would be saved. He bore all their eternal punishments together and did it in three hours.
The darkness then, listen, is not the absence of God and it’s not the presence of Satan. It is the presence of God. It is God in full judgment vengeance, God in full judgment fury. It is in those three hours that He bore in His body our sins. It is in those three hours that He was made sin for us. It is in those three hours that He took the curse. And at the ninth hour, it ended.
And Mark records the fourth statement of our Lord:
d. My God, my God why have you forsaken me?
Matthew 27:45-46 45From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
What does that mean? Didn’t we just say God was there? After the wrath is exhausted, when God in full presence and full vengeance has poured it out, when the punishment ended, where was God? Jesus seems to be experiencing the separation from God immediately after taking the sin of the world. And His words were prophesied from Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? He’s saying, “At least now please comfort me.”
Has our Lord given here a preview of hell? Punishment without comfort? Punishment without compassion? Punishment without sympathy? Punishment without relief? That’s what hell is. This is a very, very important reminder to us, that hell is the full fury of God’s personal punishment, listen, but He will never be there to comfort. So even this is for Jesus to suffer all that hell is.
When Jesus said, “My God, My God,” this is the only time in the New Testament that He ever referred to God in any other way than Father. Every other time He spoke to God, He called Him Father. But He is felling His absence. A double expression like that is a way to say what you want to say to identify the person you’re addressing with affection. For example, the angel says, “Abraham, Abraham…” Genesis 22. In Exodus God says in chapter 3, “Moses, Moses…” David in 2 Samuel 18 and 19 says, “Absalom, Absalom…” Jesus in Luke 10:41 says “Martha, Martha…” And Jesus in Luke 22:31 says, “Simon, Simon…” And Jesus says in Acts 9, “Saul, Saul…” And in Luke 13 He looks at the city and says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” And here, “My God, My God…” Divine affection.
Mark 15:34 And 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?”)
I want you to notice that He cried out with a loud voice. After the massive amount of physical pain and the difficulty in breathing had been inflicted upon Him, after the horrendous, mental abuse in the relentless blasphemy and then after God has exhausted infinite hells of punishment on Him, He is still strong and He cried out with a loud voice.
Mark 15:35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” They heard it because He spoke loudly. The darkness is just vanishing and the comedy is reignited. Here’s sarcasm. Listen, they heard what He said in their language, in Aramaic, “Eloi, Eloi,” “My God, My God.” They knew that. But in mockery they said, “Oh, He’s calling for Elijah.” So they take up more mockery and the darkness has just ended and they’re right back mocking. You would think that darkness for three hours would shut down the mocking. But how deep is this blasphemy?
It gets worse. Mark 15:36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. That is just more abuse, more of scorn and blasphemy. This is a cheap wine vinegar consumed by soldiers, usually mixed with water. Oh let’s give Him something to drink. That will prolong His life a little bit. And if we prolong His life a little bit, maybe Elijah will show up and rescue Him.
e. Jesus said: I am thirsty.
John 19:28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
Psalm 69:21 They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst. And He was offered this drink, but only in mockery. “Let’s see if we can extend His life a little longer and maybe Elijah will show up.”
They’ve seen it all. They’ve seen His miracles. They’ve seen His casting out of demons. They’ve seen His raising of the dead. They all know Lazarus was raised from the dead because that’s a family very close to the city, well-known by the people in the city, the rulers of the city and the leaders went to Bethany to see Lazarus after he came back from the dead. They’ve heard Jesus teaching. In fact, they heard it during this very week. It had no effect on them. They’ve seen His compassion and His kindness. They now have seen how He dies. It does not move them. And they carry on the comedy.
Mark 15:37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. Why a loud cry? Because Jesus said: John 10:18 No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from the Father.
He didn’t die because He couldn’t breathe. He didn’t die because He was out of strength. He did not die the death of crucifixion. He cried out, He screamed with a loud voice and gave up his own life. John 19:28 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. It has been accomplished.
A loud cry is remarkable because he did not die the death due to suffocation due to lack of breathing or oxygen. You need air to cry out, Jesus was breathing perfect. Jesus is still strong but he gave up his life.
And then there are two final statements.
f. It is finished.
John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
g. Into your hands I commit my spirit.
Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Jesus said three things before the darkness, nothing during the darkness, four statements after the darkness, “And breathed His last.”
What happened is stunning. And Mark tells us of two immediate events. Mark 15:38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
There were about a dozen curtains in the temple. But this was the most important curtain because it separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. The Holy of Holies into which no one could go but the High Priest once a year, to sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat, on the Ark of the Covenant, to make atonement for the nation on, the Day of Atonement. This symbolized the sinners separation from God. No access to God. The High Priest only allowed once in order to sprinkle the blood, in quickly and back out. But the New Covenant of salvation at the moment Jesus died was ratified. He had paid in full the punishment, the penalty justly for all who would ever believe. It opens the way. It obliterates the symbols and the ceremonies and brings the reality of salvation to everyone who chooses to enter. God’s holy, glorious presence is available, the way has been opened by the death of Christ. It’s the end of the High Priesthood, it’s the end of the Levitical Priesthood. It’s the end of the sacrificial system. It’s the end of the temple. It’s the end of the Holy of Holies. The whole system is at that moment null and void.
Matthew tells us that there was another miracle that happened when Jesus died. Matthew 27:51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split. This is an earthquake, powerful enough to split rocks, a frightening experience. And by the way, earthquakes in Scripture are very often like the darkness. I read it to you earlier, that the Day of the Lord is associated with not only the darkness but with great earthquakes. When Moses met with God at Sinai to receive the Law, the whole mountain quaked greatly: Exodus 19:18
Psalm 18:7 The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.
Nahum 1:5 The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence. The Jews knew if they knew their Scripture, the darkness meant judgment and the earthquake meant judgment. That is why when you get into the book of Revelation and you get to the final Day of the Lord, there is much description concerning massive global earthquakes and an earthquake that will be beyond anything the world has ever, ever experienced.
Another miracle happened, according to Matthew 27:52-53 52and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. The veil is torn. The earth begins to shake. Earthquakes take place. Graves are opened. Dead people come back to life and proclaim the truth after the resurrection of our Lord. Matthew 27:53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. This is a pre-figuring of the resurrection.
So did God show up at Calvary? Yes He did. He showed up at Calvary. He showed up in the darkness. He showed up in the earthquake. He showed up in the ripping of the veil and He showed up in opening the graves and giving life to dead saints. He made His presence known.
2. The Centurion’s confession.
Mark 15:39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
The centurion, he’s involved in the execution. He’s a commander of a hundred men. He’s a strong soldier, familiar with death, familiar with killing and surviving, familiar with protests and riots. He’s been guarding Jesus. He’s overseeing the execution squad. He is an eyewitness of everything, most likely from the arrest of Jesus in the early hours of Friday in the Garden, all the way to this final moment he was in charge. He saw it all, the mock trials, the abuse, the spitting, the punching, the slapping, the sneering, the mocking, the ridicule. He saw Jesus take it. He saw no retaliation. He heard what Jesus said. He heard Him say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He heard because he was near the cross, “Today you’ll be with in Paradise.” He heard everything. He heard Pilate repeatedly declare that Jesus was innocent. And he concluded, “This is no ordinary man.” And he now comes to the right conclusion, that He is the Son of God.
You say, “How did he come to that conclusion?” Well we’re helped a little bit by Matthew 27. Matthew 27:50-54 50And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” They were frightened by the darkness, frightened by the earthquake.
Luke gives us his account. Luke 23:47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” So he praises God. He declares Jesus righteous and affirms that he is the Son of God. I don’t know what else he knew. The thief on the cross was given life by a sovereign spirit in the midst of his ridicule. And here is this gentile soldier, the first convert to Christ after His crucifixion. And he’s not alone. The other soldiers with him had the same response. Some wonderful things happened at Calvary, a Jew, a Jewish blasphemer was saved, the thief, a few Gentiles, the blaspheming soldiers were forgiven and saved and the message is that the grace of God in forgiveness and salvation is extended to the worst blasphemers. The worst blasphemers are not beyond the possibility of salvation.
On the other hand: Luke 23:48 48When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. Hum…not so funny anymore. It wasn’t so funny after the darkness and the horrific earthquakes that scared them. Not so funny when they found out the veil had been rent from top to bottom. They left. It doesn’t say anything about them believing, but I think some of them did later believer Jesus. In Acts chapter 2, some of them must have been there on the Day of Pentecost and three thousand repented believed and were saved, and within a few weeks thousands, thousands more.
So what you have illustrated at the very moment of the death of Christ is the purpose of His death, to save penitent sinners, the Jew first and then the Gentile. So we saw the consummation regarding Christ, then the confession regarding the centurion.
3. The confusion of the women.
Mark 15:40-41 40Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
This is an interesting footnote. Here we see a small group of faithful women. These are women who started to follow Him when He was in Sea of Galilee. They used to follow Him and minister to Him or serve Him. And there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem. We know all about the men, don’t we? We know about the Apostles and we’re familiar with them, but there was a group of women who had been with Him since His days in the Sea of Galilee, more than two years. They’re true disciples. They’re lovers of Christ. They’re believers in the Savior. They are discouraged. They are devastated. They are lost for an explanation.
John actually says that when Jesus was crucified, they were standing near the cross: John 19:25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. But by the time we get to the end, after the darkness, we read here, “They were looking on from a distance…a distance.”
The “looking on from a distance” in that phrase there’s a Greek verb used four times by Mark and every time he uses it, it expresses a kind of detached observation. The centurion is looking and he’s near the cross. And he sees clearly who this is. He is not confused. He comes to make this great confession by the power of the Spirit over his life. On the other hand, these women who have never been confused about who Jesus is are now all of a sudden way back at the fringe of the crowd. They’re confused. Mark even identifies the names of a few of these women, there were many. Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joseph. There’s another lady there by the name of Salome.
The Apostles were gone and these ladies were there. So much for male courage. Something precious about that, even in their confusion they were there. Slowly they started out at the foot of the cross, maybe hoping for some miracle, something to happen that would make sense out of all of it, and then he died. And they’re way at the fringe.
They had been with Him, verse 41 says, when He was in Galilee, and they used to follow Him. That means they did it all the time, regularly, and serve Him, minister to Him. They were eyewitnesses of His entire ministry. And they’re unique because they’re not Apostles. They’re not the chosen Twelve. They’re not men. They’re women believers who used to follow Him. And by the way, in the gospel of Mark, only two persons are ever said to have ministered to Christ. One, these women and the other in chapter 1 verse 13, the holy angels. So they function as kind of earthly angels.
They’re not leaders. They’re not empowered like the Apostles, to do miracles. They’re not called to be preachers. But they are the truly, precious faithful who while the Apostles have forsaken Him, have not, they’re still there. And they will be rewarded because they will be the first to see Him on Sunday morning and the sorrow of those ladies will turn to great joy.
I want to close by taking you back to verse 39 for a moment. Mark 15:39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” When Mark began this gospel in chapter 1: Mark 1:1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.
It’s the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It’s only a beginning, it’s only a beginning, the story has much more to be told, but this is the beginning. But it is about the Son of God. It’s the story of the Son of God. Finally, here in verse 39, a human being says, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” And would you like to know that is the first time in the entire gospel of Mark that any human being has said that? It’s almost like Mark waits until the cross to have someone say, “This is the Son of God.” Oh the Father said it. The Father said it in chapter 1 verse 11 at His baptism, “This is My beloved Son.” The Father said it at His transfiguration in chapter 9. The Father said it from heaven, “This is My beloved Son.” And by the way, the demons said it, chapter 1 verse 24, 3 verse 11, 5 verse 9, the demons called Him the Son of God so heaven has said it and hell has said it. And finally, a man says it. And what a man, a Gentile, a Roman soldier, the head of the execution squad, and we all say it too, don’t we? The story of Mark is written for the very purpose that John gives. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you might have life in His name.” For all who believe that He is the Son of God, from the centurion on, the promise is, “You have life in His name.”