Despising our Deliverer

Posted: September 14, 2014 in Mark
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Mark 15:16-32, “Despising our Deliverer”

Reach – Throw – Row – Go.  That’s the order that is drilled into every Boy Scout who attempts to earn his lifesaving merit badge.  The idea is to attempt the rescue that involves the least amount of risk, and only physically go out to someone as a last resort, when there is no other option.  Someone who is drowning is automatically in a state of panic, and they will naturally push down anyone that comes out to them in an attempt to push themselves above the water.  Without even knowing it, they will attempt to kill the very person coming to rescue them.

Something similar could be said about how mankind interacted with Jesus on the day of His crucifixion.  For Jesus, there was no other option.  He had to come to us if we were to be saved.  If Jesus had not personally come out to His creation as a man, then mankind would truly perish.  So in His compassion and love for the world, and out of obedience to His Heavenly Father, Jesus came out to us…and all we could do was a human race was to push Him down as we tried to lift ourselves up.  In our collective blindness, rebellion, and sin, we hurled insults at our Rescuer.  Instead of recognizing the love of Jesus and humbly receiving His sacrifice, Jews and Gentiles alike did all we could to revile our Creator and push Him away.  We spit in the face of the Son of God, and He stood there and silently took it.

The suffering had actually begun the previous night.  His blood had already showed itself in the Garden of Gethsemane as He prayed fervently for what awaited in the hours ahead.  He was betrayed by a traitor – arrested by the Jews – abandoned by His disciples – and taken to a farcical court where He was lied against and convicted of blasphemy.  By the morning’s sunrise, He had been given over to the Roman governor Pilate, who tried to get rid of Jesus, but just couldn’t do it.  The mob who had gathered would not be satisfied with anything less than blood, and so Pilate gave it to them in abundance.

The day had started with lies and mockery, and it would continue in the same vein.  Yet this was the moment for which Jesus came.  He came to give His life as a ransom for the world in a grand act of deliverance.  Sadly, we did not see it for what it was, and all mankind could do was hurl insults upon our God.  We despised Him, but He loved us – and it was the greatest demonstration of love in all history.

Mark 15:16–32
16 Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison.

  1. Jesus had been among the Jews, even as He was taken from court to court between Pilate and Herod (Lk 23:6).  Mark last showed Pilate appealing to the Jewish mob in his courtyard for a reason why Jesus ought to be crucified.  Once the decision is made, however, Pilate remands Jesus to the Roman soldiers he commanded, and now the soldiers take Jesus back for a bit of sport.
  2. Keep in mind Pilate is aware of all of this.  Sometimes Pilate is thought to be somewhat of a pathetic victim in the events, simply swept along with the crowd.  The facts demonstrate something quite different.  First of all, Pilate ordered Jesus to be scourged (15:15) – a punishment that was often included in crucifixion, but was by no means required to be included with it.  If Pilate truly desired to show mercy to Jesus, he could have spared Him the scourging.  The second demonstration of his cruelty is seen here.  The soldiers take Jesus to the “Praetorium” – a hall included in the very palace in which Pilate resided.  These were HIS soldiers who led Jesus into a hall in HIS home to abuse the Holy Prisoner.  There was no way Pilate could have missed this, and he could have easily put a stop to it all.  He may have washed his hands in front of the Jews (Mt 27:24), but he was just as guilty as anyone else.
    1. Turning a blind eye to evil is as sinful as committing the evil ourselves.  Every so often, the news reports horrible stories of assaults done in full view of the public, with people passing by doing nothing to stop it.  The crowd is as guilty as the criminal.  It’s one thing to be ignorant of evil in our midst; it’s another to know of it and do nothing about it.
  3. Pilate wasn’t the only one at fault; there were scores of soldiers involved as well.  The “whole garrison” came to watch the abuse of Jesus.  Obviously Mark isn’t saying that every soldier in the city dropped what they were doing to come watch, but everyone who was available was gathered for the evil game.  And there were many!  The word used indicates up to 600 soldiers in the garrison.  Although it’s doubtful that all 600 were there, certainly well over 200 were present, all assembled for the one purpose of abusing the King of kings in their midst.
    1. Of course even then the numerical odds were not in Rome’s favor.  It didn’t matter if it was 200-to-1, 600-to-1, or 600,000-to-1…when they were coming against the Son of God, Jesus always had infinitely more power over them.  Yet He restrained it all.  He was never truly a victim, but He did allow Himself to be victimized by the Romans as they made their perverted sport of Him.  This is the extent to which God the Son humbled Himself: allowing Himself to be abused by the very people whom He created.
    2. We have to wonder if any of these soldiers ever later came to faith.  The Scripture tells us of at least a centurion who saw Jesus in a different light by the end of the day, and of another centurion who was one of the first Gentiles to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Cornelius, Acts 10).  Did any of the soldiers who abused Jesus ever repent of their actions and place their faith in Jesus?  We’ll never know this side of heaven, but there’s one thing we DO know: if they did truly humble themselves and repent, then Jesus’ forgiveness was available to them, too.  It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past, or how sinful we were/are.  Jesus extends His grace and forgiveness to ALL; His blood is enough to cover the worst of our past.

17 And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, 18 and began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him.

  1. Fully assembled as a garrison, the soldiers costume Jesus and cruelly mock Him as a king.  The “purple” was likely an old faded cape of the Roman infantry.  Matthew describes it as a “scarlet robe,” (Mt 27:28) no doubt referring to the same thing.  What had once been scarlet upon issue to the soldier had faded over time to the scarlet/purple mix, and it imitated the purple robes that royalty might wear.  We do not know what kind of plant was used to form the “crown of thorns,” but it matters little…the idea is vivid enough to picture in our minds.  Remember that Jesus had already been beaten by the Jews (14:65), and scourged by the order of Pilate (15:15) – having these thorns pressed into His brow would have piled more agony upon Jesus…especially as the soldiers “struck Him on the head with a reed,” bashing the cruel crown with every blow.  Kings are supposed to wear crowns, but they are supposed to be crowns of victory and honor; this was one given to humiliate and shame.
  2. In addition to the physical beating was the emotional one.  The “salute” was true enough in words, but totally false in tone.  “Hail, King of the Jews” was a variation of what the soldiers were supposed to cry out in the presence of Caesar (“Hail, Caesar!”).  Their “worship” was the same: a hypocritical mockery of what they would have done with their true king.  The evil that was in their hearts is made plain by their spittle and disdain for the Man in front of them.  Their words were hollow and cruel – a hollow imitation of the very real actions and worship they should have been giving to the true King that was before them.
    1. What they did in perversion that day is what they will do in trembling fear in another.  They made fun of the “King of the Jews” in the Praetorian courtyard, but those who reject Jesus in this life will tremble and cower in the next when they see Jesus revealed in all of His glory.  The Bible tells us that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).  It doesn’t matter if the person owning that tongue is in heaven or hell; that person will know that Jesus IS Lord.
  3. Keep in mind that the abuse of the Romans is ours to claim, as well.  Granted, we did not have the incarnate Son of God in our physical presence to beat, spit upon, and mock – but how many of us reviled Him in a similar way prior to coming to faith?  How many of us scoffed at the idea that anyone would worship Jesus as God?  Scoffed at the idea that we might need a Savior?  It may not be a beating, but it originates at the same place as the Romans. 
    1. We reviled the King of kings, and He still died for us.  We symbolically spit in His face, and He took it.  We hated Him, and He loved us.  He looked forward in time, knowing all of the hateful sin we would commit against Him, and He still went forward through the humiliation and torture to the cross.  He still died for us.  How great is the love of Jesus!

20 And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.

  1. Eventually the Romans tired of their cruel games and taunting, removed the robe of purple, dressed Jesus in His own clothes and “led Him out” to His crucifixion.  The time had come, and even the Romans could not torture Him forever.  Just the act of changing garments would have been painful.  Jesus’ body was a bloody mess of quivering tissue by this point.  On one hand, the Romans rip off the purple cloak, like a band-aid ripping off a scab, and then they put Him back in the clothes that had been shredded by the earlier scourging.  Who knows what kind of dirt it had been sitting in the whole time, or what was still hanging to it, and once again that gets thrown around Jesus’ tender flesh.
  2. As He is led out to the crucifixion site, Jesus (like all crucified criminals) was forced to carry His cross.  Despite the many depictions of Jesus carrying a full “T” shaped cross, He most likely just carried the cross-beam to which His hands were to be nailed.  That in itself was bad enough.  Estimates on its weight wildly varies between 40-100 pounds, but even at its lightest estimate, it would have been a tremendous burden for Jesus to carry through the streets of Jerusalem.  Not only had He been awake all night long (it was well into the morning by this point), but He had already endured multiple trials, beatings, and humiliations.  He was physically and emotionally spent.  He had lost an immense amount of blood in the scourging, and no doubt some muscle as well. (Some men died from the scourging alone.)  No doubt His body was already in shock, and He likely had very little muscle control.  To carry ANY weight at all at this point would have been a tremendous burden.

21 Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.

  1. At a certain point, Jesus could no longer carry His cross, so the Romans “compelled” another to do it for Him.  We know very little about “Simon,” apart from what Mark tells us.  Each of the Synoptics affirm that Simon was from Cyrene, a North African town in modern-day Libya (not terribly far from Benghazi).  Cyrene had a large Jewish population at the time, and Simon had seemingly come to Jerusalem as a pilgrim for the Passover feast.  No doubt he was expecting that Passover to be like many other Passovers of the past, and he had no idea of the events that would fill his morning that day.  The Romans (as the ruling occupiers) had the right to compel anyone to do any sort of manual task they did not wish to do, and they probably just grabbed the first able-bodied male they laid eyes upon.  Simon was it.  He picked up the cross beam, already covered with the blood of Christ, and bore it all the way to Calvary.  In the process, he became one of the first people in history to literally fulfill Jesus’ instructions to His disciples to pick up their cross, and follow Him. (Mk 8:34)
  2. The other item Mark tells us of Simon is that he was “the father of Alexander and Rufus.”  Remember that Mark wrote his gospel to a particular audience at a particular time, most likely Roman Christians, after Peter had experienced his own martyrdom.  Whoever the original audience was, they knew Alexander and Rufus…thus they had a personal connection to the Passion of Jesus.
    1. It underscores the idea that all of this is real history that happened to real people.  Someone does not invent a myth and then says, “Go ask Joe about it; he was there.”  The only time an author inserts a personal name as a witness is if the author is confident enough that if you asked the witness, they could verify the story.  Obviously we are 2000 years past the original witnesses of these events, but it needs to be emphasized that these events had witnesses.  The early church did not fall for a conspiracy and lie made up by the 12 apostles; there were (literally) hundreds of witnesses of the Resurrected Christ.  The miracles, teachings, and events of Jesus happened in full view of the people of Galilee, Jerusalem, and everywhere else Jesus went.  There were real people everywhere that could verify the things the apostles said.
    2. The point?  Christianity is true.  Yes, it is a faith, but it is a faith based in historical reality.  It all really happened, and it all still happens today.  Jesus still saves people today, transforms their lives, and interacts with them through the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scripture.  And there’s only one way to find out for yourself: you need to believe.  Take a step of faith (which is reasonable faith), and reach out to Jesus in belief.  Take Him at His word and respond to His offer of grace.

22 And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull.

  1. Scholars debate on the historical location of Golgotha (or “Calvary”), as well as the reason why it was called the “Place of a Skull.”  Some believe that the hill looked like a skull with all of the crevices on the side – others believed the top was smoothly rounded like a skull – others believe it just was a place of execution, and bones littered the ground.  The one thing scholars do agree upon is that it had to be outside the city walls, and both the traditional location and the modern site of “Gordon’s Calvary” both fit that requirement.  It’s probably best that we don’t know the exact spot, because what would happen to it is exactly what has happened at the traditional location (which wasn’t “discovered” until the 4th century).  The ground itself would be revered & treated like an idol.  Far less important than the ground is the action that took place there.  THAT is what ought never be forgotten.

23 Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. 24 And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take.

  1. Although it is unmentioned by Mark, there are two prophecies fulfilled here: “They gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink.” Prophecy #1: Psalm 69:21, "They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." [] Psalm 69 is a plea of David unto the Lord during a time of deep trouble and distress. It seems written during a period of deception and betrayal – perhaps when his own son Absalom usurped the throne of Jerusalem and David’s trusted advisor committed treason and went with him.  For David, the “gall” and “vinegar” were symbolic of the bitterness that he was tasting emotionally at the time.  Yet his emotional experiences looked forward to literal experiences of his ultimate Descendant and Lord.  Likewise after a period of deception and betrayal, Jesus was also given gall & vinegar – but His was literal.  The “wine mingled with myrrh” is what Matthew describes as “gall,” and it was used as an anesthetic.  It’s not that the Romans were compassion upon their victims, not desiring to cause pain…they obviously didn’t have a problem with torture, as seen through the scourging and crucifixion itself.  It’s that if a victim felt too much pain as his hands are being nailed to the wood, it would be a harder job for the Romans to nail him there.  Thus, the anesthetic was a convenience for the Romans; not the crucified.
    1. In any case, Jesus refused the drink.  Why?  Scripture does not tell us directly, but it seems that Jesus needed to face the fullness of the cross with all of His faculties unheeded.  He wasn’t going to back down even a bit from the fullness of God’s wrath, and He wasn’t going to be impeded as He drank the cup of suffering that God had appointed Him.  Nothing was going to sway Him from His mission or even cause Him to fall a little short.  Jesus took no shortcuts.
    2. If we ever wonder what Jesus meant when He said to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him, here is a perfect example.  He denied Himself every comfort, in order to walk the road God had given Him.  Even the things anyone might normally expect Him to take (such as a pain-killer), He denied.  He denied Himself fully in order to glorify God and secure our salvation.  What will it look like for you to deny yourself?  Perhaps it might mean saying “no” to an easier path that all your friends would say “yes” to.  If denying your comfort means saying “yes” to the will of God, then the denial is worth the sacrifice.
  2. They divided His garments, casting lots for them.”  Prophecy #2: Psalm 22:18, "They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots." []  The first half of Psalm 22 is an incredible description of crucifixion, written by David centuries before Roman crucifixion was ever invented.  There was no way for David to know these things apart from the supernatural inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which is exactly what he received.  From David’s perspective, he was writing of his own sufferings, but in reality, he was writing of Jesus’ sufferings upon the cross – a first-hand perspective of what it was like to be crucified by Rome in the 1st century.  The detail is even given regarding the gambling that took place over Jesus’ clothes.  The clothes that could be divided, were.  However, one could not be easily dealt out.  His tunic was dirty, but valuable.  John tells us that it was “without seam, woven from the top in on peace.” (Jn 19:23)  For that, the soldiers cast lots, which was basically the equivalent of throwing dice.
    1. Imagine the scene for a moment, trying to put yourself in Jesus’ place (or at least in the place of one of those who were crucified beside Him).  You’ve been stripped naked, and put to the cross, and now you witness other people divide up your belongings as if you’re already dead.  After all, in their minds, you are.  You are physically still alive, but you’re as good as gone.  You won’t need your clothes or anything else any longer, because you’re dead in their eyes.  What would that be like?  If it hadn’t sunk in yet, surely the reality of what was happening would have been made clear at that point.  Once you’re on that cross, there’s no getting off of it.
    2. That’s true for everyone except Jesus.  He would indeed be dead when they took Him off of the cross, and He would stay dead for three days.  But Jesus DID look forward to life beyond that cross!  He would die there, but He would not stay dead.  He would need clothes once again, but He would be clothed by His Heavenly Father with glory.

25 Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. 26 And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS

  1. Mark’s description of the actual act of crucifixion is so cursory…it’s almost an afterthought.  To our minds, that seems unthinkable.  After all, crucifixion was so horrible that even Roman writers understood its brutality.  It was something that was considered so bad that it was a crime to assign it to a Roman citizen.  As 21st century Americans, this is something so brutal and removed to us that it virtually requires description and explanation.  Surely something more than the three words: “they crucified Him.”  Yet we need to remember to whom Mark was writing.  His audience was intimately familiar with crucifixion.  It was something that, if witnessed even once, would have so burned its image into your mind that you would never need another description of crucifixion again.  The word itself was enough to send shivers up your spine.  THAT was crucifixion.  That’s all Mark needed to say.
  2. When they actually crucified Jesus is a matter of some debate.  Mark writes that “it was the third hour,” but at first glance that account seems to contradict with John, who write that it was about the 6th hour that Jesus was sentenced by Pilate (Jn 19:14).  Contradiction?  Only if Mark and John were using the same method of counting time.  Mark was one of the first gospel writers (if not THE first), and John was the last.  Much changed between Mark’s writing to Roman Christians in the early 50’s, and John’s writing to Syrian Christians several decades later.  Mark seems to have used the Jewish method of counting time, from sunup (6AM) onward, whereas John uses the Imperial method, from midnight onward.  Thus John’s 6th hour was 6AM (which fits with the Roman custom of signing death sentences at the start of the day), and Mark’s 3rd hour was 9AM when Jesus was actually crucified.
    1. Of course, beyond the chronological minute and second that Jesus was nailed to the cross is the historical fact that it actually happened.  No matter what side of the debate someone comes down on for the hour, there is no debate among serious scholars that Jesus was actually crucified.
  3. Once He was crucified, He was labeled.  John tells us that the sign was a point of contention between Pilate and the chief priests.  Romans often detailed the criminal charges against those who were sentenced to death.  In Jesus’ case, it’s that He had claimed to be the Messiah, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.”  Although those were the charges that the chief priests brought to Pilate, they weren’t happy that Pilate broadcast it to the world in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek (Lk 23:38).  Instead of actually calling Jesus the King of the Jews, the priests wanted Pilate to write that Jesus had simply claimed to be the King of the Jews (Jn 19:21).  Pilate didn’t budge, in a rare show of backbone against the chief priests.
    1. The truth of the matter is that Jesus IS the King of the Jews!  Pilate’s sign was 100% accurate.  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the Son of David – the rightful King of all Israel.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  The Romans may have worshipped Him in mockery, and labeled Him in accusation, but real worship and the true title is absolutely deserved by Him.

27 With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. 28 So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”

  1. To be crucified was bad enough, but this seemed to add insult to injury.  The King of Israel was treated as a common criminal…just another execution for the day.  The men on either side of Jesus are described as “robbers,” but these are more than thugs and petty thieves.  In ancient times, robbers would ambush people along the roadside, beat them, and steal their belongings.  That’s bad enough, but Mark uses the term here to refer to more than just robbery, but insurrection.  Robbery was a crime, but it wasn’t a crime that would earn capital punishment; treason was.  Most likely the two robbers crucified next to Jesus had taken part in the same rebellion as had Barabbas.  Although there was no connection between Jesus and them, they had committed crimes of treason against Rome, and Rome put their supposed “king” between them.  It was a public statement of Rome to the Jews, warning them of what would happen with further rebellion.
  2. It was also a fulfillment of prophecy, although Rome had no idea they were doing it.  Isaiah 53:12, "Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors." []  The entire chapter of Isaiah 53 is Messianic, pointing to the sacrifice of the ultimate Servant of God, Jesus.  It concludes with vs. 12 praising the acts of the Suffering Servant, and summarizing His actions.  The One who was killed as a transgressor, outwardly appearing to have failed, was in reality seen as truly great and victorious by God.  The One who took the sin of mankind upon Himself was the most righteous of all, able to make intercession for those who reviled Him.
    1. That’s what Jesus did for the people who crucified Him and mocked Him that day, and that’s what Jesus did for us.  WE were the ones who reviled our Savior – WE were the ones who transgressed against our God – and we also were the ones for whom Jesus died.  He gave Himself for us, numbering Himself among us (the transgressors), in order that we might live.
  3. BTW – vs. 28 does not appear in all Bible translations (though it is usually included in the margins).  It is not included in many important NT manuscripts, though the idea most certainly is Biblical.  Luke quotes Jesus Himself referencing this prophecy during the previous night as He prepared the disciples for what was to come (Lk 22:37).  Regardless of what someone believes about textual criticism, there’s no getting around the fact that the prophecy of Isaiah was indeed fulfilled upon Golgotha.

With the crucifixion begun, the mockery picks up again where it was left off.  Earlier, it had been the Gentile Romans mocking the King of the Jews.  Now it is Israel itself that condemns her King, hurling insults from all directions.  Mark gives us three…

29 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”

  1. Mockery #1: the passerby.  Not content to have only called out for His crucifixion, the people of Jerusalem now humiliate the King they rejected.  As they look up to the Man on the cross, they look down their noses at Him, deriding Him as a joke and a failure.  They even repeat one of the false charges that had been brought up against Jesus during His initial trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin.  Perhaps it’s an indication that some of the false witnesses who were present then were now present at the cross, insulting the One they had lied about.
  2. Ironically, the very prophecy of Jesus’ that they misquote referred to this exact time.  Early in Jesus’ ministry, He told the people of Jerusalem that if THEY destroyed what He called “this temple,” that He would raise it up again in three days (Jn 2:19).  The people at the time believed Jesus was speaking of the Jerusalem temple newly renovated by Herod (a feat that took 46 years to complete), but Jesus had been speaking of His own body.  If HIS physical temple (His body) was destroyed, He Himself would raise it up again in three days.  The people of Jerusalem were about to witness with their own eyes the fulfillment of that prophecy, as would all the world.  Today, we stand witnesses to the fact that Jesus DID raise up from the dead after three days!
  3. They taunt Jesus to come down from the cross – to save Himself.  And they weren’t the only ones who told Him to do it.  Vs. 31…

31 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” …

  1. Mockery #2: the priests and scribes.  Long had they sought the opportunity to kill Jesus, and now they were doing it.  It was the Friday of Passover, and they had much preparation to do prior to sundown and the actual beginning of the feast, but the chief priests decide to take time away from their priestly duties to smugly mock the One they had personally rejected.
  2. The truly amazing thing here is that they knew Whom it was they mocked and killed.  It’s not seen in Jesus’ title of “the Christ” (though Jesus certainly IS the Christ, and that was the charge for which the priests actually condemned Jesus to death) – it’s seen in their testimony.  “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.”  They knew His miracles – they knew His power.  They were themselves witnesses of how Jesus commanded the demons to flee, and how He raised others from the dead.  Jesus had that very week miraculously healed people in full view of the chief priests and scribes.  They knew that this was a Man who wielded the power and authority of God…and they didn’t care.
  3. The second part of their insult was the same as the passerby, taunting Jesus to come down and save Himself.  He could have.  There’s no doubt that Jesus could have come down from the cross, revealing Himself in all of His power and glory.  The priests, scribes, Pharisees, multitude, and Romans all would have cowed in terror and quickly cried out for mercy from the All-Powerful God in their midst.  (And that’s if they didn’t just fall over dead in His presence!)  Yet here was the issue: if Jesus saved Himself, He could save no one else.  If Jesus had saved His life, the rest of humanity would have been eternally lost.  The Son of God HAD to die upon the cross as a sacrifice for sin, if the gift of forgiveness and salvation was to be extended to anyone else.  There was one thing Jesus could not do that day upon the cross: save both His life and ours.  He had to choose one or the other…He chose to save us.

…Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.

  1. Mockery #3: the crucified criminals.  This was the most illogical of the insults (whatever it was they said) – but it was the most picturesque of all of them.  There they were – insurrectionists handing upon either side of Jesus, fully deserving of the punishment doled out to them for their crimes, and yet they use what little strength they have (and every breath was an agonizing chore) to spit out insults at the Innocent One who hung between them.  Yet, wasn’t that the same thing everyone did that day?  Everyone, from the Romans to the Jewish passerby’s to the chief priests were deserving of the punishment of death (though only a handful of them were dealt it that day).  Each was a criminal and rebel against God, and each deserved death and damnation from Him.  And yet each hurled insults against the very God who had come to save them.  They despised the Deliverer that was hanging before their eyes – the One who was at that moment providing the very act of salvation – and yet, they were so intent on spitting their venom at Him that they were willing to cause themselves pain in order to do it.
  2. Thankfully, we know that at least one of the crucified men repented from his sin.  Even at that moment, with that level of rejection and that kind of insult towards God, it was not yet too late.  We might think that to do something like that would be to cross a bridge too far, and there would be no turning back – but even that was an act that could be forgiven.  Coming to his senses, one of the criminals rebuked the other, and appealed to Jesus.  As a result, he received the assurance of Jesus that on that very day, he would be in Paradise with his new Lord and Savior (Lk 23:43).  Even for the condemned, it was not yet too late to receive the gift of God’s grace.  The moment he appealed to Jesus in faith, he was forgiven.
    1. The same assurance that was given to the criminal can be given to us.  It’s never too late to repent and place your faith in Jesus.  If your conscience is pricked, then you can still respond to the offer of God.

Conclusion:
At the cross, some of the grandest truths of the Bible were vividly on display.  Romans 5:6–8, "(6) For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. (8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  How much more ungodly could we have demonstrated ourselves to be as the human race?  During the very moment that God the Son is dying for us, we were despising Him, throwing insults in His face.

And we have to make this personal, because it IS.  We may not have been there historically, but not only were we represented (Jew and Gentile alike), but we have certainly been there spiritually.  There is most likely at least one time in everyone’s life in which we despised God and mocked the idea of Jesus.  Even if we never openly made sport of the Savior who gave Himself for us, any time we engaged in knowing and willing sin, we may as well have been those who shoved the crown of thorns upon Jesus’ brow and drove the nails into His hands.  It was for those sins (and every other) that Jesus died.  To know what Jesus did for us, and still engage in those sins is beyond insulting; it’s downright abusive.

That’s what we did.  But Jesus did something so much more.  He knew it, recognized it for what it was & what it would be…and He still came.  He still suffered abuse and scorn – He still went to the cross, even with the full knowledge of every despicable thing we would do.  And in the process, He demonstrated His great love towards us, and offers us rescue from ourselves.  He offers us deliverance from sin.  He offers us forgiveness from God and the assurance that when we die, we will be with Him in Paradise.

Have you received of the gift of God?  Have you responded to Jesus’ love and grace?  Or are you still mocking Him?  It’s not too late.  As long as you can feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit, you can still respond to Jesus.  Just be careful not to wait until you no longer feel it.  TODAY is the day of salvation!  Today is the only day you are guaranteed, and it is the day you need to respond.

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