And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.
How little these people knew that they were making this man immortal. What a strange fate that is which has befallen those persons in the Gospel narratives, who, for an instant, come into contact with Jesus Christ. Like ships passing athwart the white ghostlike splendour of the moonlight on the sea; they gleam silvery pure for a moment, as they cross its broad belt, and then are swallowed up again in the darkness.
Consider some of the lessons that arise from this incident:—
I. The greatness of trifles. If that man had started from the little village where he lived five minutes earlier or later, if he had walked a little faster or slower, if he had happened to be lodging on the other side of Jerusalem, or if the whim had taken him to go in at another gate—then all his life would have been different.
II. Note, further, the blessedness and honour of helping Jesus Christ. Though changed in form very truly and really, in substance this blessedness and honour of helping Jesus Christ is given to us; and is demanded from us, too, if we are His disciples. He is despised and set at nought still, He is crucified afresh still. Let us go forth unto Him without the camp bearing His reproach—the tail end of the Cross. It is the lightest. He has borne the heaviest end on His own shoulders; but we have to ally ourselves with that suffering and despised Christ, if we are to be His disciples.
III. Another lesson which may be drawn from this story is, that of the perpetual recompense and record of the humblest Christian work. Surely the most blessed share in that day's tragedy was reserved for Simon, whose bearing of the Cross may have been compulsory at first, but became, ere it was ended, willing service. But whatever were the degrees of recognition of Christ's character, and of sympathy with the meaning of His sufferings, yet the smallest and most transient impulse of loving gratitude that went out towards Him was rewarded then, and is rewarded for ever, by blessed results in the heart that feels it.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 45.
Bearing the Cross.
Cross-bearing means now a spiritual action. The only cross in prospect now is a cross for the soul. Such a spiritualisation of the word "cross" began in the teaching of Jesus Christ. In several instances, He said, in various ways, "If a man become My disciple, let him take up his cross and follow Me."
I. Carrying a cross after Christ means, for one thing, enduring suffering for Christ. "Cross" was the name once given to the most fearful engine of agony for the body; and the words "cross," "crucial," "excruciate," and similar words, have come into our language from that material cross; and they now point, in a general way, to what has now to be suffered, not in the body, but in the soul.
II. To carry a cross for Christ means: To have a great weight on the mind for Christ's sake. To carry a cross for Christ means that this suffering and heavily weighted condition should be open, not secret; for the cross-bearer is seen.
III. It means: That the man who is willing to carry the cross for Christ is willing to suffer scorn for Christ. No one carried a cross in the old Roman days but one who was the very refuse of society. To be willing to carry a cross for Christ means willingness to suffer ignominy, willingness to go forth without the camp, bearing His reproach.
IV. View the cross-bearing as something practical in distinction from something only emotional, and answer the question: Who is now willing to become a cross-bearer for Christ? There is much that is called religion that is only useless emotion, and that only belongs to a character that is not made of stuff stern enough to carry crosses. Christ said to the weeping daughters of Jerusalem, as they stood by the via dolorosa: "Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves."
V. In view of the principle that nothing is accepted by Christ but willingness, I ask: Who is willing this day to become a cross-bearer? Jesus Christ will not have you against your will: if you carry His Cross you must be willing.
VI. In view of the strength Christ gave for this, I ask, Who is willing? As your day your strength will be. Mark the footsteps that are on the road before you. Every cross-bearer found it so. So you will find it.
C. Stanford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 282.
References: Mark 15:21.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1853; Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 73.
Mark 15:23Christ refusing any Alleviation of His Sufferings.
Standing before the scene these words picture, I would ask, devoutly and earnestly: What does it mean? What light does it shed upon Christ? What help does it render us in life? I think it illustrates:—
I. The source of the moral majesty of the Son of Man. In this brief occurrence I read at once the greatness, and the origin, of that majestic character which raises Jesus so immeasurably above all others of the sons of men. He refused to receive a balm for His agony; in that He exhibited a moral strength utterly unparalleled, and in that very refusal we learn from whence His strength came. He received not His strength from man, and from the relief man offered Him He turned away; He received His might from God, and the secret of that might lay in perfect submission to His will.
II. What was the meaning of the consummation of Christ's sufferings? It has been truly remarked that He drank the last drop of His cup of agony by refusing that which would alleviate its final pangs. We have said that He did not do that for the mere sake of enduring, but in surrender to the will of Heaven. The question comes, What means that will? Christ died, not to reconcile God, nor yet to compensate for so much evil; but to restore the loving spirit of man to the eternal Father. For that restoration two things were requisite; man must learn the majesty of God's law; and he must be drawn by love to the Divine One. Both these receive glorious illustration from the words before us.
III. We learn, too, from this history, the clearness of Christ's vision of death. He resolved to die with His mental vision clear and calm. In full self-possession He went to face death's horror. There is a deep significance in this, in relation to the manner in which Christ conquered death for every man.
IV. The duty of Christ's disciples. When suffering meets us in the path of obedience, we must not shrink back from its approach; but, trusting in Christ's strength, calmly, resolutely, fearlessly face it.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 213.
References: Mark 15:23.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 233. Mark 15:23-32.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 366.
Mark 15:24-41What took place around the Cross of Christ.
I. Notice what men did during the crucifixion of Christ. (1) The soldiers. They are careless and confident. They cast lots for the clothes of the Lord. Their thoughts are all for this world. So many among ourselves know well the Lord's mantle, and have it in their hands—namely, His Word and Sacraments, the means of salvation which the Church offers. But the use they make of it is thoughtless and careless. (2) The crowd of Jews. They pass by mocking and shaking their heads; some from malice, others from ignorance and a darkened mind. Many pass the Cross merely as spectators— as if it were possible for any of us to be no more than a spectator of it. We shake our heads doubtfully, we understand the Lord's words imperfectly or wrongly, and then we complain that they are foolishness. (3) The little group of friends. They stood afar off, beholding—partly from fear of the Jews—partly from fear of the heartrending sorrow of a near approach. So with us. But the nearer to the Cross the richer the blessing. This is well illustrated in the case of the penitent thief.
II. Notice what God did during the crucifixion of Christ. (1) He darkened the sun and made an earthquake. Such phenomena occur also when the Crucified comes near to our spirits, if only we could see them. The life of the senses—formerly so joyous—now loses its charm. We guess then what powers of darkness have been carrying on their work in us. We feel that the decisive hour has come, when light or darkness must win the day. The pillars of our being shake; we feel something beforehand of the day of judgment. (2) The veil of the Temple was rent in twain. On that day heaven and earth were rolled up like worn-out garments, and a new creation began. The way into the holiest of all was opened in the hour that Jesus died. (3) The graves were opened. Thus God showed that the new creation was to be that creation of resurrection and of life for which all saints in the former dispensation had waited. In the hour when Christ comes to us we have this witness also. We feel the dawn of a new day arise, a new life of love and of knowledge. This feeling may pass away, but yet it is like the first coming of spring to our souls; we see the dawn of own resurrection day appear.
R. Rothe, Nachgelassene Predigten, vol. ii., p. 81.
Mark 15:31In this text a truth is spoken, but it is a truth which the speakers do not know. By this word the railers meant to mock the pretensions of Jesus; by it the Spirit in the Scriptures declares the glory of God in the Gospel of His Son. Like Balaam, these false prophets intended to curse, but their lips were overruled, and framed to express the distinguishing feature of redemption.
I. What the Jewish leaders understood and intended to say is obvious at a glance. They see their Enemy at last in extremities. Now that they have compassed the object of their desire; now that they see Him ready to expire on the Cross, they cannot contain themselves. They must give vent to their exultation. They must triumph over their victory. "He saved others; Himself He cannot save." When they see Him dying, they deem the sight a proof of His weakness. They think that if He had saved others, He would also have saved Himself; and they flourish the fact of His yielding to death as a proof that His miracles had been impostures.
II. This word may be read in two ways. The one is darkness, the other light. The one is a lie, the other is the truth; the truth on which the saving of the lost depends. The leaders read it thus: "We see He does not save Himself from death, and thence we infer that He has not power; and whatever appearances may be, He cannot have saved others." The meaning which, under direction of the Spirit, the word of the Scriptures contains for us is, He saved others, as their covenant Substitute, and therefore He cannot also save Himself from the obligation which He undertook as Mediator. He saved others, and therefore Himself He cannot save. His life has been pledged for the life of His people forfeited; they have obtained their life eternal, and therefore His life, so pledged, cannot be saved. If He had saved Himself from humiliation and suffering, we could not have been saved. If the Son of God had treated the world when it fell as the priest and the Levite treated the man who fell among thieves; if He had looked on us and passed by on the other side—we should have all perished in our sins.
W. Arnot, The Anchor of the Soul, p. 229.
References: Mark 15:33.—J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1869, p. 172; B. F. Westcott, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 457. Mark 15:33-38.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 371. Mark 15:34.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. xii., p. 374.
Mark 15:37-38Truths taught by the Rending of the Veil.
I. If you look into the account of the arrangements and furniture of the Jewish Temple, you will find that there were two veils: the one at the entrance into the holy place; the other between the holy place or the sanctuary, and the holy of holies. The second veil is always considered to have been that which was rent in twain at the death of our Lord; so that the first thing done through the rending was the throwing open that heretofore invisible and inaccessible place, the holy of holies. As the rent rocks and open graves proclaimed Christ victorious in death, so may the riven veil have declared that He had won for Himself an access into heavenly places, there to perpetuate the work which had been wrought out on Calvary.
II. And there are other intimations which may, perhaps, have been conveyed by the occurrence in question. It is possible, for example, that the abolition of the Mosaic economy was hereby figuratively taught. Christ had come to destroy the law, but only that He might substitute for it a better covenant.
III. The rent veil signifies that through Christ alone we have access to the Father, and that supplies of heavenly things may be expected to descend. The privilege of prayer, the privilege of intercourse with our heavenly Father, has been procured for us exclusively by Christ.
IV. Neither was it only the privilege of access to God while we yet dwell on the earth, which was set forth under the figure of the rent veil of the Temple. I read higher things; I see a title to a heavenly inheritance. It is like an opening in the firmament, through which the eye of faith may gaze on the diadem and the palm which are in store for the faithful. What was to occur after death and the resurrection? The rent veil gives the answer. As the opened graves published the great truth of the abolition of death, so did the riven veil publish that of our being begotten again to an "inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." The veil is rent to show that the Mediator hath made for Himself a passage into heaven, but in nothing does He act for Himself alone. We rose with Him; we ascended with Him; and therefore is the rending of the veil as much a pledge of our admission as of His, who by the efficiency of His sacrifice provided for our not only being sons of God, but joint-heirs with Himself.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,500.
The veil of the Temple was the curtain separating the holy place from the most holy; for Solomon's Temple, as the Tabernacle of Moses before it, was divided into two several parts or rooms, both holy, but one holier than the other. The veil or curtain itself was made of blue, purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work; it was adorned with images of cherubim, and was hung on four pillars, of some precious wood overlaid with gold.
I. What now is the veil, so drawn across as to separate the two kingdoms of God from one another, yet such as to give hope that it may be one day entirely withdrawn, and the two made altogether one? St. Paul tells us in one word that the veil is the blessed body of our Lord Jesus Christ. For, says the Apostle, He hath provided for us a new and living way through the veil, that is, His flesh. The miraculous rending of the veil at the moment of the death of the Son of God, was a token of the rending of our Lord's blessed body, by the nails and spear, and of the violent parting of His soul and body for a while.
II. As the veil concealed from the eyes of the worshippers the most holy place made with hands, which was but a figure of the true, so the body of our Lord and Saviour was a kind of veil or shadow drawn over His most high Godhead, the open presence of which is that which makes heaven.
III. The veil being rent signifies pardon, through Christ's sacrificed body, for sins past; but it also signifies communion with Him, through the same body in time to come. The flesh of Jesus, then, His glorified body, offered by Himself as High Priest, is a new and living way, through which believers, baptized persons, drawing near from time to time, may with reverent boldness enter into the holy places; they are invited, exhorted, encouraged, to do so. The mystery of the spiritual or Divine life of a Christian, taught us by the figure of the veil of the Temple, is this: that the only true happiness is partaking of the Divine Nature, as St. Peter calls it—communion with God in the person of His Son; that the way to this Divine communion is communicating with Him, being made members of Him, as man, the Man Christ Jesus; and this must be through His blessed body, and this again through His Holy Sacrament.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. viii., p. 76.
References: Mark 15:37, Mark 15:38.—J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, p. 139. Mark 15:38.—T. M. Herbert, Sketches of Sermons, p. 106. Mark 15:39-47.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 376. Mk 15:42-0.—W. H. Jellie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 285; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xx., p. 141.
Mark 15:43The Sanhedrim of Jerusalem consisted of seventy members, of whom twenty-four were the heads of the Priesthood, twenty-four were heads of the tribes of Israel, representing the laity, and twenty-two were Scribes learned in the law. Joseph was no doubt one of the noble representatives of the people; and, as such shared, in the functions of government and was conversant with those sacred Scriptures which formed the basis of the Jewish commonwealth.
I. Arimathea is thought to have been situated on the fertile plain of Sharon, where probably Joseph's property lay. He also possessed an estate in Jerusalem—possibly a house in the city—certainly a garden in the outskirts. Josephus tells that the Holy City was in those times thickly surrounded by groves and gardens; shady retreats in the heat from the crowded streets of the metropolis. Here, under the shades of trees and umbrageous shrubs, we may think of this honourable counsellor as refreshing his spirit in peaceful meditations by day and night, when his public duties permitted his repose. The garden was large enough to require a gardener, so we read in St. John; and in some retired portion of it, at the end, where the boundary rock rose from the soil, Joseph had excavated a new tomb for himself, in which he would lie down in his death-sleep, when the labours of life were ended. How little can he have dreamed that this tomb of his was to be consecrated by the descent of angels, and by the mighty power of God, in raising up, on the third day, the destroyed temple of the body of Him who should be God manifest in the flesh, who should make His life a sin-offering, yet prolong His days by a marvellous resurrection!
II. Joseph was an honourable counsellor, but we are told by St. John that he was only a secret disciple of Jesus till the hour of His death. Like Nicodemus, the other rich man, who began with a nocturnal visit to the Son of God, he grew bolder when the crisis arrived. Timidity is the common sin and weakness of rich men in the upper classes. It requires heroic resolution to go against the superstitution and fanaticism of the upper mob of souls, whose opinion in spiritual matters is seldom of greater value than that of the lower. "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?" was regarded as a decisive argument against Jesus Christ by the common people, although, as in this case, the vulgar considerations which determine upper-class opinion in religion, are as ignoble as any which can sway the violence of their inferiors. Let us, then, honour to the world's end both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus; their memories are as fragrant as the precious spices which they brought with fine linen for the entombment of their Lord. The courageous avowal of Truth in the hour of its crucifixion, deserves to be crowned along with Truth in the hour of its triumph.
E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 162.
References: Mark 15:43-46.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1789. Mark 15:46.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. xii., p. 140. Mark 16:1-6.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 217. Mark 16:1-8.—Ibid., vol. xii., p. 209; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 381.
And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.
And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.
And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee.
But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.
Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.
And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.
And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.
But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?
For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.
But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.
And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?
And they cried out again, Crucify him.
Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.
And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.
And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.
And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,
And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!
And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.
And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.
And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.
And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.
And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.
And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.
And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.
And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.
And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,
Save thyself, and come down from the cross.
Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.
Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.
And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias.
And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down.
And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.
And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.
And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.
There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;
(Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.
And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,
Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counseller, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.
And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.
And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.
And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.
And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.