Thursday, 27 September 2012
Mark 15:33-47 - Jesus: dead and buried
God came as human being: Jesus and at this point in Mark's gospel we read of how he died. It's a monumental moment. The death of God! No wonder big things started to happen like it going pitch black for 3 hours in the afternoon (v33). Far too long to be explained in purely natural ways. Jesus' death was shaking the world.
This is the first time in the history of everything that God the Son has been separated from God the Father (v34). The separation is a necessary part of the punishment for the sin of the world and Jesus willingly takes it, even though it's painful beyond what anyone could imagine. Crucifixion is torture enough but separation from God is something far worse.
The sponge they use to offer Jesus a drink is often cited as a moment of kindness and mercy from those standing nearby but as we've seen, those standing around the cross were mocking Jesus throughout all this. It's unlikely to be kindness on their part and those who loved Jesus were watching from a distance (v40). In Israel, the crucifixion site is well known and nearby there are ancient public toilets where they used sponges to clean themselves after using them. It has been suggested by some that this would have been the sponge used to offer Jesus a drink. It wasn't an act of kindness but a disgusting act of cruelty and mockery.
As Jesus breathes his last, the curtain in the temple is torn from top to bottom (v37-38). This is a huge sign. The curtain was to separate people from God and only the high priest was allowed to enter through the curtain once a year. They used to tie ropes onto his ankles just in case he dropped dead while in there and they had to drag him out. Such was the fear people had of the presence of God because of his perfect holiness and their sinfulness. The fact that the curtain was torn top to bottom shows that God is doing it and showing us what is really happening on the cross as Jesus dies. Jesus is blasting open the way back to God for everyone by dying on the cross in our place for our sin. God is making it possible for people to know him personally and be forgiven once and for all. No more curtain, no more priests - just God and his people.
Whilst many remained against Jesus and no doubt continued to mock him, the way Jesus died is enough to convince the Roman centurion that Jesus was who he claimed to be - the Son of God (v39).
We've seen already how Jesus' closest friends had scattered in fear (Mark 14:27) but some of the women who loved Jesus were also some of the bravest. It's interesting that it's the women whose dedication to Jesus means they stick around watching from a distance (v40-41). The men have run away scared. I really think it's a challenge to the church in our time where most Christians stepping up to serve and lead are women and too many Christian men fail to turn up to learn, let alone step up to lead.
One man who does step up is Joseph of Arimathea. He's someone who is waiting for the kingdom of God and the Messiah - God's chosen rescuer (v43) and he has great courage and conviction to stand before Pilate boldly asking for Jesus' body. Pilate is shrewd and doesn't take Joseph's word for it that Jesus is dead. he knows the rumours about Jesus claiming he would come back from the dead and he wants to make sure no-one can claim it has happened. The centurion confirms it and so Joseph is allowed to take Jesus' body and bury it properly in his tomb. The rock that covered the entrance to the tomb would have taken five men to move it. Jesus is definitely dead and buried. But the tomb is a loan. In three days Jesus will give it back!
And who else is there to witness the safe burial of Jesus? It's the women again (v47). The same women who have been committed to Jesus throughout the toughest of times.