Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece. 25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 A sign announced the charge against him. It read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
29 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. 30 Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”
31 The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!”
33 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
35 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!”
37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last.
What images come to mind when you imagine the crucifixion of Jesus?
Go ahead – take a second, close your eyes, and imagine the crucifixion. What do you see?
Three crosses? Crown of thorns? Hammering nails? Christ’s pained face?
I think most people, if you asked them, would respond that the mental picture of the crucifixion that first comes to mind includes some of these graphic images.
But if you read Mark’s account of the crucifixion closely…you’ll note that the kinds of details that usually jump into our mind aren’t as prominent as you might think off the top of your head.
Mark doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on the physical details that describe Jesus’ crucifixion. Mark doesn’t explain how tall the cross was, or where the nails were placed on His body. Nor does Mark describe details about the agony Jesus endured, what it felt like for Him, or provide any other details on how physically difficult the experience was.
Instead, Mark devotes almost the entirety of his Gospel account to depicting the insults and mockery that surrounded the crucifixion.
Specifically, Mark describes the following instances of mockery:
V. 26 – A sign making fun of Jesus that read “King of the Jews.”
V. 29 – Regular people passing by and mocking Jesus for claiming he could destroy the Temple and rebuild it in 3 days
V. 31 – Religious leaders commenting that Jesus had saved others, but can’t save himself, while mocking that they’d believe in Him if He did save Himself.
V. 32 – A bystander joking that perhaps Elijah would save Jesus (after misunderstanding “Eloi” for “Elijah”)
Again, rather than focusing on the intense pain of the experience, Mark instead captures the spectacle and humiliating emotional abuse hurled against Jesus in the final moments of His earthly life.
If you pay close attention to the theme running through all of the mockery, you can see that it all points to one single idea.
Jesus’ oppressors mockingly claimed they’d believe He’s the Messiah if He would come down from the cross.
Those who were laughing and cheering on Jesus’ death were fully aware of the things Jesus had said and done. In v. 29, the religious leaders even note that they were aware that Jesus had saved others, presumably describing the miracles and healings that were a hallmark of His ministry.
The people mocking and jeering Jesus as He hung dying were, based on the clues of their insults, quite familiar with Jesus and the work that He had done throughout His ministry. But instead of being moved to follow and believe Him based on all of the evidence that they’d witnessed, they instead used it as ammunition against Him in His final moments.
What would it have taken for Jesus’ killers to have believed in Him?
How many healings would Jesus had to provide before the leaders of the day recognized His awesome power?
How many exorcisms would Jesus have needed to perform before they would be convinced that He was a holy man?
How many powerful sermons would Jesus have needed to give before they saw His true divine wisdom?
What would it have taken for the opposition of Jesus to be convinced that He was the Son of God?
Of course, Jesus did something even more remarkable than coming down from the cross – He rose from the grave three days later.
Jesus’ resurrection was no secret at the time.
Many people knew the tomb was empty, and He was seen by hundreds of people after the Resurrection.
In fact, Matthew describes in 27:62-66 and 28:11-15 an elaborate plot by the religious leaders and guards at Jesus’ tomb to spread disinformation about the Resurrection, despite the guards having witnessed that His body was gone and no one came to steal it.
Even when Jesus returned from the dead – His mockers didn’t believe.
No, Jesus didn’t come down from the cross that day, but He did rise from the grave three days later, and His return was the inspiration that led to an explosion of faith and spread of the Gospel throughout the region that we read about in the rest of the New Testament.
But for many of the people who mocked Jesus that day, they never believed, even when all the evidence point them to the truth.
We too often struggle to believe Jesus, despite all of the evidence He’s given us.
How many times has Jesus brought you out of a dark hole in your life?
How often has God shaped the direction of your path?
Where have you seen God move powerfully in your past, holding you up when nothing else could?
And yet…as time passes and new challenges arise…and the mountaintops of faith are replaced with the monotonous difficulties of every day…our faith often begins to stagnate.
Despite all of the powerful evidence God shows us time and time again, it’s also sometimes very hard for us to really depend on God, trusting He’s there even when we don’t feel Him.
Sometimes we fall into a trap when our own trials begin and say, “God, I need you to do something really amazing, because I’m not sure you’re even paying attention.”
On Good Friday, we observe the reality that Jesus died – and it’s the greatest single piece of evidence that God loves us.
Incapable of saving ourselves from the mire of sin, God sent His Son as the perfect atoning sacrifice. Jesus endured all the humiliation mockery and doubts against Him throughout His earthly ministry, culminating at the cross.
That God sent Jesus is proof of His undying love for us…and yet, what will it take for us to be completely, 100% convinced?
The life God wants for us is completely free of doubt that He loves us.
He wants us to step boldly and deeply into a life where we know He is good and has the best plans for us.
Jesus endured the mockery, suffering, and death – before rising again – so there would be no doubt in our minds whatsoever that He is the King and He is victorious.
He is the one who is saving us right here and now, in the midst of all of our own humiliation and hurt.
What we can do is to lay aside our own persistent belief that we’re all on our own. We have to stop dismissing all the mountains of evidence that God is in control and directing our lives.
God loves us more than we can ever possibly imagine, and the proof can be found on this day – Good Friday.
Because no, Jesus didn’t save Himself on the cross.
He saved you instead.
Take a moment to envision all of the places where you are struggling to believe God is leading in your life. What are the circumstances where you presently need to feel a stronger connection to God and have deeper faith that God is present with you? Take these issues before God, and as you do, contemplate the evidence of God’s witness in your life that can be found in the cross. Bring your attention before the reality that Jesus died for you because of His immense love and desire to save you from the pain and sin of the world. How does Jesus’ love and sacrifice serve as proof that God is with you and carrying you right now?
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Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.