Thursday, March 23, 2017

Jesus’ Death

Mark 15:33-41

“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 sponge 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.” (Mark 15:33-36)

About noon there was a darkness, similar to a total eclipse, which lasted until about 3:00 o’clock.  This was not a solar eclipse, however, as total solar eclipses only last about seven minutes and this lasted three hours.   During the time he was on the cross, Jesusaccepted the guilt for all of mankinds.s sins as Isaiah 53:6 tells us.  “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  As a result, for the first time ever There was a separation between him and the Father.  Isaiah 59:2 tells us, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”  Jesus cried out,” My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The Pharisees had become so worried about taking the name of God in vain they would not write or say his name, and most Jews still will not today.  When they heard Jesus, the people assumed he meant Elijah.  Hearing him, one man put a sponge soaked with vinegar to his mouth, knowing it would accentuate his thirst and misery.  He said they would watch to see if Elijah came to the rescue. 

“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.” (Mark 15:37-38)

When they gave him the vinegar to drink Jesus knew the last prophecy about his crucifixion had been fulfilled, and released his spirit, as John 10:17-18 explains.  “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”

Hebrews 9:6-7 stresses that the veil portrayed that the the old testament law could never provide salvation.   When Jesus gave up his human life, the veil or curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was ripped in two, demonstrating that salvation was now available to all. 
“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.”  (Mark 15:39)

After seeing  and hearing what Jesus said, the Roman centurion who conducted the crucifixion recognized he had to be the Messiah, even though the Jewish leaders and teachers, who were far more familiar with the scriptures did not.   Unfortunately, many people who can quote scriptures have no spiritual understanding of what they mean. 

“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.” (Mark 15:40-41)

In the crowd watching the crucifixion were many of the women who had followed Jesus in Galilee and had accompanied him and the disciples to Jerusalem for the Passover.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Crucifixion

Mark 15:16-32

“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.” (Mark 15:16-19)

“And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar,” according to John 19:12  If the Jews rioted, Pilate’s leadership would be questioned and a charge of treason would almost certainly get him fired and possibly executed.  He knew the Jews would hesitate to bring such a charge if he refused to do as they demanded, so he gave in and turned him over to the soldiers to be executed. 

The Roman soldiers made a mockery of Jesus as the king of the Jews in an effort to drive home the fact that they ruled the Jews, dressing him as a fake king, then beating him and spitting on him to show their disdain for Jewish power.  Had it been anyone but Jesus, the Jews would have revolted, but because of their hatred for him, encouraged it in much the same way the Never Trump forces ignore their most sacred beliefs to attack president Trump.    

“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.” (Mark 15:20-21)

Tradition says the cross was so heavy Jesus fell trying to carry it.  Scripture does not say that.  It was so heavy and awkward it would be difficult for a person to carry, delaying the crucifixion.  To expedite matters, the soldiers drafted Simon of Cyrene to carry one end of the cross, as Roman permitted them to do. 

“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.” (Mark 15:22-24)

When they arrived at Golgotha, which was frequently used for executions, Jesus was stripped, nailed to the cross and offered a drink of wine mingled with myrrh, before the cross was raised.  While the drink would provide immediate relief, the lingering taste would only exacerbate thirst later.  Jesus refused  the drink, having stated he would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until he celebrated the communion with the saints in his kingdom.    Once the cross was raised, the soldiers becan to gamble for his clothing even before he was dead. 

“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.” (Mark 15:25-28)

By about nine o’clock in the morning the trial was over, and Jesus had been nailed to the cross.  The charge against Jesus, as posted on the cross was that he was the king of the Jews.  Two thieves were hanged alongside him, fulfilling the scriptures that he would be executed like a common criminal.  Even their best efforts to make him appear as a common criminal demonstrated that he was in fact the Messiah. 

“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.” (Mark 15:29-32)

The crowd spent the next few hours watching Jesus suffer and making fun of him.  They said that if he really was Messiah, he should demonstrate it by coming down off the cross.  Even one of the thieves got caught up in the mockery.  They didn’t understand that his staying on the cross was the real proof he was Messiah.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Jesus’ Trial

Mark 15:1-15

“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.” (Mark 15:1)

In the Roman Empire, Roman Law took precedent over local laws, just as Federal law takes precedent over those of local cities or states.  Because the Jewish leaders had fallen into a habit of trying to use Jewish law to stop their opposition, much like Lois Lerner withholding tax exempt status from conservative groups, the Roman government had limited their authority to enforce their laws.  Before sentence could be carried out, it had to be approved by the Roman courts.  Though the Jewish rulers had decided Christ’s sentence they had to have a hearing before Pilate.  

“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.” (Mark 15:2-5)

Jesus had repeatedly shut down and destroyed his opponent’s arguments in the past, and could easily have done the same thing before Pilate because even their witnesses couldn’t agree.   He had come to earth for the purpose of dying for man’s sin, and any effort he might make to defend himself would destroy their case potentially preventing them from executing him.    He simply refused to defend himself, and Pilate was amazed, realizing that their entire case was based on envy, and not a legitimate crime as we will see in Mark 15:10.  The other Gospels give additional details of the hearings, with both Pilate and Herod concluding the charges were without merit, but fearing the Jewish reaction, were afraid to set him free.   

“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.” (Mark 15:6-10)

Each year at Passover, Pilate had made a habit of releasing one political prisoner.  In a last ditch effort to release Jesus without upsetting the Jewish leaders, Pilate gave them a choice of which prisoner he would release.  He knew that everyone hated Barabbas, a well-known murder and trouble maker they were glad to have off the streets.   He was sure they would choose Jesus over Barabbas. 

“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.” (Mark 15:11-14)

Like the Democratic Party leaders and News media stirring up hatred toward Donald Trump, calling for his impeachment even before he took office, the Jewish leaders stirred up hatred toward Jesus, calling for his crucifixion.  Pilate was shocked at the level of hatred and asked what the grounds for execution for execution could be since he had not been shown to commit any crimes. 

“And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15)

In an effort to appease the people, Pilate authorize Jesus’ crucifixion, even though he knew it was wrong.  He refused to accept responsibility for what was happening.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Peter Denies The Lord

Mark 14:66-72

“And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.

But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.” (Mark 14:66-68)

While the hearing for Jesus was being held in the High Priests house, Peter was down in the palace with the servants and common people.  One of the High Priest’s servants recognized him as a follower of Jesus.   Peter said he didn’t know what she was talking about, implying she was mistaken.  He went out into the courtyard to get away from her.  When he did, he heard the rooster crow the first time, probably about 3:330-4:00 o’clock in the morning. 

“And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.  And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.

But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.” (Mark 14:69-71)

While he was still on the porch, another maid saw Peter and told the others he had been with Jesus.  That time Peter clearly denied having been with Jesus.  A little later, another one told the people he had been with Jesus and insisted that his Galilean accent clearly gave him away as having accompanied Jesus.  Peter began to curse and swear like the fisherman he had been in an effort to convince them he was not a disciple of Jesus.  He insisted he didn’t even know who Jesus was. 

“And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.” (Mark 14:72)

The rooster crowed again, probably about 4:30 am.  It was only about six or eight hours after Jesus had announced that all the disciples would be offended by what happened.  Peter had boldly spoken, insisting he would never deny Christ, as had all the other disciples.  Jesus had warned them that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed the second time.    When he heard the rooster, Peter realized he had denied the Lo9rd just as he prophesied.  Suddenly he realized just how weak his faith was. 

While it is easy to condemn Peter for denying Christ we need to remember some other things he did.   He was one of the first ones to follow Jesus and the only one to walk on the water to meet him.  He was the first one to declare that they believed Jesus was the Messiah, the son of God.  He was the only one to try to defend Jesus against the mob that came to arrest him.  Clearly he had a great deal of faith in Christ, but even he succumbed to fear in a particular situation.   It seriously damaged hi pride, so that he no longer thought he was better than the others.  Unfortunately all of us have similar areas where we are vulnerable to Satanic attacks, and most of us don’t realize it until we fall for them.  Fortunately Jesus is willing to forgive and can use our failures to make us stronger.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Investigating Jesus

Mark 14:53-65

“And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.  And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.” (Mark 14:53-54)

After his arrest, Jesus was taken to the high priest’s home to be interrogated.  Peter and John followe along behind, and because John was known to the High priest, he was allowed inside while Peter was not.  He was forced to sit outside in the courtyard with the servants.   

“And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.  For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.  And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,  We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.  But neither so did their witness agree together.” (Mark 14:55-59)

The election of Donald Trump has given me a far greater understanding of the hatred Jesus experienced.   Like the Never Trump groups, the chief priests and Pharisees were panicked at the thought of losing control.  Though they had no evidence the Never Trump groups are calling his impeachment, just as the priests and Pharisees called for Jesus’ execution.  They met together to investigate whether they could find grounds for his execution, asking for people to provide any stories they could against him.  Repeatedly, the stories turned out to be false.  Finally some were found that could accuse him of saying some things that were unpopular, but even those claims failed to justify his execution. 

“And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?  But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:60-61)

Unable to find anything of substance against him the high priest began to bait him implying that his silence amounted to an acknowledgment of guilt.  Jesus did not respond until asked a legitimate question, which he answered honestly.   

“And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?  Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.  And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.” (Mark 14:62-65)

The Jews had accepted several Pharisees as Messiahs, but when Jesus said he was, they seized on his statement as an excuse to attack him in much the same way the Democratic party has attacked President Trump for calling for a limit on immigration even though it is nearly identical to the one President Obama signed.  While Donald Trump has little similarity to Jesus, the way he has been treated reveals just how irrational and unethical the Jew’s hatred of Jesus was.  Ignoring both Roman and Jewish law, they began to abuse him even though he had not yet been tried and their investigation had not shown any wrongdoing.    

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Jesus’ Arrest

Mark 14:42-52

“Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.   And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.” (Mark 14:42-43)

Jesus had told his disciples to watch and pray, while he went off to pray privately, and when he returned he found them asleep. The second time he said they should get as much sleep as they could and didn’t waken them.   A little while later, he woke them up warning them that Judas and the officers were nearby.  Judas knew where they often spent the night when they stayed in Jerusalem so he was able to bring a large group of officers directly to the place. 

“And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.  And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.  And they laid their hands on him, and took him.  And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.” (Mark 14:44-46)

The chief priests wanted to avoid publicity if possible, so Judas had agreed to give Jesus a warm personal greeting, to allay suspicion.  When he kissed the Lord the officers were to grab him, catching everyone by surprise.  By the time.  By the time the disciples could react, it would be too late.  They had not counted on any of the disciples being armed.  Peter drew a sword, and attacked but only cut off a guy’s ear because he ducked.  Jesus told Peter to put away his sword, and put the ear back on, showing he cared about them as well. 

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?  I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.” (Mark 14:48-49)

Jesus then asked why they had come to arrest him with such a huge force of officers as if he were some dangerous criminal when at any time they could have arrested him downtown without incident if they had a valid case against him.  Obviously, they were trying to make it look like he was a dangerous criminal.   As he pointed out, by doing things that way, they were fulfilling the prophecies about Messiah. 

“And they all forsook him, and fled.  And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.” (Mark 14:50-52)

It was at this point the disciples realized how determined the Jews were and fled.  Mark tells us about a boy or young man who had undressed and rolled up in a blanket to sleep.  When Jesus woke the disciples, he had just pulled the blanket around him.  When the disciples fled, somebody grabbed hi, but he wriggled free and fled leaving the blanket behind.  Some have speculated Mark may have been the boy, although he was probably too young at the time. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Jesus Prays In The Garden

Mark 14:27-41

“And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.  But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.

But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.

And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all. ” (Mark 14:27-31)

After eating the Passover and the Communion. Jesus warned his disciples that some things would be happening that night that would leave them feeling betrayed and lost, because according to the scriptures they would lose their leader.  When that happened, they were to understand he would meet them back home in Galilee.    Though he had warned them repeatedly, they still didn’t understand about his crucifixion and resurrection.   They knew about the Jewish efforts to arrest him, of course, but they did not realize how serious the threat was.  Peter was convinced there was nothing that could weaken his commitment to Christ. 

When Jesus told Peter, that he would be so disheartened that he would deny the Lord three times before the rooster crowed the second time the next morning, Peter insisted there was no way anything could shake his faith that quickly.  The other disciples were equally convinced although less vocal about their commitment. 

“And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.  And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.   And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:32-36)

Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen the following day, and as a human being, could not help but be concerned just as anyone else facing execution would be.  When thy came to the place where they usually camped out for the night, he told them he was feeling really upset and asked them to stay alert and pray while he went a little farther and prayed privately.  He then prayed that if it was possible, God would provide another way so he didn’t have to go through the suffering.  As Hebrews 5:1 explains, even he feared the pain he would face.  When he asked the disciples to watch and pray, he was not asking them to pray to stop the things from happening, but that they would be ready to deal with what happened, as we see in the text of his prayers in John 17. 

“And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?  Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.  And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. “ (Mark 14:37-39)

Because they didn’t understand the urgency and seriousness of what was about to happen, the disciples quickly fell asleep.  When Jesus returned after praying for a while he woke them up and asked them to pray again.  Still tense and upset, he went back out to pray alone again.  He understood how complete their commitment was, but also that the human body was more concerned with its rest than with his concerns.

“And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.  And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Mark 14:40-41)

When Jesus returned the second time, he didn’t wake them up, saying they should rest as much as they could because nothing was going to prevent his betrayal at that time.  He knew they probably wouldn’t sleep very well for the next few days.