The Crucifixion of Jesus – Mark 15:21-41
21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus,was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the Jews.
27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.  29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!”31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
The Death of Jesus
33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,[c] he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,[d] and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
The Jewish high priests and elders of the Sanhedrin accused Jesus of blasphemy, arriving at the decision to put him to death. But first they needed Rome to approve of their death sentence, so Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea.
Although Pilate found him innocent, unable to find or even contrive a reason to condemn Jesus, he feared the crowds, letting them decide Jesus’ fate. Stirred by the Jewish chief priests, the crowds declared, “Crucify him!”
As was common, Jesus was publicly scourged, or beaten, with a leather-thonged whip before his crucifixion. Tiny pieces of iron and bone chips were tied to the ends of each leather thong, causing deep cuts and painful bruises. He was mocked, struck in the head with a staff and spit on. A prickly crown of thorns was placed on his head and he was stripped naked. Too weak to carry his cross, Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry it for him.
He was led to Golgotha where he would be crucified. As was the custom, before they nailed him to the cross, a mixture of vinegar, gall, and myrrh was offered. This drink was said to alleviate some of the suffering, but Jesus refused to drink it.
Stake-like nails were driven through his wrists and ankles, fastening him to the cross where he was crucified between two convicted criminals.
The inscription above his head tauntingly read, “The King of the Jews.” Jesus hung on the cross for his final agonizing breaths, a period that lasted about six hours.
During that time, soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing, while people passed by shouting insults and scoffing. From the cross, Jesus spoke to his mother Mary and the disciple John. He also cried out to his father, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”
At that point, darkness covered the land. A little later, as Jesus gave up his spirit, an earthquake shook the ground, ripping the Temple veil in two from top to bottom. Matthew’s Gospel records, “The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.”
It was typical for Roman soldiers to show mercy by breaking the criminal’s legs, thus causing death to come more quickly. But this night only the thieves had their legs broken, for when the soldiers came to Jesus, they found him already dead. Instead, they pierced his side. Before sunset, Jesus was taken down by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea and laid in Joseph’s tomb according to Jewish tradition.
- Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:43-52).
- Jesus endured six trials – three by Jewish leaders and three by the Romans (John 18:12-14, Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:1a, Mark 15: 1b-5, Luke 23:6-12, Mark 15:6-15). Jesus survived painful beating, whipping, and mocking (Mark 15:16-20).
- Pilate tried to compromise with the religious leaders by having Jesus beaten, but this act didn’t satisfy them. Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified (Mark 15:6-15).
- Jesus was mocked by the soldiers as they dressed Him in a purple robe and a crown of thorns (John 19:1-3).
- Jesus was crucified on Golgotha, which means the Place of the Skull (Mark 15:22). The sky turned dark for three hours (Mark 15:33).
- Jesus cried, “Father! Into your hands I commit my spirit!” and He died (Luke 23:46).
POINTS OF INTEREST FROM THE STORY
- Christian theology teaches that the death of Jesus Christ provided the perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind, thus making the crucifix, or cross, one of the defining symbols of Christianity.
- Although both Roman and Jewish leaders could be implicated in the sentencing and death of Jesus Christ, he himself said of his life, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:18 NIV).
- The curtain or veil of the Temple separated the Holy of Holies (inhabited by the presence of God) from the rest of the Temple. Only the high priest could enter there once a year, with the sacrificial offering for the sins of all the people. When Christ died and the curtain was torn from top to bottom, this symbolized the destruction of the barrier between God and man. The way was opened up through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. His death provided the complete sacrifice for sin so that now all people, through Christ, can approach the throne of grace.
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