The Gospel of Mark - Chapter 15, v.21
A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) 22 And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”).
23 They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it. 24 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!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.
The Death of Jesus
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. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!” 40 Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. 41 They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.
The Burial of Jesus
42 This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) 44 Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. 45 The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. 46 Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.
About today's contributor: Steve is an attorney. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.
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My mind floods with images from movies I've seen like Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” and Martin Scorsese’s “Last Temptation of Christ”. Pilate was surprised that Jesus died early. If Jesus was tortured as excessively as Gibson portrayed, then a quick death should be expected. (Sorry Mel, you may have got that wrong.)
Everyone wants Jesus to come down from the cross thinking that would somehow prove he is the Messiah. That’s the very thing in Scorsese’s film that was so controversial - Jesus came down from the cross. Everyone knows that film departs from the narrative. But I never fully registered that in the text, coming down from the cross was believed to be necessary for the Messiah.
Jesus only comes down from the cross as a corpse. He died quickly. His revolutionary flame extinguished. Somehow, his death proved that he was the Messiah to a nameless Roman officer. The text doesn’t explain why . . . For everyone else, they likely thought that the crucifixion proved that Jesus was no Messiah. It’s amazing that anyone stuck around to help bury the body.
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Bible Reading Tips . . .
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