Sermon – April 14, 2017
In Mark 15, we see an unjust trial against a perfect king, a sinner set free, and the wrath of God satisfied.
1. Silence (vv. 1-5)
In verse 2, Pilate asks him, “Are you King of the Jews?” This charge that they brought before Pilate was not the charge that they were upset about. Back in chapter 14 they were incensed because Jesus claimed to be the Christ, the messiah, the Son of the Blessed. Jesus answered them by saying, “I am”. This is a clear reference to the “I am” that the Lord, Yahweh, used to describe himself in Exodus 3. Jesus then said to the council, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:62) That was the reason they wanted to kill him, that was the real charge they wanted to bring against Jesus. But they knew that would not really get Rome upset. They tell Pilate that Jesus has declared himself to be the “King of the Jews”. This is the charge that they bring against Jesus. Trying to cast him in the light of an insurrectionist against the state, they ask Pilate to kill him. They accuse him, they lie about him, and they dare him to defend himself.
What does Jesus say? Does he point all of this out? Does he show how they have lied about him, how they have been plotting to destroy him for some time, and how with ill intentions they have mistreated him? This is Jesus of all people, a man who has done nothing wrong! He is the one in the history of the world who is truly innocent, and not just of this charge but of any charge. What does Jesus say? He simply looks Pilate in the eye and says, “You have said so.” Verse 3 says that the chief priests accuse him of many things. They continued to lie about him. He does not say a word. He does not honor their accusations, he does not defend himself, but he remains silent. In the face of injustice, Jesus did not open his mouth. Jesus knew this was the reason that he was sent here. Even though Jesus knew the horrors that he would endure, he still submitted to the will of the Father. He lovingly, graciously, willingly, kindly, gently, and honorably remained silent. He did not refute the charges because this was his purpose. He deliberately came to save sinners through his death. He came to take the punishment that sinners deserve.
2. Substitution (vv. 6-15)
As the trial proceeds, we see Pilate try to find a way out of this predicament. He does not find fault in Jesus. Pilate recognizes the envy of the chief priests, knows this is a bogus verdict, and needs a clean way out of this situation. Perhaps he could appeal to the crowd, and get them to ask for Jesus’s release according to tradition. This would possibly satisfy the guilty verdict as desired by the chief priests, meanwhile satisfy the crowd with his gesture of mercy. His plan terribly backfires. The crowd rejects this, and calls for Jesus to be crucified. The very crime that Jesus is accused of committing (rising up against Roman authorities) – of this crime Barabbas is guilty. Innocent Jesus is condemned; guilty Barabbas is set free.
You must see the sick irony here. There is no clearer picture of substitution in the Bible. We see Jesus sentenced to death on a cross in the place of a sinner. Christ is innocent and condemned; the sinner is guilty and shown mercy.
3. Suffering (vv. 15-39)
Jesus is scourged. This is a horrible Roman practice that consisted of one getting beaten with leather whips plated with pieces of bone or lead. This left the body of the victim shredded, open, and bleeding. Jesus endures this. He is then mocked and beaten by whole battalion. He is dressed up in faux royal clothing as a sick joke, a crown of thorns is rammed into his skill, and he is beaten with mock scepter. Jesus endures this. This physical and humiliating suffering, Jesus endures. But notice Mark spends very little time focusing on the specifics of the physical suffering, for there is something far worse in store.
Jesus endured much more on the cross than the physical suffering. Certainly crucifixion is horrid, and certainly the physical suffering was great. No, on the cross Jesus suffered under the wrath of God. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These familiar words from Psalm 22 highlight what happened while the messiah hung on the tree. God the Father poured out his righteous and just wrath against sin. He did not pour it out against the guilty. He poured it out on a substitute. He poured out his wrath on the Son. Jesus, the perfect God-man, hung on the cross and endured hell. With a final cry, he drinks the cup of God’s wrath down to the dregs.
This is the “what”, but we need to recognize the “why”. Why did Jesus remain silent, why did he stand in as a substitute, and why did he endure unimaginable suffering. Why did he do all of this? “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21) Jesus died so that sinners could be reconciled to God. Humans, people, rebels against God have no hope at all, but for the redemption in Christ found by the grace of God. He has purposely gone to the cross with the intention of glorifying the Father by justifying the unjust.
This is why Jesus was silent, this is why Jesus acted as a substitute, and this is why Jesus suffered. This Good Friday, look to him afresh in repentance and faith as the true and perfect King, the one to whom you owe everything.