Friday, November 16, 2018

Devotional: The Vindication of the Cross, Mark 15:16-41

Mark 15.21-47 outline

With the decision of Pilate to give in to the crowd and sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion, he is given over to the soldiers for mocking and torture. Abandoned by his friends and mocked by his enemies, Jesus surrenders himself to the cruel authority and violence of the “beast” empire. He willingly takes the worst this evil world can give out. But, Jesus had also given himself over to His Father’s will and, in submitting to a demeaning death, would face it and defeat it. God used the darkest moment to give the clearest revelation of who Jesus is. The mocking soldiers who thought that Jesus was the appropriate pathetic example of a king for the Jews, who they despised and disdained, turned out to be more right than they knew when Jesus defeated death by rising from it. The Jews who mocked Jesus for being a man who could save others, but not himself, were being unintentionally prophetic when God saved the world through his death and resurrection. Even when it appeared that God had abandoned him, Jesus was revealed as the ultimate righteous sufferer (Psalm 22) who the Father was vindicating through the whole process. What people intended to humiliate and discredit Jesus, the Father turned into the revelation of Jesus as, not only the king of the Jews, but the Son of God and Savior. This, also is how God works when we “take up our cross” and trust God for our well-being, meaning and purpose.

The scourging, torture, and humiliation of Jesus were designed to break down resistance and assert the will of the rulers. The mocking soldiers and the public nature of the execution was designed to show who was in charge and deter the pretensions of serving any king but Caesar. Instead, Jesus’ quiet dignity in his suffering, faithful resolve, and refusal to retaliate moved a Roman centurion, who had likely been one of the mockers hours before, to proclaim, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (15:39).

Mark also emphasizes Jesus’ cry from Psalm 22 as he pictures the crucifixion with reference to the entire psalm, emphasizing that Jesus was the "righteous sufferer" who felt and seemed abandoned by God but was never abandoned and would be vindicated. At the cross Jesus took on all the results and consequences of sin, including the feelings of estrangement and abandonment by God we have all experienced. But Jesus’ anguished cry came from a faithful heart that had known deep intimacy with God and assures us that God never abandons his people. As Jesus suffered all the pain and anguish of thousands of years of human history the Father was working to set things right. Within the darkness that gathered around the cross God was judging sin and evil and using Jesus’ faithfulness to defeat it.

Finally, God vindicated Jesus on the cross by tearing the veil in the temple from top to bottom at the moment of his death. Jesus, by choosing not to save himself and giving himself over to the Father, opened the way for access to the Father for all humanity. Jesus would save others as he ministered, by being a “servant and ransom” for all. Real power and real victory are experienced when we deny ourselves and use power to serve and save others, rather than saving and serving ourselves. It’s counter-intuitive, but the only way save your life is to give it away.

No comments: