devotion 9-25-14

Good Morning!

Mark 15.21-32

21They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

Generally, a prisoner was forced to carry the cross-beam of his cross; the upright being already prepared at the site. Mark says that the Roman soldiers conscripted a man to carry Jesus’ cross – perhaps he was so weakened by the flogging that he was unable to do so. It is interesting that Mark identifies this man – his name was Simon, and he came from Cyrene, a city on the North African coast. We get the impression that perhaps his sons, Alexander and Rufus, were known to the early church, and Mark is making that connection. They are not, however, mentioned elsewhere, except for a Rufus mentioned by Paul, in Romans 16.

The soldiers would have driven Jesus and the other prisoners through the streets of the city, from the Antonia Fortress, out the gates, to a place fairly near the city walls, and in a location visible to those entering the city. Crucifixion was meant to be a visible warning against insurrection! We follow a path through the city today, called the “Via Dolorosa”, a way of grief. Of course, even though we go through the old city, in most places it is built over the ruins of the ancient city, which was burned and ransacked in 70 CE. Still, one gets a feeling of nearness to the actual events walking through the old city. That trail ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is the traditional site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. It is one of the ancient churches maintained over the years by the different denominations, including the Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Armenian Christians – and others, with the keys being in the custody of a Muslim family. There is a second site proposed by some as the site of the crucifixion, because of the appearance of a skull in the rock cliff; this site is called “The Garden Tomb” and is maintained as a non-profit corporation (by Protestants).

The crucifixion takes place at “the third hour”, 9:00 in the morning. They place a sign over him saying “The King of the Jews.” Pilate is not having a man crucified for some religious dispute, but for the crime of treason, insurrection against Caesar. The sign is there so that all will know that!

Notice the mockery that accompanies the crucifixion, “Save yourself! Come down from the cross!”. Mark intentionally draws our attention to that – if you read Psalm 22, you will find it there. Mark intends us to see that Jesus fulfills the scriptures, especially in his crucifixion.

pictures are the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

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