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“Truly this man was God’s Son!”

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Scripture:
Mark 15:39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
Observation:
This moment became the pinnacle of Mark’s gospel. His opening statement was, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The entire gospel led to this pronouncement by a Roman soldier — a gentile — for all the world to understand that Jesus was the Son of God!
It’s the way in which Jesus dies that confounds this soldier. When Jesus breathed out is last, the soldier was amazed. This wasn’t how people died of crucifixion; it should have been a slow death, usually after the person was unconscious. Jesus stayed awake until the end and then had the strength to cry out at his last breath. Astounded the soldier recognizes that this is no ordinary man and confesses what the jewish religious leaders should have seen all along.
Roman culture had their own understanding of what it meant to be a “son of god.” Julius C…

Where Is God?

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Scripture:
Mark 15:38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
Observation:
The temple was not visible from the place where Jesus was crucified and yet, Mark inserts this additional detail because it is of utmost importance. This is presented as an act of God because, the inner curtain to the Holy of Holies was nearly ten meters high and would have taken super-natural strength to tear. The outer curtain was seen larger, about twenty-five meters high. We are not sure which curtain it was that was torn but, the rending of either curtain in the temple revealed the most holy place, making it open to view.
Throughout Mark’s gospel we have seen that God’s dwelling among his people has been in Jesus. When Jesus is with his followers, God is there in the midst. The place of God is no longer in the holy of holies, or in the temple, but is now among the people of his new covenant. This is revealed in the moment of the tearing of the curtain, leaving you with a sense that t…

The Answer in Expiration

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Scripture:
Mark 15:37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
Observation:
In this one little verse we find expansive meaning. Most criminals who were crucified would lose consciousness and hang on the cross for hours as life slowly slipped away from them. What happens with Jesus is most uncommon. He is not unconscious but remains awake until he breathes out his last breath with enough strength that he gives out a loud cry.
The word used here, “breathed out” is a word that is rarely used for death. It is where we get the “expire” — “inspire” to breathe in and “expire” — to breathe out. The word in Greek, has the root pneuma which we also use for spirit, and has a relationship to the Hebrew word ruach.
Application:
I’ve been pondering this one little sentence today. It’s in Genesis 1 that we first encounter this roach: “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) The spirit or the b…

Misguided Hope

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Scripture:
Mark 15:35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”
Observation:
From the perspective of Mark, Elijah had already come and played his role in and through the life of John the Baptist. The focus on the drama was now on Jesus alone but again, the witnesses didn’t understand what they were seeing. They failed to comprehend the significance of all that had already seen and experienced.
There was popular belief among the Israelites that Elijah would come to their aid in times of mortal danger. Running to get Jesus the sour wine was probably an act of compassion as they hoped that they could keep him alive until Elijah arrived. This is misguided hope as a result of unbelief.
Application:
While there were bystanders who were mocking Jesus, this group seems to have had genuine …

Cries of Lament

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Scripture:
Mark 15:33   When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Observation:
This idea of darkness reminds us of Isaiah 60:2 “For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.” The darkness covered the earth in the time that Jesus was dying, but this was a foreshadowing of the coming glory of the Lord.
Within a few hours Jesus cried out a Psalm of lament. In his pain and suffering he only spoke the very first line, a type of reference point for all those who were listening in. This is a Psalm of lament, and so we listen to the whole passage to be able to understand the context for Jesus’ words:
Psalm 22: 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O m…

Faith Sees a Sign in All He Does

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Scripture:
Mark 15:25   It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 In 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. 32 Let 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.
Observation:
Mark brings us a story of the crucifixion that is simple and fact-filled. This moment is filled with jeers and mocking by those who could not possibly understand what Jesus was doing. Those who passed by were “shaking their heads” which brings up visions…

Who is Your Rufus?

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Scripture:
Mark 15:21   They 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. 22 Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
Observation:
People had traveled from across the Roman world to be in Jerusalem. Probably Jews, the family of Simon had originally lived in Cyrene, a city in modern-day Libya in North Africa. This was a prominent city in the region, influential in commerce and culture. Whether it was this family, or others, there were people from Cyrene also present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
At the time of the writing of Mark’s gospel, apparently, Rufus and Alexander were known to the church in Rome, or they would not have been mentioned. A man by the name of R…