Mark 15 gives us another look at the crucifixion of Jesus. He was brought before Pilate on trumped up charges. Mark tells us another reason why the Council wanted Him dead besides their desire to protect their turf: “it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered Him up”. They couldn’t stand the fact that people were drawn to Jesus rather than themselves. Envy is a powerfully destructive thing. Being more concerned about what people think of us than anything else will cause us to do very stupid things. We are warned about it for this very reason. Pilate asks the obvious question when they bring Jesus before him: “why, what evil has He done”? There was no reason. But Pilate falls to another temptation – being a crowd pleaser – as scripture tells us he was “wishing to satisfy the crowd”. Want to make bad choices in life – then let the crowd direct what happens in your life. We can’t live to please others – we must live for an audience of One – God Himself – and ignore the noise of the crowd. That is easier said than done – and I see over and over how people spend lots of time and money making sure they fit in with those in the crowd around them. Bad plan that will lead you away from God unless you have been extremely selective about your crowd. We can’t live that way and be truly effective as Christ Followers. It won’t lead us where we need to go or push us the way we ought to live. The crowd is not focused on God but almost always on their own needs. Be careful about who you are living to please and make sure it is an audience of One!
After Jesus is crucified, the “whole battalion” is called together to mock Him. Seems like overkill – Jesus hadn’t seemed to be much of a threat to run away or escape – but scripture tells us the entire battalion came together. They were there to mock Him as they “clothed Him in a purple cloak…..twisting together a crown of thorns…..salute Him…..kneeling down in homage”. They brought in the whole set of troops to mock Him together. Why so many were involved isn’t clear to me – but maybe they knew more about who He was than they wanted to let on and wanted to have lots of company involved – the whole crowd mentality again. Jesus was too beat down to carry His own cross so they “compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene….to carry His cross”. Can you imagine being in that place – just walking by minding your own business – and now you are carrying a heavy cross for a guy going to be crucified? Wow – talk about your day being changed. We don’t know much about Simon of Cyrene at all – just that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got drafted for the job. They crucified Jesus and those who did the deed “divided His garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take”. Death on a cross was slow and painful, so these guys had to do something to keep themselves occupied. They cast lots for people’s clothes. What a life. Jesus hanged there for about 6 hours before He gave up His spirit and as he died “the centurion, who stood facing Him, saw that He breathed His last, he said, truly this man was the Son of God”. It was obvious to the crowd that Jesus was who He had claimed to be. Not because of how He came down off the cross or did anything miraculous, but because of the way He died. He spoke to God as His Son. He carried the weight of the world’s sin to that Cross and it died with Him there. Jesus bore it all. And because of that sacrifice of self – the willingness to be obedient to God’s plan and set us free forever from the wages of sin – we have the opportunity to be free indeed today. Jesus death paved the way for God’s grace for us. All we have to do is receive it. Thank you Lord for being willing to die on that Cross for me!