Sunday 29 March 2015

Bible Book:

“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. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.” (vv. 21-24)

Mark 15:1-39 Sunday 29 March 2015

Psalm: Psalm 31


The crucifixion of Jesus which wecommemorate this week is the high point of all four Gospels. It iswhere the passion of the Christ reaches its dramatic conclusion,and Jesus' journey to the cross reaches its destination. This isparticularly true of the shorter ending of Mark's Gospel, which hasvery little post- crucifixion detail. The Gospel more or lessconcludes at Mark 15:39.

Despite the importance of thecrucifixion to the story of the Gospels it receives very littleattention or description. In contrast, some elements in the storyreceive quite a bit of detailed information.

Note, for example, how we are told thename of the man who was compelled to carry Jesus' cross. We aretold where he is from, and the names of his sons. In Jesus andthe eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2008) RichardBaukham argues, persuasively, that one reason for including thenames of people like Alexander and Rufus, is because they wouldhave been known in the 1st-century Church. People who wanted todouble check the veracity of Mark's account could actually go tofind Simon or his sons Alexander and Rufus. It was for Mark a bitlike a footnote in an essay; it indicates the sources.

Similarly we are told where Jesus wascrucified, Golgotha, offered details of what he was offered todrink, the time of the crucifixion is recorded, the dividing ofJesus' clothes by lot, and even what one of the centurions had tosay when Jesus died.

However the crucifixion itself isdescribed with remarkable restraint in a surprising economy ofwords. Mark uses only two words in the original Greek: "theycrucified him" (v. 25).

To Ponder

  • If the crucifixion is indeed the climax of the Gospel, why doyou think so few words are spent describing what happened?
  • To what extent might the brevity of the description be anindication that few in the first century needed to have crucifixionspelt out or described for them? Were they already only too wellaware of what crucifixion was and meant?
  • If Bauckham is right and the few names we have recorded in Markare a deliberate attempt to cite eyewitnesses, or the descendantsof eyewitnesses, for the 1st-century Church, what might be theirfunction for the 21st-century Church?
  • Is it possible to overemphasise thecross and the painfulnature of Jesus death? Are we better taking a leaf from the book ofthe Gospel writers who are satisfied to record the fact andcircumstances of Jesus death without describing the details?


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