Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth


The Crucifixion

St. Mark XV. 15-42.

"They crucified Him."

S T. MARK'S account of the Crucifixion is short and imperfect. Teacher must carefully study the story in the other Gospels as well. Read the connected account in Farrar's Life of Christ,  or Malleson's Life of Christ.

Must be very solemn today. Awful story before us. The story of the first Good Friday. Remember what happened the night before. Arrested, carried to Jerusalem bound, tried, mocked, beaten, accused falsely, condemned. What an awful night! What scenes of hatred, malice, insult! What bitter disappointments! Peter cursing and swearing that he did not know Him; all the rest running away and leaving Him in His peril. So He was left alone all this wretched night, hurried from trial to trial, before Annas and Caiaphas, and Pilate and Herod—mocked and sneered at for His silence, struck in the face when He ventured to reply, listening to the lying and twisting of His innocent words. Then came the scourging before nine o'clock in the morning, when He was handed over all bleeding to the rough soldiers, to be taken out to Calvary. See the brutal horse-play with Him in barrack-room; the mocking and derision, the shouts of coarse laughter when some soldier thought of the joke of making a thorn crown for the King of the Jews, putting a reed in His hand for sceptre, and throwing an old purple rug over His bleeding shoulders, in mockery of His royalty. Then the horrible thing that we shrink from reading. They pulled away the reed, and kept striking Him and spitting on Him. Remember, this the Almighty God, who loved us and them, and that all this was borne for our sake and theirs.

Now (v.  20) the wretched procession through the hot streets with the two thieves, the weary Saviour exhausted after the night of horror, struggling to carry cross, and fainting under its weight. Who carried it with Him?

Now at Golgotha. What a sight of agony to the few friends who loved Him. Who? (v.  40), and the Virgin Mother and John too (John xix. 26). Now stripped for the cross—the hands which His mother had so often pressed, the feet which Mary had washed with tears, the sacred breast on which John had leaned, all bared for the coming pain. Then He is extended on the cross. Through hands and feet tear the great rough nails; then He is lifted up to be exposed and mocked at in His agony. Tell me of the three classes of mockers (vv.  28-32).

Is it not awful to think that men could treat Him thus? that many to this day are mocking and neglecting Him, giving Him more pain and sorrow? And is it not very touching to think of the sweet tender patience of Christ? It is just here comes in the first of the "voices from the cross," as He looks on the heathen soldiers and the thoughtless, sinful crowd. He prays not for vengeance on their cruelty, nor for deliverance for Himself. What? (Luke xxiii. 34). Think of the generous nobleness of such a heart as that. If that nobleness does not subdue our hearts, nothing else will.

I wonder if mob heard that prayer. I think so, and that God heard it on their behalf. See how they were touched (Luke xxiii. 48). Do you think the robbers heard it, and did God answer it on their behalf? (Luke xxiii. 42). Did the brutal soldiers? One of them reached up a sponge with wine to relieve His thirst, and their centurion and his fellow-soldiers were so impressed with all they saw and heard (Mark xv. 39;  Matthew xxvii. 54). Even for the wicked, bigoted priests it was heard (Acts vi. 7). Let us think of Christ's prayer, and be thankful for it, and be touched by that tender love and pity, that exquisite unselfishness, that at such a time could forget Himself to pray for others, even for His enemies.

If there is time, picture here the Penitent Thief, how he was startled and touched by the prayer of Christ. Poor fellow! he was not all bad, and this prayer set vibrating a long silent chord, stiffened and hardened by long contact with evil. Think of the kindly encouragement of Christ! Think how the beauty of the Christ-character did for him what all the Roman remedial prison legislation had failed to do—wakened within him a craving for the good! "To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." Not in the highest Heaven, but in the great waiting place of Paradise within the veil, where the souls of the blessed dead wait for Christ's coming. Where mentioned in the Creed? "He descended into Hell," i.e., Hades.  (See the word "Hell" in Rev. Version.)

Here question also of the broken-hearted Virgin Mother, and His deep, loving solicitude for her. In all His agony He thought about her future (John xix. 26, 27), and sent her away before the dread crisis of His conflict should come, and she should hear the cry of desolation from His tortured soul. Now (v.  33) comes sixth hour. What o'clock? Darkness lasted until? Dense darkness at noonday. Must have frightened them all. Did they think He would come down from cross, as they mockingly asked? Darkness came as a veil to conceal His awful sufferings. Not merely of body. He could easily bear that. Awful torment of soul. We can't understand it. He knew it was coming on. He sent away His mother, to spare her the sight of it. No human being can ever understand the awful three hours' agony in the darkness on Calvary. He had looked forward to it with dread in the Garden of Gethsemane. We can judge of its awfulness by the awful cry at its close. What? (v.  34).

We can only dimly guess at the meaning of that cry. We are on holy ground at the most solemn point in the sufferings of our Lord. There seems but one way to understand it. That He was the Divine Sin-bearer, bearing the world's sin. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised," etc. (Isaiah liii. 5). God "made Him to be sin for us Who knew no sin." The peculiar punishment of sin is the being abandoned by God. In some mysterious way our Lord had to be made to feel that—some sense of utter desolation—something so terrible that even He could hardly endure it. Yet it seemed necessary to the full bearing of our sin. We cannot understand it. But this we can understand, that it was all "for us men and for our salvation."

For us He was scourged and tortured and crucified. For us He endured the three hours' agony and desolation. For our sake that cry of horror rang out in the darkness.

"Yet once Immanuel's orphaned cry His universe hath shaken.

It went up single, echoless, 'My God, I am forsaken!'

It went up from His holy lips amid His lost creation,

That none of us need ever use these words of desolation!"

—Mrs. Browning

And now cometh the end. For all these hours He has been hanging upon the cross in awful conflict. Now, after that cry of agony, the conflict seems over, and the weary soul of the Redeemer turns to Heaven with that title of child-like love, which, through Him, ever since is permitted to us all. "It is finished," He said. "Father, into Thy hands," etc.; and having said thus, He gave up the ghost.

Think of the loving words from the cross and the pleading of that love with the world to-day! How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation!

"His tender voice pursues each one,

'My child, what more could thy God have done?

Thy sin hid the light of Heaven from Me:

When alone in the darkness I died for thee,

Thy sin of this day in its shadow lay

Between my face and God turned away.'

"And we stop and turn for a moment's space

To fling back that love in the Saviour's face,

To give His heart yet another grief, and to glory in the wrong;

And still Christ keeps on loving us—loving all along."

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