The next few posts are going to be a running devotional, reading through the Gospel of Mark, with short commentary and prayer. I will post several of these over the next few days, leading up to Easter.
Mark 15:16-28. The soldiers led Jesus away into the courtyard of the palace known as the governor’s headquarters, and they called together the whole company of soldiers. They dressed him up in a purple robe and twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on him. They saluted him, “Hey! King of the Jews!”
Again and again, they struck his head with a stick. They spit on him and knelt before him to honor him. When they finished mocking him, they stripped him of the purple robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. Simon, a man from Cyrene, Alexander and Rufus’ father, was coming in from the countryside. They forced him to carry his cross.
They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place. They tried to give him wine mixed with myrrh, but he didn’t take it. They crucified him. They divided up his clothes, drawing lots for them to determine who would take what. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The notice of the formal charge against him was written, “The king of the Jews.” They crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left
Crucifixion was more than a death penalty. It was total annihilation. The purpose of crucifixion was to remove a person from existence. By stripping a man naked, flogging him until he was covered with blood, hanging him on public display along a popular path, the Roman authorities knew that the one crucified would be wiped from consciousness. Those crucified were made permanently unclean.
No one could touch them from the moment they were hung, and yet no one could turn away. Adam Hamilton, in his gripping Bible study 24 Hours that Changed the World, explains that one being crucified was not hanging high, isolated from those passing by. The elevation of the cross, he claims, was actually only about 9 feet. Jesus’ head would have been lower than a basketball hoop. His majority of his naked, beaten, bloody, body would have been at eye level.
The humiliation of this death was complete. It was meant to rob a person not only of his present life, but of his past and of his future. There would be no legacy for those crucified. The pain was such that memory would be purged. The words and deeds of the crucified could not be remembered. The loved ones and relatives of the crucified one would never claim him. Crucifixion was a physical, emotional, and spiritual death.
This is what Jesus faced. The Gospel of Mark does not soften the blow. There are no redemptive words of forgiveness, as we have in Luke. There is no tender moment of compassion, nor determined strength of a man carrying his own cross, as we have in John. There is only a man too weak to carry on. There is a only a man that is hung with outlaws, spat on and mocked. There is no dignity in this death. There is nothing good on this Friday.
On some level, this needs to be the message of Good Friday. Allow that irony in that name sink in. Allow the questions. Allow the sadness. Allow the reality of injustice hit you with all of its force. The world is broken, and there is no greater evidence to that fact than the cross on Golgotha where a man was led to die. God was made flesh, and we crucified him. That is all we need to know about the human condition.
My soul cries out to thee, O Lord. Out of the depths do I cry. The injustice of this world is crippling. It is paralyzing. When I ponder for a moment the injustice and cruelty that people are capable, it causes me to tremble. Tremble. Tremble. I seek no quick fixes or easy answers. I seek only comfort and a promise that this is not the end of the story. Amen.