With Easter coming up, I will be posting short excerpts this week from my second book, Miracles in Mark.
God’s Greatest Sign
And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get…With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”
(Mark 15:24, 37–39)
In chapter one, we discussed the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees in Mark 8:11–12. The Pharisees came to Jesus and asked Him for a sign. Mark’s Gospel is full of miracles and supernatural events. The Pharisees were eyewitnesses on several occasions in which Jesus worked miracles. These miracles and healings were not the kinds of signs that the Pharisees were looking for, as we discussed. Jesus flatly refused to give them a sign.
Here, at the end of His ministry, however, Jesus provides a sign for all who have the eyes to see it in the crucifixion. To be sure, the religious leaders saw no significance or revelation in Jesus’ death. In fact, His death had been their intention for the last couple of years. The irony is that this was Jesus’ goal all along, as well. He had told His followers, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The cross was ultimately the fulfillment of the commission that Jesus had received from God at the time of His baptism.
The actual event of the crucifixion is described by Mark with minimal detail. Those who lived under Roman rule would have been all too familiar with the way that the practice was carried out. Mel Gibson’s 2004 film, “The Passion of the Christ,” probably visualizes and depicts the crucifixion in as realistic terms as any movie can. Needless to say, crucifixion, as a form of torture and execution, really did not have an equal in the ancient world. This practice did much to help the Romans to maintain control over their vast empire.
To be continued…