The Gospel of Mark

Mark - Lesson 15E

Chapter 15:33-39

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  • We arrive at part two of our teaching on the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    • We have witnessed the cruel treatment and mockery of the Lord Jesus from both His Jewish and Roman Trials up to Him being nailed to the cross.

      • As we examined last week, it behooves us to examine the biblical accounts in their historical contexts and not the cinematic renditions of the crucifixion.

      • The reason is that the biblical and historical accounts of this gruesome event provide us with a more accurate depiction of events, treatment, and sentiments during that day.

    • What we come to realize even more within the Passion events is the voluntary manner in which Jesus bore our sin and shame upon Himself. (First 3 hours)

      • It was the Jewish leadership and Roman procurator and soldiers who committed the act of killing Jesus.

      • However, although accomplished by human hands, the plan was orchestrated and willed by God Himself.

      • God’s Sovereignty is shown in full display on the global stage as He has brought about all of human history to this point in order to witness a divine moment in time.

    • Tonight, we will witness the last three hours of Christ on the cross in which He will now face the full wrath of God on behalf of all men.

      • This amazing demonstration of love becomes the means through which belief in the Lord Jesus and His finished work, saves us from the penalty of sin and separation from God.

      • For as we know, the penalty of sin is death and without His death, there could be no forgiveness of sins.

    • If I were to outline our time tonight, we would see the following:

      • 1. A Judgement and a Cry (v.33-34)

      • 2. Scornful Curiosity (v.35-37)

      • 3. A Divine Response (v.38-39)

    • The tag on our text tonight is: The Crucifixion of Christ: Part 2

      • With that being said, I invite you to open a copy of the scriptures and meet me in Mark 15:33-39 for the reading of the word of the Lord.

Mark 15:33  When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. 
Mark 15:34   At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 
Mark 15:35   When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.” 
Mark 15:36   Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.” 
Mark 15:37   And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. 
Mark 15:38   And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 
Mark 15:39   When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
  • Up to this point, Jesus has been hanging on the cross for three hours.

    • While hanging, He has been mocked, blasphemed, and utterly disrespected.

      • The religious leaders and the passersby mockingly question Jesus’ ability to come down from the cross.

      • Being that He had saved others from their dire circumstances, the fact that He remained on the cross this long to these men was a ridiculous sight.

    • Unbeknownst to these men of unbelief, Jesus’ mission was not to come and save Himself (Mark 10:45).

      • Instead, He came to save those who could not save themselves from the judgment of God.

    • The reality is every human being, apart from the saving work of Christ, rightfully deserves the full weight and judgment of God.

      • No man or woman, in their own merit, can stand before a Holy God and be deemed righteous apart from the finished work of Christ which deems us righteous.

      • It is the provision of God alone, through Christ alone, that saves alone!

    • So it is here in verses 33-34 that the global stage was set to demonstrate upon the innocent One, the wrath of God.

      • Check out verses 33-34.

Mark 15:33  When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. 
Mark 15:34   At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
  • Mark tells us that when the 6th hour came, that darkness fell over the “whole land” until the ninth hour.

    • As we discussed last week, Mark is mentioning these time frames using Roman timing which means that the 6th hour puts us at 12 noon. (Jewish time).

      • And this darkness would persist for a total of three hours. (“until the 9th hour”)

    • Witnessing darkness emerge upon the earth from noon to 3 PM was quite ominous knowing that the brightest time of day was three o’clock.

      • So, for cosmic events of this magnitude to occur, to a Jewish believer it would trigger great concern.

    • One detail that should stand out in our minds is Mark’s mentioning of this darkness having fallen over the whole land.

      • A question that can be asked of the text is: “What defines the “whole land”?”

      • The Greek word for “whole land” is holos (olos) which means the entire land as a whole.

    • Being that this darkness was visible and quite extensive means that surrounding nations may have potentially witnessed and were directly impacted by this cosmic event.

      • In fact, history has provided several archeological writings from several individuals who spoke about this darkness at the exact moment of Jesus’ crucifixion.

    • One of those writers was Dionysius who was a Greek scientist who lived in Egypt in a city called Heliopolis.

      • And in the city known as “Sun City”, Dionysius records a time in which the city’s lights went out.

      • Dionysius wrote the following to Apollophanes a Philosopher:

“How, for instance, when we were staying in Heliopolis (I was then about twenty-five, and your age was nearly the same as mine), on a certain sixth day, and about the sixth hour, the sun, to our great surprise, became obscured, through the moon passing over it...” (Slide 3)
    • Further on in his writing, he states:

"What thinkest thou of this thing, O Apollophanes, mirror of learning?" "Of what mysteries do these unaccustomed portents appear to you to be indications?" Thou then, with inspired lips, rather than with speech of human voice, "These are, O excellent Dionysius," thou saidst, "changes of things divine." (Slide 4)
    • Lastly, tradition says that Dionysius was so amazed by this phenomenon that he uttered the words, “God suffers, or everything is lost.”

    • Another writing was found written by Phlegon of Tralles, a Greek from Asia Minor. (Slide 5)

      • Phlegon, in his historical compendium Olympiads, mentioned what seemed to be “an eclipse” which was like none that had ever occurred.

      • He further stated that the day turned to night at the 6th hour.

      • He would continue to include what Matthew’s account mentions was a violent earthquake.

    • So, it becomes clear, with historical writings affirming this “falling of darkness”, the day Christ was crucified, was one of global scale and cosmic phenomena.

      • As I mentioned earlier, the sight of growing darkness to a Jewish individual would have been a telltale sign of God’s judgment at hand.

    • Even throughout the Old Testament, the sight of darkness or cosmic chaos was representative of divine judgment and lamentation.

      • Amos 8:9 speaks to this reality of darkness during the day and judgment being released. Check out the text.

Amos 8:9 “It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord God,
“That I will make the sun go down at noon
And make the earth dark in broad daylight.
  • This darkness that set upon the land and the surrounding lands was not an eclipse but rather a mighty act of God.

    • And that act was to initiate the very thing Jesus was agonizing about in the garden of Gethsemane.

    • That the very cup in which He asked the Father if there were another way, would be the same cup in which He would now drink for the sake of all who would believe. (Cup of Wrath)

    • Mark continues in verse 34 by mentioning that at the ninth hour, which was 3 PM, that Jesus cried out with a loud voice: “Eloi Eloi, lama sabachthani”

      • The word “loud” in Greek is megas which implies that Jesus uttered these words with a loud cry at the top of His lungs and with great intensity.

      • With every ounce and breath in His beaten and scourged body, Jesus utters these words.

    • Mark does the readers a huge service by translating these Aramaic words into Greek.

      • And it’s through the translation that we understand what Jesus said.

      • “Eloi, Eloi, lama (sabach-thani)” means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

    • This cry goes beyond that of a righteous suffering servant who has fully entrusted Himself to the Father’s plan.

      • These words from Jesus become a fulfillment of prophecy as indicated in Psalm 22:1. Check out the text.

Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
  • We see within the context of Psalm 22 that the abandonment from the king, although very present in the first few verses of Psalm 22, is eventually alleviated in verse 21b.

    • And within the context of Jesus’ words, it becomes clear that the Father’s wrath consequently causes there to be an abandonment.

    • However, not of Jesus’ divine spirit but rather His human spirit and this brings about great distress beyond which words can express.

    • This abandonment that Jesus is experiencing in these 3 hours of darkness is judicial and not relational.

      • It was judicial in the sense that the verdict “guilty” had to be displayed upon the guilty party.

      • And being that Jesus willingly and vicariously took our place, that righteous wrath had to be justly poured out on One.

    • Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts this judicial act into plain language. Check out the text.

2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
  • Lastly, we find that within Jesus’ statement that the aspect of relationship had not left being that Jesus uses the words, “My God”.

    • This cry of trust is the only one of Jesus’ recorded prayers where He did not address the Father as “Abba”.

    • As one commentary says: “He (Jesus) died forsaken by God so that His people might claim God as their God and never be forsaken.”

    • The immense crushing of the wrath of God upon the Son of God was necessary so that you and I could be made right with God!

      • As we continue, we come to find in verses 35-37 that the entrusting words of Jesus to the Father for His soon-coming deliverance, by means of the resurrection, ascension, and session, was misunderstood by the onlookers.

      • Check out verses 35-37.

Mark 15:35   When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.” 
Mark 15:36   Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.” 
Mark 15:37   And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.
  • Mark tells us that as people continued to pass by and observe the individuals hanging from the cross, “some” of them heard what Jesus had said in verse 34.

    • However, it seems that between what Jesus had said and what these passersby heard, they misheard what Jesus said.

      • Because verse 35b tells us that some in this group said, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah”, meaning Elijah the Prophet.

    • This misunderstanding occurred because, although within Matthew’s Gospel the letters “Eli, Eli” is “My God “, it is also the shortened form of the name Elijah.

      • Therefore, the passersby assumed that Jesus was calling out for Elijah to rescue Him.

    • It was Jewish belief that for those who were deemed righteous men, that Elijah, in times of great distress, would deliver them from their circumstances.

      • From there, we find that John in John 19:28-29 fills in the details as to “someone” running to grab Jesus a drink.

      • It would be this moment that fulfilled yet another prophecy according to Psalm 22:15a.

Psalm 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
    • Now, let’s examine John 19:28-29.

John 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, “I am thirsty.” 
John 19:29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.
  • So it’s during this time period that Mark mentions that in response to Jesus’ thirst, someone ran to provide him with a drink.

    • The contents of this drink were what is known as “sour wine”.

    • Sour wine was a vinegar/water mix that relieved thirst more effectively than water.

    • And being cheaper than regular wine, it was a favorite beverage of the lower ranks of society especially soldiers.

    • The text does not provide us with details as to “who” provided Jesus with the sour wine, but what we can assume is that it was not a Roman soldier.

      • Therefore, at best we can say that this provision of drink may have been a gesture of care and compassion.

      • But it seems as if this gesture is momentarily interrupted by others with evil intent.

    • I mention this because it is in verse 36b that Mark documents a remark from one of the bystanders.

      • Their response to Jesus getting relief is “Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.”

    • Reading their response in English doesn’t provide us with the gravity of what they were truly saying at this moment.

      • The words “Let us” in Greek is Aphiemi (A-fee-emi) which means to leave or remain unchanged.

      • In other words, “refrain from giving Jesus a drink so that we can see if Elijah will take Him down!”

    • The language therefore suggests that the demand to withhold the drink was a means of mockery.

      • It is then upon Jesus receiving this sour wine that another prophecy was fulfilled which is found in Psalm 69:21.

Psalm 69:21 They also gave me gall for my food
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
  • Mark then writes that Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last breath.

    • One thing I want to continue to reiterate throughout Mark’s Gospel is that there are things that Mark will choose to omit because of his audience or his theological point.

    • As we have witnessed throughout the Gospel of Mark, Mark’s focus is on Jesus as our Suffering Servant and what He accomplished through His suffering.

    • I bring this up because Mark writing that Jesus uttered a loud cry begs a question: “What did Jesus say before He breathed His last?”

      • Well, we need not look any further than Luke 23:46 and John 19:30, because it is here that these writers provide the last few sayings of Jesus.

      • Remember, Mark is focused on the actions of Jesus so it makes sense why he does not include these “last sayings”.

      • Perhaps Mark mentions Jesus’ last breath because the work that was accomplished would provide a demonstrative response (action)?

      • HINT: We will see this action in a few.

    • In any case, we find in Luke’s gospel (Luke 23:46) that Jesus in a loud voice said, “Father, Into Your Hands I commit My Spirit.”

      • In other words, Jesus, not the Jewish leaders or Roman government, decided when He was going to die, and indeed that authority and Power was in His hands.

      • John 10:18 tells us this:

John 10:18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
  • Further along in John’s gospel, Jesus’ last words before dying was tetelestai which means, “It is finished”. Three words in English but one word in Greek.

    • This term is an accounting term that means “Paid in Full”.

    • The work that Jesus was sent to do was accomplished at the cross! However, this would not be the end.

    • For it would then be 3 days later that the receipt of what was accomplished on the cross would be seen!

    • It is in verses 38 and 39 that Mark responds with the results of the actions of the suffering servant in full obedience to the Father’s plan.

      • Check out verses 38-39 as we witness the Divine Response to Jesus’ Righteous action!

Mark 15:38   And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 
Mark 15:39   When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
  • Mark wants both the reader in that time and the reader/hearer today to understand the results of what Jesus accomplished in dying on the cross.

    • That Jesus’ actions were impactful in a multiplicity of ways.

      • And one of those ways would have been very apparent to the Jewish audience, especially those in the Temple.

    • Mark states that near the very moment Jesus breathed His last breath, the veil of the temple was torn in two.

      • He then specifies “how” it was torn: from top to bottom.

      • We will explore this significance momentarily, however, there may be some who might ask: “What was the significance of the veil being torn?”

      • For us to do so, we need to take a walk down memory lane back to Exodus 26:30-37.

    • Before there was a Temple, it was preceded by what was known as the Tabernacle which we find in the Old Testament.

      • Both structures were divided into three sections or designated areas.

    • The first section consisted of an outside courtyard. This courtyard was created by the exterior boundaries of either a fence (tabernacle) or a wall (temple).

      • The inside of the building was then divided into two sections.

    • The larger of the two interior sections was known as the Holy Place or Sanctuary, and the smaller as the Most Holy Place also known as the Holy of Holies.

      • The naming of these sections was also identified as the outer and inner sanctuary during the Old Testament times.

    • The Holy Place (Sanctuary) which was located behind an outer veil, held furniture such as the menorah lamp and the table which held the showbread and incense altar.

      • This space was limited to the priesthood of Israel and was frequented by them for their priestly duties, daily.

      • They would burn incense, apply the blood of daily sacrifices to the altar of incense, and keep the lamps burning and set out the showbread.

    • The third section of the temple was known as the Holies of Holies or the “Most Holy Place”. This area was deemed the inner sanctuary.

      • And behind this inner veil was where the ark of the covenant would sit with its mercy seat and the Glory of God would dwell continually.

      • However, in Jesus’ day, Josephus mentions that the Holy of Holies was empty since the ark had disappeared during the Babylonian invasion.

      • Therefore, the Holy of Holies remained empty, yet a sacred and protected space hidden behind a large veil.

      • The only time in which this sacred area would be accessed would be on the Day of Atonement where the High Priest would enter to make atonement for the entire Nation of Israel.

    • So, when we go back to verse 38 and read that the veil (in the singular) was torn, the question becomes: “Well which veil was torn?” The inner veil or the outer veil?

      • Josephus provides us some clarity as to which veil was torn in his writings from The Wars of the Jews:

(209) but then, as the entire house was divided into two parts within, it was only the first part of it that was open to our view. Its height extended all along to ninety cubits in height, and its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth twenty; 
(211) but then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and had golden doors of fifty-five cubits altitude, and sixteen in breadth;
(212) but before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; 
  • The veil was a curtain 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and about 4 inches thick. And this veil separated the holy place from the outer court. (As seen in the graphic)

    • Notice how Josephus described this veil.

    • It consisted of woven blue, purple, and scarlet, intertwined with fine twined linen and the way in which it was embroidered resembled that of the universe.

    • In other words, in the minds of the Jewish people of that day, the veil resembled something of the heavens.

    • So, it becomes clear from both Mark’s context and Josephus’ description that as something of this magnitude could be visually seen from afar means this was the outer veil that was torn.

      • This imagery for a Jew would have seemed as if the heavens above were being torn from top to bottom.

    • This becomes Mark’s point in emphasizing the work that the Suffering Servant accomplished!

      • That the action of the veil being torn from top to bottom was something that only God Himself could have been able to do.

    • Perhaps Mark’s inclusion here draws a parallel between two tears that occurred from the beginning of his gospel to the crucifixion.

      • Meaning, that when Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit fell upon Him like a dove, Mark states in Mark 1:10 that as Jesus came out of the water, the heavens opened.

      • The Greek word for “opened” is schizo which means “to be split or torn apart (ripped)”.

    • In the same way, the very moment in which Jesus breathed His last, verse 38 tells us that “the veil of the temple was torn.”

      • It’s the same Greek word for opened in Mark 1:10, schizo!

    • Mark’s action point becomes plain for his reader and that is that the finished work of Christ on the cross has done something that was unprecedented.

      • That where the outer veil once served as a means of obscuring the way and view into the Holy Place, a new day was dawning.

      • This is why the author of the book of Hebrews writes this, speaking of the outer veil in the temple.

Hebrews 9:8 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, 
Hebrews 9:9 which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience,
  • The writer of Hebrews mentions that the Holy Place could not yet be revealed if the outer tabernacle’s veil (old system) obstructed the view.

    • The only way in which men could worship God and provide their gifts is if it were accomplished through the Priesthood.

    • However, when Jesus died on the cross, the Lord provided an unmistakable message that could not be unseen by all who looked upon the Temple.

      • This veil which once served as a blockade and barrier for people to worship God now became a means of access to the Father, now through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

      • That this very tearing of the veil from top to bottom was a sign that a New Covenant was being established and the One in who was establishing it was God Himself.

    • I love what Pastor Steve said on his teaching of the tearing of the veil.

      • He said, “The reason why it’s important to understand which veil was torn is because it helps us understand how we respond to God.”

      • In other words, because Jesus is our Great High Priest and has direct access to the Father, we, through the blood of Christ are made clean before God.

      • That through the shedding of Christ’s innocent blood, we are reconciled to the Father and declared righteous, not of our works or deeds, but through the works of Christ.

      • Hebrews 10:19-22 says it this way:

Hebrews 10:19  Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 
Hebrews 10:20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 
Hebrews 10:21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 
Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
  • Well, it’s after this powerful tearing of the veil and earthquake and shattering that the centurion who was standing in front of Jesus realizes what has caused all of this.

    • The centurion who, more than likely, attended the arrest of Jesus in the Garden, to His scourging in the Praetorium, now finds himself confessing Jesus as the Son of God.

    • And herein lies yet another culminating point in Mark’s Gospel.

    • That where Mark began his gospel with the emphatic statement of Jesus being the Son of God, it is now confirmed by a Gentile who professes this out loud.

      • Although the Greek text does not provide a definite article (the) in front of “Son of God”, Mark’s context potentially suggests this is the case.

    • This response is quite indicative of how the Lord draws individuals to Himself. He will allow certain travesties or events to occur that grab one’s attention.

      • For some, it simply was you heard the gospel message and believed.

      • For others, the Lord pursued you to the point that you were dragged because of constant rebellion.

    • Whatever means and methods it takes, God has it all at His full disposal to make known the truth of Christ.

      • This centurion, who would have been responsible for other men, finds himself completely gripped by the reality of the cross.

      • The gospel always demands a verdict and, in the end, if the gospel is not received, a verdict will be rendered.

    • The question becomes, do you believe Jesus is who He says He is?

      • Let’s Pray.