A Good Friday message – A mocking spirit

Based on Mark chapter 15, verses 16-32

Over the time of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion, a mocking spirit prevailed.

Have you noticed how flocks of crows/rooks/seagulls circle around looking for somewhere to land?  It is as if they are waiting for one bird to take the lead, and as soon as one does, the rest fly in to land.  The mocking of Jesus started in private (v16-20).  There we read how soldiers led Jesus away to the palace, where they mocked Him privately.  In the 16 verses from v16-32 Jesus is mocked again, again and again!

First by passers-by:

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!’

Then by the chief priests and the teachers of the law

31In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself!  32Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’

Finally, those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”

This was public humiliation of the highest order!  All could hear the words of the passers-by.  That was their aim, for all to hear. 

Did you notice how the chief priests and the teachers of the law “mocked Jesus among themselves.”  I expect they did so in order for others to hear.

Finally, Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”  All very public. 

To me, “hurling insults” means you want it to stick on the person you are insulting.  Heaping insults implies an excessive amount of insults were aimed at Jesus.  This was a prolonged attack!  The mocking spirit was having a field day, believing that the victory belonged to their boss, the devil, satan.

What were they mocking?  They were mocking God’s greatest gift to us, His Son Jesus Christ.

Have you hurled and heaped insults on others? 

Have you circled around like a flock of crows/rooks/seagulls waiting to get in there with an insult? 

Perhaps you’re the first one to land a punch, and as soon as you do, those with you soon join in and the insults come flying in from all directions!

But how did this make you feel?  Did you feel justified, and proud; thinking, “They deserved that”!  A little while later, how did you feel?  Regret at what you said?  Ashamed, remorseful?  Words spoken in haste and judgement are very hard to undo.

Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of insults and mocking.  How did it make you feel?  Belittled?  Insignificant?  Of no value?  Worthless?

An insult can be interpreted as an attempt to reduce the status of the recipient and raise the relative status of the insulter.  The insults from the chief priests and the teachers of the law were no doubt motivated by anger surrounding issues of their sense of insecurity – Jesus was more popular than them.

The truth is this: mocking others is a sin.

Thankfully Jesus could take it.  Yet, we had a part to play in the drama of that afternoon because our sins were on the cross too.  Jesus bore all our sin on the cross, all our mocking of who He is, so that we can enjoy and experience the Father’s love for us personally.  The penalty of our sin was paid for by His horrible, tortuous and painful death.  But as with all sin to be free from it means that we first have to recognise and acknowledge when we’ve sinned through insulting others, then repent of this sin with a sincere and contrite heart.  Anything else is folly.

Finally, we are to replace the insulting, mocking spirit, with its opposite – praise!  The enemy hates praise of God.  He can’t stand it at all.  It’s so bad to him that his only option is to flee.

When we commend someone, acclaim them, endorse them, honour them, hail them, we are praising them, and the mocking spirit has to go.  When we do this God sees from heaven and praises and blesses us for such an attitude and effective strategy against a mocking spirit.

The crucifixion of Jesus

Opening Prayer
Jesus, Son of God,
we come to you in worship and thanksgiving:
suffering servant,
pioneer of our salvation,
sacrifice for our sins,
example of perfect forgiveness,
God sharing our humanity,
obedient even to the death of the cross,
made to be a curse for us to take away our curse,
victor over the powers of darkness,
achieving our peace, reconciling us to the Father,
bread of our life and blood of our deliverance.
Lamb of God, redeemer,
by your death sealing God’s new covenant of love
by which the sins of all are forgiven,
drawing all people to yourself
by the glory of your cross,
raised high for the healing of the nations,
that all who see you might believe and be saved:
glory be to you, Jesus, Son of God.  Amen.
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Toward the end of Jesus’ mission, he spoke these words to his followers, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). 

Journey with Jesus, now, in his last hours to watch him demonstrate his “greater love” for you, and for the entire world.

After Jesus was taken captive in the Garden of Gethsemane, a private garden across the narrow valley from Jerusalem, he endured six short trials, all of them a mockery of justice. Finally, the Jewish religious leaders, in wanting Jesus dead, decided to take Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor.

Had the Jewish leaders executed Jesus, themselves, it would have been death by stoning. That was the Jewish method. However, stoning would have been too fast of a death for what the religious leaders had in mind for the man who had called them out for their self-absorbed hypocrisy. They opted for the Roman method of execution – by crucifixion. That would satisfy their thirst for a slow and painful death.

Although the religious leaders took Jesus to Pilate, the governor didn’t find any wrong in Jesus. He just wanted to give Jesus a relatively light slap on the wrist and let him go. Pilate’s decision forced the religious leaders to use a tactic that would persuade the governor to do their bidding.

They convinced Pilate that Jesus had claimed to be a Jewish king. Of course, the title, ‘king,’ flashed a red light of alarm in Pilate’s mind. He knew any rival king could energise the already hostile Jewish people to openly rebel against the Romans. Because Pilate served the Romans in that Jewish region, he knew any outbreak would bring the wrath of Rome down on him. Consequently, he would lose his cushy position – and, most likely, his life.

To his credit, Pilate still didn’t want to kill Jesus. However, to appease the Jewish religious leaders, Pilate commanded his soldiers to scourge him. Then, if the messy, blood-splattering scourge didn’t satisfy the Jews, Pilate had one last card to play to save Jesus from crucifixion.

The soldiers led Jesus to an outer courtyard, lifted him onto a raised platform tied his hands to the top of a wood post set there. A soldier climbed up on the platform, gripping the dreaded scourge. Just the sight of its nine leather straps, and pieces of broken bone and metal attached to the ends, would be enough to terrify anyone. Many blows later Jesus was released and dragged to a room of the courtyard.

In that room, while one soldier held Jesus up, another poked his body with a pole and slugged him in the face. After the soldiers had their sadistic sport with Jesus, a couple of them helped him back to Pilate.

The Roman governor thought Jesus’ beaten and scourged body would satisfy the religious authorities as he played his trump card to spare Jesus’ life. Each year at the Passover, the Roman custom was to release a Jewish prisoner. That year, Pilate left it up to the people who had gathered in his courtyard to decide between Jesus and Barabbas, a known ruthless killer.

To Pilate’s surprise, the religious leaders used their clout to persuade the people to call for the release of Barabbas.

“But, what should I do with this man?” Pilate asked them, pointing to Jesus.

“Crucify him,” they shouted.

Pilate reluctantly commanded a detachment of Roman soldiers to take Jesus away to be crucified. Now, it was customary for a criminal to carry the cross on his way to the site of his crucifixion. However, Jesus was weakened from having lost so much blood during the scourging that he needed help to drag his cross through the narrow streets of Jerusalem.

Finally, on a hillside just outside Jerusalem, one soldier positioned Jesus’ cross flat on the ground, between the crosses of two other victims. A second soldier peeled Jesus’ blood-soaked robe off him.  Then, he threw Jesus down on the cross, his raw back rubbing against the splintery beam. Another soldier stretched out Jesus’ arms, and drove a spike into each wrist and his feet.

With Jesus writhing in agony, the cross was then hosted up and he hung there.

At twelve noon, the sun stopped shining in that small area of the world. For the next three hours, darkness filled the land. Not an eclipse of the sun since eclipses don’t last that long. Something unexplainable was happening.

Suddenly, Jesus’ words shattered the silence. “Why have you forsaken me?” he cried out in a weakened and raspy voice. Every head jerked up. All of his life, Jesus had sensed his Father’s presence.

But, not then.

He felt empty and alone.

At three in the afternoon, Jesus’ shallow breathing was sporadic. No more push in his legs. Jesus, the man of life, was suffocating, gagging on the fluids of his own congestion. His pain had become a dull numbness.

In the mystery of darkness, a soldier dipped a sponge into vinegar and raised it to Jesus’ lips. With one last gasp, he uttered, “It is finished!” And, Jesus’ head dropped to his chest.

Fortunately, it wasn’t over!

All of the Old Testament sacrifices pointed to this moment. At this juncture, the great High Priest became the sacrificial Lamb. The symbolism and mysterious predictions became a reality in the life and death of this man who was God.

  • This God-man who turned himself over to death so that His murderers could be forgiven.
  • This man-God whose death would remove the sins of His own mother, who watched with sorrow as the prophecies became reality on that hideous cross.
  • This God-man whose willing sacrifice sufficiently and completely covered the sins of men and women past, present, and future.

Angels, prophets, and Jesus Christ himself predicted His death at the hands of sinners.

But His death was also for those sinners. God’s justice demands death for sin. God’s mercy provided the willing, perfect sacrifice for sin.

The cross is God’s love gift.

On that cross, love made a man die so that His enemies could live. There, the only perfect human died so that we sinners can be forgiven.

On that day, everything that separates people from God was torn in the brutal tearing of Christ’s body.

He did it for you.

This sacrifice was the only way your sins could be paid for without your own eternal death.

Christ’s death paid the price of your sin.

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he meant there was nothing else to do, nothing left to pay.

He paid it all—totally, completely, permanently.

It is finished.

Closing prayer
Lord, draw us to your cross which brings forgiveness:
that we may be cleansed.
Lord, draw us to your cross which brings life:
that we may live for you.
Lord, draw us to yourself
and to each other;
one body in heaven and on earth.  Amen.

Good Friday, 10th April 2020