Unexpected Messengers

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

Mark 15:21-47

How interesting that, of all the people present at Jesus’s death, the person who recognized Jesus as the Son of God was not a priest, or a Jew, or any of the people one might expect. It was a Roman centurion! A soldier who had mostly likely been raised a pagan. But he recognized Jesus’s death as a sacrifice, not a punishment. This may even be the first time the words “God’s Son” was  written in Mark.  In the end it wasn’t even Jesus who proclaimed who He was, but a person who probably actively persecuted Jews. But then, God loved to use the most unlikely of people to give His message. It shows that His love is for everyone, not just a certain kind of person.

It’s so ironic how they mock Jesus by saying He promised to destroy and rebuild the Temple. Because, of course, the Temple Jesus was referring to was Himself. He is being destroyed, and he will be back in three days! Of course He can’t save Himself! If He did, His promise would go unfulfilled.

Notice how the disciples aren’t present at the crucifixion, but a large group of women is. Throughout Mark women have been the unlikely examples of deep faith. In the end, Jesus was not completely abandoned. He was kept company at His death by the people others saw as worthless, unimportant, even unclean. But Jesus loved them, and they loved Him. That is what a relationship with God is about! Not doing or saying the right things, but loving Him and trusting in Him, even when things look the most bleak. Even as He was dying, these women trusted Jesus would provide for them. That’s the kind of faith I wish I had, and I aspire to find every single day.

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