Thoughts on Mark Fifteen

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By: Raymond Harris
BCV: Mark 15, mc Mark 14.1-15.47, vv 15.21, 37

Note to the Reader
This week we continue our examination of the Gospel of Mark. As such, I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Gospel in conjunction with this article.

Passage: Mark 15, mc Mark 14.1-15.47, vv 15.21, 37

Thoughts on Mark Fifteen

Mark Chapter Fifteen reveals Jesus’ Trial1 and his subsequent death upon the cross.2 While this chapter is vitally important to God’s Redemptive Plan for humanity, there are two specific items that Mark mentions that stand out as interesting. These statements (each about one verse long) are almost too easily passed up as one reads the larger narrative about Jesus, so we will look at them.

Simon a Cyrenian
We are probably very familiar with the narrative of Jesus’ trial, his walk to Golgotha, and his time and death on the Cross. Some are aware that as Jesus was forced to walk to Golgotha following his flogging and mocking that a man named Simon was compelled to carry Jesus’ cross. It is this man, Simon, who is of interest.

This man, Simon, must have represented a significant moment because Matthew, Mark, and Luke all reveal that Jesus was helped by him. This moment in time has caused me to ask: how did Simon feel at that moment? Did that moment affect Simon for the rest of his life?

We can recognize that the Roman Soldiers had the authority to demand such things from Simon, and that they had the power to force Simon to help a dying prisoner. But set that aside. Did Simon hesitate or immediately do what he was told? What was the look in Jesus’ eyes when Simon helped? Did Simon fear the moment? Did Simon feel compassion? Did Jesus say something privately to Simon? We simply are not told.

All we are told is that a man named Simon, from Cyrene3 was forced to help Jesus. Although Mark includes something that Matthew and Luke do not, Simon had two sons, one named Alexander, the other Rufus.4 It is interesting that Mark adds this tidbit of humanity to Simon. He was a real man, who was forced to be a participant in an appalling and dreadful event, yet he did what was expected. One verse seems to be inadequate to address how this affected him.

Jesus Cried Out
Mark does not reveal much about what Jesus said on the Cross. It is known that with the Gospels we can know that Jesus said seven things on the cross (to save space, I will not list them, I encourage the reader to research this). Of the seven statements, Mark reveals only one statement, “Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani?”5 The crowd reacted and thought that Jesus was asking for Elijah, but then Mark says that “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.”6

We can look to the other Gospels to try and determine what Jesus “cried out.” We might claim that it was “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”7 Or we might claim that it was when Jesus said, “It is finished.”8 But the issue within the Gospel of Mark is that Mark leaves the “crying out” unknown. This actually has a profound impact.

For the Gospel of Mark, did Jesus cry out in agony? For the Gospel of Mark, did Jesus cry out in victory? It seems that based on the Centurion’s statement9 Jesus crying in agony seems unlikely, but a cry of victory seems likely. Mark reveals that the Centurion made a profound connection about Jesus and God by the thing that was done when Jesus “cried out”.

We have the Gospels of Luke and John that give us a hint, and therefore remove the mystery that Mark set into his Gospel. When reading Mark, I like that Mark did not reveal what Jesus said. For some reason, when the Holy Spirit inspired him to leave the Gospel narrative, the Holy Spirit wanted the “crying out” to remain mysterious. Why did the Spirit move Mark in such a way? We cannot answer. But we can know that Jesus’ final moments on the cross within the Gospel of Mark are intended to be seen through the lens of not knowing, but piecing it together through the witness of the Centurion. Powerful stuff.

Conclusion
The narrative of the Gospel is almost second nature to many, and we have a smooshed together Gospel because we read Matthew, Mark, Luke, John as Mat-Mar-thew-k-Lu-Joh-ke-n (the names are there, but the picture is different). As such, when we read we almost forget the little details as Mark recorded them. While it is common place to refer to Matthew, Mark and Luke as Synoptic Gospels, they as individual pieces of narrative, are trying to convey a very important message. Each detail matters. Each detail reaches into the heart of the reader. Each detail begs to be examined. May the LORD bless us as we search out his word.

Endnotes
1. “Jesus’ Trial.” Mark 15.1-16.
2. “Jesus’ death upon the cross.” Mark 15.22-37.
3. “Simon of Cyrene.” Matthew 27.32; Mark 15.21; Luke 23.26.
4. “Simon’s two sons.” Mark 15.21.
5. “Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani?” means: “My God, my God why hast though forsaken me.” Mark 15.34, KJV
6. “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.” Mark 15.37
7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23.46.
8. “It is finished.” John 19.30
9. “Centurion’s Statement.” Mark 15.39.

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