PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LXXVI

PARTNERS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LXXVI 

Mark was a realist and a very close friend of Jesus. We do not know when the two met and when their friendship began. It may have been when Jesus’ family made their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or it may have been when Mark became a disciple of Jesus. What was and what still is important is that Mark was a witness for Jesus when no one else could get near Jesus during Jesus’ last hours while He was in the hands of his enemies. The disciples, except Peter, were scattered, and they went into hiding for fear of the Jews (Mark 14:27-28; John 16:32-33; 20:19).

PILATE HANDED JESUS OVER TO HIS SOLDIERS AND WITHDREW TO DEAL WITH HIS OWN CONSCIENCE

We are not told how Pilate slept that night, or how his wife responded to his judgment of death of an innocent and righteous man. The witness of Mark’s Gospel was familiar with the custom of the way the Roman soldiers treated their prisoners. Mark witnessed how the heavy cross crushed Jesus, and how the father of his friends Alexander and Rufus was induced to carry the cross. Jesus, Himself, barely made it up the hill of Golgotha. Jesus was crucified with two robbers. Jesus refused the drink He was offered. And Jesus endured the mocking for six hours, including the mocking of the two criminals. 

And the soldiers led Jesus away inside the palace (that is the praetorium); and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck his head with a reed , and spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mingled with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour, when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge   against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging 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!” So also the chief priests mocked him to one another with the scribes, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him (Mark 15:16-32).

After Jesus hung on the cross for three hour, His Father covered His Son in darkness for three more hours. During this time Jesus cried out in Aramaic, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Some even assumed that Jesus was calling Elijah to help Him. It was His Father who tore the “curtain of holiness” open. And it was His Father who left the temple to join His Son on the hill, and it was His Father who took Him home. Mark used different words for Jesus’ return to the world of the spirits:

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “E’loi, E’loi, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And one ran and, filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, “Truly, this man was the son of God” (Mark 15:33-39).

JESUS HAD AN AUDIENCE WATCHING AND MOCKING

Mark’s witness saw a small group of brave and faithful women who had followed and cared for Jesus while He ministered as the Christ. The witness did not see Jesus’ mother or any Jewish authorities. Matthew’s witness saw the soldiers gamble over Jesus’ clothes, heard chief priests, scribes and elders mock Jesus and challenged God to come and take down His Son. God sent Joseph of Arimathea to do it for Him.

There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome, who, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered to him; and also many other women who came with him to Jerusalem (Mark 15:40-41).

And those who passed by derided Jesus, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and built it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way (Matthew 27:39-44)

LUKE’S WITNESSES PROVIDED ADDITIONAL FACTS TO MARK

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for our children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and he breasts that never gave suck!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the  people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the  curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what  had taken place, he praised God, and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance and saw these things (Luke 23:26-49).

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN VIEWS JESUS DIFFERENTLY

Jesus is not crushed by the cross. Jesus is in control of everything that had to be done to Him to save mankind, and it is all done according to the Scriptures. The editors had a long time to verify their sources; yet, they failed to name the people who counted the most, like the other disciple who did not scatter or hide, and who had a home to house Jesus’ mother. Could it have been that the main witness was a bit humiliated and embarrassed that the Kingdom of God did not turn out to be what the Zebedees had expected Jesus would do for them (Mark 10:35-45)? And the death of James ended the Zebedee aspiration (Acts 12:2). However, the “Spiritual Kingdom” Jesus had in mind began to sprout and grew into a mighty tree that spread its branches all over the world. Jesus made this prediction: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).   

So they (soldiers) took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews” Pilate answered “What I have written I have written” (John 19:17-22).

And when the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so the said to ne another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lotfor it to se whose it shall be.” This was to fulfil the scripture, “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:23-30).

THE FUNERAL OF JESUS AS RECORDED BY THE FOUR GOSPELS

The four Gospels agree that Joseph of Arimathea, who had not consented to crucifying Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And he was granted to bury Jesus in his own grave. Then each Gospel adds something that Mark knew not. Luke reported that Joseph of Arimathea had not a part in Jesus’ condemnation, and therefore he did believe in Jesus’ Kingdom. Some women saw where he buried Jesus (Luke 23:50-56). Matthew believed that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were present at the burial. And Matthew reports that the leaders requested that Pilate post guards at the sepulchre, to halt the disciples from removing Jesus’ body (Matthew 27:57-62). The writer and witness of John had the Jews ask Pilate to hasten Jesus death and remove Jesus from the cross before the sun went down by breaking His legs and piercing His side. And Joseph of Arimathea, in fear of the Jews like all the disciples, was assisted by Nicodemus in Jesus committal (John 19:31-42).

And when evening had come, 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 looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. And he brought a linen shroud and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus saw where he was laid (Mark 15:42-47).

Next day, that is, after the day of preparation,the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that imposter said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore order the sepulchre to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the sepulchre secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard (Matthew 27:62-66).

Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a hight day), the Jews asked Piate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with mim; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced  his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of him shall be broken.” And again another scripture says, “They shall look on him whom they have pierced.”

After this Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (John 19:31-42).