Text: Mark 15:21-47
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So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (vv. 31-32).
Mocking the Crucified One
It’s one thing to be mocked, but it’s another thing to be mocked while you are suffering. During his trial, his scourging, and his crucifixion, Jesus was continually mocked. In most people’s eyes, Jesus was a pathetic fool who thought he was something that he really wasn’t.
In Mark 15, Jesus was mocked by four groups of people as he was scourged and crucified. (1) The Roman soldiers “mocked [Jesus]” (v. 20; cf. vv. 17-19). (2) “Those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’” (vv. 29-30). (3) “The chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe’” (vv. 31-32). (4) “Those who were crucified with him [the “two robbers,” v. 27] also reviled him” (v. 33).
Since Jesus was mocked, it should come as no surprise that his followers are also mocked. (Sometimes Christians invite mockery because of sinful or foolish behavior.) How do you feel when you are mocked for your love for Jesus?
We must never be ashamed of the one who was crucified for our sins.
In the minds of his enemies, Jesus’ crucifixion proved that he was not really who he had claimed to be. They believed that the words of Deuteronomy 21:23 applied to Jesus: “a man hanged is cursed by God.” The cry of Jesus from the cross seemed to support this belief: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (v. 34).
Some of the bystanders thought that Jesus was calling Elijah (vv. 35-36). In Aramaic, “God” (Eloi) and “Elijah” (Eli) sound similar. In Jesus’ day, many Jews believed that Elijah had been taken bodily into heaven without dying (2 Kings 2:11) and that he would return in times of crisis to protect and rescue the righteous (James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, 476).
The mockers of Jesus “esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:4). The mockers were partly correct. On the cross, Jesus was punished by the Father. But he was not punished for his own sin; he was punished for our sin. On Jesus was laid “the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). This is why he was forsaken by the Father.
When our love for Jesus is mocked, we should remember three truths.
1. The gospel will never be cool.
The apostle Paul writes, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23).
2. Some of the mockers will become believers.
The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus, but one soldier eventually believed in him. “When the centurion, who stood facing [Jesus], saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (v. 39).
The people who passed by the cross mocked Jesus, but one passerby might have eventually believed in him. “[The Roman soldiers] compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross” (v. 21). Mark’s readers knew Alexander and Rufus, which makes it probable that Simon’s sons were believers. Many scholars believe that Mark wrote to Christians in Rome, and a man named Rufus is mentioned in Romans 16:13.
The two robbers who were crucified with Jesus mocked him, but one robber eventually believed in him (Luke 24:39-43).
3. In the end, there will be vindication.
When Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, he was quoting Psalm 22. The psalm begins with David in despair. God doesn’t seem to be with him (vv. 1-8) But David ends the psalm with confidence, knowing that he will eventually be vindicated (vv. 22-31). “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2).
He Didn't Save Himself
The chief priests and scribes mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself” (v. 31). They would have spoke the truth if they had changed one word: “He saved others; he didn’t save himself.” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Should we be ashamed of Jesus? Should we be ashamed to share the message of his death and resurrection?