November 4, 2012
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Follow the Leader
The Cross
Mark 14:43-15:47


    It’s nice to be home!  We had an amazing experience in Kenya— at the 2-day crusade over 700 adults chose to follow Jesus (we couldn’t count the kids!), and 300 leaders were trained in the seminar earlier in the week.  I’ve got lots of stories to tell—the Lord did so many amazing things—you’ll hear them in the weeks to come.

    We’ve been working our way through the Jesus story as told by Mark in the New Testament.  And we’ve come to the climax of the story.  Today we read the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, beating and death.  Next Sunday, it’s the end of the story that nobody expected: the resurrection of Jesus!  We’re going to have a party and celebrate with folks being baptized next Sunday.  But today, we’re going to tell the story of His death and its meaning for us, and we’ll take communion together at the end.  


So here’s what we’re going to do today: We will read through the story of Jesus’ death act by act; I will make a few observations along the way.  At the end, I’ll focus on one application as we take communion.  Here’s:

The Big Idea: Jesus did all this for you.  He could have saved Himself; instead He did this to save you.

Here we go…

Arrested.  Mark 14:43-52

43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

Jesus is betrayed by one of His closest friends—and betrayed with a kiss, a sign of friendship and respect—then deserted by all of His other friends.  Only a few hours before, all the disciples had promised to stand by Jesus, to the death if necessary.  Now, all of them run for their lives, and the emphasis is on all.  Every friend deserts Him; Jesus is left completely alone.  Everyone deserted him and fled, including the world’s first streaker: a young man who when seized, leaves his garment and streaks away naked.  Some believe this may have been Mark and this is his humble way of saying, “I deserted him too.”

Deserted by every friend—facing death utterly alone—Jesus did all this for you.


Jewish trial.  Mark 14:53-65

53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.

55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’ ” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.

60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.


Exasperated by the contradictory witnesses and Jesus’ silence, the high priest asked Him if He was the Messiah, the Son of God.  And Jesus broke His silence.  “Yes, I am.  And you’ll see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  A simple “yes” would have been enough to accuse Jesus’ of blasphemy, but the rest of His answer was like a “yes” on steroids!  The irony is rich.  Jesus standing there, arrested, beaten, bound, humiliated, facing death, would be sitting at God’s right hand, the position of power and judgment!  He would be judging them one day!

At this point, they had what they wanted: Jesus’ own words that could be used to convict Him of blasphemy.  He claimed to be the Son of God.  They condemned Him as worthy of death, but since the Romans wouldn’t allow the Jews to practice capital punishment, they had to wait until morning to take Jesus to the Roman governor, Pilate.   Meanwhile, they began torturing Him for sport.  They spit in His face.  They blindfolded Him and slugged him, mocking him.  “Prophesy, Son of God.  Who hit you?”  The beating may have gone on for several hours.

Jesus did all this for you.


Peter’s denial.  Mark 14:66-72

66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

71 He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.


Only hours before, Peter had declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.  Even if I have to die with you, I will not disown you.”  Peter over-promised, and under-delivered.  Ever done that?

Why do all of the gospel writers include Peter’s embarrassing failure?  The gospels were written in a time when it was dangerous to be a Christian.  Peter’s story stands both as a warning and a promise.  It is a warning not to deny Jesus—if Peter, the leader of the apostles could do it, you could too; don’t overestimate your strength!  And it is a promise of forgiveness if you do, for after His resurrection, Jesus found Peter and restored him. Peter’s story is ours too.  Like Peter, we are more weak and sinful than we imagined, and more loved and forgiven than we ever dreamed.  This is the gospel.

Jesus did all this for Peter…and for you.


Roman trial.  Mark 15:1-15

1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

6 Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.

14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.


An innocent man is condemned.  This is central to the gospel—an innocent man died for the guilty.  Barabbas was guilty—he was an insurrectionist guilty of murder in a recent uprising.  Jesus was innocent but He took Barabbas place on the cross. The Bible says that the wages or penalty for sin is death.  Like Barabbas, I am guilty, Jesus was innocent, but He took my place on the cross.  Jesus was innocent; he had no sin of his own to die for, but He willingly took on my sin, your sin and died in our place.  

“He had Jesus flogged.”  Those simple words describe an unimaginable horror.  A Roman soldier flogged Jesus with a whip of long leather thongs tipped with metal or bone.  A skilled soldier could strip all the skin and much of the flesh off the back of his victim, sometimes exposing bone or internal organs.  Many people didn’t survive a flogging—they died from shock and loss of blood.  The One who would soon be seated in majesty at the right hand of God was beaten to within an inch of His life.

Jesus did all this for you.


Mocked.  Mark 15:16-20

16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.


The Roman soldiers add their own sin to the mix by having some fun at Jesus’ expense.  They mocked and beat Him mercilessly: putting a robe on his raw and bleeding back, pressing a crown of thorns on his head, giving him a staff and then beating him with it, spitting in his face, and mocking him.  Jesus endured all this after already being beaten repeatedly and flogged.

Jesus did all this for you.


Crucified.  Mark 15:21-32

21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

25 It was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews. 27 They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29 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!”

31 In 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! 32 Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.


They offered Jesus a drugged wine to dull his pain, but He refused it; Jesus chose to experience the horrible suffering of the crucifixion with his senses intact.  He was drinking the cup of suffering God’s wrath to the dregs.

They divided up Jesus’ clothes—He was crucified naked.  The Romans regularly crucified men naked—it was part of the shame and humiliation and horror of crucifixion.

“And they crucified him.”  Those simple words don’t begin to describe the horror Jesus experienced.

What is crucifixion?  A medical doctor provides a physical description.
    The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood.  The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist.  He drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood.  Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement.  The cross is then lifted into place.

The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed.  The victim is now crucified.  As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves.  As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet.  Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of the feet.

As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain.  With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe.  Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled.  He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath.  Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside.  Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.

Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber.  Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.

It is now almost over—the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level-the compressed heart is struggling to pump heave, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues—the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.

He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues…Finally he can allow his body to die.

All this Mark records with the simple words, “And they crucified him.” What wondrous love is this? (Adapted from C. Truman Davis, M.D. in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8)

Jesus did all this for you.

Besides the physical agony of crucifixion, Jesus endured non-stop verbal abuse from those present, even those crucified with him!  The irony in their abuse is thick: “He saved others, but he can’t save himself.  Let him come down now from the cross and we’ll believe in him.”  But He stayed on the cross, refusing to save Himself, to save us.  Could He have saved Himself?  Yes.  But He chose not to save Himself so He could save you.  He loved you more than He loved Himself

Jesus did all this for you.


Died.  Mark 15:33-41

33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.


Jesus’ cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is from Psalm 22.   Here is a deep mystery, and perhaps the deepest part of Jesus’ suffering.  From eternity, Father, Son and Spirit have loved each other and lived in perfect community.  God is love.  God is a relationship.  And for the first time ever, that relationship is broken as the Son takes our sin upon Himself, and the Father pours out His judgment on His Son.  

ILL: I have talked with people who spouse was divorcing them, and in tears, they have told me it would be easier to die.  The pain is that profound.  I have lived for 37 years with Laina and we share a wonderful love together.  I can’t imagine the pain I would feel if she left me.  This is a mere shadow of what Jesus experienced on the cross, when for the first time in eternity He was forsaken by His Father.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Of all that Jesus suffered, this is the most difficult to fathom.  This is the most painful.     

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  What was that cry?  “It is finished!”  Tetelesthai in the Greek: “paid in full”.  The price for our freedom, our redemption was paid in full, to last drop of blood.

Jesus did all this for you.


Invite the ushers to bring communion


Buried.  Mark 15:42-47

42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.


    Jesus is dead and buried.  It’s over…or so they think.




Application before we pray and take communion:

    I want to leave you with one thought as take communion.  Why did Jesus die?  Mark gives us a clue in one small detail: when Jesus died, the veil in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  This is the veil that separated the Holy of Holies—symbolic of the presence of God—from the rest of the temple.  The veil separated sinful humans from a holy God.  Only one person was allowed to go behind the veil into the presence of God and only once a year.  The high priest went into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, and then he came with a sacrifice for his own sins and the sins of the people.  He went through an elaborate ceremony to prepare and cleanse himself.  Only the holiest person on the holiest day of the year bearing sacrifice could come into God’s presence.  None of us qualified.  None of us could have ever gone into God’s presence.  Ever.  

Until Jesus.  

He tore the veil in two.

And this veil was thick.  Unbreakable.  One legend said that two teams of oxen pulling in opposite directions couldn’t tear it.  But when Jesus died, God tore it from top to bottom.  

Jesus’ death made it possible for you and me to come to God, to know Him.  We have access.  We are God’s friends, now.  We are forgiven.  We are redeemed.

Jesus did all this for you.