On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
The Cross — 9 a.m.
Sept. 21, 2014
It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. 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, come down from the cross and save yourself!” (Mark 15:25-30, NIV)
Mark’s Gospel alone tells us the start time of Jesus’ crucifixion — the third hour, or 9 a.m. Mark opens his literary gaze by noting the written charge affixed to the cross, the robbers crucified with Him, and the taunting from Jesus’ opponents. Let’s take each of these in turn.
Pilate is known from secular history for his troubled relationship with the Jews. John’s Gospel tells us it was Pilate who ordered the notice prepared and fastened to the cross that read in three languages — Aramaic, Latin and Greek — “The King of the Jews.” Clearly, this was no confession of faith on the part of Pilate. Rather, he mocked the chief priests who had forced him into his decision. Pilate let the insult stand, not realizing that the title actually spoke truth. Jesus is King — not only of the Jews — but of all humankind!
Mark’s Gospel also notes, as do the other Gospels, that two others were crucified with Jesus. In the beginning moments of Jesus’ crucifixion, these two say nothing. They speak sometime later in the morning (v. 32), and one of them will subsequently have a change of heart (Luke 23:39-43).
Mark next points his word camera at the observers. They are heartless with rage, hurling insults and taunting Jesus to save himself and come down from the cross. After all, Jesus had said three years earlier, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). They did not know that Jesus was not speaking of the physical temple, but of His own body.
In the midst of all this rancor and shouting, Jesus speaks. Luke alone records His first word from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus’ invocation from the cross is personal. Others may say, “God,” and yet God lacks definition to them. But Jesus knew God as Father.
Commentator James Stalker reminds us that Jesus’ use of the word “Father” tells us “His faith is unshaken by all through which He had passed and was now enduring. When righteous is trampled underfoot and wrong is triumphant, faith is tempted to ask if there really is a God, loving and wise, seated on the throne of the universe. ... But, when the fortunes of Jesus were at the blackest, when He was baited by a raging pack of wolf-like enemies, and when He was sinking into unplumbed abysses of pain and desertion, He still said, ‘Father.’”
Jesus looks down on those mocking Him — cruel and callous soldiers, crooked politicians, corrupt religious leaders. What does He do about them?
What He doesn’t do is as important as what He does. He doesn’t ball His fists and say, “I’ll get even with you for this. I’ll send you to hell for this.” Rather, He opens His hand to receive the nail — demonstrating for us that it is more important to be oppressed than to oppress, to be wounded than to wound, to be hated rather than to hate.
His first word from the cross is one of forgiveness. Amazing!
A prayer of response
DR. GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark