Insulting or Encouraging: Mark 15:27-32

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As we continue looking at the details Mark includes in the crucifixion portion of his gospel, we come to the section of this event that frames who Jesus died with, and the messages Jesus was receiving from those present. While it would be easy to see these verses and the messages Jesus was receiving as simply the mocking of hostile people, what these people were saying has a profound spiritual truth that might have even encouraged Jesus to press forward to His last breath.

Let’s continue reading and discover what the next verses can teach us about Jesus, and about God’s love for us. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 15, and we will read from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 27, Mark tells us that:

27 They crucified two rebels with him [referring to Jesus], one on his right and one on his left. [28] [And the Scripture came true that says, “They put him with criminals.”]  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 Messiah, 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.

Let’s stop reading here. From these verses, it doesn’t seem like anything in the messages Jesus was receiving is positive.

However, let’s look a little closer at what was said. The first “insult” Mark describes coming from people who passed by, and these people said, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” While these people believed or understood Jesus’ statement to refer to the building that was called the temple, John’s gospel tells us Jesus meant His body and He called His body the temple when making that claim.

This means that when these people threw Jesus’ words back at Him, while they intended their reminder to be an insult, they were actually reminding Jesus in the moment of His greatest physical pain, that resurrection was just around the corner!

I doubt anyone present would have realized this subtle encouragement, and I wonder if Jesus had planned early on to make this prediction knowing that at the moment He would need some encouragement from hostile people, He could count on them to remember and repeat this coded message back to Him.

But that isn’t the only insult that has multiple meanings in this passage. The other primary insult Jesus received was from the religious leaders, who Mark describes as saying, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself!” Again, similar to how the first “insult” could be reinterpreted to be encouraging, this second insult can also be a great reminder that Jesus could grasp and be encouraged by.

In this second insult, Jesus is reminded why He is on the cross. Jesus faced the cross to save others, not to save Himself.

The only reason Jesus faced the cross was to pay for the sins of those who want to escape the disease of sin and the traps of Satan. Jesus came to redeem sinners and to give those who want to return to God a way to return to God while allowing God’s justness and justice to still be clearly seen. God punishes sin and sinners deserved to be punished. However, someone unworthy of punishment is allowed to step in and take the punishment on themselves, which both allows justice to happen, while also showing love and mercy towards the guilty person. This second insult reminded Jesus why He was on the cross – because He was dying to save all of God’s people throughout history, including you and me!

However, the reason these insults were seen as insults was because of an assumption that those present blinded themselves into believing. This assumption was either something these people had convinced themselves was true, or it was a lie Satan had prompted them to believe in order to give Jesus one big last temptation before His death. The assumption I am referring to is that Jesus did not want to die.

The last big temptation Satan planned for Jesus was the temptation to come down from the cross and to save Himself. This temptation was included in both of the insults that were hurled at Jesus, and the implication is that Jesus needed to do this to prove who He was. This could only be a temptation if it were possible for Jesus to do, and I believe that Jesus was fully capable of leaving the cross if He wanted to.

However, Jesus knew that proving Himself to a skeptic would do no good. If Jesus had abandoned the cross when faced with this last temptation, the religious leaders and skeptics might have believed, or they might have simply come up with another reason they should doubt. One possible doubt would be that the soldiers didn’t do a good enough job driving the spikes into the wood, or that Jesus’ bone structure was uniquely different, allowing the spikes to slip off of Him. A skeptic’s mind can come up with countless reasons to not believe.

If Jesus had abandoned the cross when faced with this temptation, any belief in Jesus would be worthless, because Jesus gave up when times were too tough. Satan’s big claim against God was that God’s law was impossible to keep and impractical for life. Jesus came to demonstrate God’s love and to live a life that fulfilled all of God’s laws, showing us how God’s way is the best way!

Jesus’ chose not to save Himself so that He could save every person who wants to have a new life with God. Jesus used these insults that were thrown His way as subtle encouragements to remind Him why He was on the cross, which was to save sinners, and that the cross would end with resurrection on the third day!

Jesus used the biggest insults His enemies had and He had masterfully planned for them to be a source of encouragement in His darkest, most pain-filled hours leading up to His last breath.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf. Choose to let Jesus’ death pay for the price of your sins and accept the new life that Jesus offers to each of us because of what He faced. Jesus faced the cross for you and me, and His sacrifice only benefits us when we accept His death on our behalf by placing our faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him.

Also, continue to pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Choose to pray and study the Bible to discover a God who is passionately in love with you and a God who would stop at nothing to show His love for you because He wants to redeem you from the life of sin you are living in. God loves sinners, and Jesus came to redeem sinners who want to love God in return.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or give up on where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 45: While Jesus was hanging on the cross, Mark describes two primary insults that He received from people who were present. However, what if those insults weren’t actually insults. What if God had planned for them to be two significant encouraging messages for His Son at the point when Jesus needed encouragement the most!

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