In Mark 14, the crowds of Jerusalem grow as the feast day arrives. A conspiracy is brewing among the Jewish leaders – a plot to eliminate Jesus. And as the tension mounts, Jesus takes his disciples aside to celebrate the Passover together in an upper room.
As the disciples recline for the feast, Jesus reveals that one of them will betray him. Betrayal is a deep wound, and Jesus knows it well. For now, Judas sits with Jesus as a friend. And in verse 22,
“Jesus took bread, broke it, and told his disciples, “Take it; this is my body.” And then a cup of wine, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
We call it Communion. Christians honor it all over the world to this day, with bread to remember Jesus’ body broken on the cross, and with wine to remember Jesus’ blood. Jesus is establishing a new covenant – a new relationship between God and man – in his blood. There is deep symbolism and meaning here, but for now, it is enough to remember Jesus.
The night proceeds. Judas leaves with evil intent. They finish the meal, Jesus prays, and he leads them to a garden nearby called Gethsemane.
It’s the middle of the night now, but a full moon lights the darkness. Jesus takes three disciples aside, and shares his heart,
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
He asks them to pray, then gets time alone in prayer, and asks the Father “that if possible the hour might pass” from him.
He returns to find the disciples asleep. He wakes them, and goes to pray again. Return. They’re asleep again. But now the time is up, and Judas has returned with a battalion of soldiers. The betrayal is complete. They arrest Jesus and take him to trial before the high priest.
It is now Friday, just before sunrise. Jesus stands before Caiphas, the high priest. In verse 56:
“Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.”
Accusations flew, but in verse 61,
“Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus.”
And for this, and this only, the High Priest condemns Jesus for blasphemy – for who he claimed to be.
So the Jewish leaders bind Jesus and lead him away to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Mark 15, verse 2:
“‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate.
‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied.”
Again accusations are hurled at Jesus, but he won’t answer. Through it all, he answers only the questions about who He is. This is the one thing that matters.
The accusations just don’t add up, and Pilate resists convicting an innocent man. But the priests threaten a rebellion. In verse 12,
“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?…”
“Why? What crime has he committed?…”
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
And Pilate gives in. Jesus is beaten brutally, and led away to the palace with a whole company of soldiers. They mock him with a crown of thorns, a purple robe, and then beatings and spit. Jesus has made it clear who He is, and the guards are just as clear about what they think of it.
They finish their sadistic fun, and lead Jesus out to Golgotha. In verse 24:
“…they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him.”
Crucifixion is a testament to the unashamed cruelty of mankind. It was a hideous punishment for crime, and the Romans wanted everyone to know exactly why each man was crucified. So they post a sign with his “crime.” The charge against him reads simply: “The King of the Jews.”
Three hours pass in torturous pain. And in verse 33:
“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.”
Step through history a moment, and stand there in the darkness. Hear the cynical mockers, the women weeping, and the cold confidence of the guards. And there before you a man on a cross. The sign over his head reads, “King of the Jews.”
Who is this man?
And as you stand there and wonder, verse 37:
“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
It’s over now. Another centurion is sent by Pilate to confirm the death with a long blade to the side. Whoever he was, he’s dead now. And as you turn to walk away from it all, a stranger stops you. “Who do you think he was?”
So, what do you say? Who was Jesus?
For Reflection and Discussion
- At his trials, why do you think that Jesus would only answer the questions about who he is? Why was that so important?
- What does the crucifixion of Jesus mean to you? Share your story.