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SCENES ON THE PATH TO CALVARY
Intro: The scene has been set. All the actors are in their places. Everyone knows their lines even though they have never rehearsed their parts. The greatest act in human history is about to be played out.
These verses talk about the aftermath of our Lord’s trial before the Jews and then Pilate. Both the Jewish leaders and the Roman governor have condemned Jesus and declared Him to be worthy of death.
The Jews did it because they hated Him. They hated Jesus because He claimed to be their Messiah. He was not the kind of Messiah they were expecting, so they rejected Him and sent Him away to His death.
Pilate condemned Jesus to death to save his position with Rome. Pilate violated every conviction he held. He convicted a Man against Whom no one had been able to lodge a valid charge. Pilate sinned against truth, conscience, integrity and principle in condemning Jesus. He allowed an innocent man to be crucified to ensure earthly security. In so doing, Pilate condemned his eternal soul to Hell!
Today, we will follow Jesus Christ from Pilate’s judgment hall to Mount Calvary, where He will die for the sins of His people. As Jesus makes His way from Pilate’s hall to Golgotha, several scenes are played out in the tragedy of His death. I want to look at those scenes today.
I want you to witness Jesus And The Soldiers; Jesus And Simon; and Jesus and The Skull. I want to take these scenes from our Lord’s final hours and preach about the Scenes On The Path To Calvary.
I. v. 15-20 JESUS AND THE SOLDIERS
(Ill. The Jewish leaders had rendered their verdict, v. 64. The people had rendered their verdict, v. 12-14. Pilate had rendered his verdict, v. 15. In an effort to transfer the blame for his decision to the Jews, Pilate made a symbolic show of washing his hands of the whole matter, Matt. 27:24. The Jews accepted the blame for the death of Christ and pronounced a curse upon themselves and their children, Matt. 27:25. Then, Pilate released Jesus into the custody of his soldiers for them to carry out the order for His death.)
A. v. 15 The Scourging When the soldiers got their hands on Jesus, they began to abuse Him. The first thing they did to Him was to scourge Him. The Bible passes over this event so quickly, the casual reader might think there is nothing much to be said. But, it needs to be said that scourging was one of the most feared punishments meted out by the Roman government.
The victim was stripped naked and forced to bend over a low pole, so that the skin of the back was stretched very tight. His hands and feet were tied and he was whipped with a device the Romans called the “flagellum. This instrument of cruel torture was nicknamed The Scorpion. It has also been called The Cat Of Nine Tails. The flagellum consisted of a wooden handle from which extended several strips of leather. On the ends of the leather strips were either pieces of bone or metal.
This whip was used to beat the prisoner. As he was beaten, the bone and metal in the whip would gouge out large chunks of flesh. Veins and sometimes arteries were severed. On occasion internal organs were exposed and eyes were put out. Many men died from the beating alone.
(Ill. I cannot possibly describe a scourging like it really was. I do not have the vocabulary to do so. I want you to remember why Jesus Christ allowed that horrible scourging to take place. He did it because He loved you! That was your whipping He took that day. He did it so that He could save your soul. He also did it to fulfill divine prophecy, Isa. 50:6.)
B. v. 16-20 The Scoffing After the soldiers finished scourging Jesus, they took him back into the fort. They called the whole band the Bible says. This refers to a Roman cohort, or about 600 men. All of the soldiers were not on duty came together to have their fun with another condemned prisoner.
This was a routine thing for the soldiers to do. As long as they did not kill the condemned prisoner before He suffered the prescribed for of execution, they were free to do with Him as they please. These men were heartless and utterly devoid of compassion for the Lord Jesus.
Imagine the scene. Jesus stands there before them. His body is weary from a long night without any sleep. His face is swollen from the abuse He suffered at the hands of the High Priest and the Temple police, 14:65. He is bloody from the scourging. His flesh hangs in ribbons from His back. His blood pools at His feet. You would think that seeing Jesus in that condition cause the soldiers to back off. But, they do not!
Instead, they play a cruel game with the Lord Jesus Christ. They draped a purple cloth around His shoulders. They made a crown of thorns and placed it upon His head. They put a reed in His hand. They had heard the accusations that Jesus was the King of the Jews, and they dress Him up like a king and they mock Him. They bend their knees to Him, and they salute Him as a King. A tragic scene of mockery.
(Ill. Is this not what our world still does to Jesus? The world still pays Him lip service and bows a mocking knee before Him, but they do not love Him. They do not respect Him. They have no desire to live for Him. They do not care about His Word, His will or His ways. The world pays Jesus lip services, but there is no love for Him in their hearts.
It is sad, but this also happens in the church. There are people who claim to know Him by the words they say, but they deny Him by the lives they live. People can profess anything they please, but a person’s life speaks louder than their profession! As someone once said, “What you do speaks so loud that I can’t hear what you say.” When we claim to love Jesus but refuse to serve Him, we are no better than the soldiers who mocked the King the day they crucified Him.)
C. v. 19 The Smiting These men were not content to whip Jesus with the flagellum. They were not content to mock Him and ridicule Him. According to verse 17, they had placed a crown made of thorns on His head. And, in a final act of cruelty, they took the reed they had placed in His hands and they beat Him with that stick and they spit in His face. Then, they took their purple garment off Him, reopening wounds that had begun to dry, and led the bleeding, broken, humiliated Christ away to put Him to death.
(Ill. I mention this because it is a picture of God’s grace in action. Just so you remember, this is God they are beating. This is God they are mocking. This is God’s face they spit upon. This is God they are abusing!
He created these very men. He possessed the power to destroy them by merely thinking about it. Had He wanted to, He could have summoned countless angels to go to battle for Him and to destroy His abusers, Matt. 26:53.
Again, I tell you that He endured it all because of His love for His people. He suffered the shame, the pain and the mockery because He loved me! I bless His name that He loves me so!
Jesus wore a scarlet robe in Pilate’s Hall that morning. Before the day would end, Jesus would wear my scarlet sins on the cross, 2 Cor. 5:21; Isa. 1:18! Jesus wore a crown of thorns that morning. Those thorns symbolized the curse of sin, Gen. 3:17-19. Before the day would end, Jesus would bear the full weight of the curse of sin. He would pay sin’s debt and guarantee that, one day, the world would be delivered from that curse, Rom. 8:20-22.)
I. Jesus And The Soldiers
II. v. 21 JESUS AND SIMON
(Ill. Having finished their cruel game, the soldiers led Jesus away to Calvary to carry out His execution. As they make their way to Calvary, Jesus is unable to carry His cross. History teaches us that the condemned man was required to carry the heavy cross beam, called the “patibulum, to the place of execution. The patibulum was tied across the shoulders of the condemned man, and he was forced to carry this very heavy beam. Due to His weariness from being up all night, the abuse at the hands of His accusers, and from blood loss because of the scourging, Jesus was too weak to carry the cross beam to Calvary. The Roman soldiers grabbed a man named Simon from the crowd and forced him to carry our Lord’s cross.)
A. His Selection Not much is known about this man named Simon. All we know about him is that he was from Cyrene which was located in Africa, near modern day Libya. We know that he was in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, so it stands to reason that he was a Jew who had come to the city to worship. He was probably traveling with his family. This man, an African, probably a man of color was there to worship. He had come to offer a Passover Lamb and he came face to face with the Lamb of God! Just for the record, this was no chance meeting!
The Word of the Lord tells us that they “compelled Simon to carry the Lords Cross. This word means to press into public service. Roman law allowed Roman soldiers to enlist civilians to do certain tasks for them. People were required to obey, or they could be put to death. Jesus mentions this practice in Matt. 5:41.
B. His Shame - The most degrading act imaginable was to have to carry the cross of a condemned man. No soldier would stoop to do it. No Jew would ever want to do it, but especially not on the eve of the Passover.
To carry a cross branded a person and rendered then ceremonially unclean. For Simon, the Passover was over the minute he touched the cross.
The word “compel carries with it the idea of force. Perhaps it was the threat of death that caused this African to pick up that cross and carry it. Regardless of the circumstances, from the moment Simon touched that cross, he was a marked man!
(Ill. What a picture for those of us who claim to be Christians! Did you realize that the cross of Christ is still associated with shame, Heb. 12:2? Jesus said that one of the marks of His disciples was that they had a willingness and a desire to carry the cross, Matt. 16:24. This passage makes it clear that those who follow Jesus must be willing to deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Him.
Please note that the steps of Jesus led Him to death before they led Him to glory! The same may be true of you and me! Bearing His cross will bring the reproach of the world, 1 Cor. 1:18, but a willingness to bear the cross for His glory will bring the smile of God!
Just as a condemned criminal was forced to carry his cross to show the world that he was submissive to the rules he once rebelled against, so the born again believer must bear the cross of Christ. This shows the world that we are now submissive to the rule of the One that we formerly rebelled against.
This may mean that we have to walk out of step with the world. Certainly it will mean that we must be different from the world in our thinking, our manner of life, in the forms of entertainment we use, in how we conduct ourselves in our interpersonal relationships, etc.
Part of the shame of Christ is our learning to be like Him instead of like the world! Don’t even pretend to be carrying your cross unless you have surrendered every area of life to the will of God. Is God pleased with everything you do? Could you invite Jesus to listen to your music? Could you invite Him to watch TV with you? Could you take Him along on a date? Could Jesus join you in everything you do? If not, then someone needs to change, and it isn’t Him!)
C. His Salvation - It was no accident that Simon and his family were passing through Jerusalem at that precise moment. It was the providence of the Lord that allowed his path to cross that of the Lord Jesus Christ. I can’t understand all the workings of our Lord, but I do know that He has a way of bringing people to Him that need to be saved. Remember the woman at the well, John 4:4-29? Remember the Ethiopian Eunuch, Acts 8:26-39? Apparently, God used this event this event to bring about the salvation of Simon. God brought a seeker together with the Savior!
We do not know when Simon came to know the Lord, but we have every reason to believe he did. Mark mentions “Alexander and Rufus. These names must have been familiar to the Christians to which he was writing. Later, when Paul was closing His letter to the Romans, he mentions Rufus and the mother of Rufus. Even going so far as to adopt her as his own mother, Rom. 16:13. It is evident that something happened in the hearts of Simon and his family as they watched the Lord dying at Calvary that day. Whatever took place, God used this event to change Simon and his family forever! What a picture of the grace of God!
(Ill. Just like Simon, I was minding my own business when I came face to face with the Lord. I didn't know anything about Him, but He was looking for me! When He found me, He compelled me to take up my cross and follow Him. When I did, He saved my soul!
He can do the same for you! If you have never been saved by grace, come to Jesus today and trust Him for the salvation your soul needs! He can change your life and forever alter your eternity!)
I. Jesus And The Soldiers
II. Jesus And Simon
III. v. 22-25 JESUS AND THE SKULL
A. v. 22-23 It Was A Place Of Choices When Jesus arrived at Golgotha, He was offered wine mingled with myrrh to drink. This was a narcotic mixture. It was not designed for the condemned mans comfort; it was designed for the soldiers convenience. They did not care how much Jesus and the others suffered, they offered them the drink because it kept the prisoners from struggling as they nailed them to the cross.
When Jesus is offered the mind-numbing drink, He refuses. Jesus came to this world to die for sin, John 18:37. He came to drink the dregs of His Father’s cup of wrath, Mark 14:36; Isa. 51:17. He came to die for the innocent, 1 Pet. 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:21.
Jesus wanted to do what He was about to do with a clear mind. Jesus willingly endured all the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional agonies of the cross, without any relief. He desired to suffer the full measure of the punishment I deserved. He did it for me and I praise Him for that.
B. v. 24 It Was A Place Of Callousness The depths of human depravity was clearly on display that day at Calvary. After the soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross, they sit down at His feet and gamble over the only possessions He had in this world, the very cloths on His back.
Of course, this was done to fulfill ancient prophecies, Psa. 22:18. It also clearly reveals just how wicked man can be. These hard hearted soldiers turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the sufferings of the condemned ones hanging on those crosses that day.
(Ill. Let’s not be too hard on the soldiers. Most of us demonstrate the same kind of callousness in our lives. We live for ourselves with no thought given to those around us. If it doesn’t touch us or our families, it really isn’t too important to us.
Yes, people are going to Hell, but that’s not our problem. After all, my whole family is saved. Yes, people are suffering, but I have too much to do to care about that. Yes, I know there is spiritual work to be done, but you can’t expect me to be involved. After all, I have things I like to do too. That is the same attitude that those soldiers possessed. It should never be true of a redeemed child of God!)
C. v. 24-25 It Was A Place Of Crucifixion The Bible is an amazing book. All four Gospel writers write about the crucifixion, but the event itself is never described. One of the most important events in human history is simply described by the words, and they crucified Him.
While the Bible does not give us much in the way of description, it does let us know that the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross of Calvary was a very important event. In fact, the cross is the centerpiece of all history. The day Jesus was crucified was the day sin and Satan were forever defeated for all those who believe. The crucifixion is an event that deserves a closer look.
Frederick Farrar, in his book The Life Of Christ, describes a crucifixion in this way.
A death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly - dizziness, cramps, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, shame, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of intended wounds-all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness.
The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened [when a victim took several days to die]; the arteries-especially at the head and stomach-became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood, and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst, and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety, which made the prospect of death itself-of death, the unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most-bear the aspect of a delicious and exquisite release.
One thing is clear. The first century executions were not like the modern ones, for they did not seek a quick, painless death nor the preservation of any measure of dignity for the criminal. On the contrary, they sought an agonizing torture which completely humiliated him. And it is important that we understand this, for it helps us realize the agony of Christ’s death. (Vol. 2 [New York: E. P. Dutton, 1877], pp. 403–4) MacArthur, J. (1989). Matthew (257). Chicago: Moody Press.
The deaths of Jesus of Nazareth and the two thieves that day was just business as usual for the Romans. The deaths of three Jewish men never even made a blip on Rome’s radar. I want you to know that while earth didn’t see the significance of what was happening that day, the death of Jesus Christ made news in Heaven!
The Father witnessed the death of the Son, and He was satisfied. Sin’s penalty had been paid and sinners could be saved. The crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ opened a way to God that will never be closed. Now, all those who come to Him by faith, trusting His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead as their sole hope of salvation, will be eternally saved by the grace of God. (Ill. Rom. 10:9; 13)
Conc: I will say more about the cross when we continue to study the events of Mark 15. A glimpse of these three scenes, as Jesus made His way to the cross, is all time allows for today. What do you think when you study these things?
Are you reminded of His love for you? Are you filled with praise and thanksgiving for a Savior Who gave Himself for you that you might have life and salvation? Wouldn’t today be a good time for you to bow before Him and worship Him for His love, His pain and His great gift to you?
Are you reminded of vows you made to Him to follow Him? Are you reminded of vows you have broken? There was a time when you loved Jesus. You loved Him enough to come to His house, pray and read His Word like you should. Now, you have strayed away from Him. You are no longer close. But, hearing about His love and sacrifice has reminded you of where you need to be. Come to Him today and let Him forgive you and restore you to the place you need to be with Him.
Have these scenes caused you to see that you are a sinner. Has it become clear to you that Jesus died to save you from your sins? Wouldn’t you like to come to Him today? Why not make today the day when you stopped holding back and just came to the Lord. Today can be your day of salvation. If He is calling you to come, you need to hear His voice and do as He is telling you to do.