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Mark 15:20-39             THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS

Intro:  In some ways, we have become too accustomed to the cross.  We see crosses every day of our lives.  Many churches have them atop their steeples.  There is one behind me right now as I preach this message.  There is a cross on the front of this pulpit.  Now, I am not against seeing the cross; but like any other symbol, it can lose its power in our lives if we become too familiar with it.  In other words, we can become desensitized to the cross.

      Think about this: For many, the cross is nothing more than a piece of jewelry that is used to adorn the ear or the neck.  For some, the cross is an icon designed for worship; they kneel before the cross and pray to it.  Some see the cross as an amulet that contains supernatural power; they hang it over their bed or carry it around to ward off evil.

      The cross is offensive to some people. In 1 Cor. 1:23, Paul calls it a “stumblingblock”.  This word comes from the Greek word “skandalon” which meant a trap or a snare.  It came to mean something that trips a person up and causes them to fall.  We get the English word “scandal” from this word.  To the Jews, the cross was a scandal!  They could not conceive of the Messiah being nailed to a cross!  They literally stumbled over the cross!

      The cross is foolishness to some people.  In 1 Cor. 1:23, Paul uses tells us that the Greeks considered the cross to be “foolishness”.  This word comes from the Greek word “moria”, which gives us the English word “moron”.  The sophisticated Greeks looked at a Savior dying on a cross and they declared it to be “moronic foolishness”.

      But, for a few, the cross is an object of power and wisdom.  In 1 Cor. 1:24, Paul says that those who have grasped the true message of the cross understand that it is not weak or foolish.  It is instead, the power of God and the wisdom of God.  It is the power of God because through the cross God forever destroyed the kingdom of Satan and broke the grip of sin.  It is the wisdom of God because in the cross, God used a tool that neither man nor devil could have ever foreseen to accomplish salvation for His people.  Had Satan known what Jesus would accomplish through the cross, he never would have pushed Jesus to the cross, 2 Cor. 2:8.

      Today, I would like to declare the message of the cross.  It is not a weak message; it is not a foolish message.  It is a message filled with the awesome power and wisdom of Almighty God.  Let the message of the cross speak to your heart today.  If you are saved rejoice in what God accomplished at the cross.  If you are not saved, you really need to hear this message today.  Let’s take these verses we have read together and examine The Message Of The Cross.     


  I.  v. 20, 24-25                 A MESSAGE OF TORMENT

A.  The message of the cross is a message of pain, suffering and death.  Three times we are told in these verses that Jesus was “crucified”, v. 20, 24-25.  This word means “to nail one to a stake”.  The death Jesus died was a horrible, painful death.  (Ill. We get the English word “Excruciating” from two Latin words: “ex” which means “out of” and “cruciare”, which means “the cross”.  A death on the cross was so painful that it came to be associated with any pain that caused extreme suffering. Ill. I have heard several kinds of pain described as being “excruciating”.  Childbirth, a kidney stone, biting your tongue, certain kinds of surgeries, etc., have been described in that fashion.  But, if you will take the worst pain you have ever experienced and multiply it 10,000 times, you might come close to experiencing the pain Jesus endured on the cross.)

B.  When Isaiah looked into the future and saw the death of the Messiah, He described it in Isa. 53:1-5.  Isaiah also tells us that His physical pain was unimaginable, Isa. 52:14.  (Ill. Describe death by crucifixion.)

C.  Add to this the suffering Jesus endured before He was nailed to the cross to die. 

      1.  He had been arrested, tried, convicted and beaten by the Temple guards, Mark 14:65. 

      2.  He had been taken to Pilate where He was abused by Pilate’s soldiers: Scourged – Mark 15:15 (Ill. The Scorpion); Beaten – Matt. 27:27-35, John 19:2-5; Spit upon – Matt. 26:67, 27:30; Beard pulled out – Isa. 50:6; Crowned with thorns – Mark 15:17;

      3.  He was sentenced to die and suffered as He carried His cross along the Via Dolorosa, (The Way of Suffering – 650 yards long).  (Ill. Patibulum, or cross bar – 110 pounds) John 19:17.

D.  Why would He endure this kind of death?  There is only one answer: His love for His lost sheep, Rom. 5:8; 1 John 3:16; 1 Pet. 3:18.  (Ill. The cross is not a trinket to be worn without thought.  It is not an amulet to be used to ease our superstitions.  It is not an idol to be worshiped.  It is a symbol of God’s love for us.  Therefore, let us glory in His cross, and praise the Lord for what He did for us, for it is the doorway into life for all who know Jesus as Savior, Gal. 6:14.


 II.  v. 26-32                       A MESSAGE OF TRAGEDY

A.  As Jesus hung on that cross, giving His life for the lost, His enemies circled Him like a flock of hungry vultures.  They hated Him so much that they even made fun of Him and taunted Him as He died.  Look at the language the Bible uses: v. 20, 31, “mocked; mocking” – “to play with; carries the idea of making fun of a person with a desire to harm”.  V. 29, “railed” – “to blaspheme; to say evil things about a person”.  They “wagged their heads” at Him.  They taunted Him, telling Him to come down from the cross if He was really Who He claimed to be. They said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save”, v. 31.  They may have been referring to Him raising Lazarus from the dead, John 11:43-57.  The religious leaders were guilty of mocking their Messiah as He died on the cross.

B.  The tragedy in the cross is seen in two different ways. 

·        First, it is seen in the attitude of the Jews toward Jesus.  He had come into this world as their Messiah.  He was the embodiment of all the Old Testament prophecies.  He came to redeem them and to usher in the kingdom of God.  They were looking for a conqueror, not understanding that their King had to die before He could reign, Dan. 9:26.  Ill. The cross was never “Plan B”.  Jesus entered this world for the purpose of going to the cross, John 18:37; Rev. 13:8.  The Jews could have received Him, but they rejected Him instead, John 1:11.  They confirmed their rejection by the words, John 18:39-40; John 19:5-16 and by their deeds, Mark 15:26-32.  What a tragedy!

·        It is also tragic because it brings the depravity of man into sharp focus.  The true character of the human heart is revealed by the actions of the lost people at Calvary.  Their actions remind us that man is hopeless apart from God’s intervention, Eph. 2:1-4.

      C.  Your reaction to the cross reveals the condition of your heart!


III.  v. 33-36                     A MESSAGE OF TRANSFER

A.  After man had done his best to ridicule and belittle the Lord Jesus, God turned the lights out on the cross.  It is as if God was saying, “You have mocked Him enough!”  But, during those hours of darkness, Jesus suffered the worst of His torments.  For, it was during those dark hours that your sins and mine were transferred to Him, 2 Cor. 5:21; Isa. 53:6, 9.

B.  All the pain of Hell and the undiluted wrath of Almighty God were unleashed on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He literally took our place on that cross.  He died our death; He suffered our Hell; He paid our price! (Ill. Eze. 18:4; Psa. 9:17; Rom 6:23.)

C.  Because He paid the sinner’s debt, those who place their trust in Him for salvation are delivered from the debt of sin.  They are delivered from the threat of Hell.  They are set free from the penalties stacked against them.  In fact, they get something better than that!  Our sins were transferred to Him at the cross; when we receive Him into our hearts, His righteousness is transferred to us, Rom. 4:16-25; Phil. 3:9!  When the Lord looks at one of the redeemed children of God, He sees one who has been made as holy, as righteous and as sinless and Jesus Himself! (Ill. If you’ve been waiting for a place to shout, now would be a great time!)

D.  Don’t miss the message of the cross!  If you are lost today, you are under the wrath of God, John 3:18; 36, and you are headed to Hell.  But, you can be saved if you will come to Jesus by faith, Rom. 10:13; John 6:37.  He will take your sins away and give you His righteousness in return!


IV.  v. 37-38                     A MESSAGE OF TRIUMPH

A.  These verses record the death of the Lord Jesus.  After six hours on the cross, He dismissed His Spirit when He knew that the price for sin had been paid and God was eternally satisfied, Ill. John 19:30.  (Ill. You do know that the Jews did not kill Jesus don’t you?  The Romans didn’t do it either!  No one killed Him, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death (Phil. 2:5-8) so that sinners might be saved.  He died when it was time for Him to die, and not a second before, John 10:17-18.)

B.  The words of Jesus from the cross were not the words of a “victim” but the shouts of a “victor”!  He did not say “I am finished”!  He said, “It is finished!” When Jesus died on the cross, His death signaled the defeat of three terrible enemies of lost humanity.

1.  His death signaled the defeat of Satan – When Jesus died on the cross, His death spelled the doom of Satan’s dominion in this world, 2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 2:14.

2.  His death signaled the defeat of Sin – When sin entered the world it brought with it death, devastation and damnation, Rom. 5:12.  Jesus forever did away with sin when He died on the cross, John 1:29; Heb. 9:26.

3.  His death signaled the defeat of Separation – Sin had separated the sinner from God, Isa. 59:2.  The death of Jesus broke down the wall of separation erected by sin and serves to bring those who trust Him back into fellowship with God, Rom. 5:10.  (Ill. Jesus is our Daysman, Job 9:33. He is our Mediator, 1 Tim. 2:5.  He has bridged the gap between us and God, Eph. 2:13.)

C.  The death of Jesus was not the tragedy it appeared to be on the surface.  The death of Jesus was our moment of ultimate triumph.  In His death, He conquered all the enemies that were destroying those trapped in their sins! (Ill. There truly is “Victory In Jesus”, 1 Cor. 15:57!)


V.  v. 39                           A MESSAGE OF TESTIMONY

A.  The cross of Jesus was about far more than death, suffering and blood.  The cross of Jesus was a place of testimony. It was here that God made His greatest declaration of love for lost humanity, Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10.  Christ’s greatest work was accomplished at the cross.  When He raised Lazarus from the dead, He helped one man and his family.  When He healed the lepers; delivered the demoniacs; opened the blind eyes and healed diseased, twisted bodies; He was helping one person and one family at a time. When He fed the 5,000 thousand, He helped 5,000 men plus women and children.  But, when He died on the cross, Jesus was making a difference for every member of Adam’s family who would look to Him by faith.  It wasn’t just one man; but it was “whosoever will”, Rom. 10:13; Rev. 22:17. He could have saved Himself, v. 31, but He stayed on the cross to save sinners!

B.  His death was not in vain!  The very day Jesus died we know that a lost thief repented, trusted and was saved, Luke 23:40-43.  That same day a hardened, pagan, Roman military officer was convicted and converted as he gazed at the scene before him, Mark 15:39.

            It was many centuries later, but His death made the difference in my life.  I will never forget the day when He saved me by His grace.  The salvation that He so freely extended and I so gladly received was made possible by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

C.  The cross of Christ still trumpets the love of God for lost sinners.  In our day, the testimony of the cross has become muted by the siren call of this world and its pleasures.  But, for those who will hear the testimony of the cross and will heed its message, will find that there is power in its message. 


Conc: What is the cross of Jesus to you?  It is merely a piece of jewelry?  Is it just a religious symbol?  Is it a talisman you hang over your bed to keep the devil away?  Is it pure foolishness? Or, is the cross the “power of God unto salvation”? If you will heed the message of the cross, you will find that salvation is still available.  You will find that God can still save souls; change eternal destinies and transform sinners into saints of God. (Ill. “The Old Rugged Cross”)  Today would be a good day for you to heed The Message Of The Cross!

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