Thank you for taking part in this opportunity to reflect on the death of Jesus. Over the next few moments allow yourself to suspend what you already know and approach this devotional with fresh eyes. Take in this story like it’s the first time. Let these thoughts move in you in a different way than you’ve experienced before. This is a cornerstone moment for our faith. We hope that as you engage with this story, you will be changed by Jesus.
If you have the opportunity, we encourage you to take communion as part of this devotional time. All you will need is a little bit of bread (or crackers, tortilla, etc.) and a little bit of juice (grape or otherwise). The point is to remember the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and blood through these elements.
Read About It:
Mark 15 The Message (MSG)
Standing Before Pilate
15 At dawn’s first light, the high priests, with the religious leaders and scholars, arranged a conference with the entire Jewish Council. After tying Jesus securely, they took him out and presented him to Pilate.
2-3 Pilate asked him, “Are you the ‘King of the Jews’?”
He answered, “If you say so.” The high priests let loose a barrage of accusations.
4-5 Pilate asked again, “Aren’t you going to answer anything? That’s quite a list of accusations.” Still, he said nothing. Pilate was impressed, really impressed.
6-10 It was a custom at the Feast to release a prisoner, anyone the people asked for. There was one prisoner called Barabbas, locked up with the insurrectionists who had committed murder during the uprising against Rome. As the crowd came up and began to present its petition for him to release a prisoner, Pilate anticipated them: “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews to you?” Pilate knew by this time that it was through sheer spite that the high priests had turned Jesus over to him.
11-12 But the high priests by then had worked up the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas. Pilate came back, “So what do I do with this man you call King of the Jews?”
13 They yelled, “Nail him to a cross!”
14 Pilate objected, “But for what crime?”
But they yelled all the louder, “Nail him to a cross!”
15 Pilate gave the crowd what it wanted, set Barabbas free and turned Jesus over for whipping and crucifixion.
16-20 The soldiers took Jesus into the palace (called Praetorium) and called together the entire brigade. They dressed him up in purple and put a crown plaited from a thornbush on his head. Then they began their mockery: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” They banged on his head with a club, spit on him, and knelt down in mock worship. After they had had their fun, they took off the purple cape and put his own clothes back on him. Then they marched out to nail him to the cross.
21 There was a man walking by, coming from work, Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. They made him carry Jesus’ cross.
22-24 The soldiers brought Jesus to Golgotha, meaning “Skull Hill.” They offered him a mild painkiller (wine mixed with myrrh), but he wouldn’t take it. And they nailed him to the cross. They divided up his clothes and threw dice to see who would get them.
25-30 They nailed him up at nine o’clock in the morning. The charge against him—the king of the jews—was printed on a poster. Along with him, they crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!”
31-32 The high priests, along with the religion scholars, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: “He saved others—but he can’t save himself! Messiah, is he? King of Israel? Then let him climb down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then!” Even the men crucified alongside him joined in the mockery.
33-34 At noon the sky became extremely dark. The darkness lasted three hours. At three o’clock, Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
35-36 Some of the bystanders who heard him said, “Listen, he’s calling for Elijah.” Someone ran off, soaked a sponge in sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.”
37-39 But Jesus, with a loud cry, gave his last breath. At that moment the Temple curtain ripped right down the middle. When the Roman captain standing guard in front of him saw that he had quit breathing, he said, “This has to be the Son of God!”
Taken to a Tomb
40-41 There were women watching from a distance, among them Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and Joses, and Salome. When Jesus was in Galilee, these women followed and served him, and had come up with him to Jerusalem.
42-45 Late in the afternoon, since it was the Day of Preparation (that is, Sabbath eve), Joseph of Arimathea, a highly respected member of the Jewish Council, came. He was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the kingdom of God. Working up his courage, he went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate questioned whether he could be dead that soon and called for the captain to verify that he was really dead. Assured by the captain, he gave Joseph the corpse.
46-47 Having already purchased a linen shroud, Joseph took him down, wrapped him in the shroud, placed him in a tomb that had been cut into the rock, and rolled a large stone across the opening. Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of Joses, watched the burial.
Think About It:
When you read about the death of Jesus, what do you focus on? Is it the brutal methods of the Roman soldiers? Is it the mocking and taunting of the religious leaders? Maybe the mourning of Jesus’ mother and followers?
Have you considered the darkness? Have you considered the three hour span in the middle of the day when the sun was obscured? Scripture tells us that all of creation worships the Lord. They bow down before Him and sing praise to His name. The presence and greatness of God invokes it. But in these hours leading to the death of Jesus, a tone of mourning and grief had been embraced by even nature itself.
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Jesus knew what this darkness meant. God’s presence had been withdrawn from Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Jesus became the embodiment of all of our sin. He took on the weight of it all and it became a barrier between him and his Father. When darkness fell, it wasn’t only because creation was mourning their dying creator. It was also because God the Father had to step away. His perfection could not exist in the presence of such sin, even as it hung on the cross.
This moment stands out in stark contrast to the time of Jesus’ baptism three years earlier. “The heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him” (Matthew 3:16-17). The Heavens open and God’s presence comes on Jesus. When God’s presence leaves, darkness falls.
Yet Jesus had never known full separation from His father. Even as a young boy, he knew that he “must be about his Father’s business”. Separation was a new experience for him. On the cross, he took the full brunt of the wrath of God. It was agony. He became the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.
Here’s the thing about darkness. It can seem to represent a lot of different things in scripture. But really...it all boils down to one thing. Darkness represents the absence of the presence of God. It’s a shadow that by comparison proves that light exists in the presence of God. It represents evil well because it’s where God isn’t. God is still powerful over it. He just doesn’t exist in it.
Jesus is the light. He told us himself in John 8. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” God’s presence radiates from him. Scripture tells a lot of other things about light as well.
It shines bright in the darkness.
The darkness cannot overcome it.
Light can’t be hidden.
If you have both eyes open, you see light. If you close both eyes, you see darkness. If you open one eye and close the other, your brain sees light. It doesn't see the darkness.
The words of Paul in Ephesians 5:8 are quite striking when he says ‘For you were once darkness, but now you are the light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Did you catch that? We were the darkness! God’s presence was not with us. But Jesus took on that darkness. Darkness fell when then he stood condemned before God as guilty of the sin of all of humanity. Darkness fell when he embraced the punishment that was laid on him on the cross. The perfect one found to be guilty so that we might experience the presence of God.
Talk About It:
Just a week before all of this occured, the people of Jerusalem were openly praising Jesus in the streets as he entered into the city. Now they are asking for his death even though they knew he was innocent. All of his followers went into hiding, including his disciples. How does your life mirror these people in the last week of Jesus’ life?
Sin has weight. There are consequences. On Earth, sin causes pain, brokenness, and separation. Romans 6:23 tells us that the consequence of sin is death. A death must occur to atone for our sins and to restore the separation that sin causes between God and ourselves. Jesus sacrificed himself because he did not want us to experience this separation. What changes in our daily lives because of this sacrifice?
Have you confessed your sins and accepted Jesus’ overwhelming sacrifice? No matter where you are in your journey of faith, what next steps do you need to take in response to the overwhelming love of God so that you may live and remain in His presence?
Pray About It:
Spend a moment dwelling on your sins. Reflect on the ways your choices have impacted your fellowship with God. Ask God to examine your heart reveal your sins - to make them glaringly obvious to you. Then wait in silence for his response.
Thank God for the extravagant love that Jesus showed on the cross. Offer prayers of thanksgiving for his victory over death and darkness, for freedom from the penalty of sin, and for his sacrifice that allows us to live an abundant life now and into eternity.
Ask God to fill you with his powerful Spirit. Ask him to keep this sacrifice fresh on your mind. Ask him for opportunities to share this love and sacrifice with the people around you.