Oct 27, 2013
Mark 15:39-47

Download Audio:

Calvary316 Twitter Calvary316 Facebook Calvary316 Square Donations Calvary316.net


Two weeks ago we noted that during the first 3 hours of the cross, Mark detailed the activities of 4 different groups of people around Jesus: (1). There were the pagan Romans who were oblivious to the truth, (2) Then you have the religious Jews who mocked of the truth, (3) The masses passed by who remained ignorant of the truth, and then there were the (4) Two transgressors hanging to His right and left who reviled the truth.... 

Then last week we saw how, following three hours of global darkness, Mark zeros in on Jesus, His experience on the cross, and His final moments before dying.

Now that Jesus has given up the ghost, this morning we’re going to see Mark focus our attention onto three other groups of people involved with the crucifixion proceedings.

[Mark 15:39] “So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that Jesus cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” 

What do we know about this centurion? 

1. A centurion was a professional officer of the Roman army.

Most centurions commanded 80 men within a greater legion of soldiers. (Some historical accounts place this number anywhere between 200-1000 legionaries.)  

Since this centurion was stationed in Judea (a hotbed of rebellious activity), he would have been a habituated, battle-hardened, veteran of war.

We can also assume by the nature of his vocation, this centurion possessed little regard for human life, especially that of the Jews.

2. As a Roman, the centurion would have been religiously polytheistic though more in likely a practicing pagan.

This means his chief recreation would have been hedonism (the abolition of pain through the pursuit of pleasure). The centurion would have frequented brothels and very likely been a substance abuser. It’s legal for him to be an “outlaw.”

3. This centurion oversaw the execution of Jesus.

As the commander in charge, the centurion directly oversaw Jesus’ scourging and he was personally responsible for His crucifixion. This man had sanctioned and orchestrated the brutal treatment Jesus had endured over the last 7 hours.

Though he probably didn’t participate in the gabling of Jesus’ effects (centurions were paid handsome salaries), like those in his command this man was also  oblivious to the truth of who he had just scourged and crucified.

4. The centurion was antagonistic towards Jesus.

Mark describes “the centurion” as someone “who stood opposite Him.”

The phrase “stood opposite Him” can obviously refer the centurion’s geographical location in proximity to Jesus, but it can also imply something else.

The phrase can also indicate the centurion emotional position towards Jesus. It can literally imply he “opposed Jesus as an adversary,” that he felt “hostility towards Jesus,” or that he was simply “antagonistic.”
It is interesting.... this battle-hardened, Jew hating, pagan practicing centurion who had brutally scourged and crucified Jesus all the while remaining antagonistic towards Him.... by the end of this seven hour experience.... breaks down and verbally declares for all of the world to hear, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” 

Consider the Drastic Nature of His Transformation:

During the last seven hours, the calloused heart of an angry man willing to scourge and crucify an innocent prisoner would ultimately softened to his prisoner’s cause.... 

A pagan, immoral man uninterested in spiritual things ends up uttering one of the most theologically significant statements in human history....

A man vehemently opposed to everything Jesus stood for just hours earlier would ultimately accept and publicly declare Jesus for who He really was....

By the end of his experience, the man who had nailed a sign to the cross mocking Jesus as the “King of the Jews” now affirms this Man to be more than a king, a God!

Q: What was it that so radically transformed a man who had initially been so blatantly antagonistic towards Jesus? 

A: He watched the way Jesus had endured the cross. 

Imagine how different an experience this had been for a man who had personally crucified and executed countless men (aside from the ones he’d killed in battle):
In the midst of Jesus’ excruciating experience, he saw a supernatural peace.

In the way in which Jesus handled His accusers, he saw amazing grace. 

When Jesus asked God to forgive His enemies, he saw a genuine love.

In the way Jesus accepted His impending death, he saw abnormal strength.

He personally experienced the three hours of darkness and he felt the earthquake. 

He saw the lights come back on and witnessed the veil tear in the Temple!

Before breathing His last, the words Jesus had cried out from the cross “It is finished” were no doubt still ringing in his ears.

The centurion’s statement, “Truly (or most certainly) this Man was the Son of God (literally - the offspring of God)” affirms the uniqueness of his experience. 

A man so familiar with the human reaction to a Roman crucifixion had never before seen a man handle himself in the way Jesus had.... 

Towards the experience of the cross (peace in the place of torment). 

Towards His accusers and enemies (love in the place of hate). 

Towards death (acceptance and surrender in the place of fear and resistance). 

What the centurion witnessed that day was so abnormal - so contrary to the human spirit - this man of war was left with only one logical conclusion concerning Jesus.... He had to be otherworldly.... “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Observation: This centurion (who had never heard Jesus teach a sermon or preform a miracle) was drawn to Him for one reason: the way He handled the cross! 

Jesus demonstrated something in the midst of His greatest adversity this centurion couldn’t articulate in any other way but by simply chalking it up to God! 

It’s been said, “Your life might be the only Bible a person ever reads.” And since this is indeed the case.... as it were with Jesus it becomes equally true for you that “the most powerful lesson your life will ever communicate to the world around you is the way you handle your greatest adversity.”

Realize: The power of the Gospel demonstrated through your life is not nearly as potent during times of joy as it is during times of pain. For though the world has much advice on how a person might enjoy life, it provides no counsel on how to endure pain.

Theodore Roosevelt, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

One more thought on this centurion: I find it interesting that the only formal revelation the centurion had concerning Jesus was that He had claimed to be the “King of the Jews,” but his conclusion from the cross was that Jesus was the “Son of God.” 

Q: Where had he been introduced to this notion?

A: I believe the idea was introduced into his consciousness through the blasphemous accusations herald by the religious leaders.

It’s a powerful thought to consider.... when it was all said and done this centurion concluded by his own reasoning through his own observations, that Jesus was indeed the Man His skeptics claimed He wasn’t.

[Mark 15:40-41] “There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

Mark tells us “there were also women” at the cross.

  • “Mary Magdalene” - Was a women from the city of Magdala who had been possessed with 7 demons before Jesus liberated her from her torment. 

  • “Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses” - Was according to Mark 6:3 also “Mary the mother of Jesus.” 

  • “Salome” - Was the sister of Mary making her the aunt of Jesus. She was also the mother of two of Jesus’ closest disciples: James and John. 

  • Mark also tell us “many other women” were present. 

  • Sadly, other than John, none of the disciples were present at the cross.

Mark describes this group of women as those who “followed and ministered to Him.”

“Followed” - Greek word “akoloutheô” means “to walk along the same road.”

This word describes who these women were. 

This group of women were genuine disciples of Jesus. They had each encountered Jesus in their own unique way, but they were all willing to follow Him wherever that path might lead.

“Ministered” - Greek word “diakoneô” means “to serve” or “to wait at a table.”

Note: This is the same word we’ll later find translated into English as “deacon.”

Interesting that the apostles probably immolated this same model in Acts 6 when they told the people to choose 7 deacons. This means the first deacons were actually a group of women, before the men were prompted to step up as well.

This word describes what these women did. 

As “followers” of Jesus these women focused their time and attention on serving Jesus by caring for many of the practical needs of His ministry. 

According to Luke 8 they even “provided for Him from their substance.”

Observation: These women demonstrated true discipleship.

As followers of Jesus their journey had led them to an unexpected destination, the cross of Calvary. And while the rest of His followers were nowhere to be found, these women “looked on from afar” undeterred in their pursuit of Christ.

Note: “Looking on from afar” shouldn’t be a criticism. 

  • They were close enough for Jesus to address both Mary and John.

  • They were close enough for Jesus to be encouraged by their presence.

  • The simple act came at great personal risk.

Interesting: There was one simple distinction between these faithful women at the cross and the rest of the disciples who were nowhere to be found. 

These women followed Jesus because of who He was to them. He had touched each of their lives in powerful ways. Their love for Jesus and desire to serve Jesus was birthed as a response of His service to them and love for them. 

And because their motivation was Christ-centric and not self-centered, they were willing to follow Him no matter where that journey might lead.... even a cross.   

And yet, there were many others who followed Jesus for what they believed He could do for them. They loved Jesus. Served Jesus. And followed Jesus as long as it proved personally beneficial. 

When Jesus failed to met their expectations, when serving Him required personal sacrifice, when following Him brought them to a cross and required death.... it became more than they bargained for and they all fell by the wayside.

What kind of disciple are you? If you’re following Jesus for selfish reasons, you will inevitably choose a more convenient way when your path finds itself at a cross. However, if you’re following Jesus because of who He is and what He’s done for you, then you’ll not only be willing to follow to a cross, but as demonstrated by these women you’ll be the first to experience the glory that follows. 

[Mark 15:42-47] “Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath (meaning it’s still Friday afternoon before the start of the Sabbath at 6 PM), Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted (to give as a present) the body to Joseph. Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.”

Scene of Activity

Jesus died approximately 3 PM when the darkness was lifted from the city and the veil was torn in the Temple. His death was much earlier that what would have been expected.

Sometime between 3 and 4 PM “Joseph of Arimathea” came to Pilate and “asked for the body of Jesus” desiring to burry Him is his family tomb. (With the Sabbath beginning at sunset Joseph’s window of opportunity was small.)

What do we know of Joseph?

Note: Joseph is one of the few people mentioned by all 4 Gospel writers. 

1. He was from the town of “Arimathea.” 

Located in the region of Ephraim, Arimathea was 25 north of Jerusalem. 

2. He was “a prominent council member.”

“Prominent” means he was “honorable, respected, of good standing.”

Luke also indicates says he was “a good and just man.”

This word also indicated Joseph was a man of considerable wealth and power. (You would need clout to summon an audience with Pilate.)

“Council member” meaning Joseph is a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin.

According to the Talmud there were only 14 known “Honorable Councilors.”

3. He “was waiting for the kingdom of God.”

This means like many within the religious community Joseph was eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of the Messianic promises of the O.T.

This might also explain why a man from Arimathea would have purchased a new tomb so he and his family could be buried in Jerusalem.

4. (According to both Matthew and John) He was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews.”

Though a member of the Sanhedrin, Luke says Joseph “had not consented to their decision and deed.” (More in likely he had been left out of the vote.)

Though Mark only describes the involvement of Joseph, according to John 19, we also learn that “Nicodemus, who at first had come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.”

Like Joseph, Nicodemus was a wealthy, influential member of the Sanhedrin.

History tells us Nicodemus was the 3rd wealthiest man in Jerusalem. 

In John 3 Jesus refers to him as “the teacher in Jerusalem” - a definite article indicating Nicodemus was one of the greatest scholars within the Sanhedrin. 

Q: Why had Joseph and Nicodemus kept their position concerning Jesus a secret? 

A: They feared the repercussions of being identified with Jesus. 

Because each man was well connected, they knew what the political climate looked like for Jesus. They feared being a known disciple of Jesus would cost them their social position, political power, friends, livelihood, even reputation.

The brutal and honest truth is that neither Joseph nor Nicodemus were actually disciples of Jesus. They thought they were, but they were tragically deceived. 

Understand, you can’t genuinely follow a person or movement without being willing to identify yourself with that person or movement even if it comes with personal risk. 

In much the same way, it is impossible to follow Jesus without being willing to (A) identify yourself with Him, and (B) accept the reality that following Jesus does carry repercussions (we’re exhorted to “cost the cost” for a reason).
Matthew 10:32-33, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

Though neither of these men had been willing to publicly take a stand for Christ before this moment, upon seeing the crucified Christ in contrast to the blatant immorality and viciousness of the so called religious leaders of Israel, both men were stirred to action!They both understood it was time to come out and take a stand! 

Q: What changed for these two men that they were now willing to make a public stand and identify themselves as followers of Jesus? 

The political climate hadn’t gotten any better.

The personal cost of identifying with Jesus hadn’t lessoned.

Imagine the experience of the last few hours.... 

A: I am convinced, as the brightest religious minds of Israel, Joseph and Nicodemus actually realized what Jesus was doing on the cross. 

I believe as soon as the veil was torn, they both realized the significance of the moment. They both recognized that on the cross Jesus was taking upon Himself the righteous wrath of God as the perfect, permanent sacrifice for sins so that they could now boldly approach the throne of grace. 

That core reality was more than enough to push a secret follower into now being a public disciple. For if you fully understand that God’s grace bestowed towards you cost Jesus everything, then it becomes easier to count the personal cost of following Him.

Mark tell us “coming and taking courage” Joseph petitioned Pilate for His body.

“Taking courage” - Greek “tolmaô” means “not to dread or shun fear but to be bold.”

Joseph and Nicodemus decide it’s time to go on the record. And though they would have to live with their inaction concerning Jesus death, they were finally willing to count the costs and get off the sidelines.

Mark tells us that Pilate “granted the body to Joseph. Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.”

Luke is very specific that “He took down the body.” 

While Nicodemus prepared the tomb for burial, Joseph makes his way to Golgotha to retrieve the body of Jesus. Imagine that experience.

Mark tells us the tomb “had been hewn out of the rock” indicating this was a very costly purchase by Joseph. John says “in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb that no one had yet been laid.”

One Location: Golgotha, garden, and rich man’s tomb.

John also provides another important detail concerning the burial process. He says, “Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.” 

The process would begin with a thorough washing of the body. 

His body would then be laid on a long piece of linen cloth. 

His ankles, knees, arms, and chest would be wrapped together. 

They would then cover his body in spices to tamper down the smell of decomposition before the cloth was folded back holding everything in place.

Upon completion, a five ton stone would be rolled over the entrance insuring wild animals or thieves couldn’t easily access the body.

Though when the day began Jesus found Himself in the hands of a hateful world, when the day came to a close He found Himself in the loving hands of disciples. 

And in like manner one day our bodies bruised and bloodied by the hands of a hateful world will be resurrected and transformed by the loving hands of a gracious Lord.