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Nov 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 11, 2018 – Mark 15:1-5

Ain’t No Sunshine When . . .

Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate. Pilate questioned Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him, “It is as you say.”
The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly. Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!”
But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.
 Mark 15:1-5

Intro: A few weeks ago, I met ‘J’ at a local rehab clinic

In a group session, he told us he’d never believed in anything he couldn’t see
– but while there, J was introduced to Jesus Christ,
and through him became a new person
• he finished the program, but before he left the clinic I asked him, “Where’s home?”
◦ when he told me, I got excited because I have a friend there
◦ my friend, in fact, is the pastor of the Calvary Chapel in that town
• J asked, “Is he the guy who rides around on a Harley?”
◦ when I said yes, he replied, “I think I know that guy”
– Jay and my friend, Dave Sweet, lived in Paradise, California
• that town was burned to the ground this week

When one tragedy follows another, it is more difficult to recover emotionally
– last week, the synagogue shooting – and it seemed we all agreed it was evil
• but then another shooting this week
◦ and in bar and grill known to be a hang out for college students
• and hard on the heels of that devastating horror, multiple fires
◦ not only forests have been lost, but also many homes and human lives
– so many tragedies at once is like being caught in
• the danger is not only what one wave can do to you,
◦ but what multiple waves in a set can do
• each one makes it more difficult to fight back to the surface

The distress we feel over all of this reminds us,
– the path of our spiritual journey winds through the valley of shadow of death
• we cannot minimize the impact of these experiences
• we cannot pretend that Christians skate through them unharmed
– I’ll admit, if God offered an escape from reality, I’d take it
• in the valley of the shadow of death, we crash into reality
◦ the reality we fear and try to avoid
• but God, the ultimate Reality, is also encountered in these dark valleys
◦ we don’t find him by running from reality, but find him in it

Mark has created a very dark chapter

I’ll point out two symbols of its darkness

First: Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a skull (Mk. 15:22)
Years ago I watched a documentary (or travelogue, I can’t remember) and at one point it took us through a monastery and a crypt that contained the remains of monks who had lived and died there. What we were shown were not exactly the “remains” of the monks, but a large pile of human skulls.

– the effect of seeing it caught me off guard
• there was no sense of these skulls having been persons
◦ nor was there any differentiation between them
(like one of them could have once been Joe and another Fred)
◦ it disturbed me to think that I could end up a skull in a pile like that
• a skull no longer a person who smiled, winked, raised his or her eyebrows,
◦ but merely a digit — a bead on an abacus wire
◦ skulls are eerie, which is why on warning labels they symbolize death

Second: When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour (Mk. 15:33)

– this verse does not require an explanation – we’ve felt a darkness like it
• in 1966 the Walker Brothers released the hit single “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine”

The Sun ain’t gonna shine anymore
The moon ain’t gonna rise in the ski
Tears are always clouding your eyes
When you’re without love

◦ that song has haunted us ever since
(It’s been re-released by The Lettermen, Jay and the Americans, Neil Diamond, Cher, and many others. It has also been featured in movies, a movie trailer, and television as recently as the 2018 Hulu series “Castle Rock”)
• in terms of lyrics it’s not a “great” song, but it hits a nerve
◦ of course the sun will shine again
◦ but it’s light won’t penetrate broken hearts

Have you ever watched a movie in which there comes a very sad moment
– and you feel that somehow this tragedy must be resolved?
• then the screen goes blank screen and there’s a pause
• just as you start to think, “This had better not be the end!” the credits roll
• that is this dark chapter in Mark’s gospel

Last Monday my Bible reading brought me to this chapter

Until then, every chapter I read in Mark had inspired me
– in fact, the previous Monday I’d written in my journal,
“I am thoroughly enjoying walking with Jesus through Mark”
• but that was not what I felt when reading this chapter
– imagine the emptiness the disciples must have felt in the pit of their stomachs
• the emptiness of the world around them
◦ this would not have been the God-filled emptiness of Christian mysticism
◦ this was the ultimate void; the ultimate silence of death

Occasionally I will have a bad day – we all have them
– rarely it will be really bad, when I feel I’m drowning in oppression
• that was where I found myself Monday morning
◦ and this chapter did not help – it disturbed me even more
• it was not at all what I felt I needed at that moment
– what I wanted was a powerful, miracle-working Savior
• not a Savior who lets the world run over him and crush him,
• like it crushes me

It dawned on me that my thinking was the same as Peter’s
– he rebuked Jesus for telling the disciples he would be killed
(the Messiah could not be defeated, beaten down, crucified)
• it was the same mind-set as the chief priests around the cross insulting Jesus

He saved others, they said, but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah come down from the cross right now–then we’ll believe in him!

• this is what the limited human mind that cannot grasp
◦ a Messiah who dies like a criminal
◦ and it is because God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts
– it’s a fatal mistake to think a dying Savior is not what we need

For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:21-24)

Jesus is dreadfully quiet in this chapter

So quiet that Pilate was amazed when Jesus no longer answered him
– at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry
• people were amazed at his teaching
• now at the end of his ministry, Pilate is amazed at his silence
◦ he assumed that this was the time a man would speak up
◦ an innocent man would defend – a desperate man would beg for mercy
– we hear Jesus’ voice only three times in the chapter

  1. his “So you say” to Pilate, which was rather ambiguous
  2. his Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani from the cross (“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me”)
  3. and at last a shout, then it was over

The prophet Isaiah had predicted this silence:

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth (Isa. 53:7)

Jesus had given up – he surrendered himself to the cross
– and on Monday morning I did not like this ending at all
• not when I felt like I was being swallowed up in darkness,
• not when it felt like I was losing Jesus to silence and death
◦ losing my one hope in all the world
◦ I wanted to speed-read the chapter, to fast-forward through my own situation
– I was afraid of getting stuck in that awful state
• stuck at the Place of the Skull
• stuck in a world without Jesus
◦ a world where the bad people win, crucifiers were in control,
◦ and good people are no more than targets

Perhaps in all of human history, there’s nothing more confusing
– than what we did to Jesus the Christ
• the Son of God who came to save us
• but the story does not end here –the credits do not roll –not yet
– it was okay that I struggled on Monday – it’s my darkness
• it’s good I was able to trust my way through it
• this is part of what knowing Jesus is about

I count all things to be loss . . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Php. 3:10-11)

I like the idea of power, but I’m not keen on suffering
– what is the power of Jesus’ resurrection?
• it is the presence of a living Person
• the power comes through knowing him
– but we must have the whole experience and that includes the fellowship of his suffering
• it sounds terrible at first, but no matter what, suffering is unavoidable
◦ what I discover in it is a “fellowship,” a companionship
• it is in suffering that we experience the power of his presence
◦ and it is his presence that empowers us to hold on
◦ the assurance that he who has walked this road will us to the other side

The power of Jesus’ resurrection means our stories will never end in darkness
Instead, we go from death into life

Conclusion: A couple years ago, I was reflecting on the ending scene of Luke’s gospel

And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:50-51)

This was Jesus’ parting gift to his disciples.
He lifted up His hands and blessed them

I wrote in my journal: “I cannot know the words of Jesus’ blessing, but still I can feel the blessing. I can feel it the same way I felt the desolation of a world without him in the previous chapter. I imagine standing there with the others, seeing his scarred hands raised in blessing. I feel as though he is touching me, healing me. Heaven opens and I feel the pleasure of the Father who receives me in his Son. I receive this gift from Christ. It’s a gift that will carry me forward, an energy that will empower me. I am loved. I am accepted. And I am forever grateful.”

Therefore comfort one another with these words 
1 Thessalonians 4:18

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