Good morning Gathering! It is a joy to be with you this morning to celebrate the gospel, and it’s a privilege to open the Word of God together. Our prayer this morning is that the Lord would conform us to the image of Jesus.
If you have a Bible, I’m going to ask you to turn with me to Mark chapter 15. We’re going to read a pretty big portion of scripture this morning that details the events of Jesus’ crucifixion. We’ll look specifically at verses 21-39. If you’ve been following along with us in this series, you know what has transpired over the last 24 hours or so.
Jesus has been betrayed; He’s been abandoned; He’s been arrested and bound. He’s been denied; He’s been falsely accused; falsely tried and falsely convicted. He’s been beaten, spat upon and ridiculed. He watched as Barabbas, a known criminal, was set free as He was sentenced to die. He was derided, mocked and scourged so badly that He would have been unrecognizable at this point. And now we come to the account of His death. Let’s read this together. Mark 15:21-39
If you’re like me, you’ve probably read that text (along with the accompanying crucifixion passages in Matthew, Luke & John) many times before. I’ve probably read this text 100 times or more. But there’s something that occurred to me as I was studying it over the last couple of weeks that hadn’t occurred to me before. There’s this little phrase in verse 24 that jumped out at me. It says, “And they crucified Him…”. That’s all Mark really says about the the details of the actual crucifixion.
So then I went and read the other accounts in the other 3 gospels, and Matthew, Luke & John were equally brief. They all talk about some things that Jesus says on the cross. They talk about different interactions with people who were there and other details like that. But, when it comes to the crucifixion itself (what actually happened physically), they all pretty much just say, “He was crucified…”
Here’s why that grabbed my attention. We tend to focus our thoughts on the physical pain & torture of the crucifixion of Jesus. And with good reason. This was a horrible way to die. The Romans had mastered an exceptionally cruel way to kill someone. Where, with your feet placed together (one on top of the other), they would drive a large spike through both of your feet & into the wood.
They would then drive spikes though each one of your hands, likely near the joint, so that your weight could be supported as you hung. And they were careful in the placement of the spikes. They didn’t want to hit any major arteries that would give the victim the luxury of bleeding out. In fact, some people hung there for days before their heart would give out or their lungs would fill with fluid, to the point that they were no longer able to breathe.
Our minds tend to go there because of the brutality and the physical pain that would have been involved. We think of images from a move like, “The Passion of the Christ” and we shudder at what Jesus would have endured physically that day.
But the question I found myself asking is, “Is that really where our minds should go?” “Is that where Mark and the other gospel writers intended for us to dwell in our thoughts?” The reality is that this was a common way for people to die. There were 2 other men that suffered physically that day as well; one on Jesus’ left and one on His right. In fact, 10’s of thousands of people had suffered that same death throughout the history of the Roman Empire.
So, it’s not the physical pain that was unique about what Jesus endured that day. I think that’s why the gospel writers don’t give us much detail about the physical torment. They just say, “And they crucified Him…”. But they do give a lot of other details. And I think Mark’s intention is that we would focus on another aspect of what Jesus endured that day.
Here it is; I’m just going to give it to you up front. This is our main idea for this morning, and it’s summed up in 1 word: SHAME. I don’t think that Mark is directing our attention to the PAIN of the cross, but to the SHAME of the cross. Just think about the details that we’ve been studying over the last several weeks. I’ve already said this in our recap, but let me repeat it so we can see the flow of these things.
Jesus is rejected, despised and ridiculed by almost everyone. The Ruling Council and the soldiers, mocking Him, spitting on Him and busing Him. He was in such bad shape that someone had to carry His cross for Him. Then they strip Him & crucify Him. And there He hangs, with no dignity. The ONE who created every person there (in His image), being hung (unrecognizable) by the ones He created.
We see Him harassed and ridiculed by the crowds passing by as they lob obscenities at Him, deride Him and throw His sayings back in His face. “I thought you’d destroy the Temple & rebuild it in 3 days. How about instead you get yourself off that Cross? Oh — you can’t!” The Chief Priests & Scribes got in on the ridicule of Jesus: “He can heal the sick, but can’t help Himself.” Shame, upon shame, upon shame.
This theme of abandonment & rejection, starting with Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Through his friends falling asleep in His moment of need. Through them fleeing at His arrest & then Peter’s denial of Him. Through the false trial; the false accusations; he false imprisonment; the beatings; the flogging; the ridicule; the abuse; the rejection from nearly everyone. Shame, upon shame, upon shame. This is where I think Mark wants our minds to be drawn.
Let’s understand that this is the exact opposite of what Jesus deserved. When you look at His life & ministry, He loved perfectly; He served perfectly; He healed; He restored; He brought life; He brought value & worth to everyone He encountered. He infused hope where there was no hope. He mended things that were desperately broken. All that He was and all that He did was good & right. And yet, here He is suffering the worst SHAME imaginable. So, what can we learn from this and how can that drive us deeper into the gospel & cause our lives to look different?
Here it is church (and we all desperately need to hear this truth): Jesus didn’t just bear your sin on the cross, He also bore your SHAME. I want to say that again because it’s important. Jesus did bear our sin on the cross, to be sure. But He also bore our SHAME on the cross. I want you to think about your life right now, as it relates to shame. Shame for your past. Shame for your current failings & struggles.
Shame because of what other people think of you (maybe what your family thinks of you because you decided to follow Jesus). Shame for what you think of yourself; that you’re not good enough or you don’t measure up. Shame for any number of reasons. Shame is a crushing burden. It’s not just a feeling, or a way of thinking, it’s an experience. Where you’re experiencing yourself as defective, empty, worthless and trashed.
What I’m saying is that Jesus took all of that on Himself, on the cross, for you. To the point where I can say with confidence this morning that if you are experiencing shame in your life on a regular basis, you’re not experiencing the gospel the way that God intends for you to. Because you will know the truth, and the truth will SET YOU FREE. The gospel brings freedom from sin and all of its effects, and that includes our shame.
But the truth is that most of us do deal with shame in varying degrees. So how do we see the gospel applied to our lives in a way that drives out shame and replaces it with the truth that we are fully accepted & approved by God in Jesus Christ? That’s the question I want us to wrestle with in these next few minutes.
And, here’s how I think we can get at it. I want to walk you through this and show you how it works with the hope that, if we’re able to see clearly how the enemy works, and what Christ has done to defeat it, we can put on right belief this morning and walk in that. So, to understand this, we have to go all the way back to the garden (Genesis chapter 3) and the fall of man.
You don’t have to turn there, because you know the story. I can just recap this for us a bit. You have Adam & Eve living in perfect communion with God. They’re with Him; they’re in His presence; they’re worshipping and enjoying God the way we were all created to. And we get a picture of this spiritual freedom because of the fact that they were naked, and they were cool with that!
That’s a horrifying thought for us now, isn’t it? We have actual nightmares about that; about being naked in public places. But, it wasn’t like that for Adam & Eve in the beginning because there was no sin & there was no shame. God was enough for them, until He wasn’t. You know the story.
They’re tempted by the Serpent, they didn’t trust God, but instead they went their own way and ate fruit from the tree that was forbidden by God. And sin entered the picture. And what did they immediately do after sin enters the picture? They cover themselves & they hide from God. That’s how we know that shame entered with sin, because that’s what you do when you’re ashamed; you hide.
And, when that happened, separation from God happened. Adam & Eve were driven from the Garden and man no longer had direct access to God. That’s why we see the concept of a mediator introduced and then portrayed throughout the Old Testament. It’s why this thick curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Tabernacle.
It symbolized the separation that sin brought between us & God. And this is what makes the gospel so glorious and so beautiful. Jesus is our mediator. Jesus is our substitute. Jesus is our prophet, priest & king. Jesus died in our place, with our sin upon His shoulders. And, when He did, He severed the root of shame. 1 John 3:8, “The devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus came to destroy Satan, sin and death. And that includes the shame that exists in us, as a result of sin.
So here’s the tension that we feel. We still give ourselves over to sin, don’t we? Of course we do. 1 John 1:10, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” So, when we sin, we feel that sense of shame return. And that makes sense because sin is shameful; it’s disgraceful. But, it’s not like it was before Jesus came. The paradigm has completely changed. Jesus bore our SIN & our SHAME on that cross.
And, in doing that, He has taken them from you and given you His righteousness. This is why, as we just read, the curtain was torn in two when Jesus completed His work on the cross. No more separation! No more shame! No more needing to hide from God! Jesus has completely reoriented how we see sin & shame in our lives. Now, we don’t have to hide from God anymore. Instead of running into the bushes, we can run into His because Jesus has made a way.
In fact, let me work toward closing our time by continuing to read this passage in 1 John. This is chapter 2, verses 1 & 2. If you’d like to turn there, that would be great. I really want for us to key in on what John is saying here. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an ADVOCATE with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the PROPITIATION for our sins.”
For the Non-Christian: Jesus is the only way for you to have sin & shame removed from you, and have righteousness (right standing) before God. People will spend their entire lives trying to earn something that can only be obtained by grace & through faith. They will spend their entire lives trying to find joy, peace, satisfaction & fulfillment in things that will never bring them. Those things are found ONLY IN CHRIST.
For the Christian: The only way to live in freedom from sin & shame is for you to continually allow the gospel to wash over your heart and believe that these things are true of you. We must learn to preach the gospel continually to our hearts and battle unbelief with the truth of the gospel. When the enemy comes to you with guilt and shame, tell him to go measure how far the east is from the west and get back to you, because that’s how far God has removed your sin and shame.