November 1, 2010 David Balzer

Mark 15: The King of the Jews

It could come at any day now. He’s been waiting and waiting. His whole life has been lived for this moment. The moment when his kingdom arrives. The day he’ll finally get the crown.


And poor old PRINCE CHARLES could be waiting a while longer.


His mother Queen Elizabeth seems as strong as an ox. And if she lives anywhere NEAR as long as her MUM did, Charles is in for a long wait.


And if his CORONATION is anywhere near as BIZARRE as his LIFE, it will be a strange sort of ceremony.


Did you know he finished his schooling in Australia? It’s quite IRONIC that the English send their future king to Australia for finishing. When Aussies and Americans send their young girls to ENGLAND for finishing at posh schools.

And it’s IRONIC, that someone who, arguably, hasn’t done an honest day’s work his entire life, will suddenly become one of the richest men in England. Go figure!


And it’s quite IRONIC that an adulterer, with more interest in architecture and new age mumbo jumbo will become the head of the Church of England.


IRONY, according to the Pocket Oxford Dictionary, is the expression of one’s meaning by language of OPPOSITE or DIFFERENT tendency especially the mock adoption of another’s views or tone. When you deliberately say things are ONE WAY, when they’re actually THE OPPOSITE.


It’s been pouring rain for a week. And what do people say to each other? “Lovely weather we’re having”. IRONY.


And IRONY is what Mk Ch 15 is full of. It’s about the coronation of ANOTHER king. King Jesus. And it’s FAR, FAR stranger than Prince Charles’ crowning will be.


And it’s going to be the strangest kingship ceremony ever. An upside-down ceremony for an upside-down king. Because it’s at the hands of those who HATE him, rather than his loyal citizens.


Those who are SUPPOSED to be loyal to him are nowhere to be found. And his robe and crown are there, but they’re not QUITE what you’d expect.


And he’s UP THERE FOR ALL TO SEE, but it’s not in a royal carriage, and then up a red carpet, and onto a royal throne. It’s stumbling, beaten and bleeding, along a narrow, dusty street. Then pinned, naked, to a wooden beam by iron spikes, and hoisted up for everyone to see.


And the crowds aren’t CHEERING. They’re jeering. And mocking. And calling for his blood.


And there’s IRONY in the title that Pilate uses for Jesus. The king of the Jews. Because Pilate doesn’t believe it. And neither do the soldiers who mock him. They’re using irony to mock Jesus. And to mock the Jewish people.


And there’s IRONY in the taunts of the people to Jesus on the cross.


But there’s also a DOUBLE IRONY. Because behind THEIR irony, Their mocking. Is TRUTH. They’re speaking TRUTH and they don’t even REALISE it. And that’s IRONIC.


And those of us who read the story, can SEE the irony. And so the mocking turns FROM Jesus. Onto those who DO the mocking.


1. The king outside the palace

So let’s look at this IRONIC story of the King of the Jews. Let’s start at Verse 1 of Ch 15. It’s very early in the morning. Perhaps six am. The end of a very long night. And it’s Scene 1. The king outside the palace.


The Jewish leaders have found Jesus guilty. Now it’s the turn of the Romans. They take him to Pilate. Whenever Pilate came to Jerusalem, he stayed at the old palace built by Herod the Great. And that was where all the Roman soldiers lived as well. No doubt Pilate got the best parts to live in.


And Pilate comes out to meet them. His first case of the day. And while the Jews accused him of being the MESSIAH. By the time it gets to Pilate/ the title has changed from a RELIGIOUS one, to a POLITICAL one – THE KING OF THE JEWS. A contender for Caesar. A rebellious upstart. And that’s the question Pilate puts to Jesus. Verse 2.

(Mark 15:2 NIV)  “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.


And it really is a question worth wondering about. Because Pilate means something different from the Jewish leaders. And they have a different idea from Jesus himself.


But Jesus doesn’t really help clear things up. Because he doesn’t actually give a clear answer. He literally answers “YOU SAY” Which could mean “Yes, it is as you say” like our translation, or something like “That’s what YOU say” like some other translations.


Perhaps Jesus even MEANT it to be unclear. And it’s the question we have to consider as the chapter unfolds. Is Jesus the King of the Jews? And what does that mean anyway?


For the Jewish leaders. It was just a means to getting him killed. A loose translation of “Messiah” that suited their purposes. For the Romans, it was a REBEL’S title. Someone like Barabbas. Anyone other than Caesar who called himself KING deserved death.


And it’s IRONIC because even though both groups mean something DIFFERENT, they’ve got Jesus RIGHT. He IS the King of the Jews. The one sent by God to bring in God’s new KINGDOM. The kingdom won by his DEATH.


But DESPITE the Jewish leaders best efforts, Pilate sees there’s no case. Jesus is no criminal. It’s just some petty Jewish squabble. So he tries to set Jesus free. Look at v9.

(Mark 15:9-10 NIV)  “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, {10} KNOWING IT WAS OUT OF ENVY THAT THE CHIEF PRIESTS HAD HANDED JESUS OVER TO HIM.


Pilate knows Jesus is no rebel. He’s just got the priests’ big noses out of joint. But he still doesn’t mind rubbing those big noses in it a bit. Notice he still calls Jesus ‘the king of the Jews’? There’s that kingship theme again.


But rather than a PRETEND rebel released, they’d rather have a REAL rebel released. And so Pilate releases the murderer, Barabbas, instead. And the innocent one is handed over to be killed.


2. The king in the palace

And now the Roman soldiers take over. And it’s scene 2. The king in the palace. Look at v16.

(Mark 15:16-17 NIV)  The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. {17} They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.


The praetorium was the name for the soldiers quarters. But Mark doesn’t call it that. He says the soldiers took Jesus into the PALACE. And technically, he’s right. Because it’s Herod the Great’s palace that they’re staying in. But Mark’s point is to show the IRONY. And so they go into the palace.


It’s ironic/ that even though they’re going to give him a good beating. They’ve taken him to the RIGHT PLACE and given him the RIGHT CLOTHING. The king deserves king’s clothes, and he deserves to be in the king’s palace.


And they mock him. They give him the acclaim reserved only for Caesar. Not “Hail, Caesar!” but “Hail, King of the Jews!” But the mocking turns on them. Because the DOUBLE irony is that he IS what they call him.


3. The king in procession

That’s the soldiers. Their turn’s over. And now it’s the turn of the CROWD. Scene 3. The king in procession.


I imagine Prince Charles will proceed to his crowning in a royal carriage. In all its finery. Gold. Fine horses. Imagine how HONOURED someone would be to be chosen to ride on the royal carriage. To open the royal door, or wipe the royal door handle. Or even clean up after the royal horses.


But for Jesus, there are NONE of his followers lining the route. Noone to help with the procession. In fact, when Jesus becomes too weak from the beating to carry the cross, they drag out a STRANGER to do the job. Verse 21. Simon from Cyrene.


How ironic! That a STRANGER would help the King in his royal procession.


And when they make it to Golgotha, they offer him the King’s Cup. But it’s not a drink of CELEBRATION. Fine wine to heighten the senses, and gladden the heart. It’s wine mixed with MYRRH. A narcotic. To deaden the pain of what’s coming. How ironic!


4. The king is lifted up

And next we get to scene 4. The king is lifted up. Everyone gets to see him.


But rather than see his splendid, rich clothing. His fine crown. His royal array. It’s all gone. He’s there NAKED. In SHAME. And rather than sitting on a THRONE. He’s hanging on a cross.


He’s probably close to the city wall. So everyone can get a good look. Prime position. And they don’t hold back either. They’re not DISINTERESTED observers. They let Jesus know what they think. Verse 29.

(Mark 15:29-32 NIV)  Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, {30} come down from the cross and save yourself!” {31} In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! {32} Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.


EVERYONE joined in. Even the criminals on his right and left. How bizarre! How ironic! You’d have thought that if you were being crucified, you’d have other things to worry about than mocking someone else.


Like someone who follows the North Queensland Cowboys teasing the South Sydney Rabbitohs about how badly they did in the comp. They’re hardly in the position to be pointing fingers!


And look at what they actually SAY to Jesus. Because they’re ironic as well. Jesus HAD said he’d destroy the temple in three days, and rebuilt it. In fact, it’s exactly what he’s DOING on the cross. He’s making the temple OBSOLETE. Outdated. Old-hat.


But the irony is/ they think he CAN’t do it. And so they mock him.


And the priests call Jesus to COME DOWN. Coming down will make them believe he’s the King. But the irony is/ that it’s only by STAYING there that he can become king.


It’s only by enduring the cross/ that he can defeat sin and death. And reign as king. And save people like the priests.


5. The king is dead – long live the king!

And that’s what he’s going to do. Even if it KILLS him. In fact, it WILL kill him. And that’s scene 5. The king is dead.


Everyone else has missed the irony. That the death of this imposter is actually the coronation of a king. But CREATION ITSELF can recognise it. Creation itself can see how monumentally significant these events are. How profound.


While everyone else is busy mocking and ridiculing. The king’s creation has a few comments of its own to make. Look at v 33.

(Mark 15:33 NIV)  At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.


Midday until 3 pm. Creation mourns the DEATH of the One who was LIFE.


For 3 hours, creation reflects (1) the blackness of the sin that King Jesus is dying for. (2) The blackness of the wrath that God is heaping onto his son. (3) The blackness of the loneliness the Son of God feels. Separated for the first time in eternity from his father.


And at the end of those three horrific, black, hours. Jesus cries out in anguish, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Where have you gone? Why have you abandoned me?


And then, in verse 37, Jesus breathes his last. He’s achieved his purpose. He’s drunk the cup. He’s finished his mission.


And in the middle of all the irony. The mocking. The misundersanding. The pain. The blackness. There are three bright beams of light. Three brilliant moments of clarity. And, true to form, they’re IRONIC. The OPPOSITE of what we’d expect.


The first is the very first Christian confession. But it doesn’t come from a close follower – a disciple. It doesn’t even come from a Jew. It comes from the Roman centurion.


Perhaps he’d been there all day. Seen how Jesus had acted from the start. But look at his assessment of King Jesus at the moment of his death. He gets Jesus RIGHT. The truth that puts the rest of the lies to shame. Verse 39. “Surely this man was the Son of God.” The Messiah. The King. God’s chosen one.


The centurion. This ROMan executioner. Is the first to WORSHIP the crowned King Jesus.


And he’s not alone. Verse 40 tells us that SOME WOMEN were watching from a distance. They’re the second bright light. They’re WITNESSES to the coronation. Taking it all in.


And once again, it’s IRONIC. It’s not APOSTLES who are there. Or leaders. In fact it’s not even Jewish MEN. It’s women. But Jewish law says WOMEN weren’t legally able to appear as witnesses. Not even good enough for a Jewish trial. But here they are. WITNESSES to the coronation. The greatest event in history.


And the third bright light comes in v42. The brave request of Joseph. He asks for Jesus’ body. And Pilate agrees. And Joseph buries Jesus.


And it’s ironic, once again. Why? Because he’s one of the Council. The SANHEDRIN. The very one’s who’re responsible for Jesus’ death.


And why does he do it? Verse 43 tells us he was WAITING FOR THE KINGDOM. He’d been waiting for Jesus to be crowned. Looking for it. Hoping for it. Longing to see God’s victory. And now he’d seen it.


Three bright lights. Three UNLIKELY heroes. The Centurion who WORSHIPS. The women who WITNESS. And the Council member who’s WAITING.


And WE can do the same. We can WORSHIP King Jesus. And WITNESS to him. And we can WAIT EXPECTANTLY for him.


Why? How is it that we’re allowed to join in?


There’s one other detail I haven’t mentioned. And it’s the key to the whole thing. It explains WHY the death of Jesus is actually his CROWNING glory. His coronation. It’s in v38.

(Mark 15:38 NIV)  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.


The barrier between God and the people had been destroyed. The curtain between the Most Holy Place where GOD was. And the rest of the temple. Where people were. And the curtain stood between them. Stopping any lasting relationship. Any real friendship.


But now it had been torn out of the way. And GOD had done it. It had started at the TOP. And went all the way to the bottom. Jesus’ death was VICTORY because he’d achieved peace between God and man. A NEW peace. Unknown since the very first moment mankind had been created.


The writer to the Hebrews talks about that act. And he tells us what we should do in response to it. Heb 10 verse 19. It’s there in your outlines.

(Heb 10:19-20 NIV)  Therefore, brothers, since WE have CONFIDENCE to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, {20} by a NEW/ and LIVING way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,


Notice the difference? The High Priest used to go into the Most Holy Place once a year. And he’d go with a rope tied around his ankle. So that if God struck him dead. They could drag him out. Not much confidence there!


But WE can enter into God’s presence CONFIDENTLY.


And HOW can we do that? Through the curtain. WHICH IS JESUS’ BODY. It’s a NEW way. It’s a LIVING way. Not dead. Not superceded. Living, effective.


And listen to what the writer goes on to say. Verse 22.

(Heb 10:22-23 NIV)  (Since we are confident) let us DRAW NEAR TO GOD with a SINCERE heart in FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH,


Draw near to God. That’s PRAYER language. We can pray for the things we want. And we’re to do it with a SINCERE heart. One that’s UNDIVIDED. Full-on. Not one that’s half-scared. Or half-committed. Or half-confident.


We can come to God SINCERELY in full assurance of faith. We can know FOR SURE that God’s on our side. He’s our loving heavenly Father. Because of what King Jesus won for us on the cross. In that upside-down coronation.


And we can join with the centurion. And WORSHIP King Jesus. And we can join with the women. And WITNESS to him. Declare to whoever will listen that Jesus is King.


And we can join with Joseph of Arimathea. And wait for the King. Because Jesus WILL return one day. And it WILL be soon. And we need to be ready. And when he DOES return. He will TRULY be revealed for the King he is. Without IRONY. Without mockery. Or misunderstandings.


And when that happens, we’ll join with every creature from every age, and in every place, in praising King Jesus. Let me finish with these words from Phil 2.

(Phil 2:8-11 NIV)  Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! {9} Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, {10} that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, {11} and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (KING), to the glory of God the Father.

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