Let us pray: Dear Savior, when we look at Your stumbling under the burden of the cross, may we also see our own stumbling in the face of our personal sin. And just as You had help in carrying that cross to Golgotha, so today we have help—Your almighty help—as we bear our burdens. Etch that fact upon our minds. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, IN WHOM HIDDEN GLORY IS REVEALED!
TEXT: Mark 15: 17-21
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Tonight we edge ever-closer to the cross of Golgotha. We have seen the rejection and abuse that our Lord faced on the way to that cross.—Rejected by the world, by the visible church, by the Palm Sunday crowds, by those who benefited from His miracles. For none of them, not even the disciples, spoke up to defend and help Him. This is more than sad. It is horrible. Now St. Mark records another event in chapter 15: vs. 17-21 for us:
“They, (that is, Pilate’s soldiers) put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Yes:
THE CROSS’ GLORY IS HIDDEN IN THE SAVIOR’S STUMBLING
When you re-examine the many Old Testament passages about Christ’s passion and His own prophecies in advance concerning His suffering it is astonishing how it all came to pass. Just as Scripture tells us, He was scourged, beaten, mocked, spit upon, and judged harshly. No one intervened. Even His heavenly Father didn’t hurl thunderbolts to protect Him because it took this kind of suffering by His beloved Son to protect us eternally. Yes, behold God’s unfathomable love for you and me right here!
Now, after beating Him the soldiers take Jesus out to crucify Him. His body is broken down. The scourging, the lack of sleep, the loss of blood, no food—all this makes Him break down under the weight of the cross. And remember: its weight was really the world’s collective evil. Where was the youth of Nain, Jairus, or Lazarus whom Christ had raised from the dead? Where were the crowds He had fed? Where were the people He had healed? No one comes to help Him. It’s astonishing. Yet the most astonishing thing of all is that Jesus doesn’t help Himself. The Son of God, the Creator of the universe Who moved mountains and formed seas doesn’t seek to lighten His load. Why? Because His goal was to suffer fully in our place.
Finally, His body breaks down along the way of sorrows. The soldier’s become impatient and pluck Simon from Cyrene to shoulder the cross. This was not of our pity for Christ. They just want to get it done so that they can go back to the local tavern and drown their own problems. The cruelty here is astounding. And Christ allows all this, the Father allows all this because the price for our salvation wasn’t some cheap, bargain-basement knock-off. It was real. It had to be real to save our souls. Yes, as Isaiah prophecies, he goes like a lamb to the slaughter and thereby gives us a glimpse of His glory in lovingly paying for our redemption.
Christ knew and knows that we stumble and fall, too. And He wants this picture of Himself to be one of consolation for us. We wants this sight to encourage us when we’re weak and in pain. The writer to the Hebrews says it so well: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.”
Just like Jesus we had the power to avoid stumbling and falling. Just like in Gethsemane, if we had kept watch and prayed with Him with our minds focused on His Word of truth, we would not have stumbled. But, we sinners don’t do that. Instead we pander to our own weaknesses. We play with sin. We toy with the devil and think it won’t burn us. We gossip. We get even. We lie, just a little to make us look better. And in doing so we serve ME instead of Christ. We love and honor and obey ME more than Christ.
And so, through our own fault, we stumble. We fall. And when we do, there are always “soldiers” at hand to brand us hypocrites and to kick us when we’re down. “He’s not a Christian, he’s playacting! He puts on a good show and then turns it off!” Our conscience condemns us. Ah, but that is really a blessing, my friends. For the Bible says that “when you hearts condemn you remember that God is greater than your heart!” And here, tonight, we see that greatness. We see our God stumbling, falling, for us. He knows what we go through. And at the end of His suffering for us came resurrection and regeneration. At the end came new life. At the end came refreshing forgiveness and boundless love. Yes, tonight focus your eyes on Christ’s stumbling for you—and receive that cross’ hidden glory! Amen