The Man on the Middle Cross

Whose Cross Did Jesus Die On?

Mark 15


I.         Introduction (2Cor 5:21; Rom 8:3; Gal 3:13; Eph 5:2; 1Pet 3:18)


A.      The art of learning life principles comes from watching others as they face dilemmas – how they handle problems

B.       Pilate faced such a dilemma that he probably for the first time in his life, just didn’t know what to do. In his confusion, he ended up placing an innocent man on the middle cross, and a guilty man went free


II.       Message


A.      The Introduction


1.        Bible Distinctive Concepts - Words that end in ‘tion


a.       Justification –act of God declaring a sinner is now made righteous

b.       Imputation –transfer of sins to Christ, and His righteousness to you

c.       Reconciliation – the destruction of all barriers between God and man

d.       Salvation – God retrieving a sinner’s soul from Satan’s dominion

e.       Sanctification – the process of cleaning up a Christian’s heart and life


2.        Background


a.       Jesus has eaten the Passover with disciples (Mark 14:17-25)

b.       They all journey to the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:26-41)

c.       It is there that Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus (Mark 14:42-45)

d.       Jesus is brought before the High Priest (Mark 14:53-65)

e.       Peter denies Christ just outside the house (Mark 14:66-72)

f.        Jesus is formally brought before Pilate, Roman governor of Judea


B.      The Indictment (Mark 15:1-15)


1.        The Quality of Jesus Christ (Mark 15:1-5)


a.       He was Innocent of any wrong doing (15:1)


1)       Claimed to be the Son of God, King of the Jews, and the Messiah. To prove it


a)       He healed all who came to Him,

b)       He even raised the dead from the grave!


2)       QUESTION:  Where is His evil deeds that would warrant him being brought before a high court as a evil man?


b.       He was thoroughly Inquired of by Pilate (15:2)


1)       Required by law to make a thorough inquiry

2)       Could not just “dismiss” the case when someone is being pointed to as having done something worthy of execution.


c.       He was constantly Indicted by the Chief Religious Priests (15:3)


1)       We will look at all their “evidences” in a moment

2)       Suffice it to say, their indictment was as follows:


a)       He implied that the Temple should be destroyed so He could rebuild it in three days – a destructive, and impossible feat

b)       Blasphemy – that He claimed to be the Son of God

c)       High Treason – that he claimed to be the Messiah – King of the Jews, in spite of the Romans being in charge!


d.       He showed Incredible Restraint (15:4,5)


1)       How would YOU react to false accusations that might end in you being killed?

2)       Jesus ALLOWED these men to rant and rave – shows His greatness folks – GOD GIVE US MEN WHO FOLLOW JESUS


a)       Christians talk way too much – tends to griping/complaining

b)       This world needs to see us temperate – retrained from anger


2.        The Quantity of Barabbas’ Sins (Mark 15:6-14)


a.       Barnabas is Pilate’s Answer to His Dilemma (15:6). Barnabas was Pilate’s easy way out


1)       A yearly custom at the Passover by the Roman governor

2)       The release and pardoning of a harmless political prisoner

3)       Make the choice fixed so that people would have to choose Jesus

4)       Forget the chief priests.  Let the people decide.


b.       Barabbas’ Abundant List of Sins (15:7)


1)       His very name means bar (son of) abba (daddy) “a son of his father” as in “he is just like his father, and his father’s father, and so on” (See Romans 3:10)

2)       A leader of a deadly rebellion against the government

3)       Caused many to follow him

4)       Committed murder during the insurrection

5)       Obviously Barabbas is a danger to society

6)       Obviously therefore he is the worst possible candidate for pardoning by anybody.


c.       The People’s Attitude Toward Justice (15:8-14)


1)       The people remind Pilate of his usual custom as he appears

2)       Pilate makes one last chance effort to save Jesus

3)       These same people were moved by their religious leaders against the one who had only loved and helped them.

4)       The people ask for Barabbas! Why? With all that Jesus did, and taught:


a)       People trust their priests more than Jesus

b)       People do not know the Scriptures that are active even today

c)       People have been burned so many times, that it is always easier to believe that someone is really NOT who they claim to be, than to give them the benefit of the doubt!


5)       Pilate now has an innocent man on his hands. He asks what to do with him. And they cried out, Crucify him! Not just scourge him


3.        The Qualifications of Barabbas’ Release (Mark 15:15). What clinched it for Pilate to decide to crucify a thoroughly innocent man?


a.       Fear - Fear of another riot and challenge to his authority. In other words, he wanted PEACE at any cost!

b.       Incompetence – unable to make right decisions under pressure – EX: of giving a car to a person – must be competent under pressure!

c.       Beauty - Someone better than Barabbas was taking his place! Someone HAD to take the place of Barabbas – someone had to die that day on that middle cross, and the best man stood quietly right in front of a raging crowd!


C.      Let’s Investigate


1.        By Developing Some Principles


a.       Biblical concepts of:


1)       Imputation (Romans 4:21-24) – the transfer of God’s righteousness to a sinner’s account, on behalf of Jesus

2)       Justification (Romans 4:25) – doesn’t “just happen” – God’s conditions of righteousness have to be met – Jesus meets them!

3)       Substitution (1 Peter 3:18) – Somebody took the sinner’s place!

4)       All part of a process called, Salvation


b.       Barabbas is the greatest picture of the justification/ imputation/ salvation of a sinner


1)       We are sinners, therefore duly condemned (John 3:18-21)

2)       Sin must be paid for by somebody (Romans 6:23)

3)       When the sin has been paid in full, the sinner can go free – and so, Barabbas walks away a FREE man, completely PARDONED, and JUSTIFIED! Walks, while Jesus dies!


c.       Jesus is the only substitute acceptable to God in our place.


1)       Jesus was turned over to the prison guards who had just lost Barabbas.  Everything was set for Barabbas’ crucifixion, but now, Barabbas was gone.  Jesus had now been put in his place, and was put into the process that led to death by crucifixion.

2)       How should a sinner die? Just ask a sinner! Does anybody want to know what we ALL deserve? Listen to the cross!


The prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. The Roman legionnaire stepped forward with a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip was brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. At first the weighted thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it was determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner was near death, the beating was finally stopped.


The half-fainting Jesus was then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers saw a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be a king. They threw a robe across His shoulders and placed a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still needed a crown to make their travesty complete. Small flexible branches covered with long thorns, commonly used for kindling fires were plaited into the shape of a crude crown. The crown was pressed into his scalp and again there was copious bleeding as the thorns pierced the tender vascular tissue. After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers took the stick from His hand and struck Him across the head, driving the thorns ever deeper into His scalp.


Finally, they tired of their sadistic sport and tore the robe from His back.  The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, and its removal, just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, caused excruciating pain. The wounds again began to bleed. Jesus was handed his clothes again, and put on His own robe.


The heavy beam of the cross was tied across His shoulders. The procession of the condemned Jesus, two thieves, and company of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion began its slow journey along the route which we know today as the Via Dolorosa (the way to the cross).


For 650 yards Jesus journeyed from the Fortress Antonia to Golgotha. The prisoner was again stripped of His clothing except for a loin cloth which was allowed the Jews.


And then, the crucifixion began. Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild pain-relieving mixture. He refused the drink. Jesus was quickly thrown backward, with His raw shoulders against the wood. A Roman legionnaire grabbed the wrist of Jesus and felt for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drove a heavy, square, 5 inch wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The title “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” was nailed into place just above Jesus.


The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended, toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. It is at this point, that the entire structure was raised at an angle into a square whole almost 2 feet deep, when the victim, on his cross was dropped. The victim was now crucified.


As Jesus sagged down, the weight on the nails in the wrists was excruciating. Fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. In order to pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment in His wrists, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the bones of this feet.


At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward.  Hanging by the arms, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided.


This would continue for hours, and sometimes DAYS! But in Jesus’ case, He stayed on the cross until EVERY sin was paid for. And then He shouted IT IS FINISHED!


2.        Now. We all need to Decide Who Was More Important to God: His Son Jesus, or some filthy, rebel named Barabbas? I’ll give you ONE GUESS


D.      An Invitation (1Pet 2:21-24)


1.        Do you know what a Christian is? A “Barabbas” who has been MADE FREE! Lots of people are “set” free, but not free indeed!

2.        A person who does not accept Jesus as their substitute, must pay for their sin alone! And for all eternity! Only Jesus could get back up! EX: AC/DC

3.        What Jesus says is “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). When He says free, He means FREE!!!

4.        Our responsibility, our deepest need is to accept Christ as our substitute, and allow Him to save you and make you really FREE (Romans 10:13)!

5.        Once free, we are not free to sin again – NO – but rather free to follow this risen Saviour in right living!


III.     Conclusion


A.      Don’t wait another day. Allow Jesus to be YOUR Saviour!

B.       We don’t know what happened to Barabbas, but we know this, you have the very same chance to be saved as he did. What are you going to do with Jesus?


1.        Walk away from it?

2.        Or, Fall at the feet of He who hung on YOUR cross so lovingly?!


C.       I came, on June 15th, 1980

D.      Why don’t you make today, YOUR DAY for salvation!