How hard did you find it to spot the Queen at the centre of the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations? Surrounded by a thousand-strong flotilla, projected onto screens across the country, and famous the world-over, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 60 years as Queen. New bells were cast, traffic was redirected, and millions of pounds were spent making sure that everybody was focused upon her, upon this occasion.
How hard did you find it to spot the Queen? It's a foolish question, isn't it?
Which is why the climax of Mark's account of Jesus' life is so surprising. There's no question who the centre of attention is: it's Jesus. But He wasn't followed by crowds of cheering - rather, crowds of jeering. He wasn't wearing a crown of gold, but a crown of thorns. He wasn't exposed on a TV screen, but on a cross.
Yet Mark's repeated use of the phrases "King of the Jews" and "crucified" show that we're supposed to see these as connected. There are also striking allusions to Psalm 22 (see e.g. Mark 15:34 vs Psalm 22:1, or Mark 15:29 vs Psalm 22:7, and several more), a Psalm written by David, the King, about intense suffering. The great shock is that it is here, on the cross, that we recognise Jesus is King. What looks to be a horrendous failure, the shame of crucifixion, is the place where Jesus' Kingship is seen. What looks to be the lowest point in Jesus' life, and shows the lowest point of human depravity, is the point when we see Jesus as King.
But why? Why is Jesus seen to be King on the cross? We see the astonishing ‘supernatural' events at the end of the chapter, and see that something significant was going on here. Darkness, a sign of God's judgement, arrived for three hours in the middle of the day; and as Jesus died, the enormous curtain in the temple was torn in two. Bringing fulfilment to so many prophecies and Jesus' teaching throughout Mark, Jesus was punished for our sins, judgement fell, and the way was opened - for everyone, even Gentiles, to come to God. Mark 15 finishes in the same way as Psalm 22 -as the King is recognised, and the nations began to worship Him.
Questions to ponder
- What place should ‘the Cross' have in your thinking about Jesus? What place does it have?
- What view of Jesus will you have if you don't keep the cross central?
- Why is it important to speak of the Cross when sharing the gospel with people?
- Think of someone you're seeing in the next 24 hours (Christian or not). How could you encourage them to think about Jesus' Kingship? How would you use this passage?