Mark 15:24 – The Offense of the Cross

Mark is very brief and concise as he describes the crucifixion. The whole of Mark’s gospel has led up to the first phrase of verse 24, a simple line, “they crucified him.” He did not need to go into great detail, everyone in the Roman world knew what it was to be crucified, and as we saw a moment ago, it was considered impolite to talk about the execution in Roman society. Mark simply mentions it as a fact.

The Offense of the Cross

Crucifixion was not invented by the Romans, but the perfected this method of execution into the most horrible of deaths. They called it the “extreme penalty,” and “the humiliation.” It was reserved for the lower classes of their society, the conquered peoples who were not citizens. The Romans considered it too degrading for a Roman, reserved only for those citizens who had committed treason or fled in battle. There are several examples of this in Jewish history.

  • Jews who resisted Antiochus IV Epiphanies (167-164 B.C.) were crucified (Antiq. 12.5.4). Alexander Janneus, the Hasmonean high priest, executed 800 political opponents (many were likely Pharisees, Antiq. 13.14.2).
  • In 4 B.C. the Roman general Varus lined the road from Sepphoris to Galilee with 2000 crucified Jewish rebels (War 2.5.2, Antiq. 17.10.10). The procurator Tiberius Alexander ( A.D. 46-48) crucified the sons of Judas the Galilean (Antiq. 20.5.2).
  • In the Jewish War in A.D. 66 the Roman procurator Gessius Florus executed Jewish soldiers who refused to fight against Jews (War 2.14.9) and Titus crucified captives opposite the walls of Jerusalem (War 5.6.5, 5.11.1).

That Jesus was crucified would have been offensive to Jew and Gentile. The Romans considered talk of a cross or the executioner who preformed the crucifixion to be disgraceful, unworthy of a Roman citizen. The death of crucifixion was sadistic and cruel and was intended to keep the lower classes in their place and to keep subjected peoples from rebelling.

To the Jew, anyone killed by crucifixion was under the curse. The Old Testament said that anything that was hung on a tree was cursed (Deut 21:22-23). It was the ultimate insult to the Jew of the first century to be told that not only did the Messiah come and they did not recognize him, but that he had been crucified as a common criminal.

To the Greek, the death of Jesus on the cross was foolishness. The Greeks were civilized, believing in beauty and truth. To glorify the mangled body of Jesus on the cross was intellectually insulting to the worldview of  the Greek thinker.

What is the point of the Cross? Jesus is executed as a rebel against Rome.  He would not have been thought to be a righteous martyr, but a failed prophet, a deceiver who was leading people in a rebellion against Rome.  Clearly he was not God, nor was he approved of by God.  This death is a humiliation such that no one in the first century would be drawn to Jesus as a religious leader let alone a savior. If death on the cross was such a confirmation for people living in the first century that Jesus was not at all who he claimed to be, what did God intend by choosing this sort of death for Jesus?

The answer is to be found in the resurrection.  The Roman, Greek and Jewish perceptions of what Jesus’ death meant are totally reversed in what happened three days later.  The humiliation of the cross makes the vindication of the resurrection even more spectacular.

8 thoughts on “Mark 15:24 – The Offense of the Cross

  1. Indeed St. Paul flipped this meaning, from the negative to the positive in the belief and life of the Christian, with Gal. 3: 7- 9, with of course verses 10-14 also. Here the fulfillment of the Covenant/covenants is first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, with the Law and Gospel, promise & faith… Galatians 3: 15-29. We should note too chapter 3 begins with Paul’s great statement about Jesus Christ as “publicly portrayed as crucified.”

    We should also note Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 1: 17-18, etc. Perhaps 1 Cor. 1:30 is simply one of Paul’s must profound biblical and theological statements… “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” And it is here that we “boast in the Lord.” ! (verse 31)

    Indeed the Cross is always connected to the Resurrection of Christ! (See, Roman 4: 24-25).

  2. I had no idea that a crucifixion meant so much to both parties. That intensifies the fact that Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. I think that the whole purpose behind God having Jesus go through the crucifixion was, as P. Long said “The humiliation of the cross makes the vindication of the resurrection even more spectacular”. Without the humiliation and the pain, the significance of the cross would greatly diminish. Had Jesus been executed through decapitation or something quicker, it would have taken away a major point to the cross; ultimate sacrifice. To me, that increases the power and significance of the cross. Many can suffer a little bit for someone they love or “take a bullet” for someone in danger. But I doubt anybody would go through agonizing pain and through crucifixion for not only their loved ones, but even the ones that were hated.

  3. As was the case with his entire ministry, Jesus’ death took the world by surprise. Dr. Long points out that death on a cross would have been an insult to the Jews, silencing any Messianic hopes they may have had for Jesus. The conqueror the Jewish people were hoping for could not possibly die such a shameful death at the hand of the Romans. I agree, the resurrection of Christ was made all the more powerful through his death on a cross. Along with that, Christ’s gruesome death also serves as an encouragement to believers who continue to suffer for his cause in the future. Sharing in the sufferings of Christ brought with it the promise to share in his future glory (Rom. 8:17). Jesus faced the worst form of death possible on the cross and he was later glorified and sat down at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 1:3). The glorification of Christ serves as a future hope and promise of our own resurrected bodies.

  4. On this day it was just another crucifixion, another dividing of garments, another casting of lots to see who would take what, another day of fun for the barbarians. Indeed the cross meant humiliation, disgrace, and the horrible way to die for the common thief and the rebels. But, this death was not about a “commoner”, no it was much more than that. This death revealed a savior, this death whispered the words “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, this death led a “pagan” soldier to exclaim “surely this man was the Son of God”, this death led to a resurrection that changed the course of humanity forever. This death caused a revolution the likes of which have never been seen. The crucifixion and resurrection were a marriage literally “made in heaven”. The Son came, the Son died, and the Son rose. No better combination could have been imagined but that which heaven drew up. Maranatha!

  5. Mark 15:24 “They crucified him.” So simple, so little detail but in my opinion three of the sharpest cutting words in the whole bible. Because when you look into what it means to be crucified and reasons why people are crucified, you see what Jesus went through. I had never learned what it meant to be crucified till class last Monday, when we were talking about it and it was making me sick. How Jesus went through that willingly is beyond me, truly because He is God so He did it for me but at the same time I would not go through something like that for someone I loved… Even though I want to say I would I know when it came down to it I probably wouldn’t.
    The point of the cross is to show what Jesus willingly went through for us, how He was the messiah and He was the true savior. It is setting up the scene for His resurrection and at the same time showing His love for us. Showing His power and might through the resurrection but showing how deeply He loves us through His willing death. It is a powerful testament to Grace and faith is God, it is a reason for us Christians to believe God’s love.

  6. I like how Kimmy says the three words, the crucified him, are so simple and then goes on to say that they are three of the sharpest cutting words in the Bible. There is so little information given right here but so much you can take away. To some people it may be just another day, just another person being crucified; but that is not the case in this situation. This was one man dying for everyone in the worlds sins the be forgiven. These three words say so little but at the same time say so much.

  7. It is amazing that God turned something so gruesome and humiliating like the crucifixion of Christ into something so beautiful and victorious. Jesus’ death on that tree made a way for all of mankind to be able to partake of the Tree of Life. Even though man nailed Christ to the cross as a means of humiliation and insult, his resurrection turned his death into a victory over death and broke the chains of sin. The unspoken act of crucifixion because the story of the Gospel, of which all Christians everywhere were called to spread word of. The death and resurrection of Christ turned everything around and upside-down.

  8. I think it is really interesting that crucifixion and this style of death meant so many different things for each group during that time in the Bible. The Romans were not the ones who invented it, but they were ones that used it to the fullest and guaranteed it was horrible and inflicted fear in anyone who threatened their authority. The Jews viewed crucifixion as offensive because of an Old Testament saying that stated anything hung on a tree was cursed, maybe because of the eating of the fruit in the Garden of Eden? As a result of this, hearing that their Messiah was charged as a criminal as well as hung on a cross amongst actual criminals was extremely insulting. The amazing thing is that no matter how we view the crucifixion of Jesus, what he turned that event into is incredible! God intended for Jesus to be executed in this manner because it would make his resurrection even more impactful and significant. Being humiliated and tormented as well as demonstrating ultimate sacrifice makes us view Jesus death as something unlike any other. If he were killed in any other way it would have downplayed the suffering and pain that shows us just what he was willing to go through to save us from our sins. God had a specific plan for Jesus and his time here on earth and even a small change would have made everything different.

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