How can a God who is infinitely holy, just, and good show mercy and grace to sinful and rebellious people? How can a Just Judge let the guilty go free? In this message from Mark 15:1–20, David Platt points to the cross as the answer to these questions. By sending his Son in the flesh to bear his wrath against sin, God provided a substitute for guilty people like us. God’s justice and his mercy met at the cross, and as a result, all who trust in Christ can be freed from the penalty and power of sin.
If you have a Bible—and I hope you or somebody near you does that you can look on with—let me invite you to open with me to Mark 15. Today we come to one of the most sobering chapters in all of the Bible, as we see Jesus, the Son of God, accused, beaten, mocked, spit upon, crucified and ultimately killed.
Charles Spurgeon described these moments we’re seeing at the end of Jesus’ life, saying, “Here we come to the Holy of Holies of our Lord’s life on earth. No man can rightly expound such a passage as this. It is a subject for prayerful, heartbroken meditation, more than for human language.”
Another writer said, “Surely this is a passage that we must approach on our knees.”
D.A. Carson said, “As Jesus’ death was unique, so also was his anguish. Our best response to it is hushed worship.”
So I want to read, slowly and solemnly, the first 20 verses of Mark 15, leading right up to the point of Jesus’ crucifixion today. Then I want to show you how this horrifying scene is the fulfillment of specific promises God made 700 years before these events even happened.
Josh McDowell was an atheist who set out to disprove Christianity, but he ended up becoming a Christian. His books More Than a Carpenter and Evidence That Demands a Verdict have sold millions of copies around the world. One of the reasons he came to the conclusion that he must believe in Jesus is fulfilled prophecy. Over 300 specific prophecies, over centuries, were fulfilled in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Today I want to show you just a few of those 300 in Mark 15, in hopes that you might see and feel something important.
For some of you who aren’t Christians—maybe this is your first time in church, or maybe your first time in a long time—I hope you will realize that you are not here today by accident, but that God has had a plan over centuries to show you how much he loves you. And that today he has brought you to this moment to hear, not just with your ears, but deep in your heart, how much God loves you.
For others of you who’ve been followers of Jesus, maybe for years or decades, I pray that today you will feel in a fresh way, with fresh awe, the wonder of God’s historic plan to pursue you in love. Then for all of us at the end, I want to make a specific application for anybody who’s walking through hard days. So let’s read this together, starting in Mark 15:1:
1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
One of the primary themes in the book of Mark is his focus on Jesus as a suffering servant. Maybe the most famous verse in this Bible book is Mark 10:45 where Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man” —referring to himself— “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus makes it very clear that he came to serve us, specifically giving his life as a ransom for all who will repent of their sin and believe in him.
This specific picture of Jesus as a servant goes all the way back to prophecy—to promises about Jesus—written seven centuries before Mark’s day. So if you have your Bible, I invite you to hold your place here in Mark 15 and turn back with me to Isaiah 52. With your own eyes looking down at your Bible, I want you to see these words that were written by Isaiah 700 years before what we just read in Mark 15.
As you’re turning to Isaiah, let me set up this Bible book. Throughout the book of Isaiah, we see tension between the justice of God on one hand and the mercy of God on the other hand. Some verses in Isaiah are stunning depictions of God’s severe judgment, while other verses are stunning depictions of God’s astounding mercy, in such a way that you almost sit back and think, “Which one is it? Is God just or is God merciful?” This tension is throughout the Bible. I would say, in one sense it’s the ultimate question of the Bible.
Here’s the way I’d put it. How can God be just and merciful toward sinners? Think about it. God is just in all that he does, and we are all guilty of sin against God. Every one of us has turned aside from God and his ways to ourselves and our own ways. So if we are guilty of sin against the holy God of the universe, then God’s justice warrants our judgment, period, end of story, no questions asked.
In fact, because God is infinitely just, our sin warrants infinite judgment. So how can God be just and at the same time look upon sinful, guilty people and say, “Innocent”? That’s not just. When you think about it, it’s a scandal in all of our eyes. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself conservative, progressive, liberal or anything else. If there is a judge who is knowingly declaring that guilty criminals are innocent, we would have that judge off the bench in a heartbeat. All of us have some sense of right and wrong. We expect right to be praised and wrong to be condemned. If God is just, we expect him to do the same. But God doesn’t. God takes people who are totally guilty and says, “You are totally innocent.” God takes people who are completely rebellious and says, “You are perfectly righteous.” How is that just?
The answer to that question revolves around the servant whom God promised to send. There are times in the book of Isaiah when the word ‘servant’ refers to Isaiah himself, other times to the people of Israel. The passage we’re about to read clearly refers to an individual who is not Isaiah but another whom God is promising will one day come. When we get to the New Testament, the last part of the Bible, we realize who this servant is. It’s Jesus.
The passage we’re about to read is quoted seven different times in the New Testament, all of them referring to Jesus. Keep in mind that what we’re about to read was written 700 years before Jesus even came, before the whole process of Roman crucifixion was even conceived.
Before we read these verses, I’ll go ahead and tell you there are a lot of words in here and we’re not going to have time to talk about them all. In the end of Isaiah 52 and Isaiah 53, there are five groups of three verses. I’m going to read them one group at a time. I want to show you five promises about Jesus in Isaiah 52 and 53 that are fulfilled specifically in Mark 15.
Start with me in Isaiah 52:13: “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up.” So here’s this servant being described from the very beginning this way: high and lifted up; he shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.
His appearance as a human servant will be indescribable, but his position as a divine king will be undeniable.
Here’s the first promise about Jesus, written 700 years before he came: His appearance, as a servant, indescribable. His position as king, undeniable. I’ll come back to this in a minute. This servant in Isaiah 52 and 53 is clearly human, but his appearance is indescribable—beyond human semblance, his form beyond that of the children of mankind. Which is exactly what happens in Mark 15, as Pilate hands Jesus over to a battalion of soldiers who scourge him.
Let me give you a little context behind scourging. As a prelude to Roman crucifixion in the first century, a prisoner would be stripped and bound to a post, then he would be beaten with a leather whip that had bits of metal and bone woven into the ends. This whip would lacerate and pull off the flesh of a man, often exposing his bones and organs. One of the purposes of scourging was to shorten the duration of crucifixion. It was so brutal that some prisoners died before even getting to the cross.
Then Mark 15:17 tells us these soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and dug it into Jesus’ head. Verse 19 says they struck his head with a reed, spit in his face and stripped him. One medical doctor’s description said the result of all this would be a man becoming an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue from head to toe. His appearance as a human servant will be indescribable, Isaiah says.
But his position as divine king will be undeniable. Isaiah 52:13 introduces this servant, saying, “He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” What’s interesting is that’s one of four times in the book of Isaiah where we see this phrase, and every other time it’s a reference to God himself. In Isaiah 6—probably the most famous scene in the book of Isaiah—he looks up and says in verse one, “I saw the Lord seated upon a throne, high and lifted up.” Picture this: This servant whose appearance is horrifying, is the holy King of creation.
Isn’t it interesting in Mark 15 how many times Jesus is referred to as the King? The first time in verse two, Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” The language there in the English is a bit misleading, because in the original language it’s actually a statement with a question implied. Pilate literally says, “You are the King of the Jews?” And Jesus responds, “You just said so.” The emphasis in the language of Jesus’ words is on the “you,” as in, “You, the Roman ruler I’m standing before—you’re the one who just called me King.”
Then in verses nine and 12, Pilate refers to Jesus twice as the King of the Jews. Then when the soldiers are beating Jesus, albeit sarcastically, they call him King of the Jews. That’s four times in Mark 15 where Jesus is referred to specifically as King. Now, obviously no one knew—not Pilate, not the crowds, not the religious leaders, not the Roman soldiers—the reality of what they were saying, but the point of this prophecy in Isaiah 52 and this picture in Mark 15 is crystal clear: his human appearance was indescribable, but his divine position was undeniable.
This was a man and a king like no other, which then leads into the next group of three verses in Isaiah. So starting in Isaiah 53:1, we read:
1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
God will reveal him, but we will reject him.
The second promise about Jesus who was to come was that God will reveal him, but we will reject him. The picture here in verse one is the arm of the Lord—the power of the Lord—being revealed, up close and personal, in this servant. We, the people he came to serve, despised and rejected him. We hid our faces from him. We did not esteem him. The language literally is we didn’t even consider him worthy of our attention. We consigned him to the side and condemned him as one we have no desire for.
God will reveal him, but we will reject him. Is this not clearly portrayed in Mark 15? From the religious leaders to the crowds, they wanted Jesus gone, period. Also right before this, one of Jesus’ most prominent disciples, Peter, hid his face from any association with Jesus. Don’t miss the pronoun here. This is not just about what they did—those disciples, those religious leaders, those Roman soldiers, those crowds. This is about what “we” did; what we would have done if we were in their shoes. Let us be careful not to esteem ourselves higher than we ought.
John Stott said, “Until you see the cross as that which is done by you, you will never appreciate that it is done for you.” This is the essence of our sinful nature. We have all rejected God. We, in and of ourselves, reject Jesus.
An old Negro spiritual asks, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The answer is, yes, we were there. Not as spectators, but as participants. Guilty participants, prone just like they were to plot, scheme, betray, deny and ultimately hand him over to be crucified. When you read these verses in Mark 15, then make the association with the ‘we’ in Isaiah 53, you realize what one Scottish hymnwriter, Horatius Bonar, wrote:
’Twas I that shed the sacred blood,
I nailed him to the tree,
I crucified the Christ of God,
I joined the mockery.
And of that shouting multitude
I feel that I am one;
And in that din of voices rude,
I recognize my own.
Around the cross, the throng I see
Mocking the sufferer’s groan,
Yet still my voice it seems to be—
As if I mocked alone.
If you think, “No, not me,” just pause and look at all the times and all the ways you have turned from God to yourself and your ways. We reject God’s revelation, Specifically in Jesus, we reject his appearance, his approach, his claims of authority on our lives, his radical views of money, possessions, power, prayer and pride. In a world where we are confident in and consumed with ourselves, if left to ourselves, this Jewish rabbi in a nondescript part of the world does not merit a second thought from us, especially as he’s being beaten, mocked and spit upon. We will reject the one God has revealed.
That then brings us to the third set of three verses in Isaiah 53. This is the heart of this prophecy. We read in verse four:
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He will be slaughtered so that we can be saved.
The third truth about this servant is that he will be slaughtered so we can be saved. ‘Slaughtered’ is the right word here. Just look at this language in Isaiah 53. The servant will bear griefs, carry sorrows, be esteemed as stricken, smitten and afflicted. He will be pierced, crushed, chastised, wounded. Why will he undergo all these things? For our griefs and to carry our sorrows. He’ll do this for our transgressions, our iniquities, our peace, our healing.
We’re the guilty ones here. “We all like sheep have gone astray.” All of us have turned, every single one of us—you, me. It looks different in each our lives, but we’ve all turned to our own ways, and “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” He will be slaughtered so that we can be saved from all our iniquities.
Just think about how Mark so powerfully portrays this picture in Mark 15 through a man named Barabbas, a rebel in prison, who had committed murder in an insurrection. This is a guilty criminal. I can’t help but imagine this scene from his shoes. I don’t know the details, but I can’t help but picture what was certainly possible. Imagine Barabbas sitting in a jail cell, knowing something’s going on out there, hearing the crowds, waiting for his execution. He knows he’s condemned to die for murder. Then all of a sudden, he hears the crowds shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Barabbas realizes, “All right, my time has come.” Moments later he hears soldiers walking toward his cell. Barabbas thinks this is it. Trembling, he rises from the floor, ready for them to take him to his death.
Yet when they open his cell door, in a scene he never could have comprehended or fathomed, they start unlocking the chains around his wrists. Confused, he looks at them. They look at him and say, “You’re free to go.” Barabbas asks, “Free?” They say, “Yeah. You’re free.” Barabbas says, “But the crowds, they’re yelling for my crucifixion.” They tell him the news that he never could have imagined: “They’re crucifying a man named Jesus instead of you. You’re free. Go.”
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the gospel. It is the greatest news in the world, beyond what any of us could imagine. Picture the scene. You and I are guilty criminals; not against a Roman ruler or government, but against the God of the universe. We’ve transgressed the law of God. We’ve rebelled against the authority of God. We deserve infinite, eternal judgment from God. However, the greatest news in all the world is that a man named Jesus has died instead of you and me. Jesus has paid the price for the sins of all who trust in him, so that you can be forgiven and free.
So picture it. All these images of physical pain and suffering describing Jesus in Mark 15 are pictures of the price and the penalty of sin. Jesus has taken sin and the judgment due sin upon himself, in our place. Listen really closely to me here. Please don’t miss this. We are not saved from our sin simply because Jesus was falsely accused, tried and sentenced to death. We’re not saved from all our sin because some Roman persecutors thrust nails into his hands and feet, then hung him on a cross. That’s not why we’re saved. Do you really think that the false judgment of men heaped on Jesus would pay the debt of all your sin? Do you think simply nailing him to a tree would pay the debt of every iniquity in your life? Do you think a crown of thorns and whips and nails are powerful enough to save us? No.
Picture Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane before this, praying to the point of sweating blood. Why? Is it because he was afraid of crucifixion?
We’ve talked recently about martyrs who have gone to their death singing. Did they have more courage than Jesus? One man in India was being skinned alive. He said to his tormenter, “Take off my outer garment. Today I put on a new garment of righteousness.” Christopher Love was heading to the gallows to lose his head. He saw his wife in the audience. She looked at him and said, “Today they will sever you from your physical head, but they cannot sever you from your spiritual head, Jesus.” He went to the gallows singing, with his wife applauding.
Did they have more courage than Jesus himself? Absolutely not. Jesus is not sweating blood because he is a coward about to face Roman soldiers. He’s sweating blood because he’s a Savior about to endure divine judgment, unlike no one else ever has or ever could. When Jesus went to the cross, listen to his language: I (Matthew 26:39). What is this cup? Jeremiah and Isaiah both talk about a cup filled with the wine of God’s judgment due sin. Revelation 14 talks about the cup filled with the wine of God’s judgment due sin for all those who have not trusted in Jesus. This cup represents the judgment we deserve, that he was choosing to take upon himself.
One preacher described it this way: “You and I were standing about 100 yards away from a dam, 10,000 miles high and 10,000 miles wide, filled to the brim with water. In an instant that dam was breached and all that water came rushing like a torrent toward us. Right before it totally overtook us, the ground in front of our feet opened up and swallowed every drop.”
In a much greater way, Jesus took the full judgment due your sin, my sin, drank down every drop, turned that cup over and cried out, “It is finished!” He was slaughtered so we could be saved. Jesus died instead of you. Which leads right into the next part of Isaiah 53:
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
He will suffer and die in sinless silence.
Isn’t it interesting how this prophecy—this promise—deliberately emphasizes that this servant will be silent? “He opened not his mouth…like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” So we see in the entire scene in Mark 15 that Jesus only speaks one sentence—verse two. It’s actually only two words in the Greek.
Pilate is begging him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” Mark tells us in verse five, “Jesus made no further answer.” That amazed Pilate. Matthew 26:63 outright says, “But Jesus remained silent.” Luke 23:9 tells us that Herod questioned Jesus at some length, but Jesus did not answer him a word. Jesus said nothing when the soldiers mocked him, beat him and spit in his face.
It wasn’t just silence; it was sinless silence. Despite false accusations, a sham trial, betrayal by one of his disciples, denial by another, abandonment by all the others and now a brutal beating, Jesus never once sinned. Sinless silence. Even Pilate remarks about Jesus’ innocence in verse 14: “What evil has he done?” As if Pilate was just trying to follow the script of Isaiah 53.
Now this is obviously beyond Mark 15, but in light of Isaiah 53:9—“And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death…”—after Jesus died on the cross, he obviously needed to be buried. Matthew 27:57-59 tells us:
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb.
Isn’t that astounding? This then leads us to the last three verses in Isaiah 53 and they are marvelous. Keep in mind that Isaiah 53 was written 700 years before all of this happened.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Many will be satisfied in his sacrifice.
Ah, these last verses are awesome, because they describe “satisfaction” that is found in the cross of Jesus Christ. Let’s hone in on this word “satisfaction.” Here’s the last promise about Jesus in Isaiah 53: many will be satisfied in his sacrifice. This really points to the actual crucifixion of Jesus, which we’ll look at next week in Mark 15, but as a preview of what’s to come, let me explain what I mean by many being satisfied in his sacrifice.
Think about satisfaction in God the Father. God the Father is satisfied in Jesus’ sacrifice. Did you notice Isaiah 53:10 tells us twice that it was the will of the Lord to crush Jesus. “He”—who’s he? The Lord. “He has put him to grief.” This prophecy is a reminder that what we’re reading in Mark 15 is not ultimately a human plot; it’s a divine strategy. Who ultimately orchestrated and ordained the death of Jesus? Ultimately God the Father on high did. It’s not Jews and Romans doing this, with God the Father wondering, “What’s happening? Can’t someone stop this?” No, it’s God the Father who is ultimately responsible for the death of God the Son. This is not a historical accident; this is a heavenly appointment. The Father’s will was to crush the Son. How can that be?
This goes back to where we started: God’s justice and God’s mercy. God is infinitely and perfectly just. In his perfect justice, he judges sin and sinners. And God is infinitely and perfectly merciful. God is patient. He’s slow to anger. He’s abounding in love and mercy toward sinners. So how can God show mercy to the guilty and still be just? God cannot just say, “Well, I love sinners, so it’s no big deal that they have rebelled against me. I’ll just overlook that.”
This is why John Stott said, “Forgiveness is for God the profoundest of problems.” He cannot be God and pretend sin is no big deal. The church father Anselm said, “If anybody imagines that God can simply forgive us like we forgive others, that person has not yet considered the seriousness of sin against God.”
Do we realize the greatness of the One whom we have sinned against? Do we realize that if he were to overlook sin, he would not be just, he would not be holy, he would not be God? This is the profoundest of problems. How can God judge sinners and justify sinners at the same time when they are guilty? This is why it was the will of the Lord to crush his Son at the cross, because at the cross God the Father displayed the full extent of his justice. God does not act as if sin is no big deal; God demonstrates that sin is a huge deal.
Do you want to know how big a deal sin is? Look back at all the verbs in Isaiah 53. The Son was marred, despised, rejected, stricken, smitten, afflicted by God, wounded, crushed, chastised with brutal stripes, oppressed, afflicted, slaughtered, sheared and crushed by God. Not ultimately by men, but by God. So does God judge sin and sinners? Yes, because this was all done in our place. Jesus took what we deserved, what we were due and what everyone will receive who does not trust in Jesus. At the cross, God demonstrated the full extent of his justice. And at the cross, God demonstrated the full extent of his mercy. And God did all of this in love for sinners like you and me.
Does God judge sin? Yes. Look at the cross. Does God love sinners? Yes. Look at the cross. God is just and merciful. In this sense, God satisfies all of his holy attributes—his justice toward sin and his mercy toward sinners—in the crucifixion of his Son. The Father is satisfied in Jesus’ sacrifice. The Son, Jesus himself, is satisfied. That’s the language here in verse 11: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.” Verse ten states, “When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” He will see all of this; he will “make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”
Look at the language. Just look at the ironies here. This servant who was cut off from the land of the living in verse eight will “see his offspring”? He will die, yes, but also “he will prolong his days? How do you prolong your days if you’re dead Well, that’s only possible when you rise from the dead, then prolong your days. The will of the Lord to crush him actually prospers in his hand, because through his crushing, multitudes of sinners are accounted righteous, their iniquities are borne.
This is the picture—don’t miss this: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see.” What did he see that satisfied him? He saw the many who would be accounted righteous. Just let this soak in, Christian. Jesus, as he was crushed, saw and was satisfied. What did he see? He saw you, right where you’re sitting. He saw me. He saw all who trust in him and he was satisfied in bringing about our salvation. It satisfied him, which leads to the last thing I’ll show you today.
The Father is satisfied, the Son is satisfied, we are satisfied in Jesus’ sacrifice. To every person in this gathering today, to every person in all of history, who realizes that the “we” in the passage is “me.” To every person who realizes that I, like a sheep, have gone astray from God. I deserve his judgment. I trust that the Lord has laid on Jesus all of my iniquities.
All who trust in Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 and Mark 15, are counted righteous before God. For all who place faith in Jesus, the Savior of your sin and Lord of your life, God looks at you and me, and he does not see our sin. God sees the righteousness of his Son when he looks at you, so you don’t have to hold your head low in shame for sin in your past. Lift up your head; you are righteous before God, through faith in Jesus. You don’t have to live with this constant sense of guilt over what you’ve done or even what you’re prone to do. Your guilt has been removed as far as the east is from the west. He remembers your sins no more. It’s a scandal! God looks at you and says, “Righteous.” God looks at you and your identity is no longer as a sinner. Your identity is now a son or a daughter of God. You are no longer seen as a rebel against God. You are seen as righteous royalty before God.
So here’s where I want to make the application specifically. For those of you who are walking through hard days, look at this picture: “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.” It’s a picture of a king who takes the spoil he has and spreads it out among all those in his kingdom.
I was just thinking about our days, whether in my own life or in others’ lives. I want us to be encouraged that Jesus clearly knows what it’s like to suffer. He knows what hard days are like. He knows what it’s like to be hurt. He knows what it’s like to be betrayed. He knows what it’s like to weep. He knows what it’s like to be broken. He’s familiar with your suffering. You’re not alone in that. He’s able to sympathize with you, and not only sympathize with you but provide for you. He intercedes for you, willing at any moment to provide you with everything you need as you walk through hard days. He promises new mercy is waiting for you every morning when you wake up. His mercy doesn’t just cover your sin; his mercy comforts in suffering. He meets you in the morning, as soon as you rise out of bed or before you even get out of bed. He walks with you every moment all day long. That’s part of his mercy, not just toward sin, but toward suffering.
With this picture of spoil, when the suffering servant is with you and for you, the conquering king is with you and for you, then you can know that hard days will not be the end of your story. That trial, that tribulation, that sorrow, that suffering will not be the end of your story. You know what the end of your story is? Spoil. It’s an inheritance in a Kingdom where Jesus, the suffering servant and sovereign king will welcome you into his presence, wipe every tear from your eyes; where those things will be no more. No more crying, no more mourning, no more pain, no more sin, no more sorrow, no more death. Life forever with him, for all who trust. All of this is only possible because of the cross of Jesus Christ.
So for anyone within the sound of my voice who’s never put your trust in Jesus as the suffering savior and sovereign king of your life, know that God has brought you to this moment. He loves you so much that 700 years before Mark 15 he promised this, then in Mark 15 he brought it about, and now in this moment he’s telling you, “I love you so much I gave my Son for you.”
What is keeping you from being declared innocent and righteous before God, in the family of God, with eternal life in God’s Kingdom? What’s keeping you from this? Don’t let your pride keep you from this? Trust in him. Do not be counted among those who, when they die, have to drink that cup of eternal judgment. I plead with you: trust in Jesus today.
For all who have, be reminded in a fresh way the depth of Jesus’ love for you, his pursuit of you, his promise to cover all your sin. You do not live in the shame and guilt of sin anymore. You’ve been made righteous. So rise up and trust in the One whose mercy not only covers all your sin, but who comforts you in suffering.
Will you bow your head with me? I want to ask every single person within the sound of my voice, do you know Jesus? Have you trusted in Jesus as the Savior from your sin and the Lord of your life? If the answer to that question is not a resounding yes in your heart, I invite you, I implore you, I urge you, right now in this holy moment, to say, “God, like a sheep I have gone astray. I’ve turned to my own ways. Today I believe that Jesus took my iniquity upon himself, died on the cross for my sin and rose from the dead. Today I put my trust in him. Jesus, forgive me of my sin. Free me from its power and penalty in my life. Help me live under your loving Lordship.”
If you express that in faith to God—not in your work, but faith in his work on the cross for you—by faith God declares over your life, “Not guilty anymore.” He declares, “Forgiven, free.”
O God, I pray for this reality all across this room and other locations, for people online, wherever people are listening. God, for all of us who know this reality, we pray that you would help us live in it. Help us live daily, overwhelmed by your love for us, never tiring of this gospel, this amazing, astounding good news, that we are accounted righteous before you, that we are made royalty by you, that we are in your family, that we have this confidence for all of eternity.
God, help us live in power over sin and with freedom from worry, anxiety, despair. God, help us live with the hope, joy and peace that has been bought for us at the cross. In Jesus’ name we pray. In the name of the one who made all of this possible—the suffering servant and sovereign king—in Jesus’ name we pray. And all God’s people said, “Amen.”
Observation (What does the passage say?)
- What type of writing is this text?
(Law? Poetry or Wisdom? History? A letter? Narrative? Gospels? Apocalyptic?)
- Are there any clues about the circumstances under which this text was originally written?
- Are there any major sub-sections or breaks in the text that might help the reader understand the focus of the passage?
- Who is involved in the passage and what do you notice about the specific participants?
- What actions and events are taking place? What words or themes stand out to you and why?
- Was there anything about the passage/message that didn’t make sense to you?
Interpretation (What does the passage mean?)
- How does this text relate to other parts of the Scriptures
(e.g., the surrounding chapters, book, Testament, or Bible)?
- What does this passage teach us about God? About Jesus?
- How does this passage relate to the gospel?
- How can we sum up the main truth of this passage in our own words?
- How did this truth impact the hearers in their day?
Application (How can I apply this to passage to my life?)
- What challenged you the most from this week’s passage? What encouraged you the most?
- Head: How does this passage change my understanding of the Lord? (How does this impact what I think?)
- Heart: How does this passage correct my understanding of who I am to the Lord? (How should this impact my affections and what I feel?)
- Hands: How should this change the way I view and relate to others and the world? (How does this impact what I should do?)
- What is one action I can take this week to respond in surrender and obedience to the Lord?
[Note: some questions have been adapted from One to One Bible Reading by David Helm]