From Elijah to JesusSermon passage: (Mark 15:33-39) Spoken on: April 9, 2020
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Mark
Passage: Mark 15:33-39
Tonight, I want to start the story with a prophecy found in Malachi.
Malachi 3: “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.
In Mark, this is exactly how the Gospel begins. Mark 1: 2 “I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
In Malachi, they called this messenger the prophet Elijah. Malachi 4: 5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” Turning the hearts means repentance. And we know that John the Baptist was the coming of Elijah, and he fulfilled his ministry through his baptisms of repentance at River Jordan.
Reading Malachi alone, we might have an impression that as long as Elijah came, all evil doers would be decimated and we would have eternal peace. But in Mark, the messenger was imprisoned and eventually killed. John the Baptist was beheaded by King Herod. This was the twist nobody expected. John the Baptist as the prophet Elijah was revealed by Jesus only to his apostles, though they did not really understand.
Mark 9: 11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.” Jesus was referring to the coming and death of John the Baptist.
How did John the Baptist die? Rev. Wei Kang preached on this passage Mark 6 in January. He died because he preached against the sexual immorality of King Herod, who married his brother’s wife. Just as there were those who accepted John’s message and repented, there would be those who would resist. Even if Elijah came, he would also have to face suffering and rejection. But in Malachi, Elijah’s coming was not the end. He was only the herald for the one who was coming after him.
In our Old Testament reading of Malachi 3:1-5, the prophecy continued to declare that after this messenger, the Lord himself would come to his temple. God would bring judgment to the Temple because the offerings had become unrighteous when widows and orphans were oppressed, and foreigners were excluded from God’s justice. And God would purify and refine it, like how precious metals were refined. Do you know how silver and gold are refined? You have got to melt it down in order to remove the impurities. This was the ancient prophecy in Malachi, more than four centuries before Christ.
This was the same story found in Mark. John the Baptist declared that there would be one that would come after him. Mark 1: 7 “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” But instead of the Lord coming to the Temple to do his purification, we see the appearance of Jesus. In our past few sermons, we have seen how Jesus brought judgment upon a corrupted Temple. The Temple was like a fig tree without fruits. Instead of being a house of prayer for all nations, foreigners were excluded. Instead of watching over and protecting the poor and needy, it became a den of thieves with a marketplace of money changers. And Jesus had come to destroy the Temple system in Mark 11: 15 driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. The purification had begun.
But just like John the Baptist, Jesus also faced suffering and rejection. And tonight, we are faced with the story of his death on the cross. The question from Jesus has returned to trouble us once again. Mark 9: 12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? I think it is no coincidence that Elijah was mentioned once again in tonight’s passage. Mark 15: 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
Where was Elijah? Jesus did not respond to those people mocking him. He already knew his answer from Mark 9: 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him. “They” refers to the leaders of Israel at that time, which included King Herod, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin. They were the evil tenants of the vineyard in the parable in Mark 12. The tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ Even Pontius Pilate knew this. Mark 15: 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. The only thing that mattered was that the vineyard belonged to them.
But for Jesus, the kingdom belongs to God. And the King was not to serve his self-interest. Mark 10: 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. And so at the cross, the mockery from these people really demonstrated their thought process: 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!”31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!
Save yourself. Save yourself. That is the catchphrase of self-interest. The religious leaders had to kill Jesus because they thought they were saving themselves. Isn’t that also a reflection of our world today? But there is a saying: You can't lose what you never had. That very night: 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The religious leaders thought they could save themselves by stealing the vineyard from God. But that very night, the curtain of the temple separating the Holy of holies was broken. A temple with a broken Holy of Holies was as good as destroyed.
In Mark, the only recorded words of Jesus on the Cross are “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The answer to this question actually lies in Psalm 22. This was the moment where the life-long trust of God was put to the test. The killer line is the next phrase in the Psalm, “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? 2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” God feels so far away because his silence is like the empty echoes of deep space. In contrast to the silence of God, the attackers and their mouths had formed a barrier separating him from God.
Something is real and true only if it bears the testing. This psalm is powerful because it speaks plainly about the situation many God-lovers face. We have to be honest with the truth. The fact remains that at this very moment, our troubles feel a lot nearer than God. But if you have been faithful and trusting in God, then you have every right to cry out to God, just like the psalmist. This is why so much of the psalms are lament psalms. Life is not all just praise and worship. There is no shame in a lament. You can continue to believe in your relationship with God even though it is being tested to the very end. And that is how I interpret the cry of Jesus on the cross.
When Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he felt exactly like the psalmist: his trust was true, his relationship was true, his identity as the Son of God was true. But his persecution was also true. The denials of the mockers were a lot nearer than the remoteness of God. His lament deserved an answer. This is why in Mark, we read of this:
Mark 15: 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Tonight, as we come together to reflect on the death of Jesus Christ, let the imagery of the torn temple curtain stick in our minds. The barrier between the Holy of Holies and mankind has been torn apart. Like the parting of the Red Sea, there is the way, the truth and the life before our very eyes. In our Christian journey, I’m sure there will be many times when we feel God is so far from us, especially during moments of troubles, when our faith and trust are being tested. Even Jesus felt that alienation, the distance from God. Then the temple curtain tore and that was God’s answer. God is no longer far from us. Nothing now separates us from God. To all the mockers and enemies who doubt God’s relationship with us, in Jesus Christ, we can now be certain. In the end, they too must exclaim, as the centurion to Jesus, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Brothers and sisters, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is not about making us sad, but making us convicted that this is the way. His victory over sin and death is about giving us hope that this is the way. The question is: Will you follow him? Will your life be measured in victories over others, or in blessings to others? Will you give up your self-interest, and acknowledge that you are a steward of God’s kingdom? Will you be willing to uphold truth and justice even unto death? In the end, will you give your life to be a servant of God? At the end of the day, would people reflect on your life and say, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”? I believe we will, but only if we believe and follow Jesus.
Mark 15:33–39 (Listen)
33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”