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Christmas at the Cross



What does the Cross have to do with Christmas?

Ben Stuart shares a unique Christmas message from the final hours of Jesus’ ministry. At Christmas, we celebrate that our Savior was born, but it’s at the Cross that we fully understand the reason why He came.

Key Takeaway

Jesus chose to go to the Cross. Everything he was claiming was actually true. He made a way when there was no way, providing a rescue that we desperately need and cannot do on our own.

At Christmas, we see the reality that Jesus came. At the Cross, we see the reason that He came.

At this point in the book, Jesus has publicly shamed the religious elite and it them in their wallets on their most lucrative days of the year. Now, they've had enough and want Him dead.

Mark 14:1-2.

They have to kill Jesus by stealth because they fear the people. Mark shows us their plan in verses 1-2 and their opportunity in verses 10-11; a man inside, Judas will betray Jesus.

Mark 14:3-9.

Mark breaks from the plotting to talk about a woman who anoints Jesus with the best of what she has. Others accuse her of wasting her offering by saying they could have sold it to help the poor. Jesus stops them and tells them they are missing the moment. They will have opportunities to minister in Jesus's name, but they won't always have Him on earth. Jesus states plainly that she has anointed Him for His burial. Why is that interesting? The religious elite are trying to sneak up by stealth, but Jesus knows He is going to die.

He also says wherever the Gospel is preached in the whole world, she would be remembered. Jesus uses the word "gospel", the good news, for His death. Why is His death good news?

Mark 14:12-21.

The Passover was the highlight of the Jewish calendar. The meal has to be eaten within the city walls and Jesus was staying out in the suburbs. He has His disciples prepare it just right. He then tells them that He will be betrayed by one of them. None of them know it's Judas. They all fear it could be them. It's important to mark the Passover with what will happen to Jesus. The meal would recount how God set the people free through Moses and led them into the Promised Land.

3 Basic Components of Passover

  • Death is coming. The Egyptians enslaved them, committed genocide, and oppressed the Israelites. Moses pronounces judgment: death is coming for Egypt.
  • All are guilty. The Israelites would praise God that death and judgment were coming for their enemies, but they recognize that the standard of holiness is God alone. They were guilty of exploitation and idol worship too.
  • God provides a way of escape. The angel of death would come and judge the guilty, but God gave the Israelites a symbol to save them. The blood of an innocent lamb on their doorposts represents that the blood of the innocent will pay for your violation of God's law. As you put yourself under His provision of sacrifice, death will pass over you and you will live.

Mark 14:22.

There is a script for this meal that has been the same for hundreds of years. Jesus would have held up the bread and normally would have said, "This is the bread of affliction our fathers ate in the Passover." Instead, Jesus interrupts the script and says this is no longer the bread of affliction of our fathers, this is my bread of affliction, broken for you.

Passover is a bigger symbol that culminates in Him. His body would break for us and set us free.

Mark 14:23-25.

When Jesus gets to the cup portion, at the third cup He is supposed to say, "May the all-merciful One make us worthy of the days of Messiah." Instead, Jesus said it's His blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. The symbols point to Him.

His blood will pay for us. It's a covenant, a binding agreement of friendship and love. He was the culmination of Passover then and now, and all the components still apply.

  • Death is coming.
  • All of us are guilty. It's our guilt that makes death so scary.
  • God has made a way of escape. It's not the blood of the lamb, it's the blood of Jesus. Christ is the Passover lamb to be sacrificed. This has always been the plan. See Isaiah 53:5-6.

As Matthew and Luke show the injustice of Jesus's trial and the brutality of His crucifixion, they keep giving breaks to remind us that this was to fulfill prophecy and comfort us with the divine plan. Mark doesn't do that, he lets us feel all the crazy. He is asking, can you remember God's promises when the pain comes? Can you keep His perspective as chaos ensues?

Mark 14:26.

It was common to sing Psalms 116-188 at the Passover, so the last song that Jesus sang had the lines "the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone", "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord", and "Bind the sacrifice with cords up to the horn of the alter".

Mark 14:27-31.

The disciples make promises of fidelity but Jesus knows He must walk this road alone. He will be struck, they will scatter, but when He comes back, He'll gather them.

Mark 14:32-42.

Mark lingers in Jesus's turmoil so we understand that He is a sacrifice for us. He puts His humanity on display. Jesus is distressed and scared. He pleads with God to have this cup pass from Him. In Isaiah 51:17, it's called the cup of God's wrath, or the cup of staggering. Jesus doesn't want to drink this cup. He has known nothing but the love of His Abba Father. The idea of being separated from Him is so terrifying that Jesus if there is any other way, then let it be. Even though He is honest about His turmoil, He resolves to follow the will of His Father even to the end: "Not My will but Yours be done."

Jesus is the model of humanity and masculinity. He's honest about His feelings. He calls friends to help Him when He's in need. Even when they fail him, He falls on the bedrock of His Father's character. He doesn't react out of emotions or resent His friends.

He puts His life in the hands of Father God and embraces His destiny to serve others and sacrifice Himself.

Mark 14:43-52.

Jesus knows He is going to be led away and captured, so when He asks questions, He's challenging them. He makes them look at what they're doing: why did all of this have to be done at night?

Jesus was betrayed with a kiss. He was abandoned by those who swore fidelity.

What is with the kid running away naked? A lot of scholars believe it's Mark inserting himself into the story. He runs away in the most shameful way possible. He wants people to know he was one of those who fled and sees his need for grace.

Mark 14:53-59.

The religious elite had to rush and arrest Him when they had intel. They do it at night because there's no crowd to resist them. They don't have a charge, so they have to create a crime. They can't find two people who agree and can act as witnesses against Jesus. The trial is falling apart before it starts.

Mark 14:60-61.

They have no witnesses and no crime. Jesus is silent. The high priest, in desperation, asks Jesus questions trying to get Him to implicate Himself. All Jesus would have to do is remain silent and this all stops.

Mark 14:62.

Jesus, who has been mysterious about His role as Messiah with the religious leaders, quotes Psalm 110 and Daniel 7. He makes clear He is the Messiah, and they may judge Him now, but He will sit on the Throne of God and judge them and all of humanity.

Mark 14:63-64.

They got the conviction they needed because Jesus gave it to them. The irony is they condemn Him for blaspheming without ever considering His claim may actually be true.

Mark 14:65.

They mock Him, spit on Him, and condescendingly tell Him to prophesy.

Mark 15:1.

Judea was a subject nation under Rome. They have limited autonomy, so if they want to kill Jesus, they need a Roman to do it. The trial in front of the Jewish council was probably around 2 AM, so that makes this now about 5-6 AM. Romans held court as soon as there was a sunrise. The religious elite are doing their best to have Jesus killed before the crowd can gather.

They bound and led Jesus, which is excessive for a nonviolent claim, but there is some theater at play.

Pilate had ruled for 7 years at this point and would rule for three more after. He was part of certain administrators that were put over places that were seen as problematic. They were to keep the peace, collect taxes, and neutralize any threats to the emperor. Pilate was known to be harsh in his judgment. It's his cruelty that ends up getting him fired.

Mark 15:2.

Rome doesn't care that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. They have to find a political opening. So, the King of the Jews makes Jesus claim to be a ruler and therefore a threat to Rome. Pilate looks at the beaten man before him and mocks Him saying, "YOU'RE King of the Jews?"

Whether Jesus says yes or no, the trial would be over. Jesus says, "You say so" which is confusing. He's not denying the title, but He's not buying it the way they are selling it. It forces the trial to continue.

Mark 15:3-5.

Jesus remains silent after more questions. He looks exactly like Isaiah 53:7, like a sheep before his shearers is silent, He remained silent. Jesus's response is not normal and it unnerves Pilate.

Pilate doesn't think that Jesus is a threat, but he also has to control the mob and just wants it off his desk.

Mark 15:6-8.

Pilate sees a loophole and thinks he can get Jesus released. Every year the Romans would release one prisoner over Passover. This is also why the crowd was forming so early outside of Pilate's place. Families and friends were there to ask for release. They are expecting the release of their chosen prisoner. It seems like Barabbas was like a Robin Hood to them. It wasn't that the people turned on Jesus in less than a week, they didn't even know He was arrested. They are there for Barabbas.

Mark 15:9-10.

Pilate offers to release Jesus. He's trying to call the chief priest's bluff. Pilate thinks he's got them in checkmate. They can either have a real insurrectionist, Barabbas, or they can have a guy who preaches peace and love. Barabbas means "son of the father". Which son of the father do you want? Peace or violence?

Mark 15:11-13.

Pilate seems surprised that they want Barabbas. The people call for Jesus to be crucified, which is not a normal execution, it's torture.

Mark 15:14.

Pilate is confused and asks why they want Jesus dead.

The irony is that the cross was really meant for Barabbas, but the true Son of the Father takes the place of the sinful one.

Mark 15:15.

This isn't about truth or justice, it's about pacifying a crowd. So, Pilate hands Jesus over. The scourge of Jesus was an absolutely brutal form of torture that most people died from. Pilate thought that the scourging would satisfy the blood lust of the crowd, but it didn't and they called for His crucifixion.

In Mark 8, 9, and 10, Jesus told them He would be "delivered over" to the council and Gentiles. Mark will not remind you of the words of Jesus or the prophets again, but he'll keep using the same verb to see if you remember.

Mark 15:16-20.

For a Roman, sticking it to a Jew, a people group they had a lot of tension with, was fun for them. So, they mock anything having to do with the idea of Kingdom: purple cloak, crown of thorns, a reed instead of a scepter that they used to beat Him. They mock Him by saying, "Hail, King of the Jews", but what they say in mockery is true.

Yet, here is our King, anointed in spit with a crown of thorns about to be enthroned on a Cross.

Mark 15:21.

Mark brings up Simon, Alexander, and Rufus to again prove that this is rooted in reality. This really happened. People would have known them.

Mark 15:22-24.

Jesus refuses to take the narcotic to numb the pain. Crucifixion was meant to draw death out. Mark doesn't draw attention to Jesus on the Cross, he focuses on the people dividing garments and casting lots. He's seeing if you remember Psalm 22.

Mark 15:25-32.

Mark makes it clear Jesus is killed for being the Messiah. They continue to mock Jesus. The word "derided" is "blasphemeo", where we get the word blasphemy. They condemned Jesus for blaspheming, but they are the ones blaspheming Him. In chapter 8, Peter told Jesus not to go to the cross and Jesus said "Get behind me, Satan". Now, they are mocking him telling Him to get off the Cross and that it's Satanic.

Mark 15:33.

In the end, the lights go out. See Amos 8:9.

Mark 15:34.

Why doesn't Mark translate this into Greek right away? He wants us to see that as Jesus says "Eloi", they hear "Eli" and think He's calling Elijah. Mark tells us what He's saying because Jesus is quoting Psalm 22.

That song doesn't end in despair- Kingship belongs to the Lord. He has done it.

Mark 15:35-39.

The curtain that was torn was in the Temple. One was in the Holy of Holies and one was separating the Jews and the Gentiles.

The significance Mark wants us to see is that it was from top to bottom. Did God rend the curtain separating the people from Himself, forever giving access to Him through His son Jesus Christ? Yes! God tore the curtain and made a way. It's possible it was the curtain separating the Jews and Gentiles was torn making a way for the Gospel to go out to all nations. As soon as it rends, a Roman centurion, a gentile says "Truly He was the Son of God."

Mark 15:43.

Joseph of Arimathea asks for Jesus's body for burial.

What are we supposed to see?

1) The heinousness of sin.

It has to be dealt with. There was no other way than Jesus dying for you. Your best is not going to cut it.

2)The justice of God.

The Cross shows us that no one gets away with anything. God may delay His justice, but it's coming and all are guilty. It will either be paid on the Cross by Jesus or by us in Hell.

3) Jesus has made a way.

He shed His blood for us. Come under His blood and the angel of death will pass you by. This allows Him to be just and punish sin, but also be the justifier that saves us.

Like Romans at the foot of the Cross, we have hope today because of what Jesus did on it. Yes, evil men perpetrated evil things, but God ruled over it all. God used even the sinfulness of these men to accomplish our salvation. See John 3:16.

Our hope is in the person of Jesus.

Our call is to be like Joseph of Arimathea. He took courage and associated himself with Jesus, knowing they could come after him too. As Jesus's weight fell off the Cross upon Joseph, all of His blood, sweat, and tears covered Him. If Jesus, gave all for you, then you be all in for Him.


"Christianity is not about what you can accomplish if you muster up the courage so you can serve God. You can't do it. It's about what the King does on our behalf."

Ben Stuart

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Scripture References

  • Mark 14-15
  • Amos 8:9
  • Psalm 118
  • Isaiah 53:5-7
  • Daniel 7
  • Psalm 22
  • Isaiah 51:17
Ben Stuart Ben Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries on the campus of Texas A&M. He also earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime.