Alfred Place Baptist Church

15:29-32 The mockery of the dying Christ

Mark 15:29-32 “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, come down from the cross and save yourself!’ 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! Let this Christ, this King of Israel , come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”

The prison doctor and writer Theodore Dalrymple recounts, “Recently I went to a soccer game in my city on behalf of a newspaper; the fans of the opposing teams had to be separated by hundreds of policemen, disposed in military fashion. The police allowed no contact whatever between the opposing factions, shepherding or corralling the visiting fans into their own area of the stadium with more security precautions than the most dangerous of criminals ever faces.

“In the stadium I sat next to a man who appeared perfectly normal and decent, and his eleven-year-old son who seemed a well-behaved little boy. Suddenly, in the middle of the match, the father leaped up and, in unison with thousands of others, began to chant: “Who the expletive do you think you are? Who the expletive do you think you are?” while making, also in common with thousands of others, a threatening gesture – that looked uncommonly like a fascist salute – in the direction of the opposing supporters. Was this the example he wanted to set for his son? Apparently so. The frustrations of poverty could hardly explain his conduct: the cost of the tickets to the game could have fed a family more than adequately for a week” (Theodore Dalrymple, Our Culture, What’s Left of It, Ivan R. Dee Chicago, 2005, 164 & 165).

Our age is characterised by a mean spirit, road rage, taunts and verbal aggression . . . “Who’re you looking at? . . . Were you looking at my girl?” Crowds of yobs on a street in the night chant the name of the team they support and their disdain for any local team.

The sustained mockery of the crucified Christ on Golgotha is not the first time in the Bible for men of God to be insulted. For example, there was an occasion when the prophet Elisha went up to Bethel and as he approached the city a gang of more than forty youths surrounded him and began to jeer at him, “Go on up, you baldhead!” (2 Kings 2:23). Bethel was where king Jeroboam had had erected a golden calf to be worshipped, and here was a prophet of Jehovah coming to this city. “On your way, baldy!” they were chanting. He was an adult and a stranger and should have been treated with respect. He was the prophet of the Lord; his shaved head might have been a sign of his office, but they chanted out their insults to him as they sauntered towards him menacingly; it was deadly serious, contemptuous of who he was and what he stood for, coming to their patch, Bethel, in the name of his God, Jehovah of hosts.

You may also remember a occasion when David and his men were fleeing from Absalom at the time of his rebellion and a man called Shimei from the same clan as Saul spotted David and began to curse him, “Get out, get out you man of blood, you scoundrel . . . you have come to ruin because you are a man of blood” (2 Sam. 16:7&8). And David’s commander, Abishai, would have gone across to him and killed him, had not David prevented him, “If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’” (2 Sam. 16:10). I refer to those incidents to show you that the mockery of the servants of the Lord is nothing new, but with Elisha and David these were brief outbursts which soon brought down the judgment of God.

Here on Golgotha the hatred was prolonged and didn’t end while Christ was still breathing. Elisha and David were sinners, David especially so, but the Christ who hangs on the cross is the incarnate Son of God. The blameless young Saviour has been crucified; he will never be taken down alive, and still they chant their insults. Mark uses three different words to describe their scorn, that they ‘hurled’ their insults – as if they were throwing stones at him, they ‘mocked’ him, and they ‘heaped’ their insults on top of him as if they were going to bury him under their scorn. Incidentally Mark uses the imperfect tense of the verb for all this activity to underline the fact that their mockery went on and on. So Golgotha , which we remember in the Lord’s Supper, was not at all like the Lord’s Supper which is held reverently with pools of silence. Golgotha was a very noisy place; it was more like a soccer game between two teams which are bitter rivals with constant shouting and chanting. On Calvary Christ is being molested by the crowd. The midgets are mocking the Almighty.

1. HOW COMPREHENSIVE IS THEIR MOCKERY.

You see that particularly in a couple of ways.

i] The fact that all kinds and classes of men jeered at him. If we brought in the testimony of Luke he informs us that even “the soldiers also came up and mocked him” (Lk. 23:36). Not satisfied after their work was done of driving nails through his hands and feet and lifting him up on the cross they came right up to within a few feet of him snarling their hatred at him. So Luke is the evangelist who tells us of the soldier’s hatred, but both Matthew and Mark tell us of three categories of people who mocked Jesus Christ.

We are told firstly, “Those who passed by hurled insults at him” (v.29). They were out for a stroll on the holiday weekend; their families had come to Jerusalem for the Passover; they had had a full meal of lamb, vegetables, unleavened bread and wine together the previous night and their wives were now preparing the meal for the day and they had gone out of the city for a walk with their sons. There was something to see, three men being crucified, and so they strolled along the road curious to look at this disgusting sight, naked young men nailed to crosses, dying in agony. They saw them far enough away and heard the sound of shouting, but they didn’t hesitate or go back. They didn’t turn away the face of a young son; “the boy has got to learn what life is all about,” one rough father might have said. These passers by taking a constitutional went right up to the crosses and they hurled their own insults – particularly at Jesus. They stayed at that scene of abject pitiful suffering and they shouted abuse at Mary’s son – his mother wasn’t twenty yards away – and then they went home for lunch. It was the Passover; the people were celebrating the mighty redemption of God from their slavery in Egypt through the death of a lamb. The Lord had taken them out and brought them into this land. “I will be your God and forgive your sins and become your Father,” he had said, but it meant nothing at all to them. These mere passersby were full of blood lust and hate for the Lamb of God.

Then we are told, “In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves” (v.31). Here were the sophisticated leaders of the country, the educated men, the landowners, the leading religious people of the nation. If there was any culture in Israel these men had it. You wouldn’t have expected them even to attend a brutal public execution – but they did. You would not expect them to have stayed there for hours watching the pain – but they were glued to the spot. You certainly wouldn’t expect such men to join in the mockery and chanting – but they shouted out as scornfully as the rest of the mob. You mustn’t think that their abuse of Jesus was more private than the scorn of the jeering passersby. I’m referring to the fact that Mark says that they mocked him “among themselves.” He doesn’t intend us to understand that they scorned him under their breath, muttering to one another. Matthew and Luke make it clear that that was not the case. Mark is saying that their scorn originated amongst themselves; they didn’t catch it from others. He is telling us that they mocked Jesus as a body, as a choir of chanting men, they didn’t mix their shouts with the passersby but they kept up their own tirade of disdain against him hour after hour. In the light and in the darkness their hatred fueled their contempt for Christ.

How significant it is that when the writer to the Hebrews describes the office of the high priest he tells us that, “He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people” (Hebs. 5:2&3). It is a wonderful picture of a man of God, conscious of his own frailty, and compassionate to the sins of others, but if you searched Jerusalem with candles during the Passover looking for the high priest do you know where you would find the man of God? He is attending a Roman execution of three Jews. Is he weeping and praying for the men as they hang there, soon to be dead? Is he offering them spiritual comfort, urging them to cast themselves on the mercy of God? No. The chief priest is mocking the Lamb of God as he is immolated on that cross, and the priest is supported by the preachers – “the teachers of the law mocked him” (v.31). Their calling was to bring the word of God to bear on the various conditions of men and women who stood before them. Here they prostituted their high calling and showed their contempt for the one who is the greatest of all preachers.

Then we are told of another group, that even, “Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him” (v.32). This is how the two thieves began their last hours on the cross. Initially both of them turned on the one who separated them and in their wretchedness and pain they belched out their rage at the Lord Jesus. No insult was too mean to hold back, one followed another. Let me ask you whether you know what it’s been like to shout out ‘Jesus’? Have you sinners shouted out ‘Christ’? Have you blasphemed? Have you laced your wonderfully funny stories with the name of my Saviour Jesus? Have you taken his name in vain? Have you done so many times? Are you feeling convicted and as lost as Judas this morning because now you’re no different from this mob on Calvary disdaining the Son of God? Let me tell you that you are no different, but you can become different. There is mercy offered to you. The men and women here today were once just as foul-mouthed as you have been, but they have been converted; they have been washed; they have been changed; they have been forgiven.

There was a remarkable conversion that took place in Sandfields Forward Movement in Aberavon in the 1920s under the ministry of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is recorded in one of his sermons in his book Spiritual Depression. Let me quote it to you; this is what the Doctor said;

“I remember an old man who was converted and became a Christian at the age of 77, one of the most striking conversions I have ever known. That man had lived a very evil life; there was scarcely anything he had not done at some time or another. But he came under the sound of the gospel and was converted in his old age. The great day came when he was received into the membership of the Church, and when he came to his first communion service on the Sunday evening it was to him the biggest thing that had ever happened. His joy was indescribable and we were all so happy about him. But there was a sequel, and this was the sequel. Next morning, even before I was up, that poor old man had arrived at my house, and there he stood looking the picture of misery and dejection, and weeping uncontrollably. I was amazed and astounded, especially in view of what had happened the previous night, the greatest night of his life, the climax of everything that had ever happened to him. I eventually succeeded in controlling him in a physical sense, and then asked him what was the matter. His trouble was this. After going home from that communion service he had suddenly remembered something that had happened thirty years ago. He was with a group of men drinking in a public house and arguing about religion. On that occasion he had said in contempt and derision that ‘Jesus Christ was a bastard’, and it had all come back to him suddenly and there was, he felt sure, no forgiveness for that. This one thing! Ah, yes, he was quite happy to forget about the drinking and the gambling and the immorality. That was all right, that was forgiven. He understood that clearly, but this thing that he had said about the Son of God, the Saviour of the world – that! He couldn’t be consoled, he couldn’t be comforted. This one thing had cast him down to utter hopelessness. (I thank God that by the application of the Scriptures I was able to restore his joy to him.) But that is the kind of thing I am referring to, something a man has once said, or done, that haunts him and comes back to him, and makes him miserable and wretched, though he subscribes to the full Christian faith.” (D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, p.67&68)

If you are convicted of your wretched life don’t go on in your guilt and shame one day longer. There is a friend of blasphemers at the right hand of God. He will forgive all who ask for his mercy because he delights to display his immeasurable grace. There was once a crucified criminal and at first he too heaped insults on Christ as foul as his fellow criminal also dying on the other side of Christ, but slowly this one began to change. As the hours went by he came deeply to regret what he’d cried out in his folly. He shouted across to his companion to stop his swearing; “Don’t you fear God? Don’t you know that we are justly being punished for our evil lives?” That is what he cried to his friend, and then he spoke to our Lord, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” He had been so angry and foul, and yet such a man was changed; he sought mercy from Jesus and indeed he was forgiven, and you may be forgiven too. You have said terrible things about God; you have belched out your hatred at him because you might have held him responsible for taking your dear mother, and your wife, and your children, and your health. You have cursed God for doing all that to you, and so long atheistic years of despair have followed you until now. Yet I am telling you that here was a man who began this day heaping insults on Jesus and yet he ended the day entering the Paradise that Jesus had promised him. Don’t despair I beseech you! This same Jesus is here and he will forgive you. If you repent of your sin and confess it to the Lord you too will know grace abounding to the chief of sinners.

So we see how comprehensive the mockery was first of all in that it came from everyone except Jesus’ family and disciples, the soldiers, the casual passersby, the chief priests, the preachers, and also from the two thieves crucified each side of him. However, there is another aspect to this comprehensive mockery;

ii] The fact that they despised everything about Christ, especially his great divine offices. For example, they hated him as God’s last prophet; “‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days,” (v.29). They dismissed him as a typical fanatical preacher who boasts that he is going to destroy a huge building single-handed and then rebuild it all by himself in three days. He is a nut-case, stirring up gullible people with his wild words, and where has he ended up? Nailed to a cross. What are they doing? They are trying to wash out of their minds all the unfrogettable words, phrases and parables of Jesus which had buzzed all over the nation and stuck in people’s minds, phrases which people quoted to one another and which no one could forget, Christ’s warnings, his exhortations, his calls to repentance and faith, his claims to be the Way and the Truth and the Life, his promises to give rest to all who come to him. “Rubbish! It is all rubbish!” they were saying, “they were the words of a fanatic. The man is crazy. He said he would demolish the massive temple and rebuild it in three days, and look where he is today. He wasn’t a rabbi; he was a nutter.” They despised his work as a prophet

They also despised his work as a priest; they said, “He saved others, he cannot save himself . . .” (v.31). No one could deny the fact of the many lives which this ‘nutter’ had transformed. There was a woman with an issue of blood; for twelve years she had spent all her money visiting every doctor in the country but was no better but worse. None of them had been able to save her, but the Lord Jesus had been able, without a word and without a fee. She had only to touch the hem of his garment to be saved! Twelve of them were in a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee with him when a fearful storm almost sent the boat to the bottom of the lake. With a word the storm was stilled and Jesus saved them all. None other ‘nutter’ could do what he had done. Nobody could save Jairus’ twelve year old daughter from death, but Jesus had only to say to her, “Little girl, get up,” and the sleep of death ended and she was delivered from the grave. There were thousands and thousands of people all over Galilee whose lives had been saved by Christ. The mob was right, “He saved others!” But those men who mocked on Calvary didn’t want Jesus to save them. They didn’t want their friends and family to giggle at them, “Are you ‘saved?’ Ho, ho ho! Has Jesus saved you? Are you one of those fanatics who write on walls, ‘Jesus saves.’? No you are not. Glad to hear it. We don’t want to be saved do we? What a ridiculous thing to be saved. Let’s stay unsaved and perish in our sins. Well, if Jesus is so great in saving others how come he can’t even save himself?” So they mocked our Lord in his work as a priest.

They also despised his work as a mighty king; “‘Let this Christ, this King of Israel , come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (v.32). Let him prove that he is a king. Do another sign for us and then we will see it with out own eyes and we’ll believe,” well, so they said. A wicked and adulterous generation is always itching for signs. The Lord had shown his kingly power over creation by speaking to the winds and waves and they’d obeyed him. He’d shown his kingly power over the devil by dealing with the Gadarene demoniac, the worst case of demon possession the world has ever seen or will see. Jesus Christ restored the man to true humanity and brought him to faith in himself. He had shown his kingly power over disease by healing all manner of sicknesses – without a single failure, not even those in the last stages of terminal illness who came to him had gone away from him as they’d come. He had shown his kingly power over death when he raised Lazarus from his grave, and also the widow of Nain’s son from the coffin, and also Jairus’ daughter from her deathbed. This is the King of love, the King from heaven, the King of all power structures and authorities and thrones and dominions and anything you can think of; Jesus is a Colossus.” All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.

Yet the unbeliever is never satisfied with what the New Testament tells us of Christ; “Do another miracle! Yes one more. Do another! For example, come down from the cross and heal yourself and then we will follow you.” Sinners always plead insufficiency of evidence; Jesus has preached the Sermon on the Mount but it is not enough. He has lived an utterly blameless life, but it is not enough for them. He has done such extraordinary works, but they are all not enough. He has launched a movement which has long broken out of a middle east ghetto and it is found in every continent on the earth; it has lasted 2,000 years, but that is not enough. Millions claim that their lives have been changed by this Saviour, but that is not enough. One more miracle is needed, at their behest. “Do what we ask, just one more miracle now, and we will follow you,” they promise. They believe that their personal unbelief is perfectly understandable; there is lack of evidence, and a paucity of proof. They would love to believe, they think, but there simply isn’t enough to venture on – so they say – though they’ve never studied the Bible, and they have never cried to God for any length of time that he would hear them and help them to trust his blessed Son.

They have a problem which they’re not aware of. They imagine that becoming a Christian is an act of man’s free will; they dream that we simply choose to make a decision and then we become Christians. They think they’re not believers because they themselves have not yet made that decision to follow Christ, but they might . . . one day . . . let’s see, but man’s problem is far deeper than his will. Every man has a heart like a stone that disdains Christ; every man loves himself more than he loves God. That’s the problem; men need a new heart to believe. They can see every one of his miracles – as Judas did – and still not believe. They can hear all his sermons – as Judas did – and still not believe. We know that this was the case with these high priests because on the third day Jesus rose from the dead – what a sign of divinity! – the Lord Christ greater than death; Jesus is God, but these priests still refused to believe. They invented a fiction rather than focus their hearts and minds on the risen conquering Jesus Christ with all the implications of resurrection! It takes more than miracles for sinners to believe in Jesus Christ. You sinners need a new birth; you need your enmity to be changed; you need God in mercy to give you a new heart, for by grace are we saved through faith and that not of ourselves it is a gift of God. The mob on Golgotha didn’t realise their dire predicament, that they could only be changed by the power of God. They couldn’t save themselves, and signs and wonders alone wouldn’t make them followers of Christ.

They didn’t understand the gospel. They failed to see that Jesus had to stay on the cross and die. They thought that they would become believers if he ended the crucifixion, jumping down from the cross, getting the two others thieves to leap down too. They dreamed that the sight of the three of them standing there before the crowd beaming with rude health, every wound healed, would set them all dancing with joy on Golgotha, confessing Jesus to be the Son of God and their Messiah. “That’s what we need. Another great miracle of our devising. Until that happens we won’t believe,” they said. We Christians, of course, believe the very opposite, that he is the divine Saviour and Son of God because he didn’t cut short his obedience to God. He did not terminate the anathema in the darkness before paying a full atonement price for our sin. That is why I love him and serve him, because he stayed on the cross for me, determined to cancel all my debt and finish the work of redemption he had come into the world to do. He loved me and gave himself for me.

They snarled, “He trusted in God that he would deliver him, well, where is the great deliverance? If this is the Son in whom the Father is well-pleased why does he let him hang there on the cross?” This again is the frequent objection men have to God; “I can’t understand it. I have lived a good life and yet I have had all these troubles.” They think that if they live a good life that all their dreams will come true, and if they are suffering then it is proof that God is against them. It is the philosophy of Job’s miserable friends, but transferred here to Golgotha . Jesus cannot be a good man, certainly not the Messiah, because if he were then he would not be suffering the way he is.

They don’t see what every Christian sooner or later sees that the heavenly Father of every Christian will often pick up an instrument of suffering – a cross, the hatred of the world, heartache, unanswered prayer, sickness and loss – to improve his children. Even Jesus was made perfect by the things that he suffered. The shouters of Golgotha were utterly ignorant men.

2. THEIR MOCKERY CAME DURING THE ANATHEMA.

Of course, mockery was nothing new to Christ. He had seen this as a mark of a true disciple – “blessed are you when people insult you,” he’d told them in the Sermon on the Mount. In the room with the dead child of Jairus the mourners had laughed him to scorn when he told them that she was only sleeping. During Christ’s trial they’d mocked him. They’d set a crown of thorns on his head and a purple robe around his shoulders. They’d bowed in mock worship before him and addressed him as the ‘King.’ Christ, I say, had already been mocked by soldiers, but then he was still in Jerusalem and it was the ending of his trial. Now his trial is over and he’s been thrown out of the city gates. Jesus has now become the scapegoat; he is outside the camp, and he is beginning his sentence; he is now legally paying the penalty for his alleged crimes. God is now making him sin for us. There is the physical pain of the nails, and there is this psychological and emotional pain of the hatred he’s enduring. There are the earthly powers arraigned against him – both Romans and Jews – he is surrounded by many more people than during either of his trials. New passersby are adding fresh voice to the contempt being hurled at him hour after hour.

There’s also the mockery that comes from hell, from principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. God has lifted up the lid of hell and out come the screaming masses. This is the defiance of hell’s storm troopers, spitting out their contempt at their hated Master. This is the diabolical chorus defying him on Golgotha . Hell has come to Calvary and hell is full of noise. That will be the first shock when a sinner enters the pit. The fearful hellish screams will be the greeting with which the demons pull in the damned; then there will be persistent noise for ever as lost souls prey upon another, with no love whatever, no pity whatever, no patience whatever, no joy whatever, all without God and all without hope. Noise, noise, noise, as sinners consume one another for ever and ever. The law of hell that all have to obey is that you shall hate one another for ever and ever. That is a part of what Christ is enduring on Golgotha . Isaiah’s fearful prophecy is being fulfilled in him: “The grave below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you – all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones – all those who were kings over the nations. They will all respond, they will say to you, ‘You also have become weak, as we are; you have become like us.’ All your pomp has been brought down to the grave, along with the noise of your harps; maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you. How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: ‘Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble?’” (Isa. 14:9-16).

Christ’s sufferings are infinitely heavier than those Isaiah prophesied. Christ on the cross is being baptized into the nails of hell and the spears of hell and the shouts of hell and the frustration of hell, while righteous God is orchestrating it all. The mockery is part of the anathema Christ has to endure. It is part of the burden of God’s justice to sinners, condemning their sin in Christ. Focusing his judgment all on his blessed Son that believing sinners might be pardoned. That is not what the powers of darkness desire. Their purpose is to make Christ sin, to goad him, and provoke him to retaliate, to defend himself, to apologise, but our Saviour will not do so and he dare not do so because he knows he has come to Golgotha to bear our guilt and shame, and this is the punishment meted out to it. It is the just and holy curse of one hanging on a tree which we deserve; great David’s greater Son can repeat what his distinguished royal predecessor said of Shimei, “If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?” Let the demons from the pit curse him too. Why not? Christ is bearing sins which merit hell’s curse and he knows it.

So the soldiers mock him, and the passersby shake their heads in scorn at him, and the chief priests disdain him, and even the dying thieves cursed him. What did Christ do?

i] Christ was committing himself to his Father. Jesus is accepting the terrible grief of this scene, the suffering of being travestied and mocked as he dies. He apostle Peter was watching all this from afar and he understood more as the years went by of what the silent Lord Jesus was doing while the world chanted its hatred. He wrote this, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (I Pet. 2:23). He was actively entrusting himself to God; it was a definite action; it was a deed which he persisted in doing as waves of mockery and cruel taunts were heaped upon him; he was giving himself over to God. He was begging an audience from the great Judge of all the earth, calling on the Almighty to look at him and vindicate him.

ii] Christ was obeying his Father. We often speak of the work that Jesus did on the cross as his ‘passive obedience’ contrasting it with his three years ministry of ‘active obedience.’ But in many ways Christ was never less passive and never more active in obeying his Father as during the hours he hung and suffered there. In his thinking and his affections and his desires he is determining, “I love you Father, and I love all those you gave to me. I hold on to each one of them now. They’re not going to end up in hell. I will cling to them and endure the judgment they merit. I bow beneath your rod and your sword.” Christ does not think about those who are mocking him; he doesn’t have them on his heart; he is not praying for them, but he was praying for me as men mocked him, that I wouldn’t experience the mockery of demons for ever.

iii] Christ was despising the shame. You will remember the great exhortation that we lay aside our sins and we look unto Jesus who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross scorning its shame. Most shameful acts have no meaning except a love of sin. Men and women will get drunk and vomit in the streets, and expose themselves, and urinate against a wall, and fight others, kicking them and rolling on the floor. They will shout aloud their four letter words – glorying in their shame. So it was on Golgotha ; it was mankind’s greatest shame and the Son of God has set the great example of what to do with it. – despise it! We don’t find any of that behaviour funny. Look unto Jesus when men and women behave abominably.

iv] Christ was triumphing over sin, death and Satan. How did he do so? By drinking the cup the Father had given him to drink. By refusing to retaliate; by making no threats. He absorbed into his own heart all the blame and shame, all the pains of hell. You measure all the noise, and all the energy, and who appears to you to be winning the strife of Calvary ? Sinners. Christ is saying nothing and sinners are never silent. You make such a mistake because you have judged by outward appearance, but God was judging inwardly and eternally. He saw everything on Golgotha , the empty shouts and the deep silence, and there was a mighty victory being won by the quiet Man on the central cross. “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Cols. 2:15). That is how the church has triumphed in China and eastern Europe today, not by a holy war, and suicide bombs but by the example of Christ. By the cross we will yet triumph. There is no other way.

13th November 2005 GEOFF THOMAS