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Mark’s first-century biography – page 47

And they (Roman soldiers ordered to execute Jesus of Nazareth, c. AD 30, Jerusalem) conscript a certain person going past, Simon a Cyrenian, coming from the countryside, the father of Alexander and Rufus, so that he may raise his cross. And they carry him onto the Golgotha place (which is, translated, a Place of a Skull). 
Mark’s biography of Jesus was in circulation around AD 55. These named people would have been well known at the time of its release. Simon had to “raise his cross” for him; others had to “carry him” - it seems as though Jesus was already terribly weakened through mistreatment. 

“Golgotha”. This place-name is sufficiently notable for Mark to write the word in Aramaic and in Greek. A skull is the epitome of total death. He goes there – where all are dead - to give his life so the dead may live his life.

And they were giving him myrrh-mixed wine, but he did not take. And they crucify him and distribute his clothes, throwing a dice for them, who may raise what. 

“Myrrh-mixed wine” would have been a pain-killer. But this mixture of the bitterness of myrrh with the joy of wine may also hint at the bitterness of his death being part and parcel of his joy which would follow – life for others. 

In contrast with “Simon” who had to “raise his cross”, the gambling soldiers focus on “who may raise what.” Human beings (save one) compete to “raise” as much as they can from others. This one chose to die in such a way that he could not “raise” anything for himself – not even his own gallows. 

‘Do other men for they would do you. That’s the true business precept.’ (Charles Dickens, author, 1812-1870)

It was but the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of his cause of death was inscribed, “The King of the Jews.” 

Only 9 a.m. “when they crucified him”. Done and dusted asap by the authorities. Mark uses the noun “inscription” as well as the verb “to inscribe”. “The King of the Jews” was Jesus’ only offense. The key issue is whether this was (is) true or false. Was he or wasn’t he the King of the Jews? 

He said that that was true at his trial before the non-military authorities and at his trial before the Roman governor. He was executed because he was who he said he was. Is that why folk today want to have nothing to do with him? Because he is who he said he is?

And with him they crucify two robbers, one at right [things] and one at left [things] of his. 

Jesus is put to death along with two “robbers” – the word Mark uses describes those who pillage – rob others with open violence. Jesus must be a “robber”?

But Mark adds a strangely-worded statement about “right” and “left”. Both those words are neuter plural adjectives – hence my inclusion of “[things]” in both cases. The word Mark uses translated “left” is a euphemism which actually means of good name’. Mark is saying that Jesus, dying visibly among “robbers”, is really dying in the midst of right things and his good things. 

And (a) those passing by were blaspheming him, shaking their heads and stating, “Aha! The one dissolving the temple and house-building in three days! Save your own self, having come down from the cross!” And in the same way (b) the high priests with the scribes, mocking among themselves, stated, “He saved others; he is not able to save himself. The Christ! The King of Israel! Come down now from the cross so that we may see and believe!” And (c) those crucified with him were defaming him.

Mark records the views of the ordinary passers-by and of the leaders, whether religious or educated, and of the totally unworthy. All three groups reach similar conclusions. (a) The ordinaries mockingly tell him to save his own self (believing that he can’t) now that it is proved (to them) that he has no power. (b) The above-ordinaries mockingly tell him to come down (believing he can’t) thereby proving (to them) that he is not who he said he was. (c) The below-ordinaries merely vilify him (believing nothing can help them now, or later). 

‘The worst thing is not being wrong, but being sure one is not wrong.’ (Paul Tournier, Swiss physician, 1898-1986)
All three were wrong. (a) He can’t save his own self because others could not then be saved. (b) He can’t come down because, if he did, they would only believe in him by being forced to do so. And (c) they didn’t know that he was opening a way for them to be saved. For ever.
Sinner Syvret

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