By His Wounds we are Healed:
Broken Back - Broken Promises

Mark 14:66-15:15, 34

(c) Copyright 2005 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Mark 14 - 15

Peter Disowns Jesus
66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
71 He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Jesus Before Pilate
15 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
6 Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.
14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Tim and Misty, Marc and Michael, today you have made promises to God and to us. We as a congregation and God expect your lives to be built around the promises you make today. We expect your behaviours, your relationships, your child rearing to be shaped by the commitments you have made today. Promises given and kept have the quality of giving structure to our lives. They are foundational to our everyday existence. Let me expand on that.

We get up every morning on the promise that the sun has arisen or will arise with us. What would life be without the sun? We brush our teeth on the promise that it will keep our pearls white and healthy. We have a shower on the promise that people will be more accepting of us if we don’t smell like yesterday. We dress ourselves according to what the day promises - cold weather or warm weather, wet or dry. We eat our breakfast on the promise that the food is good for us and will give us energy for the work we have to do. And so on and so on. Every day we lived is based on the promises we bank on. Now as I list some of these, and you can think of many others, you might say:  "Well, pastor Bill, those are not really promises, those are in fact expectations. We expect the sun to rise. We expect healthy teeth from brushing, we expect others to accept us if we do not smell like yesterday." The truth though is, expectations are simply the non relational term for promises. If we regard ourselves as having a relationship with this creation, so many of the things that we assume, expect of creation are actually un-verbalized promises that we have come to learn.

Let me actually go a step further. We have hope for the future on the promise that there will be progress. We have confidence in life on the anticipation of the Lord’s blessing. We have hope, even in the valley of the shadow because we bank on the promises that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God. Our life, our existence, our continued journey in faith is built on the structure of promises. To have any of these promises broken, these expectations broken, is for the structure, the backbone of our life fall apart.

Jesus back was deeply wounded. Promises, like the human back, are the structure on which life is supported. Jesus back was deeply wounded by the flogging he received. When Simon the Cyrene took over the cross because Jesus was no longer able to carry it, the simple reason was that Jesus back no longer had the structure and strength to do that basic task because he had been flogged.

Lee Strobel, interviewed Dr. Alexander Metherell, M.D. Ph D to find out what flogging entailed. This interview taken from the book “The Case for Christ.” p. 261 quoted at length

Lee: “Tell me,” I said, “what was the flogging like?”
Metherell’s eyes never left me. “Roman floggings were known to be terribly brutal. They usually consisted of thirty-nine lashes but frequently were a lot more than that, depending on the mood of the soldier applying the blows.
“The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely.
“The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs. It was just terrible.”
Metherell paused. “Go on,” I said.
“One physician who has studied Roman beatings said, ‘As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh.’ A third-century historian by the name of Eusebius described a flogging by saying, ‘The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.’
“We know that many people would die from this kind of beating even before they could be crucified. At the least, the victim would experience tremendous pain and go into hypovolemic shock.”

A person who was flogged would have the very back muscles that support the structure of his body shredded. His body, his life would fall apart. Its fitting that the church has focused here on the broken promises.  Jesus wounded back symbolized the broken promises he experienced.

Let me list just some of the broken promises he experienced.

First and obviously, right from this passage is Peter,  who said with all the determination and conviction his character could muster that he would follow Jesus all the way to the death. The immediate verses before Jesus flogging in front of Pilate tells us that Peter denied a third time. Jesus had received from Peter promises that now were broken. And the rooster crowed...

There was the betrayed promises of those who were appointed to work justice.  The Sanhedrin, the High Priest and Pilate were each given authority by God to work justice.  Each denied the promises of justice in their own right.

But the real back breaking structure destroying promise broken in this passage is hard for us to grasp. As we see it, as we hear it, our minds want to retaliate against the scriptures for this broken promise cannot be. It violates our understanding of who God is. It violates our understanding of what a Father called "good" could do.

The message of scripture was clear. God’s favour rested upon the obedient ones, the ones who did his will. God’s promise to them is that he would be with them. Scriptures in dozens of places said it, remind us of it, so much so that the saints throughout history, Old Testament and New, have structured their lives and banked their hopes on it.

Listen to the claim of the Psalmist - these words were regarded by all Jews as true for themselves because God, who is good, is faithful to his promises.

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

Psalm 27
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.

That God would be with the obedient, that was clear in Jesus life also.  When he obeyed the leading of the Spirit of the Lord and was baptized by John in the Jordan, a voice came from heaven that said “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”

When he went up the mountain in the transfiguration to dialogue with Moses and Elijah, a voice came from heaven that said “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”  Clearly, God would be with his obedient son. This was Jesus expectation too. Notice the words of John 16:31  “You believe at last!” Jesus answered. 32 “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. "  Like us, Jesus expected promises broken from people, but never his Father.

Yet to the shock of faith, Jesus words on the cross tell us of promises broken, the shock of the unfathomable.

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”
—which means,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Why did the Father forsake his own obedient son? What kind of love is this, or can we call it love at all?

Yes, we can call it love, the love of God who so loved us that he was willing to absorb all to restart his relationship with us.

Think of this for just a minute. All of us have had relationships that are difficult. All of us have had relationships in which expectations which had the weight of promise were broken. All of us know the wounds that those relationships leave in our hearts. And sometimes, especially in committed relationships, the relationship needs a restart on a new footing, but the only way to do that is to absorb the pain of promises not kept, and start the building of relationship all over.

That is what God did in Christ. For every one of our sins, for every promise to God we have not kept, for every wound of disobedience, Christ died, his back was broken. And as Christ became sin for us, God left him alone to die. But as Paul writes God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus absorbed the pain of broken relationship by taking all our sins upon the tree. He died cursed and abandoned, the very structure of his existence broken by all the expectations abandoned and promises not kept. He did it so that our relationship with God could have a restart, a new beginning, a new covenant secured by his blood, his death.

He was abandoned as sin, so that we might never be abandoned as sinners. He bore the weight of promises broken so that we might never have to be crushed by his promises broken. Now, No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

He was forsaken by his Father so that we could have a fresh start with our Father in heaven, never to be forsaken again. Paul writes

18 “I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters, says the
Lord Almighty.”
7 Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Prayer - a new covenant - a new relationship, a new start with you - in which we discover our healing - you remain flawless faithful to us.
13 if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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