Each Gospel mentions a handful of people at the cross. Luke is the most general in mentioning “all His [i.e., Jesus’] acquaintances and the women who had followed Him from Galilee” (Luke 23:49). Matthew and Mark mention many women as well (Matt 27:55; Mark 15:40).
As for Luke’s acquaintances, the individuals who were present and are easy to identify were Mary Magdalene (Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25), Mary the mother of James and Joseph (Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40), Mary the mother of Jesus (John 19:25), and John (John 19:26; “the disciple whom He loved”).
Other individuals that are not so easy to identify are those who may be mentioned by different names in different Gospels. These names or designations are the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matt 27:56), Salome (Mark 15:40), Jesus’ mother’s sister (John 19:25), and Mary the wife of Clopas (John 19:25). The identity of all the above may hinge somewhat on whether the grammar of John 19:25 identifies one or two women in the phrase “his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas.”
From that phrase, if there are two women (Jesus’ mother’s sister and Mary the wife of Clopas), then it is possible that Jesus’ mother’s sister is Salome and the mother of the sons of Zebedee, which would mean that James and John were Jesus’ cousins.
If there is one woman (Jesus’ mother’s sister who is Mary the wife of Clopas), then it is possible that Salome is still the mother of the sons of Zebedee but not the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus, which would mean that James and John were not Jesus’ cousins.
The grammar of John 19:25 seems to indicate that Jesus’ mother’s sister is the same as Mary the wife of Clopas in that the word “and” precedes and follows “his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas” but does not lie between “sister” and “Mary,” which would indicate two different women. This conclusion would mean that James and John were not Jesus’ cousins.
To be precise, one man and six to eight women at the cross are identified as witnesses to the crucifixion of Christ. Many other women were mentioned as well. May we follow their example and stay close to Christ even when we share in the worst of His sufferings.
Each gospel records one instance in which Jesus was beaten just before His crucifixion, but it seems that a comparison of these accounts indicates that Jesus was beaten more than once. In trying to sort out the details, it is helpful to remember that a beating by the Romans could vary in intensity, and three Latin terms for their beatings show that one beating could be worse than the other.
First, a fustigatio was the least intense of these beatings for criminal but lesser offenses. Pilate’s suggestion to “punish” (paideuō) Jesus (Luke 23:16, 22) and his having Jesus “flogged” (mastigoō) in John 19:1 both refer to this type of punishment. Second, a flagellatio was “a brutal flogging administered to criminals whose offenses were more serious.”1 Third, a verberatio was the worst of the beatings, a punishment given to those who had been sentenced to death. It was sometimes so severe that this beating itself could bring about death.
Along with noting the differences in these beatings, it is helpful to point out the timing of Jesus’ beatings. John 19:1 records a beating of Jesus before His being sent for crucifixion in John 19:16. Matthew 27:26 and Mark 15:15 record a beating that took at the time when He was sentenced in those same, parallel verses.
Putting the above data together in chronological order, we see that Pilate first said he would “punish” (paideuō) Jesus (Luke 23:16, 22). Pilate then made good on this promise and “flogged” (mastigoō) Jesus in John 19:1. Finally, when this fustigatio did not bring about the pity and release for which Pilate hoped, Jesus was sentenced to death and suffered the dreaded verberatio when “scourged” (phragelloō) in Matthew 27:26 and Mark 15:15. Then He went to the cross.
Having been tried by the Jewish leadership throughout the night before and then having experienced afustigatio and then verberatio, it is no surprise that Jesus was unable to carry the crossbeam for His own cross (Matt 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26) and that He died within six hours on the cross (Mark 15:25, 34, 37). The average time suffering on a cross was 36 hours.2
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5).
Lord willing, we will close our walk through the book of Mark this coming May. What a joy it has been to better understand the Gospel and that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Our next series will be a six-part series called “The BASICS,” which will involve preaching through one or a small number of passages of Scripture each Sunday to uphold what we believe to be a biblical understanding of a theology and methodology of the church. As we expect to have a handful of new members by that time, it will be helpful for us as a church to review a number of truths concerning what it means to be and function as the church.
As you may remember from days gone by, the word “BASICS” is an acronym that is simply one way to review a cluster of truths about God’s Word concerning the church:
B Bible – The Bible gives us the truth for the foundation for our faith and ministry and regulates all that we do.
A Adoration – We are to adore and worship God as He commands.
S Shepherd – We shepherd and disciple one another in corporate, group, and personal settings as God has gifted us.
I Intercede – We must be devoted to intercession and prayer.
C Care – We lovingly serve and care for one another as needs arise and as God has burdened and gifted us.
S Share – We are to make disciples by sharing and teaching the gospel.
After our BASICS series, we will begin a new book series in 1 John and go passage-by-passage through the book. The basic point of the book is summarized in 1 John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”
May God give our church grace as we review a biblical methodology for our ministry as a church, and may He bless our study of 1 John in the days ahead. Until then, may we see Christ in all His glory in His death and resurrection in the end of the book of Mark.
HGG 058 - Praise Ye the Lord
HGG 003 - Holy, Holy, Holy
HGG 130 - Beneath the Cross of Jesus
HGG 150 - ’Tis the Christ
HGG 267 - There Is a Fountain
HGG 004 - Praise Ye, Jehovah
HGG 352 - Like a River Glorious
HGG 248 - Grace Greater Than Our Sin
Booklet 46 - I Plead for Grace (Psalm 51)
HGG 052 - Crown Him with Many Crowns
HGG 073 - Holy Saviour, We Adore Thee
HGG 070 - O for a Heart to Praise My God
Booklet 44 - God is Our Strength and Refuge (Psalm 46)
HGG 011 - All Glory, Laud, and Honor
HGG 451 - O Thou in Whose Presence
HGG 593 - O for a Faith That Will Endure
Booklet 42 - How Awesome Is Your Name (Psalm 8)
Three labels describe how churches practice communion with respect to who participates or not: unrestricted, restricted, and strict. We know them more commonly as open, closed, and close.
Unrestricted or open communion allows anyone who professes belief to participate in a church’s communion. It is unrestricted and thus open to all who profess Christ. We have three interrelated objections to this view.
First, if no restrictions are given, then baptism is downplayed because it not necessary to this communion. No one knows whether or not a given participant may or may not have been affirmed in his or her salvation (which is pledged in baptism – cf. 1 Peter 3:21) by the host church or some other church. Second, if no restrictions are given, then church membership is downplayed as well. Opening communion to someone who is not baptized and thus not confirmed by other believers in their salvation functionally says that the affirmation of other believers is not important to one’s salvation. Open communion thus devalues the notion of formal unity in a local church. Third, unrestricted communion downplays the role of church discipline. If a participant’s baptism and thus the affirmation of salvation by other believers are not necessary for communion, then the continued role of other believers in keeping the participant accountable for godliness is not necessary either. Were a participant to be living in persistent, open sin, the unity expressed in open communion (1 Cor 10:16–17) would be false, since persistent, open sin requires a church to exclude the individual from its fellowship since such a one is no believer at all (e.g., Matt 18:15–18; 1 Cor 5:1–11) or, at best, a sinning brother who has forfeited his right to fellowship in general and thus communion in particular (2 Thess 3:6, 14–15).
Restricted or closed communion allows only members of the presiding church to participate in communion. While this practice theoretically guarantees the purity of the ordinance, the NT suggests a better option is strict or close communion, which allows for a church to open communion beyond its own membership to other Christians who are members of a church of like faith and practice. We see this option in the practice of Paul who was mostly accountable to Antioch (cf. Acts 13:1–3; 14:26–28) and yet participated in communion at Troas (Acts 20:7, 11) and Corinth (1 Cor 11:23) and likely all the churches he visited.
Stated in brief, close communion assumes baptism, which assumes a profession of Christ and the confirmation of that profession by a church who administered that baptism. This church would then be responsible for ongoing accountability, which assumes church membership and even church discipline if necessary. A proper observation of communion through strict or close communion carries with it the safeguarding of these important features of our theology of the church.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.