Mark and Time

And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him…And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”..And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. (Mark 15:24-25; 33–34; 37 ESV)

Mark is very careful to mark the times associated with Jesus’ crucifixion, this is so obvious that he must have noted the times because he was trying to tell us something, but what?  Does it matter that Jesus died at the ninth hour?

The crucifixion of Jesus took place during the Passover, the time every year when the Jews remembered the miraculous deliverance from the clutches of the wicked Pharaoh. God had instructed the Israelites to slaughter an unblemished lamb and take a brush and dip it in the blood of the lamb and then spread that blood on each side and the top of the door leading into their dwelling.  God’s angel would see the blood on the doorposts and pass over that dwelling and not kill any first born in the house. (Ex. 12)

Because the Passover day started at sunset, the lamb had to be slaughtered before sunset to ensure that the Jews followed the instructions given by God in the Torah not to do any work on the Sabbath.  The lamb was generally slain around the ninth hour (3 pm) so that all work surrounding preparing the lamb could be completed before sunset.

Think back to what John the Baptist says about Jesus in the book of John: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV)

Mark is very careful noting the times associated with Jesus’ crucifixion because Jesus was the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He was killed at 3 pm because that is when the lamb was slaughtered, the lamb that would save the lives of all the Israelites, indeed of all the world, or as John puts it: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16–17 ESV)

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