Matthew 27:27-30; Mark 15:16-19
Then they saluted and taunted him, "Hail King of the Jews!" – Mark 15:18 NLT
Can it get any worse? Will the suffering ever stop? Will the ridicule ever cease? How much more will the Son of God have to endure at the hands of those whom He created? Wouldn't the torture of the cross be enough?
I can't help but ask these questions as I read through the ongoing account of Jesus treatment at the hands of the Roman guards. These pagan, war-hardened soldiers had no reason to show Jesus any respect. To them He was simply another in a long line of unfortunate souls whose lives would end hanging on a Roman cross. Jesus was just another Jew who had somehow gotten Himself in trouble with the Roman authorities and now it was up to them to see that he paid the ultimate price. But before Jesus died, these callous men were going to make sure that Jesus suffered humiliation and shame. He would prove to be a convenient outlet for their anger and hostility toward the Jews. And so they dressed Him in a purple robe and stuck a crown of thorns on His head. Then the entire regiment kneeled before Him in mock worship, calling out, "Hail! King of the Jews!" They struck him on the head with a reed stick, driving the thorns deeper into His flesh. They heaped sarcasm on Him, wondering how anyone could have ever mistaken this bloody, beaten Galilean as a king. But in time, even they ran out of steam. The fun was over and they took off the purple robe and replaced it with Jesus' own clothes.
Don't let the significance of this event escape you. This was the Son of God, the creator of the universe, being mocked, slapped, beaten, and humiliated by His own creation. At any moment He could have taken matters into His own hands and dealt with them just as they deserved. He could have called down angels from heaven and complete wiped out the entire regiment in a matter of seconds. But instead, He stood silent and willingly took all that they had to offer. He never complained. He never begged for mercy. He never asked His Father to bring it all to an end. Because He knew this was part of the plan. What these men did simply revealed the sinful state of mankind. The very fact that the Jewish religious leaders were demanding His death gives us a glimpse of just how bad things had become. The world was in desperate need of a Savior. Even the people of God were in need of help from the very one whom they claimed to worship and adore. God was sending His Son to die for the sins of men – the very kinds of sins that were bringing about Jesus pain and suffering. God the Father watched as His own Son bore the shame and humiliation that was meant for those slapping His face and mocking His holiness. Little did they know that they were slapping the face of God. They were ridiculing their Maker. They were shaming their Savior. Their very actions not only condemn them, but reveal their need for Him. It was for their callous, hardened hearts that Jesus came. He was going to die so that they might have access to new hearts and new spirits. His death would pave the way for men to have renewed natures – something that up until that time was impossible for men to ever achieve.
I can't help but fast-forward and think of the change in some of the Roman guards when Jesus died. Matthew tells us, "The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, ‘This man truly was the Son of God!’" (Matthew 27:54 NLT). Oh, how time can change things. They had watched the entire chain of events unfold and their perspective of Jesus would change radically. Even these tough, sinful Roman guards would be impacted by the death of Jesus. We're not told what happened to them, but we can venture to say that their lives would never be the same because of what they witnessed that day. Jesus' death was meant to be life-changing and earth-shattering. The world would never be the same once this day had passed. Yes, men would still be evil and sin-prone. Hatred would still fill the earth. They would still reject God and refuse the offer of His Son. But with the death and resurrection of Jesus, there was now a way to be made right with God and receive a radically new nature that was Spirit-empowered, not sin-prone.
Thank You, Father, for sending Your Son. Thank You, Jesus, for enduring all that You did so that I might have a completely new nature. You did for me what I could have never done for myself. You accomplished what no man who has ever lived could have done. You satisfied the righteous wrath of a holy God and paved the way for us to be restored with Him because of what You have done – in spite of all that we have done. Amen.