Soldiers make fun of Jesus
27The governor's soldiers led Jesus into the fortress and brought together the rest of the troops.28They stripped off Jesus' clothes and put a scarlet robe on him.29They made a crown out of thorn branches and placed it on his head, and they put a stick in his right hand. The soldiers knelt down and pretended to worship him. They made fun of him and shouted, “Hey, you king of the Jews!”30Then they spat on him. They took the stick from him and beat him on the head with it.
Jesus is nailed to a cross
31When the soldiers had finished making fun of Jesus, they took off the robe. They put his own clothes back on him and led him off to be nailed to a cross.32On the way they met a man from Cyrene named Simon, and they forced him to carry Jesus' cross.
33They came to a place named Golgotha, which means “Place of a Skull”.34There they gave Jesus some wine mixed with a drug to ease the pain. But when Jesus tasted what it was, he refused to drink it.
35The soldiers nailed Jesus to a cross and gambled to see who would get his clothes.36Then they sat down to guard him.37Above his head they put a sign that told why he was nailed there. It read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”38The soldiers also nailed two criminals on crosses, one to the right of Jesus and the other to his left.
39People who passed by said terrible things about Jesus. They shook their heads and40shouted, “So you're the one who claimed you could tear down the temple and build it again in three days! If you are God's Son, save yourself and come down from the cross!”
41The chief priests, the leaders, and the teachers of the Law of Moses also made fun of Jesus. They said,42“He saved others, but he can't save himself. If he is the king of Israel, he should come down from the cross! Then we will believe him.43He trusted God, so let God save him, if he wants to. He even said he was God's Son.”44The two criminals also said cruel things to Jesus.
The death of Jesus
45At midday the sky turned dark and stayed that way until three o'clock.46Then about that time Jesus shouted, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?”
47Some of the people standing there heard Jesus and said, “He's calling for Elijah.”48One of them at once ran and grabbed a sponge. He soaked it in wine, then put it on a stick and held it up to Jesus.
49Others said, “Wait! Let's see if Elijah will come and save him.”50Once again Jesus shouted, and then he died.
51At once the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, and rocks split apart.52Graves opened, and many of God's people were raised to life.53Then after Jesus had risen to life, they came out of their graves and went into the holy city, where they were seen by many people.
54The officer and the soldiers guarding Jesus felt the earthquake and saw everything else that happened. They were frightened and said, “This man really was God's Son!”
In the memoirs of Pierre Van Paasen there’s a story about Nazi storm troopers who seized an elderly Jewish rabbi and dragged him to headquarters, to a room where another Jew was being beaten to death. Then, stripped naked, he was ordered to preach the sermon he’d prepared for the Sabbath. The rabbi asked for his yarmulke, and the Nazis, grinning, agreed. Poked and prodded by his captors, the trembling rabbi delivered, to the cries of his dying neighbor, a sermon on humility.
Christ’s imprisonment, torture and execution remind me of the old rabbi in Gestapo headquarters. Both were victims of religious thuggery, political jockeying, and military bullying. Both were casualties of the wickedness that stalks this world.
Christ’s death is the tragedy at the heart of the Christian faith. He was stripped naked, flogged, spat on, struck in the face, garlanded with thorns, mocked and nailed to a cross. It’s an appalling story of man’s inhumanity to man. Yet remarkably, while Christ was a victim, he was a willing victim. In accordance with the Father’s will he subjected himself to a mockery of a trial, a brutal beating at the hands of Pilate’s and Herod’s guards, the jeers and catcalls of onlookers, and the steel spikes driven through his wrists and ankles. Amazingly, because it was completely in his power to resist, Christ surrendered himself to the agony and ignominy of the cross.
While Christ’s crucifixion was a tragedy, it wasn’t a catastrophe. His death enacted God’s plan to reconcile the world to himself (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19). The people at the foot of the cross didn’t know the rest of the story, but we do. Christ, the once for all sacrifice for our sin, endured the suffering of the cross to restore our relationship with God.
Jesus Christ, You are the Word of God, the life and light of the world. Remarkably, on that dark Friday more than two thousand years ago, you demonstrated extraordinary restraint – allowing your creation to crucify their Creator! With every lash of the whip and every fibrous crunch of fist against flesh, you could have called a halt. With one word you could have brought the ordeal to an end. But you didn’t and you wouldn’t because you chose to endure the agony and ignominy of the cross so that I might know you! Amen.