Soldiers Make Fun of Jesus
(Matthew 27.27-30; John 19.2,3)
16The soldiers led Jesus inside the courtyard of the fortress and called together the rest of the troops. 17They put a purple robe on him, and on his head they placed a crown they had made out of thorn branches. 18They made fun of Jesus and shouted, “Hey, you king of the Jews!” 19Then they beat him on the head with a stick. They spit on him and knelt down and pretended to worship him.
20When the soldiers had finished making fun of Jesus, they took off the purple robe. They put his own clothes back on him and led him off to be nailed to a cross. 21 Simon from Cyrene happened to be coming in from a farm, and they forced him to carry Jesus' cross. Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.
Jesus Is Nailed to a Cross
(Matthew 27.31-44; Luke 23.27-43; John 19.17-27)
22The soldiers took Jesus to Golgotha, which means “Place of a Skull.” 23There they gave him some wine mixed with a drug to ease the pain, but he refused to drink it.
24 They nailed Jesus to a cross and gambled to see who would get his clothes. 25It was about nine o'clock in the morning when they nailed him to the cross. 26On it was a sign that told why he was nailed there. It read, “This is the King of the Jews.” 27-28 The soldiers also nailed two criminals on crosses, one to the right of Jesus and the other to his left.
29 People who passed by said terrible things about Jesus. They shook their heads and shouted, “Ha! So you're the one who claimed you could tear down the temple and build it again in three days. 30Save yourself and come down from the cross!”
31The chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses also made fun of Jesus. They said to each other, “He saved others, but he can't save himself. 32If he is the Messiah, the king of Israel, let him come down from the cross! Then we will see and believe.” The two criminals also said cruel things to Jesus.
By the time Christ reached the cross, local authorities despised him. His friends had deserted him. Previously adoring crowds rejected him. Soldiers played dress-up with him, brutalized him, then knelt at his feet in mock worship. Even the louts hanging on the neighbouring crosses ridiculed him. As if that weren’t enough, Mark notes that, “People walking by insulted him (v 29).” That last bit brings me to a full stop.
“People walking by . . .” Clearly, they saw Christ. But other than hurling insults, they refused to pause long enough to consider deeply his story, the weight of his life and its meaning. They had somewhere to go, something to do, someone to meet, perhaps. And what a choice tale to report: that the once-popular rabbi had finally been dealt with, once and for all.
Surely, that act of “walking by” was as clear a rejection as their deliberate insults.
How ironic. Because if anything characterizes our Saviour, it is his consistent refusal to “walk by.” As the Human One, Jesus stopped at (to mention just a few) the blind, the lepers, the hungry, the dead, the despised, the set-up, the child, the women, the misled and the ill.
As the Sacrificial Lamb, he refused to bypass his own crucifixion.
As the Resurrected One, he still refuses to “walk by.” Instead he stands by. Forgives, redeems, embraces, strengthens and equips – and so much more.
And as the soon-to-be Returning One, he will not pass by our needy, rotting world. Instead, he can be trusted to keep his promise of eternal grace to the redeemed and eternal justice to those who refused that grace.
You there. Walking by. Stop at the cross. See him. Know him: Son of God, High King of Heaven, who died for one and all, in order that the tyrant’s grip on tiny earth could be dealt with, once and for all.
Father, this is me. At least, I want it to be me. Fully stopped. Unable to pass by your brokenness. Break my heart, Lord, with the things that break yours. Oh, Jesus, keep me near the cross.