Feb 12 2013 - Matthew 27:15-31 – They … mocked him
Pilate recognised that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death and did all that he could to release Jesus. He offered to release either Barabbas, a violent brigand, or Jesus, the one who had healed the sick and had compassion on the crowds. To him it seemed a no-brainer; it was obvious whom they would choose. But Pilate’s plan backfired. The crowds, stirred up by nationalistic fervour and egged on by the Jewish leaders, called for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified. Pilate, desperate to avoid a riot, acceded to the demands of the mob. He had Jesus flogged before having him led away.
Now the Roman soldiers had Jesus to themselves for a while – this man who claimed to be King of the Jews. And so Jesus becomes the focus of all their hatred of this perverse nation. Most of the soldiers are probably far from home and family. They have been serving their time in a nation which, generally speaking, looked upon them with hatred and longed to be rid of them. They had probably had stones thrown at them in the street and had been in fear of being stabbed in the back by the Sicarii, the extreme Zealots intent on cleansing the holy land of the Roman infidels. All of their frustration and anger against this godless nation was now directed against Jesus. It did not matter to them that he had been rejected by his own people; he claimed to be their king, their representative. So they would make him stand before them as the king of this despised people and all their hatred for this nation would be poured out against him.
The soldiers dressed Jesus up in the mock regalia of a king. They made a mock crown out of thorn twigs and pressed it down upon his head. They placed a rod of some sort in his hand in mock imitation of a sceptre. Then they made cruel fun of him, spitting upon him and striking him on the head, forcing the thorns more deeply into his flesh. During all of this, Jesus remained silent. At last, having satisfied their malice, they removed the royal regalia and, dressing him again in his own clothes, they led him away to be crucified.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain...
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:3a, 7)
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured all of this "for the joy set before him" (Hebrews 12:2). This joy was not simply the prospect of returning to the Father – he could have done that by summoning the twelve legions of angels we spoke of two days ago. The joy set before him was that of accomplishing the salvation of his people – the joy of bringing many brothers and sisters to glory. It was for the sake of this joy that, "he endured the cross, scorning its shame".
He was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
Father God, help me to understand more of what Jesus, the Lord of glory, endured for me that I might share his glory. Help me to find all my joy in following him and helping others to recognise something of who Jesus really is. By your Spirit, use me to bring many others to glory.