The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spat on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. Mark 15:16-20 (NIV)
When you read the account of the soldiers’ treatment of Jesus, how does it make you feel? Are you horrified by the fact that they could treat an innocent man so badly? There must have been physical pain. The soldiers put a crown of thorns on his head and they hit him with a staff. Being fully human, Jesus would have felt this pain in exactly the same way as we do. However, there is a deeper pain that Jesus, being fully divine, must also have felt. We are told that the soldiers paid ‘homage’ to him and ‘mocked’ him. Jesus was capable of defending himself in the strongest terms possible, yet he chose not to. The soldiers didn’t know who they were being abusive to. They saw only the human, not the divine.
Paul writing to the Philippians tells us why Jesus chose not to defend himself and why he was willing to face the abuse and to be crucified:
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:8-11 (NIV)
Even those Roman soldiers, who mockingly knelt before Jesus, will one day have to acknowledge that Jesus is indeed the Christ. Of course, one soldier did finally see the truth:
And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ Mark 15:39 (NIV)
We don’t know if this centurion was one of those who mocked and abused Jesus prior to his crucifixion, but it is possible.
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