“They call him their king,” one of the soldiers sneered.
“Him? You’ve got to be kidding?” But he wasn’t. They handed this "king" over to the other soldiers. As they moved Jesus around, his feet shuffled weakly on the stone pavement. Jesus’ body stiffened in pain. He had just endured a flogging at the hands of a Roman soldier and his back was covered in fresh wounds.
We would maybe like to ask these Roman soldiers why they thought it necessary to flog Jesus within an inch of his life. But they haven’t finished with him yet.
We’re glad the writers of the gospels didn’t spend too much time on the details of this group beating. What they do share is enough: Jesus stripped to his undergarments and a scarlet or faded purple robe draped over him. They thought it was pretty funny that this so-called king was standing before them. He was nothing to them. He was a toy. And now they would show him what it meant to oppose Rome. No king would ever defy them, especially a king who wasn’t even supported by his own people. Remember, the people—the Jews themselves—had brought Jesus before Pontius Pilate. The people were the ones who demanded that Jesus be executed. And he claimed to be their king? The irony was too irresistible for these cruel soldiers. And they added mocking to their assault upon Jesus.
A king needs his crown, they thought. So they quickly found a thorn bush nearby and fashioned a circle of pointed thorns. They placed it on his head and gave him a staff to complete the picture. There was the king: feeble, bloodied, hardly able to stand, a faded robe and a stick for a scepter. Each soldier took his turn kneeling in front of him, “Hail! King of the Jews!” Then getting up each one would spit in Jesus’ face, take the stick from his weak hand and hit him over the head driving the thorns deeper.
Why? Why was this necessary? Why did these soldiers have to treat Jesus this way? It doesn’t seem right. It isn’t right. The governor of Rome had just declared Jesus innocent of all charges. He could find no basis to have Jesus executed. So why hand him over to these cruel soldiers? Why let him suffer needlessly? We look at how the soldiers beat him and we stand open-mouthed, and perhaps even shaking with anger. And we are greatly saddened by what we see.
If only those soldiers would have realized the irony when they knelt down in front of Jesus. If only they would have seen the truth of what they were saying. This was the king. But not just the king of the Jews, he is the king of human kind. Christ is the king who demonstrated his commitment to you by doing what was necessary to save you. Christ is not the kind of king this world expects. His power is made perfect in weakness. I mean, look at him standing here. Is this the kind of power the world expects? Is this even the kind of king you and I hope for? Not by our human standards. We see Christ here and we do not think of a victorious king. We often see what the world sees: a beaten king, a king who tried, but failed. But that is the great mystery! For in apparent weakness, there is strength. God shows us that our ways are not his ways. He will destroy sin by destroying its power. What is it that gives sin power? It is death. That was the curse God pronounced to Adam and Eve. “If you eat of this fruit, if you sin, you will surely die.” But what has our king done? He has faced death head on. He did what a true king would do: he took the fight to the enemy. He endured death. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him. Your king endured that punishment and won! Not by the standards of this world. But according to his love. His kingly love.
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