Reading: Mark 15:16-20
It’s so early in the morning, so early that all those awake consider it late at night. Jesus has been arrested by his enemies and abandoned by his friends. He’s been convicted by his opponents and condemned to execution when the sun comes up. His official flogging finished, and his sentence sealed, we might expect to find Jesus quietly thinking and praying in a cell, a scene most of us can conjure from a movie or a book. But Jesus, robbed of his friends, his freedom, his respect, who would, in a few hours, be stripped of his very life, is denied even this quiet moment to prepare himself for the cross.
Having scourged Jesus, Pilate delivered him to be crucified. But the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion.
Even those who were off duty, who’d taken off their uniforms and settled down for the night, were ready to get back up for a little fun with a prisoner. He’d die tomorrow and was already bruised and bloody from the official torture. The soldiers had carte blanche to release the momentum of testosterone, boredom, and spite.
And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
Of course, the cruelest pushed to the center of the mob. The volume could only be raised, and the meanest man out of 600 kept raising the bar. Every time a roar of laughter erupted from the front, the back of the crowd strained to see the spectacle.
And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him.
But, eventually, their victim was scheduled to be crucified, so the commander and his lieutenants moved through the crowd, dispersing the recreational torturers. Tired and hung over, the soldiers gathered up their props and went back to their business. A squad prepared to move the prisoner.
And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
And so, without a private moment, the band travelled out to the execution ground, and Jesus’ terrible twelve hours marched on.
During Lent, what should Jesus’ disciples make of this tragic paragraph? Should we consider how we, like Jesus, should endure mockery and suffering? Should we ponder the depth of Jesus’ love for us, to endure such mockery and suffering on the way to atone for our sins? We may be called upon to do the former—to suffer in a godly way—but we cannot do so without the power of the latter—recognizing the Jesus’ unparalleled love for us.
When we reflect on how much Jesus endured for us, we start to realize how deeply he loves us. When we realize how deeply Jesus loves us, it changes the way we think about God. When we realize how deeply Jesus loves us, it changes the way we think about ourselves. When we realize how deeply Jesus loves us, we are freed to approach life and treat others in new, Christ-like ways. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Jesus’ love before, or realized it, even preached it, but this is not an item to be crossed off a list. We must remember Jesus’ love, realizing it over and over again. As Christians, we don’t spiritually grow out of “Jesus loves me.” Rather, we go back and back to God’s Word and re-read The Last Week, to re-watch these heart-rending scenes, to remember and realize again, “Jesus loves me.”
By Alex Kato