Summary: People dismiss Jesus today for the same reasons the soldiers dismissed Him on that first Easter weekend.
I wonder what Jesus thought when He looked down at His bloody feet nailed to the cross. By then His vision would have been blurred, not just from the excruciating pain, but from the blood and sweat that He was powerless to wipe away from His eyes.
In that painful, lonely, and desperate moment of His life as He hung on the cross for those six hours that Friday, what did He see? What did He hear? What did Jesus experience that first Easter?
What He witnessed was a number of people around the cross, who, whether they knew it or not, were answering life’s most important question. There were a number of different responses. We often still choose these responses today as we each answer what is still life’s most important question - What will you do with Jesus?
Perhaps the first people Jesus saw were the soldiers who nailed Him to the cross. And do you know what He saw them doing? Playing games! The soldiers were huddled in a circle. They weren’t concerned with what was happening on the cross above them . . . He was just another criminal, just another Jewish rebel. And so they gambled for some used clothes worn by a carpenter who claimed to be King.
The most significant event in human history was taking place and they are completely oblivious to it. The Son of God is dying on the cross above them and they’re playing games. Somehow they completely missed the one thing that had the power to change everything.
They quickly dismissed Jesus on the cross.
The reasons that the Roman soldiers were so quick to dismiss Jesus are the same reasons many people dismiss Him today.
1. They had seen all this before.
There’s a kind of “Law of Familiarity” in life that states, “No matter how valuable, given enough time, everything will be taken for granted.” That was true for the soldiers when it came to carrying out a crucifixion. Death by crucifixion was common in the first century.
In his book Crucifixion, Martin Hengel reports that during Titus’s siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD, up to five hundred people a day were whipped, tortured, and crucified outside the walls of the city in hopes that the gruesome sight would move the people inside the city to surrender. Five hundred people a day!
About the time when Jesus would have been a teenager there was a Jewish rebellion that was crushed by the Romans. To assure that it didn’t happen again; they crucified an Israelite every ten meters along a road for a distance of sixteen kilometers. Over 1,600 people were crucified in a stretch of about ten miles.
So these soldiers had probably performed so many crucifixions that it was methodical for them. It was a nasty business but it was their job, and they probably had become accustomed to it. It was just another day at work. They had heard the screams. They had heard the pitiful pleas for mercy. They knew what to expect. In a matter of time the man’s breathing would become more spasmodic and life would ebb away, and then they could go home and eat supper.
For many here today, the story of Jesus has become quite familiar. And perhaps you’ve discovered that familiarity breeds indifference. Maybe you grew up in the church and you sang “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” so many times that you can sing it now, without even paying attention to the words. Familiarity doesn’t always bring intimacy. Sometimes it can bring indifference.
But my prayer is that you will be enabled to look at the cross of Christ in such a way that you will be drawn to Him afresh, or for the very first time. My prayer is that as we consider that very first Easter, you will discover intimacy with God.
2. They were turned off by God’s people.
The Romans and the Jews hated each other. The Romans hated being stationed in Palestine. There was constant fighting among the Jews. It was kind of like how many Americans think about the Middle East. The people can’t get along, so we have to send our troops to try and make peace. The Romans couldn’t stand the Jews and the feeling was mutual. The Jews were a proud, independent people who didn’t like being under Roman oppression.
Chances are that because of how they felt toward the Jews, the soldiers relished the opportunity to torture and crucify a Jewish carpenter. They were so negative toward the people of God, they didn’t recognize their Savior dying for their sins.
Maybe you’ve dismissed Jesus because you’re angry toward those who claim to be His followers. Maybe the church has left such a bad taste in your mouth that you won’t taste and see that the Lord is good.