Summary: This morning we come to the cross itself. We’re going to look at four points: His suffering, His sacrifice, the supernatural events, and finally, the significance of it all.
A little boy was not exactly happy about going to church on Easter Sunday morning. His new shoes hurt, his tie pinched his neck, and the weather outside was just too good to be cooped up inside. As he sulked in the back seat of the family car, he complained to his parents: “I don’t see why we have to go to church on Easter anyway. They keep telling the same old story, and it always comes out the same in the end.”
During this series we’re focusing on what to many of us is the same old story, and yet, how can we ever get tired of it? This morning we come to the cross itself. We’re going to look at four points: His suffering, His sacrifice, the supernatural events, and finally, the significance of it all.
Last week we focused on Jesus’ trial before Pilate and the suffering that He experienced during the scourging. As we come to Matthew 27:27, we see that this was just the beginning. By the way, I heard something this week that really jolted me. Many who have seen The Passion of the Christ have commented that they could barely watch what was done to Jesus. I understand. Listen to what this individual said: “Whatever else you may think about the movie, remember this. It’s just a movie. What actually happened to Jesus was much, much worse.”
Follow along as I read Matthew 27:27-31: “Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”
Notice that the “whole company of soldiers” gathers around Jesus to make sport of Him. It’s hard to imagine but a “company” of soldiers generally contained six hundred men. We don’t know if they all took part in the mockery but we do know that their abuse of Him involved seven different elements.
They stripped Him. This was done once before when he was scourged. How it must have hurt to have his clothing ripped off since it opened the sores again!
They put a scarlet robe on Him. This was probably a discarded robe and was designed to mock His royalty.
They crowned Him. This crown of thorns was forced on his head, which both mocked and tortured Him. Interestingly, thorns and thistles are mentioned in Genesis 3:18 in connection with Adam’s sin. Jesus is about to reverse the curse by wearing the crown.
They gave Him a staff. This stick was to serve as His scepter.
They knelt before Him. They bowed before Jesus in mock adoration saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” John 19:3 indicates that they “kept marching up” to Him, showing that this lasted for quite some time as they each took turns.
They spat on Him. As each soldier got up from his knees, he spat into the face of love and forgiveness, the spittle mingling with the blood flowing down. Jesus was also spit upon during his religious trial before the Sanhedrin.
They hit Him. After spitting, they start hitting the Holy One with His staff. The Bible says that they struck Him on the head again and again. John 19:3 says that they not only hit Him with a stick but they also slapped Him with their hands. Jesus was also struck in the face during his religious trials.
When they were finally finished, they removed the robe and led him away to crucify Him. Verse 32 says that as they were going out, “they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Jesus started to carry His own cross but because of the scourging and the mistreatment at the hands of the other soldiers He was physically unable to carry the load on his own. Gibson captures this profoundly as Jesus walks and then falls several times under the weight of the wood. Someone sent me an email this week that opened my eyes to another aspect of His suffering that I hadn’t thought of before.
“The other day while I was cutting some drywall, I accidentally took off a small slice of skin off of my thumb. Even though this was a small wound, you would not believe how much this little injury hurt. Warm water and peroxide made me jump up and down and howl like a monkey (much to the delight of my son Ben). That got me to thinking about how much Jesus must have hurt after the scourging. In a vain attempt to understand what he went through, I tried to imagine the pain of this little cut expanded over my entire body. I don’t think the human mind can comprehend that type of pain because I couldn’t do it. Maybe an arm or half a leg, but not the entire body. During the Passion of Christ movie, Jesus fell several times while carrying the cross. He would hit the ground with a thud and get back up. To me (at the time) it was just Jesus falling; no big deal. Now I realize, every time he hit the ground the pain of scourging had to have come back. Have you ever hit an open wound? It usually hurts worse than the original wound. I can’t imagine what Jesus felt every time he hit the ground. The rocks grinding into the cuts and reopening any that may have even been close to healing. I don’t think we can comprehend his pain, and I guess therein lies the beauty of his sacrifice.”