15 16The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him.
It’s as if an extraordinarily virulent contagion of hatred was sweeping through the city, one with Christ as its exclusive target. Some postulate that Satan had been granted free sway, so that the powers of evil could be massed to the maximum against Christ’s Goodness. Surely this is possible.
But there is at least one alternate, and more disturbing explanation; that being that no special dispensation of freedom to Satan was required to elicit such behavior. We have previously discussed how the magnitude of the world’s opposition to the Christian is a function of the extent of their transformation back to God’s will and the nature of the society in which they live. If we apply this concept to Christ: perfect obedience to God’s will within the context of an empire founded on paganism, we can easily see how these soldiers could descend to the depths without much outside encouragement.
Although Christ endured these humiliations, surely He also knew that what was occurring then as mockery would in the fullness of time be made right, for “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10,11)
20And 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.
Once again, lest we skip quickly over this terrible word, crucify, let’s pause to absorb the horror of what this form of execution entailed for the victim.
Crucifixion was, firstly, an extremely humiliating, public and often slow means of execution. The victim was stripped naked or near naked prior to being transfixed upon the stake or cross. Given that death could take many hours or days to arrive, one can easily (and sorrowfully) imagine the lack of privacy of the victim. In addition, they were helpless to repel the attacks of insects and even birds. Worse yet, they were powerless to avoid the mockery of the humans who would heap scorn upon their person.
Then we get to the excruciating physical pain, with every fiber screaming to move to a different position, the shoulder muscles in particular as they strain against the load of the body. Lastly, the sufferer dies by inches from exposure, loss of blood (from the flogging), thirst, asphyxiation and despair.
Words even as stark and unflinching as these are powerless to convey the true horror of the experience. This is what Christ set out to do for you and for me. To avoid gazing upon it is to avoid taking a true measure of the gravity, the scandal of our sin.