Occasionally I hear about how Christians suffer in some parts of the world, and I’m ashamed. My story doesn’t include anything even remotely close to that . . . does yours? And mine certainly doesn’t approach this:
And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 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!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 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 (Mark 15:16-20).
Jesus experienced this mockery probably for two reasons: One, he intended to experience the worst Satan could throw at him, and two, believers in every age needed to be emboldened to face the persecution that would so often come.
It’s hard to imagine anything more blasphemous. Between 200 and 600 Roman soldiers dressed God in clothing fit for a king, then gave him the traditional greeting meant for Caesar, changing the words slightly: “Hail, King of the Jews!” (instead of “Hail, Caesar the Emperor!”).
“And they were striking his head with a reed” translates a Greek phrase that means they did it repeatedly (NIV: “Again and again they struck him . . .”).
Their spitting on him may have been a parody of the kiss of homage (J.A. Brooks), and their bowing down completed their cruel mockery of “paying respect” to a king.
Mark preserved this story to encourage all believers in the future to stand fast like Jesus. And it certainly has something to say to us, perhaps especially those of us who live in cultures that are quite tolerant of Christianity.
What’s the worst thing that might happen to us? Do teenagers fear criticism from their peers if they walk with Christ? Do we worry that co-workers will mock us or avoid us? Will we be passed over for a promotion?
The whole scene—Peter’s denial outside while Jesus stands firm inside—is a pointed reminder that Jesus calls us to follow him even when it’s tough.
Maybe we should be properly chastened by what Jesus suffered, as well as by what some Christians in other parts of the world are enduring right now.
A few hours earlier Jesus had said, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
The next time following Christ becomes difficult and we’re tempted to cave in, perhaps God will bring this story to mind.
Following Jesus has never been easy, but he wants us to walk with him no matter what.—Chuck