“Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison.”—Mark 15:16 (NKJV)
Having been condemned to crucifixion, Jesus was taken by the Roman soldiers tasked with preparing Him for execution. Without allowing our imagination to run ahead of the biblical text, we can only wonder what sort of men these must have been.
Envision your job, your normal day to day, being so close to something so “horrific” (which is still a weak word to use for the method of crucifixion). That has to do something to you. Proximity to something so sadistically cruel must have a warping influence on the human heart. We see ample evidence of this in the soldier’s treatment of Jesus: “And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and began to salute Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him” (Mark 15:17–19 NKJV).
As if the scourging Jesus previously endured and His impending crucifixion weren’t enough, the soldiers decide to add yet another layer of torment to His suffering. They openly mock Him. This was not part of their normal duties, but something sadistic that arose from their twisted hearts. “Why not have a little fun at this Man’s expense? Isn’t He being accused of claiming to be a King? Let’s play with that a bit and find some amusement in His misery!”
The faux royal robe, the crown of thorns, the empty salute, the blow to the head, the spitting, the pretentious bow . . . it’s hard for us to fathom this sort of sadism. But again, without excusing it in the least, such cruelty can be expected from those who were so close to the cruelty of the cross. But having had their fun, the time had come for them to do their jobs: “And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him” (Mark 15:20 NKJV).
It’s easy to read this and to be left with a sense of disgust by the soldier’s depth of depravity on display here. But as real as their depravity is, there’s another reality at work that makes us marvel. It’s the patience and mercy of Jesus to endure their sadistic cruelty. At any moment, Jesus could have turned the tables on His tormentors. But the inescapable fact is, the Maker allowed His creation to mock and abuse Him!
All of this was permitted to take place for a profound purpose—to show that as bad as humanity can be, as low as we can possibly sink, the love of God runs deeper still! May this lead us down a path different from what the soldiers took in that day. Let it produce a real reverence and brokenness in us as we truly worship this King as He deserves.
Pause: What does this passage reveal to us about the depth of God’s love?
Practice: Consider a time when you have experienced God’s love running deeper than your own depravity.
Pray: King and Lord, help me to worship You as You truly deserve. Open my understanding to all that is worthy about You. Amen.