Jesus is Mocked
March 10, 2021 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Midweek Lent 2021: The Passion According to St. Mark
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 15:16–15:20
Midweek Lenten Worship
March 10, 2021
“Jesus is Mocked”
And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 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).
As if the scourging wasn’t enough, insult is added to injury now as Jesus is mocked by the soldiers before being crucified. Remember that Jesus had just come off a punishment (scourging or flogging) that oftentimes killed those who had to endure it. And now, standing naked and weakened by this physical torture, his entire body bloody and scarred, Jesus undergoes psychological torture as well. Jesus is now mocked by the soldiers who had him in their possession for a brief time.
In our own lives, we may know what it’s like to be mocked by others. It is degrading and humiliating. Even today, with anti-bullying campaigns to help all children be safe, it still happens. Being mocked isn’t limited to childhood, either. It can happen at any age. For those who have lived through such hostility and violence, even if there are never physical scars that can be seen with the eye, there are emotional and psychological scars that are unseen and often very deep. And so perhaps on some level we can understand to some degree what Jesus experienced as he stood surrounded by the whole battalion of mocking soldiers.
A battalion (σπεϊρα) usually meant a cohort of soldiers, which was about one-tenth of a Roman legion. Because a legion numbered about 6000 soldiers, a battalion would have been around 600 soldiers. In all likelihood, these were probably auxiliary troops who had accompanied the governor from the capital of Caesarea to Jerusalem when he went there. They were there to help the troops already stationed at the Fortress Antonia, adjacent to the Temple in Jerusalem, to keep the peace and ensure public order. This was especially needed during festivals like Passover when the population of Jerusalem swelled with visitors and pilgrims, and the risk of rioting and rebellion against Rom was high. The trial and scourging of “the King of the Jews” would have caused a sensation among the soldiers. They would have been more than ready to unleash pent-up aggression and hostility on someone convicted of high treason. And so Jesus was now surrounded by a second angry mob; not just dozens, but hundreds of soldiers. “Mark’s description suggests a kind of grotesque vaudeville: Jesus, bruised and bleeding, is pushed among the coarse soldiers who gathered in the expectation of a few moments of entertainment” (The Gospel According to Mark, by William L. Lane. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974; pp. 559).
The purple cloak and crown of thorns were a parody of kingly regalia that royalty would wear. The crown of thorns, although painful, was intended more as a caricature of the radiant crown surrounding the heads of gods and leaders as depicted on coins of that time. Think of the crown worn by the Statue of Liberty – that kind of crown. And the soldiers go on with mock adoration and worship of Jesus by bowing down to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Mark 15:18). This was a mockery of the traditional Roman acclamation toward the emperor, “Ave, Caesar!” – “Hail, Caesar.” They spit on him, which might also have been a gross parody of the kiss of homage customary in Eastern kingdoms. The soldiers strike Jesus; they use the mock scepter – the reed in his hand – to hit him over the head. It just goes on and on. Scripture does not record how long Jesus had to endure all of this, but it surely must have felt like an eternity. The prophetic words of Isaiah 53 are fulfilled here in Jesus: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
And then it’s over as the soldiers remove the purple cloak and put Jesus’ own clothes back on him. We are not told that the crown of thorns was ever removed, which is why in depictions of Jesus’ crucifixion he is shown as still wearing this symbol of mockery. “Normally those condemned to be crucified were led naked to the place of execution and were scourged on the way while carrying the cross-beam… Because Jesus had already been scourged, this custom was not followed… If it had been repeated, Jesus would have doubtless died by flagellation rather than by crucifixion” (Ibid, p. 560).
All this, Jesus has done for you and for me. Jesus endured mocking so that we might receive pardon. Jesus wore the crown of thorns so that we might receive the crown of everlasting life. Jesus was despised and rejected so that we might know full acceptance and unconditional love from our heavenly Father.
Join us for Midweek Lenten worship next Wednesday evening when we will hear of Jesus’ crucifixion (Mark 15:21-32). May the Lord who has begun this good work among us bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Amen.