They Mock 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. Then they 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. (Matthew 27:28-30)
I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)
He was oppressed and afflicted . . . he was led like a lamb to the slaughter . . . he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)
When I was in fifth grade, one of the older boys was standing over me with his foot on my chest, holding me down. I don’t remember why I was down there or what happened next. I just remember the bully saying, “And stay down!” Actually, I remember one more thing. My anger. My hatred. How I just wanted to lash out at him and make him hurt the way he hurt me.
Those feelings swell in me every time I read about how the guards bullied Jesus, spitting on him and striking him on his head again and again, driving a thorny crown into his head, inevitably piercing his brow. And there, that Good Friday blood maybe started to flow for the first time. Why? Why would God subject his Son to this mob of bullies?
The secret lies in the way Jesus responded to those thuggish soldiers and the way we respond to the thugs in our lives. All I could feel was anger and hatred. But Jesus? Centuries earlier, God predicted how his Son would respond: “He was oppressed and afflicted . . . he was led like a lamb to the slaughter . . . he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Instead of responding with hatred, he responded with quiet, loving determination. Because when he looked at the guards, he didn’t see thugs. He saw his lost children separated from him because of their hatred and anger, children he loved so much the very blood they shed he would use to save them.
And so again our Savior empathizes with our weaknesses, tempted in every way as we are, yet not sinning (Hebrews 4:15). And this love that forgives our sins also transforms our hearts. For every victim of a bully, for every fifth-grader with a foot on his chest, for every person oppressed, this is for you. See your Savior who knows that pain, yet transforms it into hope that pierces the darkness, hope for those precious in his sight.
Dear Jesus, thank you for responding to the sin and evil of this world with perfect love. Kindle in me a heart that responds as you do. Amen.
Rev. Luke Thompson serves Martin Luther College as a professor of theology and history.