Jesus, Lead On (1)

Thursday, April 1, 1999

As we come to Good Friday, I want to describe what happened to Jesus on his final journey, to the cross.

Mark 15:12-15 – "What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked them. "Crucify him!" they shouted. "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!" Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Scourging, or flogging, always preceded crucifixion. Under Pilate's order, Jesus was stripped naked, his hands tied behind his back. Then he was tied to a post and his back was doubled over. This exposed his flesh to the whip used for scourging, a long leather strip, embedded with pieces of bone and lead pellets. It reduced naked bodies to strips of raw flesh, inflamed and bleeding welts. Men who were scourged, either went mad, died, or passed out from the pain.

Mark 15:16-20a – The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!" Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him.

The military headquarters, Speira, had 600 men who were stationed there to protect the Roman Governor, Pilate. They didn't know who Jesus was, for they were from the coast, not Jerusalem. So, out of ignorance, they indulged in rough horseplay, unlike the Jews, who acted out of malice. Perhaps this part of the crucifixion process would be the easiest part for Jesus to bear, because the soldiers made Jesus a sham king, but there was no hate in their eyes. To them, he was just another deluded Galilean going to the cross. So they prepared to lead Jesus to his crucifixion.

Mark 15:20b-21 – Then they led him out to crucify him. A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.

When a condemned criminal was led away to crucifixion, four soldiers formed a hollow square with the criminal carrying the cross piece in the centre. The upright post was already waiting at the place of execution. The charge of which the criminal was found guilty was hung around the neck and later was nailed to the cross. The criminal was taken to the execution site by the longest route possible, so that all would take a warning from the grisly sight. Jesus was exhausted from being up all night during his trial and from scourging and abuse, so he staggered and fell under the weight of the cross piece. Roman soldiers had the right to make a Jew do any menial task they wanted, since Palestine was under Roman military occupation. The cold steel of the Roman spear touched the shoulder of Simon, from the town of Cyrene in North Africa. "Carry the cross, Jew!" Shame and humiliation welled over Simon as he stooped to obey the Roman soldier and pick up the cross piece for Jesus. And on that terrible day Jesus laid claim to Simon and turned Simon's shame and humility into a day of glory.

Prayer: Lord, any shame we might suffer for you is nothing in comparison to your sacrifice for us. Lay claim to our hearts in your love that we might ever serve you out of gratitude for all that you have done for us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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About the author:

Darragh Christie
Brantford, Ontario, Canada

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