Peace be with you!
At first glance, there seems to be nothing good about Good Friday. After Pilate sentences Jesus to be crucified, the soldiers take him into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters, and dress him in a purple cloak (the color of royalty) and a crown of thorns. Then the soldiers mock him by yelling, “Hail, King of the Jews” (Mark 15:18 NRSV). The soldiers make sport of Jesus’ claim to be King. Instead of saying, “Hail, Caesar!” the soldiers say, “Hail, King of the Jews,” equating Jesus to Caesar in jest. Their mockery is a result of their lack of belief and understanding. Instead of coming to understanding and faith, they humiliate Jesus and seek to show him who is in charge. No one can just claim to be a king, except Caesar. Who does Jesus think he is?
As they continue to mock Jesus, the soldiers strike his head with a reed. Imagine the pain of being struck on the head with a crown of thorns already digging into your head. I can only imagine it was far worse than my worst three day headache. A few weeks ago I head a sinus headache for three days. I could hardly bare to be in electric wheelchair longer than two hours. I basically slept for three days.
After mocking Jesus, the soldiers strip him of the purple cloak and dress him in his ordinary clothes. This is degradation at its worst. The soldiers seek to strip Jesus of any respect he has, of any personhood or worth. Yet unknowingly the soldiers are fulfilling the scriptures and God’s plan. Isaiah 50:6-7 states:
I offered my back to those who attacked,
my jaws to those who tore out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from insults and spitting.
But the sovereign Lord helps me,
so I am not humiliated.
For that reason I am steadfastly resolved;
I know I will not be put to shame (NET Bible).
Jesus understands he has to suffer according to God’s plan and so he allows the soldiers to inflict this abuse on him without fighting back. The soldiers proclaim Jesus’ kingship unknowingly through their mocking.
Then the soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross as they lead him to Golgotha (“the place of the skull”), where they nail Jesus to the cross. The inscription above Jesus’ head reads, “The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:21-22, 24a, 26). The soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothes (Mark 15:24), fulfilling Psalm 22:18: “They are dividing up my clothes among themselves; they are rolling dicefor my garments.” The inscription above his head – “The King of the Jews” – was just another way for the Roman soldiers to mock Jesus.
Jesus is crucified with two bandits. People passing by mock Jesus: “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross” (Mark 15:29-30 NRSV). And the chief priests also mock him, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:31-32 NRSV).
Yet despite the mockers’ unbelief, the truth is told. Jesus is the King of the Jews. Jesus does destroy the temple by being crucified. Jesus will rebuild the temple in three days through his resurrection. Jesus is the temple. The world is told the truth through the mocking of the soldiers, the chief priests, and the bandits. People just have to believe.
Jesus calls out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and he takes his last breath (Mark 15:34, 37). The curtain of the temple torn in two (Mark 15:38), and the crucifixion is finished. Jesus is really dead. It is a frightening fact as we realize the light is no longer in the world, the shepherd is gone, and hope of the Messiah has gone away. Even as we hate this part of the story, it has to take place to carry out God’s plan to save us from the darkness. Yet, even in the darkest hour we can see glimmers of light on the horizon. And it is because of that light that we can call this day Good Friday.
Continue to follow the light. The story is just unfolding. Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for continuing to show us your love on the cross with arms spread wide. Help us to understand why Jesus had to die on the cross. Remind us of your love and forgiveness even as we weep at the cross. Thank you for showing us the cross. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How does Jesus’ suffering affect you?
2. How do non-believers continue to mock Jesus? How do we?