The title of this page may come as a surprise as it may seem to be a poor fit with they things the soldiers did. Stick with me, though, and I think we can see a good approach to the dishonor of Christ. We do well to figure out how we may honor God from his word.
16 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–ESV)
The soldiers were to crucify Jesus
The soldiers took Jesus to workThe trial of Christ had happened at the Palace, but not in it. The trial had been marked by injustice, but still happened and the results would keep on coming. God would redeem them for good, but the best or worst of what Satan could orchestrate had yet to conclude. Pilate having washed his hands of this matter transferred custody of Jesus to the palace soldiers.
These soldiers led him away it is said, “inside the palace.” That palace was where the soldiers went to work. There they would have received orders and missions, praise and punishment. They planned, drilled, ate and relaxed in various places there as they passed the time. It would have been familiar to them.
Now the soldiers had a job to do and that was to crucify Jesus. Their role could have remained just that, but they saw an opportunity to do so much more. They had license to do more ill than just kill, and so the soldiers took Jesus to work, and called the whole battalion together.
The soldiers got creative with their abuse
“He calls himself a king! What can we do with a king?” In verse 17 you can see the props they get. Someone went and found a purple robe. Others conceived of a crown, but not having an obvious one they got creative and made one. They found a thorny plant nearby and from it fashioned that cruel circular crown for Jesus’ head. These things were not accidental. Crowns and robes were conceived of for abuse and then the soldiers acted out those points of abuse.
The soldiers acted out their cruelty
What king wears a crown of thorns or a purple robe over a bleeding back? What king is hit with sticks and spat upon? Only a king in disgrace faces that type of treatment. These soldiers had been creative with their devices and having set things up fit to mock a king began their mocking. They acted out the cruelty that lay inside of them. They had a task to do, but they saw it as an opportunity to do so much more.
A getting on with things
Their game of torments concluded and they led Jesus out to crucify him. Had these soldiers just carried out the crucifixion their infamy would not have been so great. They would have been merely the doer of the deed rather than a participator with it. They decided to participate.
What can we do with a passage like this?
I grew up in a Christian family, and that family and the church emphasized Bible study. The stories read to me included this passage and others like it. Most of the members of my Sunday school class have probably also hear these types of lessons. The struggle I faced in preparing the lesson was how to make it useful? How could I keep from merely regurgitating how big the thorns were or how cruel the soldiers were in mocking Jesus? I did not merely want to tell my class what they already knew. So I prayed about that and the instant thought that I had was as follows:
Christians should be at least as creative with their worship as the soldiers were with their mocking.
Do we take Christ to our place of work?
The soldiers took Jesus into the palace and gathered their coworkers.
I don’t mean have a Jesus fish on your desk. That is okay, but far too often the person who calls themselves a Christian has the signs of Christianity, but the symptoms of the world. They have a Jesus fish, but not a Jesus life. Are we compassionate and caring or are we boisterous and feisty? Do we have integrity in all our dealings? Are we professional? Can we hold our tongue from firing off a witty retort? Do speak the speak the truth properly, that is, in love?
Are we creative with our worship?
The soldiers understood what Jesus was claiming and made efforts to mock. They found a purple robe and went through some discomfort in twisting together a crown of thorns. Surely they poked themselves weaving that and jamming it down on Jesus’ head.
We are not to give mocking worship, but to worship in spirit and truth. Is it easy to figure out this step? Maybe not. We would do well, though, to pause and pray, to listen and then respond. Remember that God will answer our prayers. The whole direction of this lesson that I have been writing here was in response to a prayer for I had no idea initially where it should go.
For me worship is more of a thing that happens privately in prayer. It works well for others in church and among people. For some it happens privately in a beautiful place like along a beach or a forest. Worship is not worship because you tell someone about it or that you are doing it. Worship is worship when one’s own heart connects with God in thankfulness. There is a song that says “get your worship on” and it is important to worship. Get alone with God and figure out how this meshes with the two of you.
Do we pay real homage to Christ?
This is not an easy one to answer for homage raises pictures of kings in their splendor. It brings to mind people who are elevated above their peers as a king on his throne would be. As an American I may hold people in a place of respect, but our sense of the government by the people and for the people unsettles notions of the kingship. Our country was designed in fact as a rejection of such notions. As a Christian, though, I see God as my authority. He is worthy to receive honor, homage, that is. The challenge is to know how to pay real homage to Christ.
This passage posed a challenge to me and I prayed about it and am satisfied with what God led me to write. This section of the lesson posed a challenge to me and I prayed about it. The prayer was answered by a scripture reference. In a particularly dark time of my life I memorized Psalm 50. Thankfully, that dark time has slipped away, but the Holy Spirit teaches and reminds. I had memorized Psalm 50 in that time and three verses from that chapter were the ones I needed for this lesson. They are below.
14 Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
23 Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, (Psalm 50:14-15, 23a–NIV)
So how does one pay honor to Christ? It is simple, really. It boils down to thankfulness, obedience and reaching out to God when life gets tough. God delivers his followers when they call upon him and that calling and deliverance works to his glory. We should take this style to work. That will not be a crucifixion, but an honoring. There is where people were meant to live. Will we?