The readings for this section are found in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 18-19.

Mockery of the Highest Order

The crown, the purple robe, the chants of “hail to the king,” they would be funny if they had not been accompanied by the 39 lashes with the leather whip tipped with bones (or metal).

Pilate used Jesus to make peace with Herod, but He also used Jesus to mock the Jews. He wanted to get closer to Herod but as far away from the Jews as he could. In allowing the guards to treat Jesus with violence and contempt, his goal was to humiliate those who thought themselves so superior they couldn’t even approach a gentile before Passover.

Pilate had Jesus beaten and ridiculed, then presented the one who harmed no one, now the disfigured Messiah, as their “king.” Thus he made Jesus the king he thought the Jews deserved. Pilate’s contempt for the Jews was so visceral that he had to break Jesus and rob him of any semblance of decency before he went out and mockingly said, “Behold, your king!” As long as he taunted the Jews, Pilate didn’t care what happened to Jesus. Jesus was like a pawn in the hands of divorcees who hate each other, with one major difference — in this case, even the judge seemed to have turned against the innocent one in the middle.

But it was not out of cruelty that the Father turned His back on Jesus. Jesus Himself had spoken about how He was going to die: “‘And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.’ He said this to indicate how he was going to die.” (John 12:32-33). 

The fact that Jesus remained silent and took the blows was a testimony to His commitment to God’s plan of redemption for all of us. In Judaism, Jesus was practicing what is known as “anivut,” which had already been exhibited by Moses a long time before Jesus. “Anivut,” according to Rabbi Norman Lamm, is “a soft answer to a harsh challenge; silence in the face of abuse; graciousness when receiving honor; dignity in response to humiliation; restraint in the presence of provocation; forbearance and quiet calm when confronted with calumny and carping criticism.”  

Not a bad collection of attributes to hang somewhere visibly to remind you that the world doesn’t always belong to the strongest. Better yet, forget the hanging of words — just go and practice them.

But Jesus wasn’t simply being an “anivat” (“the humble one”). Not even the Son of God has the obligation to act nobly in the face of terrible injustices. As He reminded his hearers, He could have called ten thousand angels. But He didn’t. Instead, He subjected His will to the will of His Father and was willing to absorb the blows to His body, the spitting on His face, and the blasphemy of despicable, debasing words uttered in the presence of the divine. And He did all of that so His Father could declare those who turn to Him clean and forgiven. In other words, He went to the cross for you. What are you willing to do for Him?

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade