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. Then they led him out to crucify him.
When you get someone down, you keep them down. You don’t let them get up. You don’t let them up for air. You never let them back up. Once you have an advantage, you don’t give it up.
One general put it this way.
Never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.
They had Jesus down, and weren’t going to let him up. They kept up the pressure. They may have stopped whipping and punching him, but they didn’t let up on the gas. They kept up the pressure.
They took the stick that they gave him as a symbol of his kingly authority and hit him on the head. Over and over they hit his head, driving the crown of thorns in deeper and deeper.
They spit on him. Over and over they spit on him. I can’t think of a more grotesque insult than spitting on someone. What could you do? What could you say that would be more offensive than spitting on someone? I think the short answer is nothing.
Again and again, they kept bending down, faking kingly respect and honor. Again and again, they kept falling down on their knees. Again and again they gave false and mocking worship. There was nothing even remotely genuine about their actions or attitudes.
It’s hard to understand how Jesus felt about this. From eternity past, he had been worshiped and adored as God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit had been in constant, consistent communication and communion with one another. There had been nothing but sincere, loving kindness and glorifying one another. The angels also fell down in worship. They flew around the heavenly throne, shouting “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”
When they beat, spit, and mockingly worshiped Jesus, they didn’t just do it once. No, they did it over and over. Their repeated repetition was part of the insult and pain.
All this mocking took some time. And once they were finished, they tore off the robe from his back. The one, massive scab was ripped open, re-exposing his ripped and beaten back. I can’t imagine how this would have felt. I wince with pain when even a small scab is pulled off, but not one that covered your entire back.
Jesus was silent all during this brutal attack. He was innocent. There was nothing right or legal about their mistreatment on any human level. Even though their brutality was approved by the legal authorities, it didn’t make it right.
Jesus was innocent of all these crimes. He didn’t deserve any punishment. Or was he innocent? Did he deserve the abuse and punishment?
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21
In one sense, Jesus absolutely deserved all this punishment, pain, and violence. When he became sin for us, our punishment was transferred to him. What we deserved, what we earned, what should have been done to us was put on him. In our place, he stepped in and willingly accepted our great debt that we owed to a holy and righteous God.
Sometimes, people think that God should have just waved a magic wand and made sin disappear. Like some Harry Potter magic spell, you say a few magic words, wave a wand, and everything’s changed. Made right. Made whole again.
Yes, God can do that with some things. He can create the universe with his voice. He can stop rivers and part seas. He can heal the sick and raise the dead. He can make bread fall from heaven or appear in a basket.
But there’s something that he cannot do. He can’t be someone else other than himself. And his justice demands payment. Forgiveness is the person wronged paying the price instead of the wrongdoer. Forgiveness always requires sacrifice. And a sacrifice is just that. It’s painful. His law is clear, when we go against him, there is a price to be paid.
And the miracle of God’s grace and love is that he took it all on himself. Why? For the expressed purpose of bringing us back to him.
And if that’s not good news, then I don’t know what is.