16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 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. 20 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. Mark 15:16-20

The Roman soldiers, though supposedly neutral, got caught up in this spectacle. Why did they treat Jesus with such contempt? Was it because of their loyalty to Rome? Were they mocking His claim to be a king? Yes, by their words and behaviour! They had Him in their power, king though He claimed to be, and they wanted to make sure that He knew it and felt it.

Viewing this scene from a broader perspective, both Jew and Gentile, representing the whole world, were drawn into the guilt of condemning and crucifying an innocent man but, more than that, the very Son of God. How terrifying the thought that they will stand before the very same Jesus whom they mocked, abused, insulted and spat on, the one whose authority and kingship they refused to take seriously, and hear His verdict on their guilt; not because He has not already pardoned them – He did that on the cross – but because they did not recognise who He was or receive His forgiveness for what they had done.

The saddest thing about Jesus’ sacrifice is that, for the vast majority of people who have ever lived and will ever live, it will have been in vain either because they did not know or because they refused to accept the forgiveness of sin His sacrifice purchased for them. Ever those who insulted, abused or crucified Him were included in His prayer, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”

When it was all over, when they went home with their memories of the day flashing through their minds over and over again, how did they deal with the events of the day when their excuses no longer held water? How many of them chose to harden their hearts, and how many broke down in grief and repentance and received the forgiveness He uttered? How many were terrified and how many elated when He rose from the dead and the news spread around the city?

Luella Campbell

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