Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
Reflection This last passage before Jesus is led out to his crucifixion emphasises the totality of His sacrifice. To sacrifice your life for others is, in itself, amazing. To allow yourself to be abused, and humiliated; to be rendered helpless and defenceless makes that sacrifice total.
Up to this point, what has been done to Jesus was for public consumption. A show trial, a public appeal, a public flogging. Actions designed to preserve Roman authority and order, ‘pour encourager les autres’ and possibly to try to allow His release.
Now the scene moves into the privacy of the barracks. No further need for violence or show. He is to be crucified. His fate is sealed. But, of course human nature takes over. A hundred soldiers left to their own devices. No headcams, no accountability. A helpless, defenceless victim. An opportunity to insult, to humiliate, to abuse. A chance to amuse themselves at the expense of someone else. Someone who does not matter to them. In this instance it is a bunch of soldiers, but it is also a reminder that people can too easily put down, can ill-treat, exclude and abuse the weakest and most helpless in society. Humankind’s inhumanity to their fellow humans. It is how gangs operate, how bullies function, how slavery was possible. The strong prey on the weak. A reminder too that throughout His ministry, Jesus reached out especially to the weak and marginalised and as we see here, in sacrificing himself, experienced what it truly meant.
These times of Covid have put many into positions of weakness and caused feelings of helplessness and shame. People who were previously secure are now vulnerable. I pray we will not allow society to abuse their weakness; Not heap public shame or humiliation on them. And that we will reach out and help them to hold their heads high.
Prayer Lord, as we remember the humiliation of your son, our Lord- His supreme sacrifice, we remember all those in this country and across the world who are also helpless, abused and exploited. May they feel your love as they struggle and may we find ways to reach out to them and show them your love.
Peter Pay, Moderator of General Assembly 2020-22, Member of Salisbury URC