Saturday April 25, 2020
The Soldier in Me
1 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.
21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the Jews.
27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
The soldiers are tired of watching over Israel and keeping the peace. They are tired of these Messiah-like figures and this routine. There is more drama for them to play with when it comes to Jesus. Here is someone who claims to be king! Yet, where are his loyal subjects!? Where are the crowds who once shouted Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Where are his closest followers!? Who gave up their life to follow Jesus? Is this a kingdom of one? And what kind of king manages to get arrested? No one close to him is near so a stranger from Cyrene is chosen to help Jesus carry the cross. All of this keeps the soldiers’ job interesting and entertaining as they put on a violent, mocking, play. The soldiers don’t stand to gain anything by doing this. They are not getting paid for this. This is sheerly for their own amusement. They are ignorant to the reality that they are mocking their Maker. How can it be that the king of glory could be treated this way!? That the most important person in all of human history is being humiliated and brought so low. And he has the power to end it all and stop the blasphemy but he doesn’t.
Instead, even in death, he practices what he preached in the Sermon on the Mount. He is continuing his mission to establish the Kingdom of God even in death. “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39). The soldiers are hitting Jesus on the head again and again and he doesn’t defend himself. Neither does he run away. He stays…until they have had enough. “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well” (Matthew 5:40). All of Jesus’ clothes are removed, put back on, and then taken again as the soldiers cast lots for them. “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41). Jesus carries his cross until he is no longer physically able and then Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross the rest of the way as Jesus must still walk up the hill of Calvary.
Jesus walks up the hill to be nailed to the cross. He is enthroned on the cross. When James and John are debating who gets to sit on Jesus’ right and left in glory, they could never have imagined that the first throne Jesus would occupy would be the throne of a Roman cross. Perhaps the most sadistic form of capital punishment in the history of the world. Made to be a public spectacle and warning for anyone who dared defy Rome. In the horror and agony of the cross. The face of God turned toward us in love. High on the hill of Calvary, Jesus is dying for our redemption. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). Though darkness covers the land, Jesus is up on a hill, he is the light put up on it’s stand. So for us to know what it means to be the light of the world, we have to go with Jesus on the way to the cross. We cannot be Jesus’ light in the world if we don’t take up our cross with him, if we are not willing to lay down our lives for one another, if we are not willing to confess that there is a little soldier in us.
Prayer for Today
Holy God, we trust you even when the answer is no. You know the plans you have for us and they are better than we could ever hope for. Through all of our questions and doubts and frustrations, keep us steadfast in pursuing you. You are our Rock and our Redeemer. We offer you all of our life today. Show us your grace. Amen
The First 15
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