The Soldiers Mock Jesus
“When they had mocked [Jesus], they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him” (v. 20).- Mark 15:16–20
Throughout God’s dealings with His old covenant people, we find a principle of divine judgment executed by the Gentiles. That is, when the Lord wanted to judge the covenant community for its sins, He often delivered it into the hands of its Gentile enemies. Deuteronomy 28:68, for example, warns the Israelites that if they impenitently and flagrantly break God’s covenant with them, “the LORD will bring [them] back in ships to Egypt,” which is a metaphor for the people’s becoming enslaved to a Gentile power once again. Second Kings 17:7–23 records the fall of Israel to Assyria and exile to that land as God removing the northern kingdom “out of his sight.” Habakkuk 1:1–11 features God’s announcement to the prophet that Babylon was His chosen instrument for judging Judah.
Of course, the Gentile powers God appointed to judge His old covenant people generally were not aware that they were His instruments of judgment. They went after the Israelites for their own selfish reasons. Nevertheless, the sovereign Lord of history uses people for His purposes, and in the case of the Gentiles, He often used them as instruments of punishment for Israel. This principle is important for us to remember as we consider the crucifixion of Jesus. That Jesus stood before Pilate was no accident of history, nor was it simply due to the fact that the Sanhedrin was unable to carry out capital punishment. No, Jesus’ trial before a Gentile magistrate is one more indication of the purpose of His death. God the Father handed His Son over to Gentiles as part of the outworking of His wrath against sin—not the sin of Christ, who was sinless, but our sin imputed to the Savior.
Today’s passage records the horrible mockery that Christ endured as part of His being handed over to the Gentiles. He had already been beaten almost to the point of death (Mark 15:15), but then the Roman soldiers were released to have their “fun” as they mocked our Savior (vv. 16–20). We can hardly imagine the shame our Lord endured, but as John Calvin comments, Christ’s willingness to undergo such physical, emotional, and spiritual pain proves His affection for us. “Here . . . is brightly displayed the inconceivable mercy of God towards us, in bringing his only-begotten Son so low on our account. This was also a proof which Christ gave of his astonishing love towards us, that there was no ignominy to which he refused to submit for our salvation.”
As we will see, the greatest suffering Christ endured was not the physical and emotional pain heaped on Him by other men; rather, the most intense pain Jesus experienced was the pain of God’s wrath as He hung on the cross. But all of our Lord’s suffering demonstrates His great love for us. Let us marvel at the greatness of the God whom we serve, the God who in Christ gives perfectly of Himself for the sake of our salvation.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chron. 36:15–21