February 2, 2020
Prayer for Illumination:
Lord God, give us a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Christ, so that the eyes of our hearts might be enlightened. Help us to know the hope to which you have called us, the riches of the glorious inheritance in the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of your power at work in us. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
One of the breakout characters from TV in 2009 was April Ludgate. She was a character on the TV show Parks and Rec. April Ludgate was the college intern in the parks department of Pawnee, IN. She was apathetic about everything, barely did any work, but her most defining characteristic was that she mocked everyone. She mocked them when they failed. She mocked them they said something that wasn’t right. She mocked them when they tried. Because she mocked everyone for everything, she stood out.
April Ludgate was a break out character because many people thought she revealed something about my generation, millennials. It revealed that many of us are apathetic and insecure about ourselves and our futures so we resort to mocking. It reveals very much our hearts.
This passage is filled with mockery. Jesus is mocked from all corners. The Westminster Larger Catechism puts it like this:
Christ humbled himself in His death, in that having been betrayed by Judas, forsaken by His disciples, scorned and rejected by the world, condemned by Pilate, and tormented by His persecutors; having also conflicted with the terrors of death, and the powers of darkness, felt and borne the weight of God’s wrath, He laid down His life an offering for sin, enduring the painful, shameful, and cursed death of the cross.
Scripture is a mirror. It reveals how things truly are. Firstly, it reveals God in all of his glory and majesty; it reveals his gracious redemption. Secondly, it reveals who we truly are. Even this passage which is about how Jesus was mocked and humiliated reveals our true nature and the gracious redemption of God. The crucifixion of Jesus reveals to us three things. First, it reveals our hearts; secondly it reveals to us Jesus’ heart; and thirdly, it reveals how we can get Jesus’ heart.
It Reveals Our Hearts
Jesus has been arrested, convicted, and found guilty of treason. The punishment for that is death, death by crucifixion. Pilate has issued the decree and the soldiers with him scourged Jesus. They bound him to a post so that his back was exposed. Then they took a whip with pieces of broken pottery, bone, and metal and they whipped Jesus until his back was completely exposed and raw. It wasn’t uncommon for people to die during the scourging.
Now that the soldiers have finished scourging Jesus, they bring him into the barracks, call all of the soldiers who are in there to gather, and they begin to mock Jesus. They cloth him in a purple cloak and twist together a crown of thorns that is placed on his head. They are mocking the claim that Jesus is king. Purple dye was expensive to produce. The most common way to produce it was to boil sea shells and use the water to dye cloth. It was incredibly expensive and as a result, it was often associated with royalty because they were usually the only ones who could afford it. Then they jam a crown of thorns on his head. Once they have done that, they begin to “salute him, ‘Hail King of the Jews!’ … kneeling down in homage to him” (15:18, 19b).
They don’t believe the claim that he is the King of the Jews. So they mock him. They humiliate him. The mocking reveals their hearts.
The mocking doesn’t end when the soldiers strip Jesus of the purple cloak and crown of thorns. They lead him from the Fortress Antonia, where Pilate was staying, to Golgotha where the crucifixion was about to take place. Jesus would have been stripped naked. They were adding to his humiliation by making him walk naked through the city while he carried his crossbeam.
The mocking isn’t just contained to the Romans. But the Jews also mock Jesus. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
His fellow Jews mock Jesus because here he was the proclaimed Messiah and yet he is hanging on a cross. The Messiah wasn’t supposed to be crucified. The popular understanding of the messiah was that he would overthrow Rome and restore Israel. And here is Jesus, on the cross. He didn’t overthrow Rome, he didn’t restore Israel. He is being crucified. Deuteronomy 21:22, 23 says, “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.”
The people’s hearts are revealed in their mockery and contempt for Jesus. They didn’t believe Jesus was the messiah. So as he hung on the cross, they mocked him saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself!” and “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” Their hearts are revealed.
The same is true about us. The mocking reveals our hostility to his claims. Like the soldiers, we mock Jesus over the claim that he is King of kings and Lord of lords. Like the chief priests and scribes we mock Jesus over his messianic claims. We are ok with Jesus as a good moral teacher. We are willing to accept Jesus as just another moral teacher like Buddha or Confucius.
Benjamin Franklin is one of the most important men in American history. He was a deist, someone who believed in a general god but that god was unknowable; he wasn’t a Christian. A few years before the Revolutionary War, there was an issue within the Presbyterian Church. The Presbytery of Philadelphia called Samuel Hemphill to be assistant Rev. Jedidiah Andrews in Philadelphia. Hemphill had been ordained by the presbytery in Northern Ireland and was examined here in the presbytery, like we just did at our meeting a few days ago. They asked him similar questions to the men we installed; he took similar vows to the vows that we make. Not long after being approved by the presbytery, Hemphill’s preaching revealed that he didn’t actually believe Jesus was divine. And the presbytery convened to handle this issue. Benjamin Franklin got involved. Franklin defended Hemphill in his papers believing that Christianity needed to outgrow these antiquated views like miracles and the divinity of Jesus.
See, people are ok with a Jesus that is just some other moral teacher. They are willing to accept the Sermon on the Mount and the Parable of the Good Samaritan. They’re willing to accept his moral teaching, even if they don’t always agree with it as long as he is just a moral teacher.
But when Jesus says that he is King of kings and Lord of lords, we mock him. Why? Because when he makes those claims, it reveals that our hearts are naturally inclined to make ourselves king and lord. When Jesus says he is the Messiah, we mock him. Why? Because when he says that he is the Messiah, it reveals that we are in need of being saved. It seems so counterintuitive that the king of the universe was judged to be deserving of death. It seems so counterintuitive that the Messiah would die the death of a criminal and be cursed. So we mock Jesus.
Our hearts are revealed in the mocking of Jesus.
It Reveals to Us Jesus’ Heart
This passage also reveals to us Jesus’ heart. Jesus has been scourged to within inches of death. He has carried his crossbeam about a mile before finally losing collapsing under the weight of it. And finally he has been hung on a cross, his hands and feet nailed to the wood.
In all of this, what does Mark report Jesus saying? Nothing. Mark doesn’t record Jesus saying anything. That is incredibly surprising. Those being crucified would shout profanities at the people. They would curse people passing by and standing there for crucifying them. It wasn’t uncommon for those being crucified to also urinate on the people nearest the cross. That was how most people being crucified acted.
And yet Jesus is silent. He doesn’t revile those who have crucified them. He doesn’t say, “Just wait! In three days when I rise from the dead, all of you will be sorry! I’ll have my revenge!” Mark doesn’t record Jesus as saying anything. Luke does record Jesus as saying one thing. He records Jesus as saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24a). Even in the midst of immense suffering and mocking, Jesus asks God the Father to forgive them.
This passage reveals Jesus’ heart. Jesus’ heart is set on doing the will of the Father. The will of the Father is that Jesus should redeem his Church. And the way that Jesus redeems his Church is by being crucified; by dying in the place of all who believe and bear the curse of their sin. That is the will of God. It had been decided before the foundation of the world that this is how Jesus would redeem his Church (Eph. 1:4). And Jesus’ heart is set on doing the will of the Father. His heart is revealed and it shows how he desires to do the will of the Father and be the propitiation for his Church.
About thirty years later, the Apostle Peter was writing to churches in modern Turkey struggling under the weight of persecution. Reflecting on how Jesus’ heart was revealed on the cross wrote this:
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:22, 23
Jesus willingly went to the cross, knowing that he would suffer humiliation and mockery from the Roman soldiers and his fellow Jews. Jesus willingly went to the cross, knowing that he was dying for people who had mocked him and didn’t believe that he truly is King of Kings and that he is the Messiah. And in all of this, he didn’t revile in return or mock others. He bore the punishment for our sins and asked that we be forgiven. This passage reveals Jesus’ heart in that he willingly went to the cross submitting to the Father and redeeming his Church from their sin and misery.
It Reveals How We Can Get Jesus’ Heart
This passage reveals our hearts and it reveals Jesus’ heart. But it also reveals how we can get Jesus’ heart. If we skip down a few verses to verse 39 we read, “And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’”
The way that we get Jesus’ heart is to look upon the cross and see who he is and why he was crucified. We first need to recognize who he is. Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We need to recognize him as king. That is not an easy thing. We want to say what William Ernest Henley says in his famous poem Invitcus. In his poem he writes:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
We are naturally disposed to assert ourselves as king and lord. We are inclined to regard ourselves as the master of our fates and the captain of our souls.
Now the truth is that when we assert ourselves as king and lord, we become like April Ludgate; we mock everyone for everything. We will mock them as a way to assert our lordship over them. Think about it. When you mock someone, you are saying “I know better how to do this. I should be in charge”. That’s really why we mock people. And ultimately when we assert ourselves as king and lord the person we are saying we know how to do it better is God. When we assert that we are king and lord, we are telling God that we know better how to govern creation. And so to assert ourselves, we mock God.
The way that we get Jesus’ heart is to recognize that he King of kings and Lord of lords. The first thing we must do is to acknowledge that he is the eternal King; that there never has been a day when he has not been ruling all things, things on heaven and on earth. We must acknowledge that everything is happening according to God’s plan. When we recognize who Jesus is, we cease mocking him.
The second thing we need to recognize to get Jesus’ heart is to see why he was crucified. He was crucified because we have sinned. We have sinned and are deserving of death and damnation, deserving of God’s wrath and judgment. Each and every one of us is deserving of hell.
In spite of the fact that we are deserving of death and damnation, in spite of the fact that we deserve God’s wrath and judgment, Jesus Christ died on the cross in the place of each and every person who believes. He wasn’t crucified to help us so that we could save ourselves if we were just a little better. There was nothing intrinsically worthy about us or anything in us deserving of God’s redemption. God of his own free will chose to redeem his Church out of sin and misery simply because he loves his people. That is grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
And when you understand God’s grace, you will be completely and utterly transformed. You will willingly and freely show grace to others. You will show grace to people who have mocked you, people who have wronged you, people who have demeaned you even when they don’t deserve it. You will show them grace because you understand the cross and how God showed you grace when deserved death and damnation. When you recognize that Jesus went to the cross to bear your sins even though you deserve wrath and judgment, you will be transformed and you will show grace to others. You will be willing to bear the sins of others just as Jesus was willing to bear our sins.
The centurion he looked upon the cross, he saw Jesus is king, he saw why Jesus was crucified and he was transformed. That caused him to confess that Jesus truly is the Son of God; it caused him to have Jesus’ heart. It only happens after we see who Jesus is and why he was crucified. That’s how we get Jesus’ heart.
Behold the man upon the cross
My sin upon his shoulders;
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held him there
Until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.
 Westminster Larger Catechism Question and Answer 49
 Hart, D.G. & John R Muether (2007). Seeking A Better Country (p. 53). Phillipsburg, NJ