Story 190: The Way of the Cross

Matthew 27:27-32; Mark 15:16-21; Luke 23:24-31; John 19:16

The Flagellation of Christ (stained glass)

The sentence against Jesus was pronounced by Pilate. His soldiers led Jesus into the Praetorium. They called the whole Roman battalion of soldiers to the courtyard. There were over a hundred men gathered around the Lord, ready to use Him for sport to relieve their boredom. They stripped Him of His clothes and put a purple robe on Him. They put the crown of thorns back on His head and shoved a reed into His right hand to act as a scepter.

Doesn’t it seem strange that they would choose to mock Christ in this way? Isn’t it ironic?

Can you imagine what it might have been like for the angels, watching the One who, for all eternity past, sat on the Throne of Heaven, at the right had of the Father…the One who they had worshiped in His blazing glory, honor and power. What was the angelic scene on Heaven and earth as they saw Him subjected to this humiliation, this nakedness, this shame?

It must have been awful, and yet what else could so fully display the profound, stunning goodness of their God? That He would endure such agony for those who are so undeserving…that He would set aside His glory for the sake of the ones who would beat and kill Him? It is a story that has captured the attention of humanity for 2,000 years…and thankfully for us, it is the myth that turned out to be true.

As the soldiers continued to harass the Lord, they began to cry, “‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” and bow down to Him in mock reverence. Then they began beating His head with the reed and spitting on Him.

Through it all, Jesus said nothing. Though He could call those angels to His aid in a moment, though by His own power He could destroy them with a Word, He stood there in absolute surrender and obedience to the will of His Father.

It was a magnificent strength, a glorious meekness. His devotion was to the High King of Heaven, and He knew that His Father was watching it all. He understood the victory that awaited Him on the other side, and He scorned the shame of all that was to follow for the sake doing His Father’s will (see Heb. 12:1-3).

When the soldiers were done mocking Jesus, they took off the purple robe and put His clothes back on Him. They lay the beam of His cross on His back and led Him out through Jerusalem on the path to His crucifixion. Meanwhile, the whole city of Jerusalem had learned about what was going on, and crowds had filled the streets.

As Jesus went along the path, the weight of the wooden beam became too much for Him. His body was in a terribly weakened state, and He fell. The soldiers took hold of a passer-by named Simon of Cyrene. He had come into Jerusalem from the country for the Passover celebration. He had no idea what God had in store for him. The soldiers pressured him into carrying the cross for Jesus. As Jesus walked on, Simon carried the heavy wooden beams, and the great multitudes followed behind.

The nation had been holding its breath to find out if this Jesus was the Messiah. The tension had been building for three years. The clashes between this radical, miracle-working teacher and the established religious leaders had only intensified with time. As Jesus made His way through Jerusalem, the rumors flew.

Everyone expected things to come to a head at the Passover Feast, but nobody expected this. How could this be? The Messiah was supposed to come in power! He was meant to rule with an iron scepter! He was supposed to conquer the nations!

Stories of the midnight trial in secret, the savage beatings, the trip to the palace of Herod, and the trial before Pilate were circulating like mad. As Jesus progressed through the city, everything came to a standstill. The noise of the morbid parade could be heard throughout Jerusalem.   The crowds came to catch a glimpse of the famous young teacher who was about to be crucified. How weak and bloodied He was! He couldn’t even carry His own cross!  Was this really the end? His teachings were so beautiful, so straight and right. For many, it must have seemed as if goodness itself was dying.

How many of them had been healed by Jesus?

How many of them had walked mile upon mile to listen to Jesus…and now watched in horror at the outcome of His life?

The humiliation of Christ had come on the one day in the year when the highest number of Jews would be in Jerusalem. It was the day of the Feast when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, but this day would also see the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. The Passover lamb had been an image or a shadow of what Christ had come to do. It had been a ritual and a symbol for the nation of Israel for thousands of years. Would they recognize that the True Lamb had come?

The people who flocked to Jerusalem would all witness the sin that their nation, the one that had been chosen by God to be a blessing to all the other nations of the world, would commit against their own Messiah.

Some of the women who loved Jesus followed along behind Him, lamenting and weeping over the suffering of their Lord. Jesus turned to speak with His faithful ones:

“‘Daughters of Jerusalem,’” He said, “‘Do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us,” and the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry.’”

Luke 23:28-31

For you see, Jesus knew that the time was coming when Jerusalem would receive the consequences for this rejection of the Savior. That very morning, the high priests had declared their loyalty to the Roman Caesar, and the people had cried out that the blood of Jesus would be on their own heads and on the heads of their children. In times to come, God would let them have their way.

Within the lifetime of the crowds that clamored around Jesus’ pathway to the cross, the people of Jerusalem would learn what it meant to feel the full force and fierceness of the Roman army. There would be no mercy at all. Rome would lay siege to Jerusalem. The people inside the walls would spend months in anguish and starvation. They would turn on each other in despicable sin. Then the Roman army would attack with the full range of their powerful weaponry. The very streets that the people walked and the glorious Temple would be laid to waste, and the Jewish nation would be utterly destroyed.

Jesus knew that His terrible trial would come to a distinct end. In three days, He was going to rise again to eternal glory. But many horrors still lay ahead for the people of Jerusalem. The Spirit of Christ was so great that even in the midst of His terrible travail, He had compassion for those who were on a path to doom…and had the wherewithal to warn them.

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