“His Hurt for Our Healing – Hurt by Cruel Mockery and Abuse”
(Matthew 27:27-31; 39-44 – Midweek Lent 4 – March 27, 2019)
Matthew 27:27-31; 39-44 – Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified… And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.
Dear Redeemed in the name of Jesus Christ, who was hurt for our healing:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” It is a common childhood chant that we probably all have heard and maybe even said. It is a way to say: “You can call me what you want, you can make fun of me, but it doesn’t cause me any physical pain. So you are just wasting your breath!”
In our text, we see Jesus’ enemies expending many breaths, in calling Him what they want and making fun of Him. Not only that, worse than sticks and stones, they inflict severe physical abuse on Him that escalates to the excruciating pain of the cross. In all this, it seems that the more Jesus is hurt, the more His sadistic foes take pleasure.
As we continue to consider how “He Was Hurt for Our Healing,” today we see how He was “Hurt by Cruel Mockery and Abuse.”
Of course, the mockery and abuse we see here is not all that Jesus has suffered. As we review the accounts, already in the Jewish court after Jesus was accused of blasphemy, we hear of His captors blindfolding Him, spitting in His face, striking Him, and saying: “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?” Then, the bound and abused prisoner was shuffled from one court to another. First they hauled Jesus before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate quickly passed Him off to Herod the Tetrarch, the ruler of Galilee who was in Jerusalem, to whose jurisdiction Jesus belonged. Herod was glad to see this prisoner of ill fate, hoping for a kind of spiritual freak show; for he had always wanted to see Jesus perform some miracle. But when Jesus answered him not a word, at last Herod and his soldiers treated the Lord with contempt and mocked Him. They arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate.
That was not nearly all. All through the proceedings before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor maintained Jesus’ innocence. But at last, to satisfy the Jewish leaders and people who chanted for Jesus’ blood, Pilate handed Jesus over to be scourged and crucified. In this punishment, Roman soldiers would whip the prisoner with bone or lead-tipped lashes that tore into his back. This cruel abuse was so brutal that sometimes the victim died before crucifixion.
Now we have only come to our text. Calloused Roman soldiers encircled the stumbling and reeling prisoner, who was in shock from the scourging. They mocked any claims He made to kingship. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on His bloody figure, as a symbol of royalty. For a crown, they twisted together thorns. They put a reed in His hand for a ruler’s staff. “And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!'” Then they spit on Him, and took the reed from His hand and used it to strike Him on the head, driving that crown of thorns into His scalp. And at last, when they had had enough fun mocking His pathetic countenance, they led Him off to Golgotha to crucify Him.
Nor did it end there. Even as Jesus hung from the nails they had driven through His flesh, feeling the most excruciating pain, onlookers delighted to see the spectacle. “Those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.'” The Jewish leaders reveled in their victory, leading the mocking chant: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” And of all things, even the robbers who were crucified with Jesus joined in reviling Him.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That saying falls a bit short. Cruel mockery and abuse – whether by word or deed, or both – can hurt quite a bit. Just ask Jesus. Again, we look with wonder at the long-suffering of our Lord, God in our flesh, who let Himself be hurt so severely. For certainly He did not deserve any of this. But we need not wonder why He did it. He who had come to bring healing to a world so deeply hurt by sin, had to feel deepest hurt Himself. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). Among those griefs and sorrows is the hurt caused by cruel mockery and abuse.
Jesus knows that kind of hurt which fills this sinful world. Fallen children of Adam need not be taught cruelty in word and deed. Even from an early age, it flows in our sinful blood. Almost as soon as a child can talk, he discovers the weapon of shooting words meant to hurt other children. Sometimes it is name calling: “You so and so!” How often, youngsters team up in making fun of the weakling, the odd one out – twisting his name into a bad word or a mock rhyme to be chanted, picking out some bodily feature for cruel caricature, and so on. The twisted human nature loves to put others down to lift one’s own self up. This certainly does not stop when we learn to “grow up” and become “mature.” How often the most respected adults huddle together to talk behind the back of another, to pick apart that person’s bad features and failures, and to have a good laugh at the others’ expense.
How easily such unloving mockery, which proceeds from the sinful heart, leads to abuse – not only in hateful words, but in cruel deeds. How often we hear of it – another case of child abuse or spouse abuse. Another case of sex abuse. The strong exploit their position over the weak, the proud delight in putting down the meek; and someone has to live with the hurt for the rest of his or her life. And often as it goes in this world, someone else gets away with no justice.
Jesus understands the hurt.
But again, as fallen children of Adam, honesty compels us to take a painful look in the mirror. Have we ourselves hurt others by the same cruel spirit? How often did we join our voice in the name calling, in making fun of the odd one out, delighting in another’s downfall? How often have we lashed out in angry words and deeds – to hurt feelings, or even to hurt flesh?
And of all things, have we even joined our voices with those pathetic robbers next to Jesus, reviling Him; or those hardened soldiers surrounding Him, mocking Him? For isn’t this exactly what we do by our sin? Jesus is, in fact, the King – not only of the Jews, but of all. His sovereign power and authority extends over all creation, and over each and every one of us. As subjects of His Kingdom, we owe constant willing obedience to every Law He has given. We owe constant heartfelt worship to Him who gives us life and every good. But sin is lawlessness, and sin is lovelessness (1 John 3:4; John 14:15). Every time we break His Laws, we mock His kingship; we reject His authority in favor of our own. Instead of loving Him above all, we love ourselves; by our sin, we put Him down to lift ourselves up.
Left to our self-serving way, we would only lift ourselves up in a most pathetic way – like those robbers in the throes of death, mocking Him who alone can save. Left to our sinful path, we would join the many who maintain their innocence because they escape justice in this world. In death we would meet divine justice, and be beaten with many blows in hell (Luke 12:47).
But thanks be to the God of infinite mercy, who did not leave us to our path of destruction! He did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but to save the world (John 12:47). God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to be hurt for our healing and salvation.
Now let us look at the scene in our text from His perspective. As the King of all looked down from the cross at His rebellious subjects, who inflicted cruel mockery and abuse on Him, He understood why all this was happening. He had foretold it all in His own Word of Scripture. We hear Jesus prophesying in Isaiah 50:6: “I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.” In Psalm 22:6-8, we read the thoughts in His mind, while He is being treated as the scum of the earth: “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people. All those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, ‘He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!’ “
When we are hurt by the cruel mockery and abuse of others, our natural impulse is to lash back, to fire back with our own weapons of word and deed. But it was not so with Jesus. All of this hurt He endured in constant willing obedience to His Father. All of this hurt He suffered in constant heartfelt love for a world of sinners, for you and me. In place of our sinful lives, our perfect Savior offered up His own humble and perfect life before His Father. This included perfect obedience and perfect love, even unto His death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). Therefore 1 Peter 2:23-25 tells us how He responded: “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.”
So even in the midst of deepest hurt – the hurt caused by mockery and abuse of sinners – Jesus was fulfilling all righteousness for us. Even then, He was offering the perfect life before His Father, the life God now counts to us for righteousness. Even in the midst of deepest hurt – the hurt caused by our own sins – Jesus was bringing healing to us. For by the innocent blood flowing from those stripes on His beaten back, and from those wounds in His nail pierced hands and feet – by that holy and precious blood, we are now healed. We are forgiven all our sins. We are forgiven all the ways we have mocked His authority. We are forgiven all the ways we have hurt others in word and deed. By the grace of God, through His gift of repentance and faith, we are covered in Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Therefore, we are healed for eternal life.
And as we have been given this healing from God, we are empowered to share it with others. The Holy Spirit, who gives us faith, produces this healing fruit in us: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The amazing mercy and love of God toward us in Christ, compels us to lay down those sticks and stones, and those words that truly hurt. In their place, the Spirit leads us to share Christ. Every act of love we share in Jesus’ name communicates to those who have been hurt by sin their Savior’s kindness, goodness, and faithfulness – who gave Himself for their healing and will always give Himself for their healing. Every word of truth we speak in Jesus’ name communicates to our fellow sinner our Savior’s love, who gave Himself for our forgiveness and eternal healing.
Here is where all true healing begins, with God and with each other – in Christ. His blood alone is powerful to wash away all that has been wrong. His righteousness alone adorns us and gives us a brand new life before God. In Christ, God lifts us up in the highest honor He could bestow – calling us by name as His own blessed children and heirs of His heavenly Kingdom.
Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; who heals us now and forever. Amen.