The soldiers’ casual cruelty

Posted Apr 7, 2021

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Daily Scripture

Note to readers: During Lent Resurrection joins 300 or more other congregations in Kansas City and others in Hong Kong and Ghana in reading the entire gospel of Mark. Take the time to read the whole gospel with us.

To watch a video that covers Mark 15:1-24, click here. (The larger project pre-determined the size of the video segments; hence they do not precisely match the reading assignments.)

Mark 15:16-20

16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the courtyard of the palace known as the governor’s headquarters [or praetorium] and they called together the whole company of soldiers [or cohort, approximately 600 soldiers]. 17 They dressed him up in a purple robe and twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on him. 18 They saluted him, “Hey! King of the Jews!” 19 Again and again, they struck his head with a stick. They spit on him and knelt before him to honor him. 20 When they finished mocking him, they stripped him of the purple robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Reflection Questions

It's painful, but imagine the scene: at least 200, maybe as many as 600 Roman soldiers with nothing better to do than torment and jeer at an apparently harmless Galilean rabbi before following orders and executing him. This assignment wasn’t unusual—the Romans routinely used crosses to execute non-Romans for all kinds of offenses. Like Pilate, the soldiers reflected the religious leaders’ success in making Jesus sound like a dangerous revolutionary, the “King of the Jews.”

  • Jesus had calmed a violent storm with a simple order: “Silence! Be still!” (Mark 4:35-41). He’d met a violent madman and ordered the demons out of him (Mark 5:1-8). Now he faced young soldiers, and “possibly all their individual rage and resentment against the excesses of cruelty in various commanders and caesars was given vent.”* Could Jesus have stopped them? If so, why do you believe he didn’t?
  • Luke 22:37 said Jesus quoted from Isaiah 53:12 before his arrest. Early Christians studied that chapter, and other phrases evoked Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. “He was oppressed and tormented, but didn’t open his mouth. Like a lamb being brought to slaughter, like a ewe silent before her shearers, he didn’t open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus had spoken for three years; his accusers hated him for it. How did his silence show not only that he accepted this end to his mission, but that he knew the time for them to listen to him was past?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, when I claim you as my Lord and King, and then serve my own interests above those of your kingdom, is that a kind of mockery too? Forgive me, and lead me to full devotion to you. Amen.


* John Killinger, His Power in You (The Devotional Commentary: Mark). Waco, TX: Word Books, 1978, pp. 136.

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Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar is the Financial Care Program Director in Congregational Care at Resurrection Leawood. She is married and loves spending time with her family, and she enjoys writing and photography.

Lately, I have been avoiding the daily news broadcasts. I thought I was doing it for my own good. I felt I couldn’t stand to see the anger and evil in the world any more. I would feel much better if I just didn’t look. What can I do about it anyway? Then I read today’s Scripture.

Today’s reading is tough. It shows humanity at its worst – a large gathering of powerful humans inflicting extreme emotional and physical pain on a single, seemingly powerless, man. The details make us cringe, and they should. This is extreme ugliness. This man taught that the greatest commandment was for us to love one another, to turn the other cheek, to pray for those who persecute us. It is terrible to witness, even through written words, this man being beaten for hours, spit on, ridiculed and forced to carry the instrument of his final torture.

We want to look away. We don’t want to see this horror. But we must.

Why did Jesus have to endure this? Why didn’t he just turn them all to stone, or drive them into the sea like the demons? And why do we have to see it?

Jesus didn’t use his power to save himself because he had to use it to save us. We have to see it because we hate looking at ugly things, and, if we are to live into the incredible gift of being saved from death, we must look at the ugly things in this world and do whatever we can to bring the love and grace that Jesus taught into the ugliness.

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis said, “Suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.”

We have to see the pain and the suffering, face the ugliness of humanity at its worst, so that we can feel Jesus’ call to compassion and grace and act on it. This is true of the ugly things around us right now. If we don’t see the reality, we won’t feel moved to bring Christ’s love to those who are suffering, and even to love those who are hurting others. We won’t feel compelled to look into our own hearts for the seeds of hate, or self-centeredness, or the fear that makes us turn away.

We have to look – at suffering, unfairness, indifference, cruelty, hate. We can’t turn away in the hopes of viewing something more pleasant. We have to let ourselves be horrified, but also moved to acts of love and mercy.

Lord, we confess that we don’t always want to see the pain and suffering around us. We are frightened and horrified by these things, and we want to turn away. Please give us the strength to look, and arouse in us those acts of mercy that show your love to the world. Amen.

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