Read vs. 27-31.
Jesus’ flogging took place just before the events in this section of scripture. Picture Jesus being led to the military headquarters after being scourged, with his skin lacerated, stripes crossing his entire upper body, raw flesh and bone being exposed. I imagine Jesus to be completely unrecognizable by now. Remember he was beaten at least two other times by now, this flogging being the third.
Jesus was in the trial room of Pilate’s estate; he was taken to the whipping post and then in verse 27 the Roman soldiers lead Jesus into Pilate’s personal residence. This would be the headquarters of the military. We read that the whole company of soldiers gathered around Jesus. This part of Pilate’s palace houses the Roman military, all the men stationed under Pilate gathered around Jesus to stand guard. This could be as many as 600 soldiers. All who were on the property at the time attended.
They proceeded to strip Jesus of his clothing, they put a scarlet robe on him and made a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head piercing his scalp with 1-2” long thorns. This is the moment these soldiers have been waiting for. They have had a hatred for Jewish people for a long time now, they have had problems with them over the years and here is their one chance to do whatever they want towards them because no one is holding them accountable. They happily take this pathetic frail Jewish man that has been disregarded by his own people and mock and ridicule him freely.
Jesus in now surrounded by men who have been trained to torture and to kill, men who are finding joy by increasing his pain in any way they can. They proceed to take his clothing off. Strip him down to his raw flesh. They found an old discarded robe, one that used to belong to one of the soldiers and put it on him instead.
Then they crowned him. You can see drawings of Caesar where he is wearing a woven crown on his head. They also wove Jesus a crown. This crown was likely made from Acacia wood which is the same wood used to make the tabernacle furniture in the wilderness. The crown of thorns Jesus was crowned with could be the same type of wood used to make the redemptive furniture at the tabernacle and Temple. How unknowingly fitting.
His costume is still not complete. They put a staff in his right hand, which was a pretend scepter. Making fun of him they each knelt in front of him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They moved on spitting on him and taking the stick from him they began to beat him in the head again and again. Over and over, repeatedly they smashed this stick into his head. If Jesus could be recognized prior to this, he for sure would not be recognizable after this beating. And Jesus says nothing through all of this. He does not fight back, and he does not call on his legion of angels who are ready for his call. He is still willing to suffer and endure all this pain for sinners. Vs. 31 Finally they tired of their game, they took off the robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
Read vs. 32-44
As you can see the mocking did not subside it only increased.
Jesus is now being led from the military quarters out to Golgotha. When Jesus left the common hall he was dragging, bearing the full weight of his cross. This would have turned into a major procession. Jesus would have been in the lead with four soldiers, two on each side of him. A trail of soldiers following behind. The streets of Jerusalem filled as it is now Passover and millions of people would have populated the city. Jesus carrying a possible 200-pound cross, barely looking like a human, a placard that listed his crime was visible for all to read. The scene was a grave reminder to not cross the Roman government. To break a Roman law would lead to crucifixion.
You can read in Luke 23:27-31 while Jesus was moving towards Golgotha there was also many people following Jesus in addition to the soldiers, including women who were wailing and mourning for Jesus. By now the news had spread like wildfire and even Jesus’ supporters were present. It was at that point Jesus stops, turns to them and gave his last message.
At some point Jesus was just not physically able to pull the heavy load of the cross and a man named Simon was “forced” to carry the cross. It’s interesting that Simon was forced by the soldiers to carry the cross. The soldiers were never going to help, this was beneath them and they wanted to get this over with, so they made a Jew help. The only person doing anything to help Jesus during this time is being “forced” to do it.
Mark gives more detail on who Simon was (Mark 15:21) he tells us that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus. What I think is interesting is that this encounter with Jesus may have been the reason Simon and his family came to know Christ. His two sons became key members in leading the church in Rome. Simon’s wife was like a mother to Paul.
Vs. 33 Once they arrived at the place of the skull, the soldiers went to work immediately. They offered him a glass of wine that was mixed with gall. We know wine can be used to calm your nerves. The word gall simply means bitter. In this case it was myrrh, which is used to help with pain management. The mixture of wine and myrrh would have helped to dull Jesus’ pain. If he would have agreed to drink it, but he did not drink it. Jesus chose to feel, every ounce of pain. Jesus refused to drink it.
Vs. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes. Remember Matthew is writing from the angle of wicked men. He moves fast through the crucifixion and directly into what the wicked men do next.
The nails are driven in, Jesus is completely secured to the cross. The cross is raised and with a loud thud the base is inserted into the ground. And just like that Jesus is crucified. His bloody, swollen, bruised, naked body is left to bare the pain and sin of the entire world.
The soldiers keeping guard divided Jesus’ clothes making sure each one of them received an article, the fifth piece, his undergarment was most valuable, so they decided to have a luck of the draw for it. They played a game to see who would get Jesus’ private possessions. As he hung moaning, crying out, blood pouring down from his frail body, these men played a game. This was just a game to them. This was just another day at work. Happy Fri-yay for them.
Then they posted above Jesus’ head his crimes: This is Jesus, the king of the Jews. Now this the Jewish people had a problem with. They did not want any reminders of who Jesus is. They didn’t want their sins advertised. They tried to force Pilate to take the sign down, yet he refused. What he has written will stand. The sign will remain, until the cross is taken down.
According to Mark 15:25 Jesus was officially crucified at 9:00 am. He was officially hung on the cross at 9 am. He did not die until 3 pm that afternoon. Jesus hung on that cross for 6 hours. Such a long torturous execution.
During those six hours each of the gospels describe the seething hatred and wicked hearts of the people who passed by. Matthew especially describes their wickedness. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads. Telling him to save himself, come down from the cross and save yourself. You can save others, but you can’t save yourself (shaking their heads). Come down from the cross and we will believe in you. He trusts God, let God rescue him, that is if he wants him. He did blaspheme God after all. They believe they have the moral high ground here. The fact that Jesus didn’t take himself down, in their minds, proves that God is on their side. God would not let his son suffer like this so Jesus must not be who he claimed to be.
On that dark day, Jesus was crucified with two other men. The men were robbers. Not just your typical run of the mill petty thieves, they were hard core criminals. They were the type that would bust through your home with guns blazing, taking what they want and killing those who were there to witness it. Jesus hung between two hardened criminals. Vs. 44 says the rebels also heaped insults on him. Matthew does not distinguish the difference in the two men. He lumps them both as doing the same thing. Luke, however, recorded a dialogue between Jesus and one of the criminals. You can read it on your own in Luke 23:39-43. Basically, one criminal rebuked the other for hurling insults toward Jesus, he defended Jesus’ sovereignty. Then he asked Jesus to remember him. He asked for salvation. The only person to ask for forgiveness in this whole sordid mess.
The soldiers insulted Christ, the criminal insulted Christ, the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders all insulted Christ. This was a continual abuse that lasted for six hours. For six hours an entire nation stood against one man and during that time only one man had the nerve to speak on his behalf. Only one man had the guts to rebuke the disgrace being poured out. Only one man saw Jesus for who he really was, and he honored him, he defended him, and he longed to be remembered by him.
Everyday people decide to not want what Jesus is offering. Instead they mock him, blaspheme him, ridicule him and you for serving him. Just a week prior these very same people were caught up in the emotion of honoring their king, they laid down their cloaks for him like a red carpet, they hurriedly ran and cut palm branches down to lay before him. For miles, these same people chanted his sovereignty, but now they hurl insults at him. People can be fickle loving Christ one minute and hating him the next. They allow other people decide their thoughts and feelings. They refuse to see truth. Jesus is not the one who changes, it is the heart of people that becomes hardened. Where do you stand? Are you easily swayed by the masses? Does the crowd dictate what you will do or say? Would you rather go with the flow than being singled out?