Greeting: Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. Keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time, - God the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Text: 27) Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around Him. 28) They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him, 29) and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on His head. They put a staff in His right hand and knelt in front of Him and mocked Him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30) They spit on Him, and took the staff and struck Him on the head again and again. 31) After they had mocked Him, they took of the robe and put His own clothes on Him. Then they led Him away to crucify Him.
Intro: This week we come to the end of our Christian Church year. Very often it’s good to come to the end of something. We find a sense of joy and relief in coming to the end of a long work project, or a hard semester or a 9-month pregnancy. It’s very good to come to the end of a Church Year. For the past 12 months, we have followed the life and work of our Savior, from Advent to Christmas to Epiphany to Lent to Easter to Pentecost seasons. Now we get to focus on the grand conclusion – the certain return and the glorious reign of Jesus Christ, our King. On one great day in the future, all the kingdoms of this world will be dissolved and will disappear. They will all give way to the appearance of the eternal, glorious Kingdom of God. God will create the new heaven and the new earth where He will live and rule with His believers in immeasurable, indescribable joy and perfection. For all who trust in the King as their Savior, the ending words of the explanation of the 2nd Article of the Creed will come to pass. “We will live under Jesus in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.” It will be a fantastic experience that far surpasses any we can have during our earthly life.
We will behold and be present in the company of Jesus, our exalted Lord and majestic King. We will witness the true extent of His power and authority. We will experience the full extent of His love and kindness. We will thank and adore Him with endless praises from our grateful hearts. What will make the experience even more meaningful for us is something we are going to take the time to do right now. To make the most of our future time with our King, we are going to go back to an important part of the earthly life of our Lord and see our King in a far different setting than we shall see Him at the end. As we visit this scene we will notice some dramatic contrasts between what Jesus did to win His kingdom and what He does after His victory. These contrasts of our King can help us appreciate Him all the more.
The One Who Deserves Our Praise Was Mocked And Scorned
The Gospel Lesson for today gives us a sorrowful scene from the time God the Father appointed His Son to suffer for our salvation. In this scene from Matthew 27, Jesus is portrayed as a king. He is dressed in a robe, given a crown, and is holding a scepter. People bow before Him and address Him as a king. He has all the outward symbols and appearances of royalty. Except that the people around him are not sincere. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the one true King, is an object of ridicule.
Roman soldiers, probably hundreds of them, gathered around Jesus, after He had been brutally whipped and sentenced to death. They saw Him, not as their king who deserved their honor and respect, but as a powerless, pitiful man who could become the object of their spite and sport. So they dressed Jesus up with a tattered cloak, a staff of wood and a crown of thorns and made fun of Him. They picked up on the Jewish leaders charge that He claimed to be a rival king to Caesar. They mockingly addressed Him as “King of the Jews.” The verbal humiliation was intense. In the prophetic words of Psalm 69:19-20, the Messiah announces: “You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all My enemies are before You. Scorn has broken My heart and has left Me helpless.”
It was all so terribly wrong. Jesus’ kingship was real. He should have received the genuine, heartfelt honor and adoration of every one of those soldiers – and of everyone else who ever came into His presence. Jesus had left heaven’s throne to take on a humble human life and burden and curse of all humanity so He could save people from God’s rejection of them and their sinful lives. For this great sacrifice, He was mocked and scorned by mean and mindless men who were so concerned with their amusement that they couldn’t even see the noble, royal Person before them. So they foolishly and spitefully ridiculed the One who would one day judge their souls and who was their only hope to escape eternal punishment.
Dear friends, let us not make their mistake. Let us see the kingly love of our Lord, who willingly endured the most humiliating mockery and scorn so He could win our salvation. Let us not despise the often humble and lowly ways that God is pleased use to deliver us – the preaching of words, the study of an ancient Book, promises attached to water, bread and wine, gatherings of common, ordinary imperfect people. Let us not fail to regularly, enthusiastically and unashamedly confess and praise Him before others. Our King was mocked and scorned. This He endured for us. For this He deserves our endless praise.
2. The One Who Shows Us Mercy Was Shown Malice
A second contrast we notice is the physical treatment our King receives. The soldiers treated Jesus brutally. They stripped Him of His clothes in order to put the robe on Him. They took some “anantha” thorn plants, twisted them together to form a sharp, piercing circle and placed it on Jesus’ head. They spit on Jesus. They took the staff and hit him repeatedly on the head, giving vicious blows to that important part of His body and driving the thorns deeper into His skull. Isaiah’s centuries-old prophecy was being fulfilled, God’s humble Servant was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. He was oppressed and afflicted.”
What had the King done to deserve such treatment? The answer of course is “Nothing.” Jesus did nothing to deserve such malicious, cruel, abusive treatment. Jesus was no criminal. He had hurt no one. In fact, He had never done anything wrong. Quite the opposite, Jesus was kind, loving and merciful to others. He had great compassion for people burdened by sin and evil. He brought help, healing and hope to people in their difficult and distressing situations. He longed to show mercy on people in their weakness and helplessness. He used His powers to bring deliverance from illnesses, diseases, disabilities and demons. He opened the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, the tongues of the mute. He heard the cries of those who called out: “Have pity on us,” and He helped them. How unjust that the Lord of mercy should be subject to such malice.
May this contrast register deeply in our hearts. Let us marvel that our King would submit to such cruel, brutal, malicious treatment as part of what He was required to make atonement for our sinful, wicked malicious treatment of God’s commands and those around us. Let us renounce our angry, insensitive, hurtful treatment of others and repent of our sins. Let us, with crushed pride and humble hearts, implore Jesus to have pity and mercy on us. Let us, with our King’s kindly love, be kind and merciful to the people in our lives, especially to those who are in need of help and assistance because they cannot help themselves.
3. The One Who Leads Us To Life Was Led To Death
In the final scene of the contrasts of our King, we see the Lord of life led to His death. Matthew reports: “After the soldiers had mocked Him, they took of the robe and put His own clothes on Him. Then they led Him away to be crucified.” Immediately after the soldiers administered the humiliating mockery and the malicious beatings to Jesus, they took Him out to be put to death on Calvary. For Jesus there was no reprieve, no customary 10 days between the sentence of death and the execution. No time for Jesus to compose Himself and get ready for the most dreadful part of His saving mission. Jesus was led to death. What a death is would be – a Roman crucifixion, a bloody, shameful, painful, lonely, cursed death on a cross. Sometimes those who were to be crucified were more mercifully strangled to death first and then nailed to the cross. Jesus was not shown such mercy. He would bear the full brunt of this agonizing form of execution. This was what a sinful world thought of the sinless Son of God. He should be done away with. He should be put to death in as painful and shameful a manner as possible. Image the loving Maker and caring Monarch of all creation should be put to death by His own creatures.
Jesus’ death was not only the wish of sinful people. It was also the wish of God the Father. The ransom for one sinful soul is precious. No mere human can pay the price. The ransom for all sinful souls is beyond our calculation. Only God’s Son can pay that price. The price is a shameful, painful death on a cross and suffering the full, just wrath of God until He has no more. This is the divine, redeeming reason for our King being lead to His death. The death of Jesus is where the demands of divine justice are met. The shed blood of God’s Son redeems all enslaved sinful souls and justifies all guilty souls. The King died so He could give life to those who had foolishly and wickedly forfeited theirs.
Let us note well the human injustice that the innocent suffers the fate of guilty. Let us note even better the divine love that the sinless Son suffers for us and sets us free.
How marvelous that our King has no desire to lead us to our eternal death. Rather, He sacrifices all so that He can lead us to eternal life. Let us cherish this death for us. He died for all that we might live. Let us remember that He died and rose again so that we would no longer live for ourselves, but for Him. What amazing love our King showed us on Calvary so that we may enjoy His amazing love forever.
One last thought on this last Sunday of the Church year. Let us love our Lord and King. Someone has said: “It’s possible that you can love Jesus too little. But you cannot love Him too much.” Maybe we can’t love Him too much, but let’s try to. Thinking of the contrasts will help us in our effort. The One who deserves our praise was mocked and scorned. The One who shows us mercy was shown malice. The One who leads us to life was led to death. Oh how He loved us. Oh, how He still loves us. For that we love Him back. Amen.