Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
The life of Jesus is different than the Jews expected. They constantly misunderstand his mission. They’re expecting a warrior king to retake the land for Israel. This wasn’t unwarranted. The Old Testament paints the coming Messiah as a warrior king. Isaiah 63 comes to mind:
Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
This is a description of no wimpy man. This is a mighty warrior. This is the kind of king they expected. Honestly, it’s the kind of king we all want. We need this kind of king - a king who can conquer all. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Often, we cast the disciples off as bumbling idiots and see the Jews who expected Jesus to be a conquering king as foolish. But I think if we were still waiting for the Messiah, and suddenly he showed up on the scene, we’d be expecting the same thing – if not to a greater degree. Would we be disappointed? Would we be confused? Would we wonder what happened?
The Jack Bauers of our entertainment-saturated culture have driven us to expect the unbelievable. Sure, we expect the hero to be tortured, that builds suspense, but the torture can only last so long before our hero defies all odds to burst forth in a rage of fury, breaking free from bondage, and cracking the necks of those holding them down along the way. We’re used to that. After all, these are super-human guys we’re talking about. But what if we knew they were God himself? The disciples knew who Jesus was. Imagine the confusion when the God-man didn’t emerge from the governor’s headquarters. Surely he could break the bondage he was under, right? Well yes, but he couldn’t break his bondage and ours at the same time. So he chose to stay.
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ path to the cross is chilling for its irony. He meant it to be. The torturers themselves meant it to be ironic. After being released into their hands to be beaten, they begin playing around with this “king.” The whole battalion is there. They all took part. They stripped his clothes off, shaming him before them all. To cover him up, they placed a scarlet robe on him – the royal color that no doubt matched the blood pouring from his body. A few of them sat down to fashion a crown of thorns. They placed it on his head, mashing it down so that it pierced his scalp. Then, to top it off, they put a reed, a staff, in his right hand. Here is the moment that Jesus could make his great escape, right? Bursting forth in energy, he could take the reed and start whipping everyone he sees.
But he stays and takes a few more blows to the head. The king of glory is beaten like a regular man. He seems to have no super-human strength.
Yet, the lack of super-humanity is not wholly true. I doubt Jesus looked much like a linebacker. He perhaps even lacked the fighting skills of King David. It’s possible that Jesus looked a lot like a normal guy in his early 30s. But what he lacked in the physical strength department, he more than made up for in obedience. Jesus does something in taking this beating that is absolutely super-human. He never once thought a single sinful thought as the rod hit his thorn-crowned head. He watched as they spit in his face, never once cursing them in his heart. He listened to their painful mockery and then followed them as they led him to the cross, as the book of Hebrews says, for the joy set before him. This man suffered immense, intense, excruciating torture without one ounce, without a nanosecond, of sin.
What Jesus did that day was beyond heroic. It looked higher than the salvation of one or even a few living souls. Jesus stayed in that tortuous spot because he knew by doing so he was reconciling all believers – past, present, and future – to God. He did not consider his life worth saving because it was his life that was meant to end. If he had been Jack Bauer he could have saved himself from the physical enemies, but he would have doomed everyone else along the way. The height of irony then is this – Jesus was the most heroic of all men because he laid down his life to save all who would believe in his name. He died so that we might live. He gave us life through his death. He voluntarily gave up his crown so that we would never lose ours. He obeyed to the point of death so that we wouldn’t die because we couldn’t obey.
In the Jack Bauer world, his death is the end of life for those who trusted in him. In the Jesus world, his death is the entryway into eternal life.
Jesus re-defined hero. Jack Bauer he is not and thank God for that! But a mighty warrior is he. Oh, and Isaiah 63 is still true, it just hasn’t happened yet. It will. And we’ll be amazed.