O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
The Wound of Mockery
A sermon based on Matthew 27:27-31
Sunday, April 2, 2017 – Lent 5
Winston Churchill was known for his quick wit. While he was at a dinner party one time, a woman came approached him and said, "Mr. Churchill, if you were my husband, I would poison your coffee in the morning." And without missing a beat, he replied, "Madam, if you were my wife, I would gladly drink it!"
How about you? Do you have a quick wit, ready to fire off a zinger to anyone who dares insult you? Or are you one who always comes up with the perfect comeback… 30 minutes after the conversation is over? Well, sometimes a quick wit isn't a blessing. It can give you that great zinger… that ruins a friendship. It can give you a quick insult that can destroy a relationship.
This morning as we continue to examine the emotional wounds inflicted on our Savior, we see the wound of mockery as the soldiers taunted and humiliated Jesus like the worst of bullies. We'll see that, sadly, we too inflict the same wounds on Jesus. And we'll see that, thankfully, Jesus endured those wounds to save us from our sin and the humiliation we deserve. Our text for consideration this morning is found in Matthew 27:27-31…
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 off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
Bullying is a terrible offense that's been a problem on this earth for as long as there have been sinners on it. It's getting more awareness, even as it's increasing through cyberbulling – the use of electronics to threaten or humiliate other people. Recent studies have indicated that 20% of all kids aged 12-19 (that's one out of every 5!) have been bullied. 16% of those have indicated that they have seriously considered suicide as a result. And though it's a difficult statistic to prove, it's been suggested that suicide as a result of bullying is now the leading cause of death in 12-19 year old kids.
Of course, there's the other reaction: those who have been bullied and seek revenge with weapons of their own. Psycological studies of murderers and especially of serial killers have revealed how they were bullied as children and, in an attempt to take power back after feeling so powerless, they found weapons that would put them on top again and help them feel in control as they killed. And when you hear the sad results of suicides and murders, you see how serious of a problem bullying is.
And it really is nothing new. Today we see how the Roman soldiers, bored by their job, would make their own fun by taunting and insulting and humiliating their prisoner, our Savior, Jesus. They would show this pathetic man what they thought of him and his claim to be a king. They started by stripping him. Taking off all of his clothes to totally humiliate him and show how powerless he was.
Then they put on a scarlet robe, no doubt pressing it in to the wounds in his flogged back, to show what a "powerful king" he was. The king needed a crown, so someone formed one from a thorn bush and they pressed it hard onto his head. They shoved a staff in his hands—his royal scepter—and ridiculed him with their mockery of homage paid to this "king" of the Jews.
But Jesus wasn't playing along. And so the humiliation wasn't enough. If he wouldn't play, then he would pay. That's the way it is with bullies. They took the torment up a notch, spitting in his face, and then beating him with the staff, using his own scepter to show their utter contempt for this powerless and pathetic loser. Then they led him away to torture him to death on a cross.
And as he endured such mockery, such contempt, such hatred at the hands of such bullies, what they all missed was the depth of his pity and of his love for them—even for them who were hurting and humiliating him, even for such bullies who showed such hostility, who wounded so deeply, that any of us would have considered them mortal enemies! So great was his love for them who hurt him, he was willing to endure it all—and so much worse than they could dream up or imagine—all to rescue them… and us.
You see, we too are just like those soldiers. We too are the bullies. We too wound Jesus by mocking him. Maybe you have bullied other people—hurt someone's feelings with a quick jab, a witty comeback, or a stinging insult. Maybe you've been a cyber bully—treating someone in a loveless way on Facebook or a blog, maybe even hiding behind anonymity as you launched your verbal assault. Maybe you have wounded someone you love by your mockery—with your teasing that's gone too far.
But even if you haven't ever played the bully, but have only been on the receiving end of such bullying, you've still wounded Jesus by you sinful reaction. How? Let me explain. I know that it hurts to be on the receiving end of insults and to be the butt of the joke. Though I've certainly given my fair share of cruel insults, I've also received my fair share too. But why does it hurt? Why do we care so much what others think of us or say to us? It's because we want to fit in, don't we? Fitting in isn't just about social status, it's about career advancement, it's about relational security, it's about having a place to belong.
But we already have a place to belong, don't we? We have a place with God. But when we're so concerned about what others think and not as much about what God thinks of us… well, we mock God. We insult him saying that other people's opinions (or even our own opinion with our self-esteem) matter more than his. And then we harbor feelings of anger and hatred toward those who have hurt and humiliated us even though God loves them so dearly and wants them to belong to him and be in his heaven just as much as he wants us there.
And so, whether we're on the giving end or the receiving end of the cruel insults and bullying, we've all broken that first commandment which calls us to fear, and love, and trust in God above all things. And we insult him and mock his love for us.
And so we deserve to be insulted by God for the fools that we are. We deserve to be mocked by satan for all of eternity. We deserve to be stripped bare before the God who sees all our evil thoughts and to be humiliated and shamed for all of our sins. We deserve an eternity of not fitting—of total isolation and despair forever in hell.
But even as Jesus endures such mockery, such contempt, such hatred at our hands and at our tongues, don't miss the depth of his pity and of his love for us—even for us who hurt and humiliate him, even for us bullies who show such hostility, who wound so deeply, that we ought be considered mortal enemies of God! So great was his love for us who hurt him, he was willing to endure it all and so much worse than we could dream up or imagine, all to rescue us.
So he endured the pain of being mocked, the humility of being stripped, the indignity of being beaten, the torture of the cross. And even there he was insulted for us.
Matthew 27:39-44 tells us, "39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.' " 44 In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him."
Now think about it: All it would take for our entire salvation to be undone was a single thought of hatred from Jesus on the cross. If, just once, he thought in his head, "I hate those idiots who keep making fun of me! Don't those losers understand why I'm allowing this injustice? Those damned sinners deserve the hell that's coming to them!" then Jesus would have been just as sinful as we are and that single thought could have destroyed us all.
But what was his response? Luke 23:34 tells us: Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Provoked as he was, hurt as he was, humiliated as he was, still, he had nothing but pity and love for them… for us. So he endured the lonely despair-inducing isolation from God the Father and his love as he endured hell on that cross to win for them and for us the very forgiveness he prayed for.
And he was stripped of his clothes that we might be clothed with his righteousness! He was crowned in thorns that we might wear the victor's crown! He was beaten and mocked that we might fit in—not just with other people—but with God! He was hated and insulted that we might loved and treasured by him!
Now, share your faith… live your faith… and I can pretty much guarantee that you'll be made fun of, insulted, and mocked for it. Jesus told us as much in John 15:20-21: "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also… They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me."
But friends, so what? Who cares if others insult you?! Jesus loves and treasures you! That's all you really need! Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 2[:4,9]: "As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him… you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
You belong. You belong to God. Find your identity in him and in what he thinks of you through Christ, not in what others think of you, not even in what you think of yourself, but in what he thinks. And he thinks you're special—so special that he chose you to be his own, he lived a perfect life in your place, he endured the scorn and the shame of the cross to rescue you from your sin and purchase you as his own. So find your identity in him.
And as you find your identity in Jesus, you'll also find your courage in him. You'll find the courage to take your stand for him and proclaim his love to others even if you're mocked and insulted and ridiculed for it—even if you're humiliated, hurt, or abused for it. You'll find the courage to take your stand for others when they're bullied or mocked, as you show your love for Jesus. For you know his great love for you.
You may not have a quick wit that can fire back insult for insult, come up with a snappy come back, or verbally spar with the best of them. But that's okay. In fact, it's more than okay. You have something better than a quick qit: You have your Savior's forgiving love—a love that changes you into someone more compassionate and kind, forgiving and loving—a love that can change others too—even the bullies. So go share that love. Live that love. And change the world! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.