PASSION/PALM SUNDAY. March 25 The final stages of the journey to the cross, begin with Palm/Passion Sunday and conclude on Easter Sunday at the empty tomb. Which is where these Lenten devotions end. If you desire to continue the journey with Mark,
PREPARE TO LISTEN. After your silence, pray: It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in mortals. (Psalm 118:8)
READ: Mark 15:16-20 Station 4: Pilate’s residence. “Led out to be crucified”
16Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ 19They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
The second trial ends, the ‘guilty’ verdict stands, and the bullies take over as the Roman soldiers, like the Jewish ‘police’ after the first trial, persecute Jesus before taking him to the cross. They strip him of his clothing, array him in kingly robes (a purple cloak) place a crown made of thorns on his head and mock him. I often wonder whether the person who twisted ‘some thorns into a crown’ was wounded in the process. Sometimes bullies are willing to suffer pain in order to wound and humiliate their enemy. Jesus remained passive and accepting.
After the bullying, Jesus is given back his own clothing (which they’ll soon strip off him a second time) and then “they led him out to crucify him.” The words are almost matter of fact, like this was an ordinary day of business as usual. It was commonplace in those days of Roman rule, yet Mark’s simple unadorned phrase adds to the drama; it’s mater-of-factness is attention-getting, if only because it’s shocking. The verbs in that short sentence are stark. Jesus was led, a passive, unresisting lamb to the slaughter; taken out away from the comfortable and controllable known; so they could crucify him. Jesus willingly yields to his captors, letting them take him to an excruciatingly painful death.
“They led him out to crucify him.” You may have noticed that Mark doesn’t explain the reason for Jesus’ crucifixion, not here and not elsewhere in his Gospel. He has dropped hints along the way, such as Jesus’ words given at his last Passover meal: “This is my blood…which is poured out for many.” But even those words remain unexplained. We’re meant to live with the words until they sink into our heart and life and change us.
Reflect on your reaction to the simplicity of Mark’s matter-of-fact phrase: “they led him out to crucify him.” They never knew he willingly went for each one of them and for the world. Jesus’ call to his disciples is, “Follow me.” Jesus went to the cross. What do you think that means for you today?
RESPOND TO JESUS IN PRAYER
“When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” (Isaac Watts.) Lord Jesus, for your sake, help me make these words a reality, bit by bit, starting today. Amen.
GO AND LIVE IN OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST who poured out his blood for you.