After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
Jesus had said this would happen. For quite some time, he had predicted his suffering and death. The first time came right after Peter confessed him to be the Messiah. Jesus responded: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). So, even though the Roman soldiers led Jesus out to crucify him, they were only doing what he had said they would do.
Indeed, they were doing what he chose to happen and in many ways caused to happen. After all, Jesus had been preaching that God alone was the true King and that his kingdom was at hand…not exactly the kind of message Rome liked to hear. Moreover, Jesus had been in regular conflict with Jewish leaders, who saw him as a nuisance and a threat. Then, he stirred up the crowds by riding into Jerusalem as a messianic king. He disturbed the Jewish officials by ransacking the temple and halting its sacrifices, accusing the temple leaders of being no better than a bunch of thieves. Jesus seemed even to know that Judas was planning to betray him and Jesus appeared to consent to the betrayal. Jesus did not defend himself before the Sanhedrin, perhaps because he knew this was a lost cause. But he didn’t try to set Pilate straight either. And, of course, Jesus did not call down legions of angels to deliver him.
So, though “they led him out to crucify him,” Jesus was no passive victim. He picked up his cross and walked to Golgotha because he had chosen the way of suffering. He believed this to be the will of God, the way by which he would realize his messianic destiny. Jesus chose to suffer and die so that he might fulfill Isaiah’s vision of the Suffering Servant of God, the one who was “despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity.” As this Servant, Jesus “has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases.” Moreover, “he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed” (Isa. 53:3-5).
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever sensed that God wanted you to “take up your cross” and follow Jesus? In what way? Are you struggling to be faithful in some area of your life or work right now, knowing that you should “take up your cross,” but not being sure if you can do it?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, you chose the cross. Yes, the Jewish leaders accused you. And, yes, Pilate sentenced you. And, indeed, Roman soldiers led you to Golgotha. But in a very real sense, they were simply working out what God had willed and you had freely and painfully chosen.
How I thank you for this costly choice! Because you took up the cross, I can take up life in all of its fullness. Because you were led to die, I can be led into the eternal life. Because you bore my sin, I can enjoy your forgiveness. How good you are to me, dear Lord, my Savior! Amen.
P.S. from Mark: You can see Linda’s painting for the Seventh Station here. You may also be interested in a blog series I have written called Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Roman, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives.