Holy Week, Friday :: The Praetorium :: the Place of Suffering

Mark 15:1-20. Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law—the entire high council—met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.

Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner—anyone the people requested. One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual.

“Would you like me to release to you this ‘King of the Jews’?” Pilate asked.10 (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 11 But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. 12 Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”

13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

14 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”

But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

15 So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

16 The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. 17 They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. 18 Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!”19 And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. 20 When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

After the public betrayal and humiliation of the upper room, Jesus’ physical ordeal begins. He is arrested at night, and then kept up through a sham (and illegal) trial, before being delivered over to the only people with the power to inflict capital punishment in the region—the Romans.

The Romans didn’t particularly dislike Jesus; to them he was simply another Jewish religious fanatic. The punishment they inflicted on him wasn’t particularly malicious or evil.

But it was efficient.

Jesus was beaten, whipped, insulted, and he bled, sweat, and wavered.

Make no mistake, a lot happens at the cross; but a lot happens before the cross as well.

Because Jesus suffers.

Call me crazy, but having a “suffering savior” matters to me.

It’s possible that God, being all-powerful, was completely capable of bringing us back to Himself with a snap of His infinite fingers. But regardless, He chose to come to us in the form of a human being.

Who was beaten, whipped, and crushed.

I think the implications of this are staggering.

If we worshipped a God who was only far-off, who is distant, who is only perfect and clean, than I would be terrified or embarrassed to come to Him (or Her) in my weakness and suffering.

But because God—because somehow YHWH—knows suffering, knows pain, knows humiliation, it means that I can bring my own suffering, pain, and humiliation to Him, and when I do, he says,

“I understand.”

“I have felt this.”

“You don’t have to be ashamed.”

Because God suffered, I can suffer too, and know that He welcomes it, and shares in it. He does not shun me in my weakness, but welcomes me.

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