Matthew 27:27-31 (Lent Midweek 4—The Crucified King)
“The King Mocked”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
April 2, 2014
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our text for is the Gospel lesson recorded in Matthew 27:
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.
They shaved off his hair. They gouged out his eyes. They bound him with bronze shackles. They tossed him in prison and gave him the hard labor of grinding wheat. Philistines had captured their enemy, Samson. But as if that weren’t cruel enough, there was still the mockery. While the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a sacrifice to their god, Dagon, they decided to make a spectacle of him publicly too. While 3,000 looked on from the rooftop, the Philistines brought out Samson to entertain them. To be for them a bald, blind, dancing joke.
But God is not mocked. And neither is the One He chooses and anoints to rescue His people. So He saw to it that Samson was placed between two pillars of the building. And saw to it that he had strength to push as he placed his right hand on one pillar and his left hand on the other pillar as the building fell upon the unsuspecting Philistines. Samson died too. But in his death, he won his greatest victory of all.
He was a young, red-faced shepherd boy with no armor. All he had was a shepherd’s pouch containing five smooth stones and a sling in his hand. So when the swordless David approached the fierce, well-armed giant Goliath, Goliath thought it was a joke. He made sport of him. He got a good belly laugh as he mocked David. “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” (1 Samuel 17:43).
But God is not mocked. And neither is the one He chooses and anoints to rescue His people. The joke was actually on Goliath and the Philistines. For God gave David courage, faith, and expert aim. And all David needed was one smooth stone slung, and David showed that the joke was actually on Goliath, as David sliced off the fallen giant’s head and carried it away as a trophy.
God is not mocked. And neither is the One He chooses and anoints to rescue the world. So what’s going on in the mockery of Jesus, God’s Anointed, the Messiah, the King, sent from heaven to rescue the world? He is made a laughingstock, a public spectacle. The Roman soldiers are making sport of Him as they strip Him, crown Him with thorns, and put a mock scepter in His hand. They get a good belly laugh as they kneel before Him and make fun of Him, insult Him, spit upon Him, and strike Him on the head.
But God is not mocked. So where is the part in this scene where God’s Anointed has had enough and uses the divine strength in His right hand and left hand to get revenge? Where is the part where Jesus shows His enemies who they are messing with and pushes their mockery right back on their heads? Where’s the payback? But this scene doesn’t culminate with a victory for the Lord’s Anointed. St. Matthew simply records, “they put His own clothes on Him and led Him away to crucify Him” (27:31).
Jesus puts up no fight. In the face of all this mockery, He doesn’t flash His divine power and get revenge. He humbly submits to the insults. He doesn’t cry out or lash out at those who mock Him. And this is good news for all who have mocked God. And that means you and me too. In order to save sinners, Jesus must bear all the disrespect, the blasphemy and mockery. Imagine if He used His divine strength and got revenge every time you and I mocked the Lord’s Anointed? And mock Him we have.
We’ve rolled your eyes and scoffed at the demands of His Law. We’ve not feared Him or always considered Him trustworthy. We’ve prayed to Him as though He were our bellboy and not the King of kings. We’ve looked down on Him and judged Him with contempt. What about our smug and disrespectful attitude toward Him? We’ve taken our sin way too lightly. You and I treat it as an occasional mistake in judgment. But rather, it is a condition of estrangement from God, a ruined relationship. So in that scene is pictured for us our true condition as sinner who by nature hates God.
And yet He bears it all willingly and silently. What is most obvious in this scene is the love of God for sinners. Amazingly, God in the person of Jesus is mocked. He is willing to be mocked in order to rescue you and me. He absorbs into His holy flesh all the mockery and all the disrespect and all the sin that we can dish out, and takes it to the cross and grave to destroy it. And then He rises from the dead, not to get payback or revenge or to mock man, but to proclaim peace and reconciliation. He is willingly led to the cross and grave to destroy sin and spare us from the devil’s eternal mocking.
What a scene back in Matthew 2, when Gentile Wise Men surrounded the infant Jesus and fell down and worshiped Him as the King of the Jews. But what an even greater scene here in Matthew’s passion, as Jesus is surrounded by Gentile soldiers who kneel before Him in mock homage saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” But He receives the greeting with no retribution, for He came into the world just for this: to find His glory in being a mocked and crucified King.
Our blessed King, who is pleased to be crowned with ugly thorns, to atone for all those crooked thoughts you’ve had about God, and to crown you with glory and honor. Our blessed King, who is pleased to be dressed up in a scarlet robe, that you might be baptized and adorned with royal garb that covers all your scarlet sins. Our blessed King, who is pleased to hold a mock scepter in His hand and be mocked, so that your pastor might hold the body and blood of Christ and bestow on you God’s forgiveness, life, and salvation and a Kingdom without end.
Jesus, the Greater Samson, has stretched out His right and His left land at the cross, and through His death brought down Satan and His power over you. Jesus, the Greater David, fought not with five smooth stones but with His five jagged wounds, crushing Satan’s head and giving you a share in His victory. Jesus, God in the flesh, who for you was mercilessly mocked, that you might mercifully be declared great in God’s Kingdom. Amen.