Please turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew 27 verses 27 – 32. Normally, we break passages into parts and try and see specific points being taught by Matthew in specific sections of the passage. But today I want to traverse the whole ground of this passage twice, looking at it from two different perspectives. When we first work through the passage, I want you to see the reality of Christ’s physical sufferings as Matthew sets them forth. Then I’d like to come back to the same points again and see the vicarious nature of His sufferings.
I. The Physical Suffering
Matthew is more detailed than any of the other gospels writers in his descriptions of what happened to our Lord prior to His crucifixion. He gives us a seven-step description of what these soldiers did to Jesus.
First of all in verse 28, you see that they disrobed Him. Now that was a very shameful thing. The Jew of Jesus’ day could not have conceived of something more embarrassing, more shaming, than being publicly naked. The concept of public nakedness was shaming since the fall. And so here Jesus is disrobed and made naked.
And then in verse 28 they robe Him again, now with a faded soldier’s robe. They put around Him one of the red robes worn by the Roman troopers. Why? To mock Him. The kings in the near east would have worn purple robes as a symbol of their royalty, and now in preparation for the taunting of Jesus, they put one of these faded Roman troopers’ garments around Him.
And then in verse 29, they crown Him with thorns. A thorny reef is made from a plant in Palestine, and it’s placed on His head as a mock crown. The rulers of the near east would have worn crowns with spikes heading out as if they were the spikes of the light of the sun, and this crown is pressed down upon His head, and you can think of the pain and the flow of the blood.
And then again in verse 29 they give him a scepter. They scepter Him with this cane, a stick or a reed. We know that the Roman soldiers often used something like a bamboo cane to administer beatings. And they stick one of these canes in Jesus’ hand. The king needs a scepter after all. And they are preparing to mock Him as a king, and so they place it into His hand.
And then again in verse 29 they began to prostrate themselves before Him, mocking Him. They speak to Him as if they would have spoken to Caesar in the triumphal processions, the crowds and the soldiers would have greeted Caesar with a cry, “Ave Caesar.” And so they fall down before Jesus and they say, “King of the Jews.” So they did mocking homage to Him.
And then as each one of them stood up, they spat on His face. We know that in those times, as now, spitting was one of the most grievous insults that you could give, short of physical violence against a person. And we also know that Jews considered this spittle of Gentiles to be especially unclean.
And to cap it all off, they stood up, they took the reed, and beat Him. They slapped Him, and they struck Him on the head with a cane, driving the spikes of the thorns deeper into His flesh. This is the scene of the torture and the mocking of your Savior.
And so Pilate sends Jesus on to His crucifixion. The execution, according to custom and law was done outside of the city gates, probably about a thousand paces north of Herod’s palace. And Jesus begins to carry His own cross. This was a way that the Romans broke the will of those who suffered in crucifixion. It’s like digging your own grave. To carry the instrument on which you will be crucified and on which you will die the most horrendous death. But Jesus didn’t go very far. By the time He got to the city gates He crumbled under the weight of that cross-beam. And so the Roman soldiers looked into the crowd and they conscripted someone to come and bear the cross-beam for the Lord Jesus. And so Simon carries the cross the rest of the way. Friends, we must not overlook the enormity of Jesus’ physical sufferings. These earthly pains are only a small part of the totality of what He suffered on our behalf.
II. The Vicarious Suffering
This passage not only points to the reality of the physical sufferings that Jesus underwent before the cross, it points to the vicarious nature of those sufferings. Vicarious is just one big word that means that Jesus suffered for us. He suffered on behalf of us. He suffered in our place.
And let’s review again Jesus’ treatment in this passage and see how it points to His vicarious sacrifice. Jesus was disrobed in verse 28. And we said that that points to the shame of His nakedness. Think of those passages where Paul speaks of us in the last day not naked before the Lord, but clothed with bodies, glorified bodies. And more than that, clothed with the righteousness of Christ. And you can’t help but think that Matthew is reminding us that the Savior who was shamed and naked has provided us a cloak of righteousness.
They robed Him with this mock king’s robe. It was a way of taunting Him, you remember, and they thought this was very cute, very ironic. This man, some said, was a king. So they would pretend He was a king. But you see the irony is not on Jesus, it’s on them, for He was king. The man that they were mocking as a king were speaking more truth than they knew. They bowed before Him, they prostrated themselves. They said, “Hail, King of the Jews.” They sceptered Him with a cane. They mocked Him that we might be honored and blessed. They spat on Him. They hit Him. They beat Him to fulfill Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 50 verse 6: “I gave My back to those who strike Me. And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard. I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.”
And the point of all this is that not one drop of Jesus’ blood is wasted. He gives Himself willingly and intentionally for your sins in your place. And when we see Him doing this we ought to consider what our sins deserve, and we ought to loathe the sin that pressed our Savior to the tree. The power of His kingdom is the power of a suffering servant. The sovereign one who humbles Himself and is humiliated in our place so that we might share in His benefits forever. Let’s remember the reality of His sufferings, and let’s remember that those sufferings were for us.