The Insults

“But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8’He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!'”
—Ps. 22:6-8 (Matt. 27:35-44)

It is hard and painful to think of Jesus being mocked. And yet He was mocked and mocked ruthlessly. Jesus was mocked by the chief priests, the scribes, the elders (Matt. 27:41), by robbers (v. 44), and by soldiers (Lk. 23:36).

It didn’t stop there, though. The condemned would be crucified naked. The cross was an instrument of shame as well as pain. Much of the mocking that Jesus underwent occurred as He was vulnerable and stretched out on the cross.

The Righteous One becomes the Rejected One. The Great Exchange took place, the righteous for the unrighteous. Barabbas goes free and the beautiful Savior is bludgeoned. So in Barabbas’ deliverance, we see our own.[1]

The psalmist says, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people” (Ps. 22:6). And that was Jesus’ experience. Jesus “felt himself to be comparable to a helpless, powerless, down-trodden worm, passive while crushed, and unnoticed and despised by those who trod upon him.”[2] The Christ of the cosmos was mocked as a maggot.

A whole battalion of soldiers came together to see the Messiah mocked. A counterfeit crown was placed upon His head, a crown of vicious thorns like talons (Matt. 27:29). They placed a purple robe on Him because purple was the imperial color (1 Macc. 8:14). All Jesus needed was a scepter to make the scene complete. And so Jesus was given a reed.

And then they hit Him with it and spit on Him (Matt. 27:30).

The soldiers bowed mocking, not knowing that they mocked the King of the universe that was battered to bless the broken world. They didn’t know that when they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” that He actually is the King of the Jews and the King of kings.

Yet the onlookers lob their blasphemies like grenades. “Save Yourself,” they cried, not knowing that if He saved Himself He would damn the whole human race. It was Jesus’ love, not the nails, that kept Him suspended on the cross.

The man who is utterly powerless—has all power. The man who can’t save Himself—saves others.[4]

Blood flows from the face of the gracious Friend of Sinners as He’s mocked with a crown of thorns. “It is in the face of eternal Love that they spit. It is the Source of life whom they smite with their fists, and it is He whom the heavens adore that they insult with their venomous tongues.”[5] Jesus is not done, however. He must fall lower still.

The inscription above Jesus’ head as He hung on the cross was to mock Him but it truly testified in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew that “Jesus of Nazareth is the King of the Jews.”[6] And so it served as the first gospel tract. The man who is mocked as king—is King.[7]

It is by Jesus’ helplessness that we find help. We do not have to sit helpless in our shame because Christ bore our sin and shame.

Reflections

  • How can we ever complain about the insults that we experience when we consider what our Lord experienced? How can we who frequently meditate on the grace that was brought to us through Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection not extend grace and forgiveness to others?  How can we exalt ourselves and quarrel with each other?[8]
  • “My friends, as often as we repose on the downy cushions of divine peace, or blissfully assemble in social circles, singing hymns of hope, let us never forget that the cause of the happiness we enjoy is solely to be found in the fact that the Lord of glory once extended Himself on the fatal tree for us.”[9]

Prayer

Father, we are amazed by Your love and we thank You for sending Jesus to bear our reproach. We thank You that Jesus did not save Himself as He could have but stayed on the cross to save us. Amen.

__________

[1] Barabbas was a rabble-rouser. He was likely in some ways more in line with what people were hoping for in the Messiah. Someone that would rise up and defeat Roman rule. So, in some ways, it’s no wonder that Barabbas was chosen to go free instead of Jesus (see Matt. 27:16-26). Jesus, however, first needed to come to save people from their greatest problem, sin, and separation from God. He will soon come back to establish a reign of perfect peace. 

[2] Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 326.

[3] Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 326.

[4] See Carson, Scandalous, 36.

[5] F.W. Krummacher, The Suffering Saviour, 108.

[6] There are variations in the Gospels of what the inscription said, likely because it was written in three different languages and they may have been reporting different translations (e.g. Matt. 27:37; Lk. 23:37).

[7] See Carson, Scandalous, 36.

[8] cf. Blomberg, Matthew, 417.

[9] F.W. Krummacher, The Suffering Saviour, 184.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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