When you really start reading the betrayal of Jesus… Jesus before the religious leaders… Jesus questioned by Pilate… if you’re anything like me, you start thinking, “Does anybody else see how crazy this seems? It really happened… it’s all true… but it’s almost surreal. It’s like living a bad-dream. Here’s why I say that…
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him.” Matthew 27:27
What’s the big deal about that? It’s outlandish! It’s total overkill. The whole cohort was called together. Oh, so maybe I need to explain a little further.
In the Roman world, according to the Historian, Josephus, there was what was called a Roman Legion. This legion of soldiers was made up of 5,500 – 6,000 men. These were all professional men who signed on for terms lasting 25 years. Within each Legion there was what was called a Cohort. These cohorts were not of equal size but ranged in numbers from as many as 800 to as small as 500.
After Jesus was questioned by Pilate and he finally acquiesced to the demands of the people to crucify Jesus, the governors soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium, or the governors place, and the whole cohort was brought in. That would be anywhere from 500-800 professional soldiers. How many men does it take to stand guard over one man?
These men stripped Jesus naked, humiliating Him, and placed a red robe on Him. They weaved a crown from a thorn bush and crammed it on His head, making sure it stayed. They put a stick in His hand to be used as a symbol of rulership. They even jokingly, arrogantly and disrespectfully knelt down in front of Jesus and laughingly called Him a king. This mob mentality permeated through these professional soldiers who were groomed to be savages.
They spit on Him, then they took the stick away from Him and used it to beat Him. And after all the fun and games, when it was no longer any more fun, they took off the red robe, put His own clothes back on Him, and led Him out to be crucified.
How can one man, be such a threat to all these soldiers? Is He that much of a menace to society? Is He that intimidating?
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: Next week is Holy Week and once again we’ll have the opportunity to live the life of our Savior all over again. We will hear of the betrayal and denial. We will witness the insanity of it all. We will walk to the hill outside of the city and pound the nails into His hands and feet. We will watch Him hang in agony, while the crowd shouts and jeers malicious things at Him while He hangs there defenselessly. I pray He doesn’t intimidate you! I pray He comforts you… assures you… with His love and grace. “By His stripes we are healed!”
Take me to the cross. Jesus in Your name I ask this, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen