Despite all the good things Jesus had done--his miracles,
storytelling, teaching and preaching--he was betrayed, bound,
beaten and nailed to a crossbeam!
 


Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to
them; 
and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him,
to be crucified. 
Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall
called Praetorium, 
and they called together the whole
garrison.

They clothed Jesus with purple; and they twisted a crown
of thorns, 
put it on his head, and began to salute Him, "Hail,
King of the Jews!" 
Then they struck Him on the head with a
reed and spat on Him; 
and bowing the knee, they worshiped
Him.

When they had mocked Him, they took the purple off, put
His own clothes on Him and 
led Him out. They compelled a
certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the 
father of Alexander and
Rufus, as he was coming out of the country 
and passing by,
to bear His cross.

[{Luke 23:27-31} A great multitude followed, and women
mourned 
and lamented him. But Jesus, turning to them,
said, "Daughters 
of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep
for yourselves and 
for your children. For indeed the days are
coming in which they 
will say, 'Blessed are the barren and
breasts which never nursed!' 
Then they will begin 'to say to
the mountains, "Fall on us!" and 
to the hills, "Cover us!"'
For if they do these things in the green 
wood, what will be
done in the dry?"]

And they brought Jesus to the place Golgotha, which is
translated, 
Place of a Skull.
                                                     Mark 15:15-22 NKJV, condensed


                                    What Kept Jesus Going? 

Barabbas was free; Jesus was bound. Soldiers led Jesus away
from the crowd and into the dark regions of the palace. There
they called others and soon they grew into a whole company.
Many of these were idle soldiers, wiling away the morning with
nothing to do. Now they gravitated to the action. True or not,
we hold images of soldiers gambling on anything and
everything, creating a circus atmosphere and a gaming arena
at the slightest provocation. So it's likely they gathered around; 
drinking, shouting, cheering, joking, taking sides and betting on
the who, what, where and when possibilities concerning the
flogging of Jesus.

I understand why soldiers make a party out of any incident they
can. Years ago I worked at a special needs school for children
whose minds and bodies suffered from severe and profound
challenges. It was called Liberty Forge School, and boy, did we
party in our classroom. We celebrated at the slightest excuse,
only our parties involved food and songs, not gambling and
alcohol. We partied to elevate the mood of the students and
ourselves. It seems, the more depressing the work environment,
the more need there is to create amusement whenever 
possible. These soldiers did the same, squeezing every ounce
of fun out of this drab situation.

It started with a purple robe for king Jesus. Since kings need a
crown to distinguish themselves from ordinary people, someone
started to twist together a thorny vine. Soon he had the small
circle complete and pushed it down on Jesus' head. Warriors
were used to blood--the sight, the smell, and the steady
weakening of their victim. They made up taunting chants and
"king of the Jews" slogans. They struck him on his new crown,
drawing more blood and then they spit on him. Others scornfully
dropped to their knees before Jesus and paid homage. Each
soldier incited another to join the charades.

When the level of excitement tapered and they tired of their
jokes, they took the bloodied robe off Jesus and put his own
clothing back on him. Then they led Jesus, carrying a crossbeam,
out into the street. That's where they knew if they were going to
get on with the job, they would need a strong body to carry the
wooden beam for Jesus. So they spotted a newcomer and
commandeered him. Dear Lord, can you imagine what that was
like for a visitor to Jerusalem, suddenly and without warning or
understanding the situation, to get caught up in a barbaric
Roman crucifixion!

He is identified as Simon, a native of Cyrene on the north shore
of Africa. Mark includes the names of Simon's two sons, as
though the people reading his gospel twenty years later would
know of them. Whether shouldering the cross for Jesus was a
burden or a blessing, Simon would determine that later. At the
moment it most certainly was anything but pleasant.

Along the parade route to the execution site we get a more
balanced view of the crowds in Jerusalem that day. In addition to
the jeers, there were tears. Jesus, who had been quiet throughout
his trial, had some words for the women who mourned his
passing. In brief: Save your tears for yourselves and your children,
you will have plenty to cry about!

So it was that the soldiers, with Jesus in tow, reached Skull Hill. 
Crucifixions were routine; soldiers could get used to them, and
when they did, the abnormal became the norm. I learned that, too,
from Liberty Forge School. One morning I cheerfully ate a donut
in the bathroom while attending to one of my students on the
toilet. I had become oblivious to the circumstances. Not really
seeing where I was, not noticing that enjoying a peanut-covered
chocolate treat in a stinking, unappetizing environment would
make anyone walking in off the street shudder. Likewise the
veterans who hammered the nails didn't see the horrors of it
the same way the uninitiated would. We all need to pray that we
don't ever get used to watching someone suffer.

Jesus is amazing. What kept him going toward the fulfillment of
his role as Savior of the world? We get a clue as to what was
on his mind from his words to the tearful women, a quote from
the Old Testament (Hosea 10:8). I believe his calmness was the
fruit of being rooted in holy scripture. Surely as he climbed
the hill to Golgotha, those ancient words--the Psalms, the Law
and the Prophets--were his life and strength.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further 
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker:  What keeps you going when you "run out of gas"?

 

For what reasons do people mock other people?
            What effects does mockery often have on perpetrator and victim?
Jesus was mocked at every turn during the last hours of his life.
            Why and how did that happen?

 

Make a list of the ways people prepare for tough assignments and
rigorous goals. 
            Why is it important to train the mind as well as the body?
How had Jesus prepared himself for his death on a cross?
            Think of this question in terms of mind, body and soul.

 

Do you consider it a shame that Jesus died in his prime, with so much 
left to do and say?

 

Not everyone in Jerusalem was eager to be rid of Jesus.
            Describe the moods which you think were evident among 
                        the people who witnessed the crucifixion that day.
There were women along the way who lamented and mourned. 
            What is the connotation of "lament" and how is it different
                    than shedding a few tears?

 

Jesus' message to the crying women sounds like a warning.--If this
is what happens to God's son in this ugly, sinful world, just think
what could happen to the rest of you! 
            Why would Jesus be so negative instead of offering positive words?
            When have you received a warning instead of the encouragement 
                        you were seeking?
"Blessed are the barren" was an extreme statement and contrary
to all thinking at that time. 
            Why would Jesus say such a thing?

 

No matter the circumstances, Jesus could picture the faith of
Abraham, the staying power of Moses, the courage of Joshua, the
tears of Jeremiah. He had memorized the psalms of David, and
immersed himself in the Law and Prophets.
            What value did the holy scriptures have for Jesus?
            In what ways have you immersed yourself in the words of
                    the Bible?
            Share a personal example wherein you were strengthened
                    by Scripture.

 

The text does not describe how Jesus looked on his way to Calvary.
We know he was bruised and bleeding and not strong enough to
carry his cross.
           Do you think Jesus was worried and afraid?   If not, why wasn't he?
          What do you think was going through his mind?

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