Gods Aren't Supposed to Suffer

What the Romans intended for mockery, God used for redemption.

Elly Brian

Although Jesus made it through Satan's temptations unscathed, the Lord's greatest test was yet to come, and he knew it.

In fact Jesus predicted his own death numerous times to his disciples. Although they couldn't comprehend the implications of Jesus's words, these statements are important to demonstrate that Jesus wasn't taken by surprise at his execution and that he willingly served as a sacrifice on our behalf.

His predictions notwithstanding, this latter fact should be obvious since Jesus made no defense on his behalf despite false testimony against him. In addition Jesus could have simply avoided Jerusalem where the heat on him was the hottest had he desired to avoid crucifixion. And yet again he could have slipped away from his captors in Gethsemane as he did earlier in Nazareth when the synagogue congregates tried to throw him down a cliff. 

Jesus was going to the cross, and he knew it.

But that doesn't mean he didn't struggle with his destiny. Just after Satan's third temptation, Scripture tells us the devil left Jesus and waited for an opportune time to tempt him again. Although the Scripture doesn't explicitly tell us when this occurred, might I offer up a suggestion? Late in his ministry at one of the instances in which Jesus explained to his disciples that he had to die, Peter protested, saying "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Notice Jesus's response: "Get behind me Satan" (Matt. 16:22-23). He doesn't say, "Get behind me, Peter!" Is it possible this is the opportune time Satan was looking for? And how tempting such a proposition must have been! 

Although Jesus did not hesitate in denouncing Peter’s notion, I know I would have been tempted to side with the disciple in hopes of avoiding the agony associated with the cross. This is how Satan operates. He knows when we're at our most vulnerable. He knows when we're most likely to toss in the towel and surrender to the desires of this world rather than stay true to the Father's will.

Jesus didn't take the bait.

He recognized the gambit of the tempter and quickly dismissed it. Nevertheless Gethsemane gives us a peak at Jesus in his most vulnerable state. Though Jesus often slipped away alone to pray, on the night of his arrest he brought along his disciples for moral support. Yet they could not stay awake to keep watch and pray with the Lord.

"Sorrowful, even to death," Jesus fell on his face and asked God to remove the ordeal he was about to undergo, but only if doing so aligned with the Father's will (Matt. 26:38-39).

God said no.

Within hours Jesus would be dead.

Why the Crown of Thorns Backfired on the Romans

Jesus wasn't the first person the Romans crucified.

The empire most likely adopted crucifixion after exposure to the practice via the Phoenicians during the Punic Wars starting in 246 BC. Jesus wouldn't be the last to be crucified either. The practice persisted until emperor Constantine outlawed it in the 4th century. Yet, by the time of Christ, the Romans had perfected the art of brutality and spared none of it when it came to our Lord.

The Sanhedrin spit on Jesus, slapped him, and struck him. In the hands of the Romans, the soldiers stripped him naked and scourged him with a barbed whip designed to rip flesh from its victims with every blow. If that weren't enough, the soldiers then humiliated Jesus by dressing him in a scarlet robe and handing him a staff in mockery of his claim to be king. Then they ripped the staff from his hand and beat him with it and spit on him too. And all of this before the crucifixion even began.

But let's not forget the crown of thorns.

In conjunction with robe and staff, the Romans twisted thorns together to fashion a crown and jammed it onto Jesus's brow. With the blood spilling down Christ's brow, I doubt if any of the onlookers realized the irony of their act. Of course the crown of thorns was ironic; it was meant to be. Jesus said he was king, but the Romans and Jews didn't believe it. So rather than a real crown, they made one out of sharp plant material as a way to mock him.

But there's another layer of irony that, no doubt, escaped everyone present that day. When God entered the machine of his own creation in form of the Immanuel, Jesus of Nazareth, he and Mary endured the first consequence of the fall of mankind. Pain in childbirth was woman's punishment for disobedience in the Garden of Eden. So as mother and child suffered through contractions of labor, Jesus took the first step in assuming the role as atoner and perfect representative of humanity.

But what was man's punishment? Take a look:

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;

through painful toil you will eat food from it

all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

and you will eat the plants of the field."

Genesis 3:17-18

Did you catch that? Adam's punishment was thorns. So when the Roman soldiers twisted the thorns into a crown and forced it upon Jesus' brow—implanting it deep into his flesh—at that moment Jesus bore man's punishment in a literal sense.

Because of disobedience we were separated from God, given thorns and birthing pains instead. Yet Jesus came that we might be reconciled to the Father. He took the punishment even though he was innocent, and willingly gave his life as a sacrifice so that we could live.

The Romans intended the crown of thorns for mockery. God intended it for redemption.

Now, it seems, more than ever is a critical time for Christians to set down deep roots of faith. Perhaps the best way to do so is to ground yourself in the Word and spend time in daily prayer.

If you've ever struggled with consistency in these disciplines, you might be interested in a guide I've put together, aptly named How to Establish a Habit of Daily Quiet Time with God. The guide is free, just enter your email below:

By downloading the guide you'll be added to my email list. I send two to three messages a month including an exclusive article only subscribers receive.

Though the crucifixion was a brutal event, it is our only hope for salvation and serves as an impossible display of love from God to us. May we all live our lives in light of this good news.

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