Calvary Road Baptist Church

“I STOOD WHERE JESUS STOOD

Mark 15.15-20

 

It has been my privilege to visit Israel on a number of occasions over the years, with each trip being special in its own way. The first trip to Israel was made when a missionary friend was still in Lebanon, before he met his wife. I remember him driving down to Jerusalem in a Lebanese man’s taxi, back when driving between the two countries was possible. However, the most memorable part of that first trip to Israel was visiting Capernaum, where Jesus was headquartered for much of His earthly ministry. Walking through the remains of Capernaum, visiting the site where Simon Peter and his wife had lived, where Jesus had healed the fisherman’s mother-in-law, and standing in the remains of the synagogue where Jesus had no doubt worshiped. That moved me.

When the church sent my wife and me to Israel for our thirtieth anniversary, the most memorable part of that trip took place as we drove through the bleak Sinai desert and I pictured in my mind the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel, brought on by their refusal to trust God to take them safely into the Promised Land. They paid a high price for their lack of faith in the faithful God Who had delivered them from Egyptian bondage and fed them with manna every day.

However, the most touching moment this time in Israel came after I walked the Via Dolorosa, the route taken by the Lord Jesus Christ as He bore His cross from the place His final judgment by Pontius Pilate to Mount Calvary, where He was crucified. The Via Dolorosa (Latin for Way of Grief or Way of Suffering) is a street, in two parts, within the Old City of Jerusalem, held to be the path that Jesus walked, carrying His cross, on the way to His crucifixion.

Having walked that route, which may or may not be the exact route taken by my Lord on that fateful day, there remained one thing I wanted to see that I had once seen years earlier, the place where the Roman soldiers taunted Jesus before crucifying Him. Keep in mind that archaeologists are very sure about some things, and not so sure about other things. What they are very sure of, because of the remaining foundation stones far beneath the modern city of Jerusalem, as well as findings I will mention shortly, is the location of what is called the Antonia Fortress.

King Herod built the Antonia Fortress before Christ’s birth and was lived in by him until the completion of his palace. By our Lord’s time Roman soldiers occupied Antonia Fortress and it was the place Pilate stayed when he left his residence in Caesaria to visit Jerusalem during high holy days, when it was more likely Roman troops would have trouble with the Jewish population. The Antonia Fortress was the northwest corner of the Temple Mount in Jesus’ day. When the fortress was built it was built with many rooms, some of them underground even in that day, and used as cells for prisoners awaiting trial or for prisoners awaiting execution. One cell is identified as the place where Barabbas was held, while another cell is identified as the cell where Jesus was held before being brought to Pilate. No evidence was given to show how anyone could be sure who occupied these cells. However, there is one place where one can be all but certain about. It is a place where the stones comprising the floor have been chiseled to show the cruel games the Roman soldiers played to relieve their boredom by cruelly torturing their prisoners awaiting execution.

When I entered the room, two workers were sitting on scaffolding and digging out old mortar and replacing it with new cement so pieces of stone would not fall from the ceiling. The inscribed stones in the floor were protected by barricades to prevent foot traffic that would wear the stones down over time. This was a place where Jesus stood because this was the place the soldiers mistreated their prisoners.

Please turn to Mark 15.15. When you find that place in your Bible, stand to read along with me silently while I read aloud:

 

15     And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.

16     And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.

17     And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,

18     And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!

19     And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.

20     And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.

 

Matthew and John’s gospel accounts both refer to the scourging of the Lord Jesus Christ, but only Mark’s gospel, which seems to have been written to a Roman audience, exposes this cruelty and torment to Jesus after He had already been scourged. Thus, the Romans not only brutalized our Lord by their characteristically inhumane scourging of Him, but then they played with their doomed prisoner.

Little did those savage manslayers realize, as they clothed Him with purple, and crowned Him to then salute Him, saying “Hail, King of the Jews,” that they would be the first chorus of many voices to so praise Him throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. They did not know that they were leading as a lamb to the slaughter the Son of the living God, the King of kings, the exalted sovereign of the universe who is terrible in majesty. I shudder to think what it must have been like for that Roman who smote Him on the head with a reed, and that other Roman who spit upon Him, and the others who mockingly bowed their knees as if to worship Him, when they passed from life in this world to the hereafter, only to learn the true identity of the One they had crucified.

From this hall, the Praetorium, Jesus would be taken and crucified between two thieves. Hanging there between heaven and earth, He would cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”[1] He would then cry out, “It is finished,” and give up the ghost.[2] As I preached this morning, the Lord Jesus Christ’s saving work was performed on the cross, where He atoned for sins. However, this evening I would like to bring to your attention what the Romans did to Jesus in the Praetorium. Place yourself in the sandals of those men. Imagine how you might have behaved in similar circumstances, had you lived when they lived and experienced what they experienced.

Three things come to my mind in connection with the brutality my Lord suffered in that hall whose floor is etched with the picture of the cruel game they played at His expense:

 

First, THE BLINDNESS

 

For three and one half years the Lord Jesus Christ had wandered about, teaching and preaching, cleansing lepers and raising the dead, walking on water and feeding the thousands, and healing by word, by touch, and at great distances. He ventured as far north as Sidon to heal the daughter of a Syro-Phenician woman. He ventured as far to the northwest as Caesaria Philippi to predict that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church. He entered Jerusalem again and again to show Himself to the rulers of the Jews and to demonstrate His wisdom and compassion, His power and His goodness. He once healed the servant of a Roman centurion, guaranteeing that the Romans would know of Him. Herod the tetrarch knew of Him, and thought He was John the Baptist raised from the dead and come back to haunt him. The Jewish religious hierarchy knew very well that He worked miracles, even raising the dead. For raising Lazarus from the dead they determined to kill Him.[3]

This all being true, and with those soldiers no doubt having knowledge of Jesus, how can their behavior be explained? Why would they so cruelly torture a miracle-worker, a man who raised the dead, who healed from great distances, and went about doing good? The only answer that makes sense to me is blindness. Sinful man is so utterly depraved that his capacity for self-deception is astonishing. Those Romans could not plead ignorance. They were familiar with the region they lived in. Romans typically spent their entire military careers in the area they served, so they were not unaware of Jesus’ ministry. However, they were for some reason so deluded about Jesus that they were willing to say things, and to do things, what will be held against them throughout eternity. It could have been satanic blindness. It could have been self-deception that induced their spiritual blindness. Whatever the cause might have been, it is important to note that those men were blind to facts and considerations that should have made them terrified of mistreating Jesus.

Let me ask you, my unsaved friend. How are you different than they? If they were so blind to facts and events that occurred in their lifetimes, facts and events they knew about yet ignored to their eternal regret, how do you know the same has not happened to you? You are certainly not torturing the Savior prior to His crucifixion; you are just ignoring Him prior to His second coming.

 

Next, THE BETRAYAL

 

Why was the Lord Jesus Christ in that hall with those Roman soldiers in the first place? Ultimately, He was facing imminent crucifixion because, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not,” John 1.11. Jesus is the Messiah long awaiting by the Jewish people. However, they wanted a Messiah who would save them from Roman domination, not a Savior who would rescue them from the consequences of their sins. They did not want to be saved from their sins. They wanted the freedom to continue doing wrong, not the liberty to be set free from bondage to sins so that they might do right. Thus, Jesus was in the Praetorium, being ridiculed and mocked, because He had been betrayed by those He had come to deliver. They turned their backs on Him for not fitting into their preconceived idea of what the Messiah ought to do and be for them, not what God sent Him to be and do for them.

Turn to John 11.47, where we see the mindset that existed in Jerusalem the last time Jesus was in the city before He returned and was crucified. Clearly, the decision has been made at this point to betray Him:

 

47     Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.

48     If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

49     And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,

50     Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

51     And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;

52     And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

53     Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.

 

It was that type of thinking, their betrayal of the One who had come to save them from their sins, that ended up with Jesus standing in that hall with those Roman soldiers, betrayed by His own people. And what is to be said of you? Jesus has given you life, health, a home, a family, and offers to give you eternal life. Yet you betray Him for the world, and for the lost of this world, and prefer a life without Him to being saved from your sins by Him.

 

Finally, THE BLASPHEMY

 

Throughout the Greek New Testament, the word blasphemy refers to speaking injuriously to or about another person, or speaking impiously to or about God. The Roman soldiers obviously blasphemed Jesus when they mockingly worshipped Him, when they mistreated Him with the crown of thorns and the robe and spat upon Him, not to mention when they scourged Him. In a different way and under different circumstances, but just as certainly, the rulers of the Jews also blasphemed Jesus. They certainly did not honor Him as the King of the Jews, or as the Son of God. Blind Bartimaeus and his blind friend properly honored Jesus in Jericho by hailing Him as “Thou Son of David,” with others speaking against Him even while admitting that He worked miracles.

Do you blaspheme Him? Do you speak impiously about Him, by denying His power to save, by taking His name in vain, or by denying Him that glory that is due Him? If you are not a Christian, you have not bent the knee nor bowed the head to Him and confessed Him to be Lord. Thus, you are denying Him His due. On Judgment Day, which do you think will be judged more harshly, bending the knee before Him to worship Him sarcastically, or refusing to bend the knee at all? Which language is more blasphemous, mockingly praising Him as the King of the Jews, or remaining silent when praise ought to be heard from your mouth?

 

We know that Jesus suffered the wrath of God for our sins on Calvary’s cross. It was on that cross that Jesus did the work needed to atone for our sins by shedding His precious blood and enduring the punishment for our sins. What did Jesus suffer in the Praetorium? He suffered the wrath of man. To be sure, He suffered man’s wrath when He was earlier scourged, but that was confined to physical torment. What Jesus endured in the Praetorium was more, for it was there that the crown of thorns was placed, it was there that the robe was placed, and it was there that they mocked Him, spat upon Him, and feigned worshipping Him.

Which is worse, to dishonor or to inflict pain? I am convinced that inflicting pain was less troublesome to His soul than the way He was dishonored. Why so? The scourging of Jesus is only mentioned, without additional comment, in those gospels that record it. What takes place in the Praetorium, however, is recorded in detail. This means that what happened to Jesus in the Praetorium, in that underground hall where they played their game to dishonor Him, was spiritually more offensive than beating Him half to death by scourging. Have you ever considered that?

Allow me to make specific application of this concept. Jesus suffered the wrath of God in order to save you from your sins. He died on the cross to pay the penalty that was rightly yours to pay. What would you say was accomplished by what He endured at the hands of those Romans who were blind toward Him and who blasphemed Him? What do you think is accomplished by your spiritual blindness with respect to Jesus? Are you not spiritually blind when you ignore what those Romans ignored, and are oblivious to the truth that Jesus saves, just as they were?

Betrayed by the Jews He came to deliver, how are you much different? How many of you have compassionate Christian parents, a home that has been wonderfully blessed by God, with all the opportunities and priceless privileges that you have enjoyed, yet you still will not own Jesus as your Savior. What do you think is accomplished by your blasphemies of Him? Oh, perhaps you don’t use the Lord’s name in vain, but I will bet you do. Am I to think a foul-mouthed kid will exercise self-control when it comes to the Savior’s name?

Oh, my friend, think of what the Savior went through for you. We know He suffered the wrath of God on the cross. You have probably considered that. However, have you ever thought of the wrath of men He suffered, as well? And He endured it all on the way to dying for you. Surely, then, this is a Savior you can trust. This is a Savior you should trust.



[1] Mark 15.34

[2] John 19.30

[3] John 11.45-53



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org