A pastor was complaining to a friend about unfair criticism from members of his congregation. His friend smiled and said, “Worse things have been said about better people.” Unfair criticism is hard to take. Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to hear the taunts and criticisms of those who watched Him being crucified!
The insults began with the mocking of Roman soldiers. This was done in front of the entire cohort, with as many as 600 present. They dressed Jesus as if He were a king and placed a crown of thorns on His head (vv. 28–29). The soldiers pretended to pay homage to Him, striking and spitting on Him. As the prophet predicted, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). Jesus could have called upon entire legion of angels to defend Him (Matt. 26:53). He had the power to destroy those who mocked Him with a single word. Yet He remained silent.
The Roman soldiers forced a man named Simon to carry the cross for Jesus. This was pragmatic rather than merciful. Jesus was so weak He was unable to carry it Himself. Simon was from Cyrene, a North African city. Mark’s account of these events also names Simon’s two sons, Alexander and Rufus. The fact that the New Testament includes this much detail about someone who was merely a passerby at the crucifixion suggests that Simon became a believer and was known to the church.
On the cross, Jesus was subjected to additional taunts. Even the criminals who were being crucified “heaped insults” on Him (v. 44). According to Luke, one of the criminals repented and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom (Luke 23:41–43).
>> We are often very quick to defend ourselves. We easily take offense when slighted. Yet the only One who truly had a right to criticize held His tongue. In an age where people are easily outraged, consider silence, which can often be more eloquent than argument.
As we study Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, we encourage you to read the whole chapter of Isaiah 53 during your prayer time. We marvel at the beautiful words of the prophet Isaiah and thank God for the Messianic prophesies.