The guards in charge of Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and said, “Prophesy to us! Who hit you that time?” And they hurled all sorts of terrible insults at him. – Luke 22:63-65 (New Living Translation)
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”
This lie has been told to children for many years. (The first printed copy of the nursery rhyme was found in The Christian Recorder in 1862.) I call this a lie because, as we know, words can and often do hurt much worse than a broken bone.
Of course, the intent of the saying was to help children ignore taunts, refrain from physical retaliation, and remain calm. That’s not bad advice by any means, but the fact is that broken bones will heal; hurtful words which are spoken cannot ever be taken back.
Often the words of a stranger leave no lasting impression on us. We know that the stranger doesn’t really know us, and chances are good we won’t see him again. His words can most likely roll off us with no further consequence. We trust in the fact that he doesn’t really know who we are, therefore his words have very little power over us.
In contrast, the words that hurt us most deeply are the words spoken by those closest to us. The ones who know us intimately have the power to cut us to the core. The hurtful words they speak tend to stay with us. We begin to question our very identity because we believe that they know us so well, there must be truth to what they say. We think perhaps they know us better than we know ourselves. We take their words to heart, even if said in the heat of the moment, because we believe they wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true on at least some level.
In this passage, we read that Jesus is being mocked by the soldiers who are guarding him. We may quickly believe that this is like the first case I referred to – simply strangers. These guards don’t have a clue as to who Jesus truly is. They don’t know that he is the Creator and Sustainer of the world. They don’t know that he is the Son of God, sent to earth to die on the cross for their sins. They don’t know that hours from now, Jesus, while hanging on the cross, will ask God to forgive them.
While that is true, there is something more we need to consider: the guards don’t know Jesus, but Jesus knows them; that’s the very nature of God. We can’t gloss over the fact that God created these men. He knew them before time existed. He watched as they grew in the wombs of their mothers, whom Jesus also knew intimately.
These men, though they don’t know Jesus, were known by Jesus, and they are his children. He knows them and loves them more than anyone else on earth. He cares for their well-being. He cares for their eternal destiny. He cares for their families and their friends. These are not mere strangers – they are his children, created in his image.
Imagine being at the lowest point in your life. You’re literally being taken to your execution – for a crime you did not commit – and there, hurling insults and berating you in front of everyone are your children. Not only have they joined the crowd, they are leading the charge. They are actively taunting you, calling you names, and telling everyone that you are delusional. I cannot imagine that level of pain and betrayal.
Certainly the physical pain that Jesus endured on the cross was excruciating. Crucifixion was the cruelest form of capital punishment at the time. But the emotional pain that Jesus experienced – being rejected, mocked, and scorned – by the people he loves, has to be severe. Jesus loved these men and the crowds that they led so much that they were the very reason he was going through all of this in the first place! He could have called down his legion of angels and ended the torture at any time. Yet he didn’t. He stayed. He endured. And for what? For the chance to save his children from their evil and misguided ways.
We have all done things in our lives that we regret. We have all said hurtful words to our loved ones, to our parents, to our spouses. We know the sting those words have. For Jesus, the pain must have been infinitely worse. The people he loved, the people he knew intimately, were treating him like the worst type of criminal. They rejected him in word and deeds. And to this very day, men and women continue to mock and reject Jesus, in spite of his love for them. May it never be said of us that we mocked the very God who came to save us. Jesus’ physical pain has ended, but it seems to me that the pain of knowing that so many reject him would continue to this day.