Mocked, Derided, and Reviled

Sermon preached on Mark 15 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Good Friday Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 03/29/2024 in Petaluma, CA.

Sermon Manuscript

Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.

Jesus was mocked, derided, and reviled. Jesus, the Son of God and the Messiah, was mocked, derided, and reviled. This was part of the suffering he endured to save us from our sins. While we would not put such verbal assault against Jesus in the same category as his physical afflictions, let us indeed appreciate the suffering involved here. While we think of his death as the chief of his suffering, yet this too was part of what he endured for our sake. While we probably think the physical violence against him was worse than this verbal affliction, we know how deeply injuring words can indeed be.

You may have been told as a child that rhyme which says that, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me.” Yet, as we get older, we understand the nuance of that rhyme. True, verbal attacks cannot injure you physically. Yet, there is a way that words can injure us in a way that sticks and stones can’t. For words have the ability to hurt us in the heart, they can bring injury to our souls. Jesus was mocked, derided, and reviled, and surely it afflicted his spirit as well. That had to be part of the suffering that his human nature experienced, because we know how such would have stung our hearts. And so, without disregarding our Lord’s great and terrible physical affliction on that Good Friday, I want us to take some time tonight to consider his suffering of such verbal attacks. I will take us in the order that our passage takes us on the people who so mocked, derided, and reviled Jesus.

We begin first with the Roman soldiers in verses 16-20. Verse 20 describes what they did to Jesus there as mocking. To mock someone is to make fun of someone and to laugh at or ridicule them. One Greek lexicon on this word defines it as, “To make fun of someone by pretending that he is not what he is or by imitating him in a distorted manner”. Here, we see them do that with regard to Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. For Jesus to be the Messiah, was to mean that he was a king. So, the soldiers dress him up in kings’ clothing with this purple cloak, which was the color that the Roman emperor wore. They also put on him a crown of thorns, since kings wore crowns, but this crown would have also physically injured him in addition to the emotional abuse they were leveling on him. They act like they are honoring him by their saluting of him, and calling to him as King of the Jews, and kneeling down before him. Yet, at the same time they were also striking his head with a reed and spitting on him. In other words, they don’t really believe him to be a king. They mock his claim to kingship. They deny that claim by what they do to him here. And, of course, we know it is also to misunderstand the nature of his kingship, for elsewhere Jesus made it clear he had not come to be a king of just another earthly kingdom, but he was the king of a kingdom not of this world. Let us also not miss that in verse 20, once they had finished having their fun with him, that they put Jesus’ own clothes back on him. A purple cloak was very expensive, and they weren’t going to take their joke that far and lose an expensive item. But you see how this all just shows their great mockery of Jesus, and how it reveals that they have complete contempt for any claim to authority.

Look with me next at the derision by the passersby. This is in verses 29-30. The Greek word is blasphemoun, which is where we get the word blasphemed from. So, to deride someone is to speak with intent to injure, to slander, and to defame. Such speech can both hurt the person spoken about, and also injure their reputation before others also present. Here, you have people walking by looking at Jesus while he was hanging their dying on the cross. By this point, he no longer even has any clothing on, as that had already been taken from him. So, if it were not bad enough that he is hanging there so exposed and slowly dying such a terrible death, but then you have these people walking by and further injuring him with their speech.

We see a little of what they said to him verse 29. They remind Jesus of his previous words, that Jesus had said he could rebuild the temple in 3 days if it were torn down. They think his dying on the cross proves he was wrong to say that before, and so they try to put his own words into his face. Yet, sadly for them, they show how ignorant they were. When Jesus spoke about destroying and rebuilding the temple in three days, he was speaking figuratively and prophetically of his own body. So, in fact, Jesus was in the very process of fulfilling those words at that moment. They deride him further by telling him to save himself by coming down of the cross. They think themselves so clever because they don’t think he really has the power to save himself like that. But in actuality, it was his power that kept him there. He chose to not save himself, but to allow the temple of his body to be destroyed, so that on the third day he could raise himself up from the dead. This he did to save us. But, oh the patience he had to endure such derision against him.

Let us note that the fact that the passersby so talked like this and that they are described as wagging their heads is to signal to us the fulfillment of Psalm 22. There, in Psalm 22:7, about a thousand years earlier, this song of David foretold the suffering of the Messiah, that he would endure people mocking him and wagging their heads at him.

Realize that the passersby who so mocked Jesus reveal that they were aware of Jesus’ teaching. For them to so quote Jesus’s own words show that these were not just some random people who just happened to be passing by who were taking an opportunity to jeer at whatever people happened to be getting crucified that day. No, these were people who knew Jesus ministry, who remembered his teachings, and they here take the opportunity now to try to publicly humiliate him and injure him with their speech. Their derision confirms they rejected Jesus and what he taught.

We turn then to see next the chief priests and the scribes join in on this in verse 31. They are also described as mocking Jesus, as the Roman soldiers had been described. But what is especially unique about their mockery is how it describes that they are talking not so much to him, but about him. It says they mocked him to one another. They point out to each other how defeated he appears to him. They remind each other how he had done saving miracles for other people, but that now he cannot save himself. Even in verse 32, when it might at first glance sound like they are challenging him to come from the cross, it is actually said in the third person. Thus, the translation, “Let the Christ come down.” So, basically, these religious leaders are standing around in front of him in his suffering talking about him, mocking him to each other, and basically congratulating themselves and justifying to themselves what they’ve done. You see, there words there in verse 32 show that they’ve never believed in him and have always rejected him from the start. I would suspect that even if Jesus had supernaturally come down from the cross right then and there, that such hard-hearted people still wouldn’t believe. These religious leaders should have been the first to identify and welcome the Messiah. Instead, they lead the nation in rejecting him. Their egregious failing as religious leaders is cemented here as they mock Jesus to each other, thinking they have won, and not realizing they condemn themselves with their evil words.

Last, in this chapter, we see that the criminals who were being crucified alongside him join in this verbal assault. This is verse 32. It describes them as reviling Jesus. This word of reviling is to disparage, to insult, to unjustifiably bring reproach on someone. In other words, there was no warrant for what they were saying about Jesus, but they were just trying to abuse him with their words. Now what is so interesting about this one verse is what we know about it from Luke’s gospel. There, we find that one of the criminals eventually speaks up in Jesus’ defense. That criminal acknowledged that they deserved this sentence of death, but that Jesus did not. That is when he asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. When Jesus goes on to assure the man of his salvation, we see a wonderful picture of the gospel of forgiveness and grace, made possible only because of the very act of Jesus dying here on the cross. So then, regarding this reviling that the criminals were doing, we note that it was condemned sinners who were speaking evil against the righteous Jesus. What these criminals needed was not to speak in reviling to Jesus, but in faith to him.

So then, this evening we’ve seen the mocking, the deriding, and the reviling of Jesus. Both Romans and Jews did it. Both the common passersby and the religious leaders did it. Both free people and convicted criminals did it. All of their evil words reflected their outright rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. In other words, all this mockery of Jesus reflected a widespread rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by the masses. Those whom he had created, rejected him. Those among God’s visible church on earth, namely Israel, even they rejected him. This not only would have been a painful part of Jesus’ suffering, it was also a great sin by all who took part in so blaspheming and ridiculing Jesus. All these people who treated Jesus like this showed themselves worthy of hell and damnation as those who rejected God and his Messiah. This wasn’t done in ignorance as they clearly knew Jesus and his message. No, in boldness their sinful speech made them all the more guilty before God. Yet, that is in fact why Jesus had to so suffer and even die.

You know, in our theological categories, we would typically put all this verbal affliction that Jesus endured as part of his passive obedience. That’s the obedience Jesus did in the sense of how he willingly suffered so much pain and affliction for our sake. But I think we can also recognize some significant active obedience here in Jesus, the obedience where he shows himself a righteous person, one who has obeyed all God’s moral law in the full and complete sense. What I have in minds is this: If I were Jesus, a sinful man that I am, at some point through all this mockery and derision I would have had enough. I would have surely called down fire from heaven on some of these people. Interestingly, in the fraudulent gnostic gospels that were written at a later time, that’s the kind of Jesus you find there. But that’s not what the biblical Jesus does. The biblical Jesus is Jesus the righteous, Jesus the meek, Jesus the merciful. He is the Jesus who has perfect patience, who turned the other cheek in such wondrous love in a way that only this Perfect Man of God could do.

In conclusion let me offer some final applications. Maybe you previously mocked, derided, or reviled Jesus? You too can be forgiven and saved on the day of judgment. For indeed, anything short of truly receiving Jesus in your heart as King and Savior will leave you under the condemnation of hell. But Jesus died on the cross and rose again on the third day so that you could be saved from that future. Turn in faith to Jesus and call out to him as your Lord and Savior. Begin to follow him today, and you can know that will be with him in paradise forever.

For the Christian, as you’ve considered how Jesus was mocked today, maybe you can relate to some of that kind of suffering. Surely in your own life, you also have had some degree more or less of people rejecting you, mocking you, reviling you, deriding you. Sometimes you don’t know how to endure it, and you might want to sin against such people in response. But, let us see that this is part of Christ’s call for you today to follow him. Let us take it a badge of honor if we suffer in any way like Christ suffered.
For indeed, we who have come to understand why he died, we rejoice in it. Before, when we were of the world, we joined in their mockery of Jesus. But now, having been born again, we see Jesus differently now. Now we turn from such mockery of Jesus to instead speak to him what is rightly to be spoken. We put off mocking, deriding, and reviling of Jesus. Instead, we seek to praise, applaud, commend, extol, exalt, and glorify Jesus Christ, and his sacrificial death on the cross.

Indeed, Him we proclaim, even Christ-crucified, for even his death anticipates his resurrection on the third day where his victory is so publicly made known to all, both on earth and in heaven.


Copyright © 2024 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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