John 19:2-3 “The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to Him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they struck Him in the face” (NIV).

Observation: Pilate, the Roman governor, confronted Jesus in his courtyard. In response to Jewish leaders’ rabid demands for His death, Pilate had asked Jesus enough questions to satisfy himself of Jesus’s innocence. Still, the crowd’s pressure increased and Pilate’s resolve weakened as he sought ways to pacify the crowd without violating Roman law. When the crowd demanded that Pilate release Barabbas rather than Jesus, Pilate’s appeasement was set. His flogging soldiers mocked Jesus repeatedly, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!”

Application: “Hail, king of the Jews!” In the context of the soldiers’ proclamation we hear echoes of accumulated jeers and sarcasm of the ages. Man’s arrogance and pride from Adam till today were pressed together and repackaged as vitriol to be poured from the mouths of soldiers torturing the only good man to have ever lived.

Imagine their blind rage. Picture the roiling fury by which they were driven to spit their epithet: “Hail, king of the Jews!”

As Jesus heard their words I wonder if He experienced a wry flashback to the moment a few days earlier when to the crowd’s acclaim He had ridden a donkey into Jerusalem. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” they shouted. When Pharisees objected, Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:38, 40, NIV).

Now it was happening, though perhaps in a way different from Jesus’s earlier meaning. The soldiers’ hearts of stone indeed cried out. Cold, hardened hearts carried the day, overwhelming those few in the crowd who cowered in fear and hid their anguish.

The great tragedy in all this is how few there were who objected. None in the crowd spoke up. But that was then; what about today? What about me? This story comes down to the question of my own response to Christ. Is my silence deafening in the face of those who today behave like Roman soldiers, or am I willing to give joyous testimony in the face of strong opposition? When He is opposed, do I bite my tongue and swallow words of life? Am I one whose manifest joy confronts stony hearts’ judgments, or does my silence grant permission to Pilate’s solders?

Prayer: Father, You have filled my heart with overflowing joy in Your son, but there remain places of fear, as well. Cause faith to rise within, that all fear would be forever banished.