The Via Dolorosa — Mark 15:16-21

The Roman Catholic approach to the season of Lent has always mystified me.  Here you have religious people making their own free choice regarding what comfort or enjoyment or food they are willing to give up to identify with the suffering of Jesus Christ on their behalf.

 Lent is defined as a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday.   Began this year on March. 1.

In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as “giving up” certain luxuries in order to “replicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s journey into the desert for 40 days”.

Many Christians also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such as reading a daily devotional or praying through a Lenten calendar, to draw themselves near to God.  – Wikopedia

You might have friends that have shared with you what they are giving up this year for Lent – maybe chocolate or going to the movies or having dessert ….

But how can any self-imposed period of abstinence compare to the depths of humiliation and physical suffering which Jesus Christ endured at the hands of sinful Roman soldiers?  Here you have the majestic Creator laying aside all of His rights and prerogatives as Sovereign to submit to unimaginable scorn and sadistic abuse from those He had created and had come to rescue from their fallen state of depravity and enmity to God.

The abusive treatment we are going to pause to consider today should remind us of both the depths of human depravity and the depths of our Lord’s patience and mercy and forbearance as He faithfully completes His mission of accomplishing redemption for lost sinners.  Consider how much Jesus gave up as He humbled himself to submit to suffering and then death on the cross.  Consider what it means for us to be challenged by Jesus to take up our cross daily and follow after Him.  Certainly we are not talking in the same realm as giving up chocolate or dessert or the movies.  Need to pause and linger at this text; look into the face of our Savior; see his patient suffering at the hand of sinners; enduring shame on our behalf.


The Via Dolorosa (Latin: “Way of Grief,” “Way of Sorrow,” “Way of Suffering” or simply “Painful Way”; is a street within the Old City of Jerusalem, believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. The winding route from the Antonia Fortress west to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—a distance of about 600 metres (2,000 feet)

Borgman: The passage before us is brutal, and bloody and cruel


A.  (:16) The Sadistic Nature of This Abuse

Definition of Sadistic: deriving pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others.

Setting Structured for Unrestrained Abuse

  1. The Place

And the soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium),

Barclay: It was when the cross was being prepared that Jesus was in the hands of the soldiers. The Praetorium was the residence of the governor, his headquarters, and the soldiers involved would be the headquarters cohort of the guard.

Jesus could not have been more alone than He was at this time in this prestigious courtyard.

This is a place without restraint or checks and balances where the soldiers could heap upon Jesus whatever abuse might give them pleasure.

Look at the verbs that speak to the submission of Jesus – how He was led around as if He were powerless and at their mercy … when the reality was that they could not lift a finger against Him without Him allowing it

  1. The Participants

and they called together the whole Roman cohort.

600 soldiers; one tenth of a legion – this is a huge, blood-thirsty troop that probably despised the Jews as an ethnic group

Military elite – charged with keeping the peace in Jerusalem; supposed to be on the side of law and order – cruel, vile, coarse men

Emphasis on “the whole” – everybody wanted the opportunity to get in on the fun of heaping indignities on this wild man who claimed to be the King of the Jews

They are emboldened now – remember when they came to take Jesus in the Garden – took precautions to bring plenty of soldiers – did not know how Jesus would respond – fell back just at the power and authority of his word – but now Jesus has become more of a pathetic figure to them

Steven Lawson: comments on the darkness of these Gentile unbelievers who participated in this sadistic horseplay

1 Cor. 2:8if they had understood they would not have crucified the Lord of glory

Beating and humiliating the Creator of the universe

They are in spiritual ignorance

Eph. 4:17-18  Gentiles walk in the futility of their minds; being darkened in their understanding because of darkness in them due to ignorance

2 Cor. 4:3-4

All of this took place under the sovereign plan of God – no surprise to Jesus – He had predicted to his disciples that he would be delivered up to the Gentiles and suffer such scourging and abuse

Mark 10:32-34 – this took place over a year earlier

B.  (:17-18) The Scorn and Satire of Abuse – Mocking Royal Treatment

  1. (:17a)  The Royal Costume

                        “And they dressed Him up in purple,

put a costume on him like some Halloween party

garments would have stuck to his bleeding skin – created more pain when torn off him at the end

Matt. says the color was scarlet – different witnesses would describe the same color somewhat differently – or it was two-toned due to perspiration and blood and dirt

A cloak that they would have taken from one of the soldiers and cast over his bleeding shoulders; by this time his muscles were exposed from all the severe lacerations; he would have been bleeding profusely; in extreme pain and very weak

Certainly not a kingly figure – Is. 53 over 700 years earlier had prophecied that he would not even be recognizeable as a man

  1. (:17b)  The Royal Crown

and after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on Him;

made from a plant with spikey thorns that would cut into his forehead and cause the blood to pour down his face

they rammed it down on his head; just one thorn would have been painful; but here the thorns surround his head; severe bleeding

Brings to mind curse from Gen. 3 on the environment – thorns and thistles would now grow – Jesus becoming a curse for us on the cross

  1. (:18)  The Royal Cry

and they began to acclaim Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’

just as you would address Caesar as King; this is how much they hated the Jews and were happy to act out this scene of mockery and scorn and ridicule

should have been addressing him with respect and reverence

look at how much has transpired in one short week – remember Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David. Hosanna in the highest.”

Now that cry has been perverted into one of mockery and derision.

They are ignorant of How Christ will return in judgment:

Rev. 19:11-16

C.  (:19) The Suffering of Abuse

  1. Physically — The Beating

And they kept beating His head with a reed,

Gen. 49:10The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”

Don’t see that obedience of the people in evidence yet – that awaits His Second Coming

Here they take that scepter and beat Him over the head with it

Imperfect tense – kept on beating him and beating him and beating him

the reed that symbolized rulership; they took it from his hand and used it to beat him on his head; complete repudiation of his sovereignty and majesty

being passed around and beat like a piñata

  1. Emotionally — The Humiliation

and spitting at Him,

the same mouths that should have been employed in praise of their Creator and Sovereign are here engaged in spitting on Jesus

Second Degree Assault is a misdemeanor under Maryland Law, although it does carry the very significant maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and or a $2,500 fine. … Typical second degree assaults involve punching, kicking, shoving, biting or spitting on another person.

This is the ultimate form of expressing contempt for someone

We have had famous examples in the sports arena:

On Sept. 27, 1996

–     Sept. 2013 (good month for spitting) Ray Rice accused of spitting on Cleveland Browns

nose tackle Phil Taylor

  1. Spiritually — The Mockery

and kneeling and bowing before Him.

Feigning worship and subservience

There will come a day when Jesus returns and these same wicked men will have to bow the knee in silent submission and accept the verdict that the Judge of all the earth will deliver

D.  (:20) The Satisfaction of Abuse

  1. Satisfied with Their Mocking

And after they had mocked Him,

Did Pilate tell them enough was enough … or had the soldiers just had enough of this wicked drama?

Got tired of the fun … couldn’t think of anything else to throw at Jesus

  1. Satisfied with Their Satire

they took the purple off Him, and put His garments on Him.

They got bored with their horseplay and mockery; they had had enough

Look at ISIS and their barbaric executions – amazing how cruel and savage men can be

  1. Satisfied with Their Sentence

And they led Him out to crucify Him.

No second thoughts; no wavering over his innocence; no regard for his fate;

Intent on carrying out the sentence of execution by crucifixion

David Thompson: typically would take the longest route to make a theatrical show out of it; let everyone see the condemned prisoner; executions carried out outside the city; near a major road so everyone could see it


They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the      father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.”

Gen. 22 – Abraham taking Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice – laid the wood on Isaac – you carry the wood for your own sacrifice – but here it became a physical impossibility for Jesus to continue to carry His cross

Why are the 2 sons mentioned here?  Known to the church

Rom. 16:13  “Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.”

Transforming experience for Simon of Cyrene and his sons

MacArthur: Biblical scholars generally agree that he was one of the sons of Simon of Cyrene, the man enlisted to carry Jesus’ cross and was likely saved through that contact with Christ.  Mark wrote his gospel in Rome, possibly after the letter to Rome was written, and circulated.  Paul would not have mentioned Rufus if that name were not well known to the church in Rome. . .

Rufus’ mother, the wife of Simon of Cyrene, at some time had cared for Paul during his ministry travels.


Brian Borgman: Why did Christ have to suffer such abuse??  We know He must pay the penalty for our sins and suffer death …

1)  Christ’s suffering at the hands of men reveals the absolute wretchedness of the human heart and its fundamental attitude towards God and His Son and His rule over our lives —

Offended by behavior of these soldiers

We are more like these soldiers in the depravity of our hearts than like Jesus in His sinless perfection

2)  Christ’s suffering by the will of God at the hands of men was for us – He suffered and died – closely connected – don’t ever separate the two – suffering and death are part of the curse; the last Adam needed to experience this for us; suffers for us in our place by us; we see the beauty and the glory and the majesty of Jesus Christ

This scene of the agony of Jesus captured in poetry by Bernard of Clairvaux in the famous hymn:

    “O Sacred Head now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down;

            Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;

            O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!

            Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.”

As we transition to observing the Lord’s Supper this morning, it is our distinct privilege to call this suffering and abused Jesus … our precious and beloved Savior.