I watched a documentary recently on ‘Camp X’ the spy camp located on the north shores of Lake Ontario and used as a training ground for Canadian, American and British personnel. The techniques of hand-to-hand combat were particularly fascinating and the aggressive conduct of the trainers and trainees proved gripping.
Military might has been shown in a variety of ways throughout human history. The Roman Empire had its own modus operandi. In Mark’s gospel, we see a whole ‘company of soldiers‘ pouring on their ‘military might’ as they deal with the ‘dangerous’ Jesus Christ.
Mark 15:16-20 describes their conduct.
1) The invitation to the whole company of soldiers to join together in the Praetorium. Cowards often congregate together. Bullies love spectators.
2) The mock allegiance to this King. Picking up on the charge levelled against him, they put a purple robe on Jesus, twisted together a crown of thorns and mocked him with fake adulation.
3) The torture they inflicted. They struck him repeatedly. They spit on him. They ‘bowed their knees’ before him.
4) They concluded this ‘ordeal’ by reclothing him in his own attire and leading him out to be crucified. The torture would continue at the site of Calvary as the Roman Empire demonstrated their authority for all who cared to notice.
How do we use the authority and power with which we are entrusted? Authority does not justify authoritarianism. Abuse of authority is a dangerous temptation in any culture. It is not just military personnel who will give an account of their conduct.
Why was Christ so mistreated? Here afresh the words of the prophet – “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)