"Then the soldiers bowed before Jesus and made fun of him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" They spat on Jesus." (Matthew 27:26--31).
The soldiers' assignment was simple: Take the Nazarene to the hill and kill him. But they had another idea. They wanted to have some fun first. Strong, rested, armed soldiers encircled an exhausted, nearly dead, Galilean carpenter and beat up on him. The scourging was commanded. The crucifixion was ordered. But who would draw pleasure out of spitting on a half-dead man?
Spitting isn't intended to hurt the body - it can't. Spitting is intended to degrade the soul, and it does. What were the soldiers doing? Were they not elevating themselves at the expense of another? They felt big by making Christ look small.
Ever done that? Maybe you've never spit on anyone, but have you gossiped? Slandered? Have you ever raised your hand in anger or rolled your eyes in arrogance? Have you ever blasted your high beams in someone's rearview mirror? Ever made someone feel bad so you would feel good?
That's what the soldiers did to Jesus. When you and I do the same, we do it to Jesus too. "I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" (Matt. 25:40 NLT). How we treat others is how we treat Jesus.
"Oh, Max, I don't like to hear that," you protest. Believe me, I don't like to say it. But we must face the fact that there is something beastly within each and every one of us. Something beastly that makes us do things that surprise even us. Haven't you surprised yourself? Haven't you reflected on an act and wondered, "What got into me?"
The Bible has a three-letter answer for that question: S-I-N.
Allow the spit of the soldiers to symbolize the filth in our hearts. And then observe what Jesus does with our filth. He carries it to the cross.
Through the prophet he said, "I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting" (Isa. 50:6 NIV). Mingled with his blood and sweat was the essence of our sin.
God could have deemed otherwise. In God's plan, Jesus was offered wine for his throat, so why not a towel for his face? Simon carried the cross of Jesus, but he didn't mop the cheek of Jesus. Angels were a prayer away. Couldn't they have taken the spittle away?
They could have, but Jesus never commanded them to. For some reason, the One who chose the nails also chose the saliva. Along with the spear and the sponge of man, he bore the spit of man.