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An Unspeakably Heinous Act

Mark 14:65 is difficult to read, and even more difficult to understand: “And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the guards received him with blows” (Mark 14:65). Continue reading . . . 

Mark 14:65 is difficult to read, and even more difficult to understand: “And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the guards received him with blows” (Mark 14:65).

That Jesus was blindfolded, hit, and asked to identify his attacker was based on a Jewish test by which the Messiah was to be revealed (see Is. 11:2-4). Since it was believed that Messiah will use neither eyes nor ears, he must judge by the sense of smell. Thus this treatment of Jesus is but another taunt based on his claim to be the Messiah: "If you are truly who you claim to be, you should be able to identify your attacker without seeing him!"

Spitting on someone and the inflicting of blows were conventional gestures of rejection and humiliation (cf. Job 30:10; Num. 12:14; Dt. 25:9; Isa. 50:6). Throughout Jewish history, people would go to Absalom’s tomb in the Kedron valley outside Jerusalem and repeatedly spit on it as an expression of their disdain for Absalom’s treatment and betrayal of his father King David.

I think Spurgeon speaks for all of us when he cries, “Be astonished, O heavens, and be horribly afraid. His face is the light of the universe, his person is the glory of heaven, and they ‘began to spit on him!’ Alas, my God, that man should be so base!” (Charles Spurgeon, 3:253).

One almost hesitates to comment at all on such an inconceivable and despicable act as spitting in the face of the Son of Man. William Hendriksen explains:

"The face which these underlings -- with the wholehearted permission and co-operation of their utterly selfish, sadistic, and envious superiors -- now covered with their spittle was the one that had smiled upon large throngs of people whom he instructed to love even their enemies. It was the face which used to break into a smile at the approach of a child. It had been in the habit of beaming graciously upon publicans who became penitents. It could glow with righteous indignation when the Father's house was being desecrated, or when the widow's rights were violated, her needs ignored. In days gone by, it had become overspread with gladness when something good could be said about a friend. Above all, it was the face that mirrored the heart of the heavenly Father in all his holiness, displeasure with sin, and -- last but not least -- love and tenderness. It was into this face that these men were spitting! Surely, unless by the miracle of God's grace they should still repent, they would, on this day of the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy (26:64) of him who was now a prisoner, be saying to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:16).

He who is the eternal and infinitely righteous Judge of all mankind is himself brought before the transient and corrupt judgment of men.

“And they all condemned him as deserving death” (v. 64).

He who is the very embodiment of Truth itself, the one by whom alone truth is known to be true, is here declared to be a liar.

“For many bore false witness against him” (v. 56).

He whose creative design was for men to use their God-given hands in the service of purity and love is now the object and target of their brutal fists and angry blows.

“And some began . . . to strike him. . . . And the guards received him with blows” (v. 65).

He who grants breath and speech to all men is now himself the focus of their slander and mockery.

“Prophesy!” (v. 65).

He who graciously gives saliva to our mouths must now experience the humiliation of having it spit back in his face in derision and shame.

“And some began to spit on him” (v. 65).

He whose knowledge and discernment are perfect and infinite is here taunted and challenged in a child’s game to identify his assailants.

“And some began . . . to cover his face . . . saying to him, ‘Prophesy’!” (v. 65).

Jesus once said, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). We, then, should not expect any better treatment from the world than our Lord received.

You must make a choice. There is no third way. There is no other alternative. There is no middle ground. Either you believe him and trust him and embrace him as Lord and Savior, or you join with those who mistreat him and mock him, spit in his face, and eventually crucify him.

Finally, why would Jesus submit to this indignity? Why would he allow himself to be so horribly slandered and mistreated and mocked by hell-deserving sinners? The answer is simple: he was motivated by his love for the glory of his Father and by his love for you and me!

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