Seven Shocking Sins (3)2
If there were a way to avoid talking of this sixth shocking sin, I would seize the opportunity to remain silent. I find it painfully difficult even to write these next words: they spit on him (v. 30).
Spitting on someone and the inflicting of blows were conventional gestures of rejection and humiliation (cf. Job 30:10; Num. 12:14; Deut. 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.
“Be astonished, O heavens, and be horribly afraid,” said Spurgeon. “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!”
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; emphasis mine).
It is inconceivable that it could have happened once, but from Matthew 26:67 we know that it happened twice! Literally, it says "they kept spitting [repeatedly] on him." This may be a parody on the kiss of homage which was customary in the ancient world. They may have said to themselves, "This so-called king of the Jews isn't deserving of the kiss of homage and respect, but only fit to be the target of vile spitting!" (See Psalm 2:12).
Spurgeon's comments strike deeply:
"I do not know how you feel in listening to me, but while I am speaking I feel as language ought scarcely to touch such a theme as this: it is too feeble for its task. I want you to get beyond my words if you can, and for yourselves meditate upon the fact that he who covers the heavens with blackness, yet did not cover his own face, and he who binds up the universe with the girdle which holds it in one, yet was bound and blindfolded by the men he had himself made; he whose face is as the brightness of the sun that shineth in its strength was once spit upon. Surely we shall need faith in heaven to believe this wondrous fact. Can it have been true, that the glorious Son of God was jeered and jested at?
I have often heard that there is no faith lacking in heaven, but I rather judge that we shall need as much faith to believe that these things were ever done as the partriarchs had to believe that they would be done. How shall I sit down and gaze upon Him and think that his dear face was once profaned with spittle? When all heaven shall lie prostrate at his feet in awful silence of adoration will it seem possible that once he was mocked? When angels, and principalities, and powers shall all be roused to rapture of harmonious music in his praise, will it seem possible that once the most abject of men plucked out the hair? Will it not appear incredible that those sacred hands, which are 'as gold rings set with the beryl,' were once nailed to a gibbet, and that those cheeks which are 'as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers,' should have been battered and bruised? We shall be quite certain of the fact, and yet we shall never cease to wonder, that his side was gashed, and his face was spit upon?
The sin of man in this instance will always amaze us. How could you commit this crime? Oh, ye sons of men, how could ye treat such a one with cruel scorn? O thou brazen thing called sin. Thou hast, indeed, as the prophet saith, 'A whore's forehead'; thou hast a demon's heart, hell burns within thee. Why couldst thou not spit upon earthly splendours? Why must heaven be thy scorn? Or if heaven, why not spit on angels: was there no place for thy base deed but the well-beloved's face? Was there no place for thy spittle but his face? His face! Woe is me! His face! Should such loveliness receive such shame as this? I could wish that man had never been created, or that, being created, he had been swept into nothingness rather than have lived to commit such horror" (emphasis mine).