A few years ago, in Manila, Philippines, a devout Roman Catholic named “Mendosa” was “crucified.” He had been fasting and praying for more than a week, constantly encouraged by his priest. On what is commonly called “Good Friday,” he was stripped down to a loin-cloth, after which he lay upon a freshly painted white cross. Two men from his church tied his wrists to the arms of that clean, white, almost sterile cross. A third man tied his ankles to the post just above a foot-rest where his feet were propped. The men lifted the cross to an upright position with Mendosa still tied to it. Carefully they let it slowly slip into a perfectly prepared slot in a large piece of concrete. Some of Mendosa’s relatives and friends were silently weeping, while hundreds of others looked on praying and expressing words of encouragement. There was a doctor standing by, just in case he was needed, but it was unlikely that things would be taken that far. There was no one there laughing at him, no one mocking him, no one spitting or throwing things. Besides a few photographers, Mendosa had nothing but support surrounding him. The sun was hot that April afternoon, and very quickly he man began to wilt under its gaze. In his weakening condition it didn’t look like he would be up there more than an hour at most. Quickly his coaches threw in the towel on his behalf. When the ordeal was over, there was congratulations and praise for his devotion and bravery.
Over the years this scene has been repeated hundreds of times around the Roman Catholic world. But not very often here in the United States. I don’t wish to sound like I am making fun of Mr. Mendosa. I wish that the saints of God were half as dedicated and self-sacrificing as this man was. But the fact is: this self-crucifixion was not only harmful to his body, but it was even more so to his soul. Acts of devotion like this are usually presented to God in an effort to buy salvation from sin. But all the preparation and pain were for naught; they produced nothing spiritual. Salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not through any suffering we might endure in His name.
And besides, it was so unlike the Lord’s crucifixion that it is hard to call it “crucifixion.” Where was the blood, the nails and the soldiers with their armor and their spears? There were no thorns, and Mendosa’s back hadn’t been ripped to shreds with whips. Where was the afternoon darkness, the earthquake and sense of the absence of God? O, the God of Heaven was not in any of this, but His absence was different on the day Christ died. And where were the mocking people, laughing and spitting on the man? One of the few similarities between the two “crucifixions” was the gaggle of shameless priests.
I’ve entitled this message: “And They Mocked Him.” The ground beneath Jesus’ cross, stained with divine blood, is extremely holy. I know that I’m unworthy to tread here. “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” Despite the holiness of Calvary, we need to visit from time to time. And despite its over-all sacred nature, not everything about it is holy.
This morning I would like you to meditate on the words of the priests as they mocked our Saviour. The word “mock” means to make fun of something in the way that silly children might behave. The night prior to the crucifixion the highest priests of Israel were behaving like mad-men. But at the cross they were acting like foolish children. It is interesting that every branch of the Jewish religious leadership was involved in this mocking. Verse 31 speaks about the chief priests – at this time they were all of the liberal Sadducees. But the scribes were, for the most part, very conservative Pharisees. The elders were people like Gamaliel, the respected long-time instructor of Israel.
Scripture says, “Mocking, they said among themselves…..” These men were entertaining THEMSELVES and the people around them with their mocking. They were through with Christ; they had washed their hands of Him. So they laughed about Him and mocked Him and the things which He had taught them. When a gang of rowdy teenagers did the same thing to Elisha, God sent two bears to kill them. But when His own dear Son was mocked, He took it in utter silence. Is not this holy ground? Out of all the men of Israel, it should have been the priests who were most respectful at a place of execution. If they really thought Christ was but a mere man, then a mere man was about to go out into eternity. If they thought that He was a sinner, then He was going to soon face His Judge. They should have been quiet and sorrowful – and respectful, but instead they were the most disrespectful men in the whole audience. The things they muttered were basically true, but they were spoken negatively – they were denying them. The things that they were saying are things which I hold precious.
For example, they mocked the Lord as SAVIOUR.