Although I’m a guy, I’ve always thought that spitting was pretty nasty (though many of my closest guy friends regularly hock loogies). I have just never seen the purpose of spitting unless you have a really bad nose cold with lots of phlegm (yum.. love phlegm). And yet, I see people spitting all around me. It just seems filthy.
And even if someone doesn’t have a problem against spitting in general, everyone recognizes that being spit on is one of the most clear signs of utter contempt. To spit into the face of another person is to express total disregard for the other person, making it evident that they are not worthy of even the most basic social courtesy.
I often hear people talking about how, when they come to the Scriptures, they tend to see things they had never seen before even if they had read the passage numerous times before. I had one of these moments this week as I was reading through Matt 26 during a Bible study that focused on the events we celebrate during Holy Week.
Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
As we read through this passage, it was as if the passage opened up to me and revealed its depths. I’m sure that most of you can remember a time when something you were reading just clicked. It all made sense. You finally could see. This wasn’t a very pleasant passage to understand more deeply… And, even as I write this, the tears are welling up in my eyes again.
Simply reading about the priests seeking to have Jesus killed on false testimonies is tragic enough. To see them treat the Lord of life with such hostility and contempt… It’s truly heart breaking. But they didn’t realize what they were doing, as Jesus later testified on the Cross: “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”
But then they began spitting on His face and hitting Him. They revved up their display of hatred for this Man Who had only ever sought their freedom, forgiveness, and healing. And they mocked Him saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” I wondered why they would ask Him something like that. I mean, He could see who it was that hit Him! They were standing right there in front of Him. They may have thought He was a blasphemer—perhaps crazy—but He wasn’t stupid. Why, then, did they ask Him such a silly question, as if He needed miraculous powers to see who had hit Him?
And thats when it happened. The Scriptures opened up to me, and the feeling of grief just washed over me as it is again right now. Of course Jesus couldn’t see. They were hitting His face, spitting in His eyes… how many of them were there? 5? 10? 30? 50? All punching Him. His eyes would begin to swell from the blows, tears would have been streaming down His face from the stinging, and the Savior’s holy and pure blood would have mingled with the dirt, tears, and the spit of those He came to save—those He loved, those He created. Jesus couldn’t see. Of course He couldn’t. That’s why they were mocking Him, asking Him to prophesy to them.
“Show us you’re the Son of God! Tell us who hit You! What’s wrong Jesus? Can’t you see us? Don’t you know? Kill him! Kill him! Take this filthy man away! He’s no messiah!”
The mocking, the hatred, the contempt, the utter disregard… Spitting in the eyes of the One Who spoke the world into existence and saw them formed in their mothers’ wombs.
As much as I want the Scriptures to open to me, as much as I want the Holy Spirit to illuminate the truth, as much as I want to understand the sacrifice of Jesus and all that it took to save me… It is truly devastating when these truths are given. How can we not just weep in seeing His suffering? And weep I did… and I am weeping even now.
This is the beautiful Savior we proclaim to a broken and sinful world. Not one who came to be served, but One Who came as a servant to all. One Who washed the feet of His disciples who would desert Him in a few hours—one who would betray Him into the hands of His enemies to be killed. One Who offered to them the bread of His body and the cup of His blood that would be shed for their salvation—and He offers us that bread and cup today. One Who silently sat before His accusers and took their spit, their beatings, their scourging, the crown of thorns, and the Cross. One Who deserved honor, love, praise, adoration, and worship. But He was put to death by the ones He came to save. He cried out from the Cross that the Father would forgive them for their sins. He offered mercy to the criminal beside Him. He offers life to us today.
I love this Jesus. I love Him imperfectly. I sin greatly. I fail miserably. I don’t honor Him the way I should. I don’t worship Him the way He deserves. I am a pitiful Christian. But my God… my precious Jesus… He took my weakness upon Himself that I might be clothed in His strength and righteousness. God’s love was shown to us in this—while we were still sinners Christ died. While we were yet His enemies, He gave Himself up for us. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
This is the truth Christian: You didn’t show love for God first. You didn’t choose Him first. You didn’t seek Him first. You were dead in your transgressions, blind, and completely unwilling and incapable of turning to God (Rom. 3:9-18). And the Good News is this: God showed us love and raised us from the dead. It was a unilateral decision on His part. He saved us. He will keep us. His love is matchless, His glory unrivaled.
We bring nothing to the table except our need. We bring nothing to Him but our sin and weakness. You don’t contribute anything to your salvation. It’s God’s choice and we respond as those raised from the grave embrace their lives—we come from the grave like Lazarus who responded to Jesus’ voice. When He opens our eyes, we see His glory and run to His arms. But the blind cannot see without first being given their sight. This is the message of the Gospel. That God chose to save us, not because He had to, but because He wanted to show us grace we could never deserve.
This is the truth: Jesus took spit into His eyes, being blinded. And, doing so, He now spits into the dirt and uses the mud to open our blind eyes to see His face (John 9:6). He was blinded so we can see… Hallelujah, what a Savior!