What Some Soldiers Did
James Smith, 1856
"The soldiers mocked him." Luke 23:36
The sight of suffering softens us. But it is possible to be so hardened by sin, as to sport even with sufferings. This was the case here. Here was a great sufferer. Here were hardened soldiers. Here they were mocking the sufferer in the very agonies of death. Had he injured them? Never! Had he offended them? He had not. Was he the enemy of their king, or their fatherland? No; he was the friend of men, the benefactor of the human race. Yet "the soldiers mocked him." Let us ask a few questions in reference to this subject.
WHOM did they mock?Jesus. Who was Jesus? The Son of God — the Savior of the world.
WHERE was Jesus?On the cross, hanging by his hands and feet; suffering, bleeding, and dying.
WHY was he crucified?Because the priests, elders, scribes, and pharisees were prejudiced against him; therefore they stirred up the people to demand his death, and prevailed with Pilate to pass sentence on him. He was the victim of envy and prejudice! The proof that man had lost all sense of shame, all love to justice, all proper feelings — is when the object of dislike was holy, and took God's part against man's sin.
But there was another reason why he was crucified, though they did not know it. He desired that sinners should be saved. He knew that they could not without an atonement. That there could be no atonement without sufferings and death. That no one could suffer and die so as to make an atonement but himself. As his heart was fully set upon saving sinners — he agreed with his divine Father to become a man, to appear in our world, to allow himself to be apprehended, unjustly condemned, and cruelly put to death.
His nature was holy. His life was one series of kind and benevolent actions; yet so great was their injustice, so cruel were their natures, that they took him, and with wicked hands, they crucified and slew him!
The excitement occasioned by his condemnation being great, the soldiers were called out, they saw his meekness, his patience, and his agonies.
WHAT did they do?"The soldiers mocked him." These soldiers were heathens. They were the troops of the Roman Emperor. They had been brought up in ignorance, heathenism and sin. They had no Bible, no law of love. They knew not that the human race was one great brotherhood — that kindness, gentleness, and love were ornaments to human nature. Nor did they know that Jesus was the Son of God — that he came into the world to save sinners — that he was dying the just, for the unjust to bring them to God — that he was the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world. Had they known it, they might have been less cruel. But they were hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, therefore they mocked him.
Do any soldiers mock him now? Yes! What, British soldiers? Yes! Soldiers who have a Bible, who have been brought up in a Sunday-school, and who have often heard the Gospel? Yes. Who are they, then?
There is that soldier who professes to be a Christian — but who lives in sin, who neglects private prayer, and who follows the course of this world — he mocks Jesus. He mocks him often, "with a solemn sound, upon a thoughtless tongue;" and oftener, by pretending to believe in him, to love him, and to profess his holy religion — while he acts directly contrary to it.
No one mocks Jesus so cruelly as the man who cries, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" with his lips — but cries "Crucify him, crucify him" by his life. Such "crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."
Look, also, at that young man; he once lay on a sick bed, guilt lay on his conscience, and the thoughts of Hell made him afraid. He wept, he prayed, he promised the Lord that if he would restore him — he would become a changed character and live a truly Christian life. Such promises were often repeated on his sick pillow. He recovered, he became strong again. He returned to his old courses, he even became worse than he was before. He swears, he lies, he gets intoxicated, he is led captive by the devil at his will. That soldier mocks him.
Look at another case. There are many men in the army who profess to believe the Bible is true, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that no man can be saved but by him, that his invitations and promises are sincere; and if you talk with them seriously, they tell you that they intend to accept those invitations and seek the fulfillment of the promises; but they make no move, they go on week after week, month after month, year after year — just as they always did; there is no change. Again, therefore, we may exclaim, referring to such as these, "The soldiers mocked him."
How many mock him at church, using the language of penitent sinners, or of true believers — while they are neither one or the other; nor have they any wish to be.
British soldier, are you one of those who mock at the Son of God? Or do you sincerely believe his Word, heartily rely on his atonement, daily worship at his throne, and constantly endeavor to do his will? One or the other you must be. Which is it?
How will the soldiers, who mock him, be able to stand before him? They must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and receive sentence according to the deeds done in the body. They must meet his eye, which is as a flame of fire. They must stand at his bar, and receive their sentence from his lips. How will they feel? What can they say? Memory will faithfully present every act of mockery, every insult offered, every sin committed — and the Judge will demand an account of it!
What, what will many British soldiers say? Will they not be like the man spoken of in the gospel, who appeared at the feast without a wedding garment? He was speechless. He had no reason to offer for his conduct. No excuse to make for his practices. What then will the Judge say? Will he not pronounce the sentence, "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!" Or this, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!"
Then shall be fulfilled that fearful portion of the Divine word, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment — but the righteous into life eternal." They shall "go away," as though they were glad to escape from the glance of his piercing all-penetrating eye — as though they considered that Hell itself would be an asylum — if it would but hide them from his presence. But no — there will be no hiding, no concealment. They will be punished in the presence of the Lamb and his holy angels. They will be punished with everlasting destruction!
But suppose any of the soldiers who have mocked him, should bethink themselves, be sorry for their conduct, and desire to be saved by him — will he receive, pardon, and save them? He will. He is now saying to every soldier in the British army, "Take with you words, and turn to the Lord." He calls, "Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He pledges his Word most solemnly to every coming soldier, even to the vilest who ever disgraced his regimentals and his nature, saying, "I will never cast him out."
Brother soldier, there is salvation for you in Jesus — a full salvation — a free salvation — an everlasting salvation. The pardon of all your sins — grace to sanctify your nature, and make you fit for Heaven. Grace for the barracks — grace for the tent — grace for the battle-field. Grace that will make you not only loyal to England — but to the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Grace that will bring home the knowledge and enjoyment of salvation to your heart, your conscience, your inmost soul.
Come, then, to Jesus — come just as you are — come in sincerity of soul. Mock him no longer. Trifle with your soul no longer. But, as you must appear before him on the throne of justice — but may come to him on the throne of grace — come to this throne that you may obtain mercy, mercy that will pardon you, and grace — the grace that will help you in every time of need. He waits to be gracious. He has been waiting long. He will not wait always. Let him wait for you no longer — but, like the poor blind man in the gospel, arise and come to Jesus.
Bring all your sins — he will pardon them.
Bring all your needs — he will supply them.
Bring all your fears — he will remove them.
Bring all your doubts — he will solve them.
In a word, bring all that tries, troubles, or alarms you — and receive all that you can need for the body or soul, for time or eternity! "Whoever will, let him come and take of the fountain of the water of life freely."
Reader, may God give you grace to say "I will," and to act upon it: then will there be no more mocking Jesus — but your heart will love him, and your tongue will speak well of his name!