Worshiping Like Soldiers: Mark 15:16-20

Read the Transcript

As we continue in Mark’s gospel, we come to Jesus’ last stop before He carries the cross out to be crucified. While this may be among the most graphic parts of the gospels, within the cruelty of this event we discover a powerful truth that is easy to miss or ignore. While it is unlikely that any of us would intentionally act like the soldiers in this passage towards Jesus today, something we might do today might actually treat Jesus like these soldiers treated Him, even if we don’t realize it.

Let’s read this passage and discover a subtle trap Satan would love for us to fall into. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 15, and we will read from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 16, Mark tells us that:

16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

As I read this passage, did anything stand out in your mind that you could see yourself doing to Jesus, even unintentionally, that is similar to what these soldiers did?

If you’re at all like me, nothing on the surface in this description would be anything like I would do. I wouldn’t twist a crown of thorns together and set it on Jesus’ head. I wouldn’t beat Jesus over the head with a staff or spit on him. And I wouldn’t mockingly call Him the king of the Jews or make fun of Him.

However, while these soldiers were making fun of Jesus, they were likely doing something even they didn’t realize. While mocking Jesus, they were actually giving Jesus empty, meaningless worship. In the entire history of humanity, only One individual is truly worthy of worship, and this individual is Jesus. Jesus deserves our glory, our honor, our praise, and our worship.

While it is pretty clear by their actions and abuse that these soldiers were not genuinely worshiping Jesus, what specific things made their actions towards Jesus not true worship?

Aside from the abuse, the beating, and the crown of thorns, the worship, or homage, these soldiers gave Jesus did not even hint at including humility, respect, or any of the soldiers’ hearts. The “worship” these soldiers give Jesus is empty because the worship these soldiers give is worthless in both the soldiers’ eyes, and it is worthless in God’s eyes as well.

In addition to God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, Jesus is the only One worthy of our worship and our praise. When we come to worship Jesus and thank Him for what He has done for us, are we bringing Jesus glory, honor, and praise in our worship? More importantly than that, are we bringing our hearts with our worship and our gifts and giving our hearts to God within our worship?

As I have read and studied worship more, I have come to realize just how important giving our hearts to God is when we come to worship Him. Above any other gift, God wants our hearts. If our hearts are not included in our worship to God, then our worship is no more pleasing to God than the soldiers mock-worship was.

For a long time, I found myself going to church every weekend because it was a habit, or a routine, and because I felt it was what God wanted me to do. While there is nothing bad about going to church, when we let church become a habit, and simply be a part of our routine, we risk our worship becoming empty and “heartless”. If our worship doesn’t give our hearts to God, then we could call this heartless worship, and heartless worship is what the soldiers gave Jesus before His crucifixion.

Above anything else, God wants our hearts. Our hearts are the gift that God values the most. If you feel like your worship has become empty, shallow, or routine, I would caution you to not give up on or stop worshiping. Instead, while routine worship isn’t the goal, it is slightly better than no worship at all. Realizing your worship needs help is the first step to helping it get better.

If you feel like your worship isn’t where you would like it to be, what are some ways you can bring your heart back in to your worship? Finding the answer to this question is the best way to revitalize your worship experience, and the answer to this question is best found by bringing your request to God in prayer.

While it seems like our conversation has shifted away from the event we began talking about, let’s circle back around at look at what Jesus experienced leading up to His crucifixion. When we take a step back and look at everything Jesus went through, it is nothing short of horrific. The amount of abuse, hostility, and pain that Jesus went through is about as extreme as I can imagine.

However, what is even more amazing is looking at what Jesus went through and realizing that it was entirely within God’s power to write the details of Jesus’ death. Before history began, God knew the plan of action for when humanity sinned, and He wrote into history every detail surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion weekend. Why then would the Godhead write Jesus’ death into history in what was likely the cruelest, most painful way to die?

As we read what happened to Jesus leading up to the cross, I cannot escape the truth that Jesus chose to face the cruelest death, and path to death, possible because He wanted humanity to know that God loves each of us that much more! God was willing to face the worst humanity could come up with in order to show humanity how much He loves us!

God emptied His heart for us as He calls us to give our hearts to Him! This is an invitation to all of us from a God who loves us more than anything and everything we choose to do to Him, and our invitation from God is an invitation to bring our sin-stained hearts to Him and let Him create new, clean hearts within us!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, continue to intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to bring your heart to God with your worship. If worshiping with your heart is challenging, ask God to help you open your heart to Him and to discover how to bring Him the gift He desires the most – specifically the gift of your heart.

Also, continue to pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Through prayer and study, we can open our hearts, minds, and lives to God and let Him transform us into the people He created us to be.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 43: When we look a little closer at how Mark describes the soldiers mocking and beating Jesus prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, discover how the soldiers’ actions may be not too different from something Satan would like us to do when we come and worship God!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Share Your Response

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.