In Mark 15, in the narrative of the crucifixion of Christ, there is the following description of the Roman soldiers mocking Jesus:
And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. (Mark 15.16-20)
When I read these words and let my imagination drift back to that scene, one clear emotion springs to the surface of my thoughts: anger! I am outraged at the way my Savior is openly mocked by sinners for whom He is about to die! How dare these lowly soldiers make fun of God’s Son and spit in the face of the Creator of the universe? If they had any idea Who this was they were dealing with, surely they would not treat Him with such contempt!
But then, I begin to wonder…
The favorite title for Jesus in the early church was Lord (2 Corinthians 4.5). This was a title of ownership. The master of a slave or the owner of a vineyard was called Lord. It was also a title of authority. Army commanders and judges were called Lord. It was the official title of the Roman Emperor. All laws, edicts, and decrees were signed Lord Caesar.
Out of this background, we begin to understand what early Christians were saying when they spoke of Jesus as Lord. They meant that He was the absolute owner of their lives: He was the One who had the right to decide what they would be, what they would do, and where they would go. They meant that He was the final authority over every thought, emotion, and action of life. Above all, they meant that He was the King of Kings to whom they gave their highest loyalty and obedience.
That is what it means to call Jesus Lord.
Returning to the story from Mark 15, I am outraged when I read of these soldiers openly mocking Jesus. But then I wonder: do we mock Jesus any less than those Roman soldiers did when we call Him Lord but then comfortably ignore any demands He makes of our lives?
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you?” —Jesus, Luke 6.46
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