Betrayed by a faithless Apostle, Jesus is taken prisoner and led in chains to the palace of the high priest. The modem counterpart of the event would be a man handcuffed and led by a squad of policemen to police headquarters. Even hardened criminals feel the humiliation. What must be the feeling of a man in high station, innocent of any crime, highly respected in the community, under such circumstances.
Struck in Face
Jesus stands before the high priest. As the testimony of the witnesses does not agree, the high priest, against the provisions of the law, calls upon Jesus to defend Himself or to admit His guilt. Jesus calls the attention of the high priest to the illegality of the question; guilt must be proved by the accusers. No sooner has He finished than a soldier strikes Him in the face. We shudder at the very thought of such an indignity inflicted upon the Son of the almighty God.
Mocked by Soldiers
After the caricature of a trial before the high priest, Jesus is given into the custody of the soldiers for the rest of the night. The soldiers look upon Him as a fool, a dreamer, a man with an unbalanced mind. So they play with Him as naughty boys might play with a drunken man or an idiot. They play prophet with Him, blindfolding Him and slapping Him in the face, and then calling upon Him to guess who struck Him. They renew their cruel sport the next morning after Jesus had been scourged. Now they play king with Him. They clothe Him with an old purple cloak, put a reed into His hand as a scepter, put a crown of thorns upon His head, and then march around Him, genuflecting in derision and mockingly saluting Him, "Hail, king of the Jews." Hell is jubilant; Angels are horror-struck at the sight.
Pilate sees at once that Jesus is innocent; he would like to set Him free. Yet, he lacks the courage of his conviction, and, above all, he is the politician who looks to his own advantage. He thinks he has found a way out of the difficulty when he remembers Barabbas. This man is a notorious murderer and now in prison. According to Jewish custom the people may ask at Easter for the release of one prisoner. So Pilate gives them the choice between Jesus and Barabbas. Whom will they choose? The mere fact of being thus associated with a criminal and murderer is an unspeakable humiliation for Jesus, but the climax of the ignominy is that Barabbas should be preferred to Him.
Failing to free Jesus, Pilate makes use of another expedient which, he hopes, will satisfy the Jews and save His life. He has Jesus scourged, that is, whipped publicly and in such a cruel manner that the sight of Jesus might arouse the pity of the Jews. Of course, a man thus scourged will be ruined socially for the rest of his life, and perhaps in health. After suffering this punishment Jesus would cause the Jews no further trouble. Behold, then, Jesus, most worthy of praise, "despised and the most abject of men" (Isa. 54:3).
Finally Jesus is condemned to die on the Cross, the most painful and most disgraceful death penalty. If ever a man arouses our sympathy it is when he is in pain and agony of death. There is no such sympathy shown to Jesus dying on the Cross. Even in His death agony the Jews taunt Him with their mockeries and insults, "He has helped others, Himself He cannot help. . . . Well, well, did you not say that we could destroy the temple and You would build it up in three days? Come down from the Cross and we will believe in You. . . . He has called upon Elias; let us see whether Elias is going to save Him." The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a human heart; He feels the cruelty of these mockeries.
To appreciate more profoundly the humiliations of Jesus we must add a few considerations. Jesus is known throughout the country, admired by the people as a great prophet and miracle worker. Has He now been unmasked as a fraud and impostor? Add to this that it is Easter, and hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of the world have come to Jerusalem. They will take the report of what they have witnessed to their home countries and the first news that these countries will receive will be about a man who was crucified because of blasphemy and rebellion.
How the Heart of Jesus must have shuddered under the impact of these humiliations. Thus He atoned for the pride of sin.
In one of the apparitions of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus complained about the coldness and indifference of so many souls, even of those consecrated specially to Him. Such indifference implies disregard and contempt of the love of His Sacred Heart and adds to His opprobrium. We must not become guilty of it. The best way of showing our gratitude for the humiliations Jesus endured for us is to bear humiliations patiently for His sake. There is no better way of atoning for the pride of our sins or of sharing in the atoning power of Christ's opprobrium, no better way of escaping the opprobrium of eternal damnation. Sharing now in the humiliations of the Saviour's Heart we shall also share in His heavenly exaltation.
TAKEN FROM THE LITANY OF THE SACRED HEART, Bruce Publishing