Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him.…
— Matthew 26:67
Some years ago, I visited another church in our city to hear a special speaker who had come from afar. That evening at the meeting, the local church I was visiting announced they would be starting a building program. As I sat in there, God’s Spirit spoke to my heart and instructed me to sow a sacrificial seed into their new building program. It was a time when we desperately needed money for our own building program, so anything I sowed would be sacrificial. However, the amount the Lord put in my heart was significant.
What made it even harder for me to give this gift was that this church had acted maliciously toward our church in the past. They had lied about us, scoffed at us, and even prayed for our downfall. And now the Lord was telling me to sow a large gift into this same church?
Throughout that entire service, I argued with the Lord. The issue really wasn’t the money, although we could have used the money ourselves at that moment. The issue I was wrestling with was giving a gift to this church that had treated us with contempt for so long.
Finally, the Spirit of God asked me, Are you willing to sow a seed for peace with this church? That clinched it! I pulled my checkbook out of my pocket to write what I considered to be a sizable gift for this other church. Writing that check was difficult, but once it was written, my heart simply flooded with joy because I had been obedient. There is no joy to compare with the joy that comes from being obedient!
One week later, the pastor to whom I gave the gift was at a meeting with his staff and church leaders. The pastor told his leaders, “Look at this puny little check Pastor Rick gave us! Couldn’t he have done any better than this?” When I heard how he viewed the sizable gift I’d given, I was quite shocked. But when I heard what this pastor did next, I was literally stunned. He devoted the next part of his staff meeting to discussing all the things he didn’t like about me and our church. He poked fun at us, ridiculed us, mocked us, and put us down in front of his people. Instead of being thankful for the gift we gave, he once more demonstrated utter disrespect and contempt for us.
When I heard about this event, it hurt so badly that it cut deep into my heart. How could anyone say the gift we gave was puny? It would be considered significant in any nation of the world. But what hurt the most was that the pastor had put us down and publicly made fun of us in front of his staff and leadership. I remember feeling as if I had been spit on — and as the years passed, this same pastor spit on us many more times.
For instance, when we dedicated our church building — the first church to be built in sixty years in our city — it was a moment of great rejoicing. But soon after our dedication, this man stood before a large convention of several thousand people and sneered at our new facility. For a second time, he injected a dagger into my heart! At a time when this pastor could have been rejoicing with us, he chose to make it another opportunity to spit in our faces.
How about you? Can you think of an instance in your life when you did something good for someone, but that person didn’t appreciate what you did? Was he so unappreciative that you felt as if he’d spit in your face? Were you stunned by his behavior? How did you act in response to that situation?
I think nearly everyone has felt taken advantage of and spit on at some point or another. But imagine how Jesus must have felt the night He was taken to the high priest where He was literally spit on by the guards and temple police! For three years, Jesus preached, taught, and healed the sick. But now He was being led like a sheep to the spiritual butcher of Jerusalem, the high priest Caiaphas, and to the scribes and elders who had assembled to wait for His arrival.
In the trial that took place before the high priest and his elders, the religious leaders charged Jesus with the crime of declaring Himself the Messiah. Jesus replied by telling them that they would indeed one day see Him sitting on the right hand of power and coming with clouds of glory (Matthew 26:64). Upon hearing this, the high priest ripped his clothes and screamed, “Blasphemy!” as all the scribes and elders lifted their voices in anger, demanding that Jesus die (Matthew 26:66).
Then these religious scribes and elders did the unthinkable! Matthew 26:67,68 says, “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?”
Notice that it wasn’t just a few who spit in his face that night; the Bible says, “…they spit in his face.…” The word “they” refers to all the scribes and elders who were assembled for the meeting that night. One scholar notes that there could have been one hundred or more men in this crowd! And one by one, each of these so-called spiritual leaders, clothed in their religious garments, walked up to Jesus and spit in His face!
In that culture and time, spitting in one’s face was considered to be the strongest thing you could do to show utter disgust, repugnance, dislike, or hatred for someone. When someone spattered his spit on another person’s face, that spit was meant to humiliate, demean, debase, and shame that person. To make it worse, the offender would usually spit hard and close to the person’s face, making it all the more humiliating.
By the time Caiaphas and his scribes and elders had finished taking turns spitting on Jesus, their spit was most likely dripping down from His forehead into His eyes; dribbling down His nose, His cheekbones, and His chin; and even oozing down onto His clothes. This was an extremely humiliating scene! And remember, the men who were acting so hatefully toward Jesus were religious leaders! Their hideous conduct was something Jesus definitely didn’t deserve. And what makes this entire scene even more amazing is that Malchus — the servant whom Jesus had just healed — was in all probability standing at the side of Caiaphas and watching it all happen!
These religious leaders didn’t stop with just humiliating Jesus. After spitting on Him, they each doubled up their fists and whacked Him violently in the face! Matthew 26:67 says, “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him.…” The word “buffet” is the Greek word kolaphidzo, which means to strike with the fist. It is normally used to picture a person who is violently beaten.
As if it wasn’t insulting enough to spit on Jesus, approximately one hundred men viciously and cruelly struck Him with their fists. Not only was this brutal — it was sadistic! Humiliating Jesus with their spit and curses didn’t satisfy the hatred of these men; they wouldn’t be satisfied until they knew He had been physically maltreated. To ensure that this goal was accomplished, their own fists became their weapons of abuse.
It appears that these scribes and elders were so paranoid about Jesus getting more attention than themselves that they simply wanted to destroy Him. Every time they spit on Him, they were spitting on the anointing. Every time they struck Him, they were leveling a punch against the anointing. They hated Jesus and the anointing that operated through Him to such an extent that they voted to murder Him. But first they wanted to take some time to personally make sure He suffered before He died. What a strange way to render “thanks” to One who had done so much for them!
When I get disappointed at the way others respond to me or to what I have done for them, I often think of what happened to Jesus on that night when He came before these Jewish leaders. John 1:11 tells us, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” Although these men who spit on and hit Jesus refused to acknowledge Him, He still went to the Cross and died for them. His love for them was unwavering — unshaken and unaffected by their wrong actions.
As you think of how people have wronged you, does it affect your desire to love them? What have these conflicts revealed about you? Is your love for those unkind people consistent, unwavering, unshaken, and unaffected? Or have the conflicts revealed you have a fickle love that you quickly turn off when people don’t respond to you the way you wished they would?
The same Holy Spirit who lived in Jesus now lives in you. Just as the Spirit of God empowered Jesus to love people consistently, regardless of what they did or didn’t do, the Holy Spirit can empower you to do the same. So why don’t you take a few minutes today to pray about the people who have let you down or disappointed you? Then forgive those people, and decide to love them the way Jesus loved those who wronged Him!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, thank You for being such a good example of love that is unshaken and unaffected by other people’s actions. You have loved me with a consistent love, even in times when I’ve acted badly and didn’t deserve it. Thank You so much for loving me in spite of the things I’ve done and the things I’ve permitted to go on in my life. Today I want to ask You to help me love others just as consistently as You have loved me. Forgive me for being on-again, off-again in my love. Help me become rock-solid and unwavering in my love for others, including those who haven’t treated me too nicely. I know that with Your help, I can love them steadfastly no matter what they do!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that what other people have done to me doesn’t affect my desire or my commitment to love them. My love for people is consistent, unwavering, unshaken, and unaffected. The same Holy Spirit who lived in Jesus now lives in me — and just as the Spirit of God empowered Jesus to love everyone consistently, now the Holy Spirit empowers me to do the same!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt like someone you tried to help later turned around and “spit in your face”?
2. Did that conflict reveal that your love for them was consistent, unwavering, unshaken, and unaffected — or that you have a fickle love that is quickly turned off when people don’t respond to you the way you wished they would?
3. The next time someone treats you this way, how do you think you should respond to him or her?