Matthew 27:27-31 – Jesus & The Roman Soldiers, 1992 Miami Hurricanes vs. Alabama Crimson Tide: Trash Talk And Who Wins In The End

Posted: April 24, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 27:27-31

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

Have you ever seen a college or pro football team that was considered the best team of the year, or the best team in a long-time, or the best team ever assembled to play the game while their opponent for the championship game just seems to be lucky to have gotten there? The underdog vs. the prohibitive favorite. You hear the trash talking from the prohibitive favorite. The other team will just be lucky to be on the same field with the odds-on championship favorite. The favored team takes for granted that they are going to win the game. So, they begin belittling the other team and their capabilities. Mocking them almost. Bulletin board material abounds. You’ve seen it before.

 

A great example was the 1993 Sugar Bowl that was decide the national championship. It pitted the two undefeated teams from the 1992 season, the top ranked University of Miami Hurricanes and the 2nd ranked University of Alabama Crimson Tide. Miami was flash and glitter and lit up the scoreboard with dizzyingly amazing passing game. Alabama was rough and plodding run-first offense and relied on defense.  Throughout the weeks leading up to the game, there was trash talk from certain Miami players, particularly Lamar Thomas. Thomas made many disparaging remarks about Alabama’s conference, the SEC, how the Miami receivers were faster, smarter and more elite than any that the Bama defense had faced EVER, and called into question the manhood of the Alabama defensive backs.[1]

 

Miami was coming off back to back undefeated seasons and consecutive national championships, they were the big bullies of college football. They were good. They knew it. And they proved it on the football field, often pummeling their opponents by obscene score differentials in those days. The had a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback in Gino Toretta. The receiving corp was awesome. Even the reserves could have been starters at other school. Alabama was Alabama. Not flashy but always good during those years. Always great defenses and a good enough offense to ensure victories. But in those years, they were usually just short of winning championships because the SEC was actually better top to bottom in those days. Now it’s Alabama and then there’s the rest of the league. But in those days, it was a four-team league (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee, and then maybe LSU every now and then). So, for Alabama to reach the title game in the 80’s-90’s, it was like phew! They finally passed through the gauntlet. They finally made it. Miami expected to be there. Alabama was just happy to have made it. Miami was expected to show up the slower, plodding Alabama team even though they were ranked right behind Miami.

 

What happened? Superior defense overwhelmed flashy offense. Underdog defeated the favorite. In fact, the underdog dominated the favorite. Alabama won the game 34-13. On offense, Alabama’s running game piled up 267 yards of rushing against a team that had given up less than 100 yards rushing per game on average. On defense, Alabama made the Heisman trophy winning quarterback’s night a rough one, intercepting him three times (one of which was returned for a touchdown). All of it just goes to prove the old saying, “That’s why they play the game.” If we measured games by pre-game trash talk and predictions, Miami would have won hands down. They were the gold standard of college football at the time and had not lost a single game in a long time. They were the Roman Empire of college football. They were a machine that rolled over anything in their path. But Alabama won in the end. For all the perceived superiority of Miami, Alabama won in the end.

 

It is that sense of what seems hopeless and inferior that in the end proves superior that comes to mind when I read today’s passage, Matthew 27:27-31:

 

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

 

Here in this passage, we see the humble servant-king, Jesus, being treated with derision. If there was ever any trash talking about who a person was, it was here. The Roman soldiers were trash talking to Jesus. They mocked the fact that claims of royalty had been ascribed to Jesus. They mistreated Him badly both physically and verbally. It was the pregame trash talk. The Roman soldiers were part of the Roman army, the most efficient and ruthless army the world had ever known. Their military weaponry and their military tactics and their military training was far superior to anything known to man at the time. They, by the first century, were a professional army. They were not a conscripted army. They were paid warriors. Being in the army was their full-time job. Technology and technique were so far ahead of any army they encountered – kind of similar to how far ahead of our enemies that the US military is today. Jesus was a nothing to them. He was just another political prisoner at the hands of the mightiest empire the world has ever known. The Roman soldiers were arrogant and brash with reason. They represented the most advanced military on the earth and were pretty much undefeated up to this point. So, who was this Jesus man to them. He was nothing. He was a flea on the back of the mighty dog of Rome. He was a speck of dust on the Roman globe. So, this “king of the Jews” was nothing to them. They had the might of the empire behind them and Jesus was nothing. Why not mock what seemed an inferior opponent? They were the better team. They had all the flash and glitter of being the long undefeated Roman army and Jesus was just one guy. Another victim of the might of the empire standing there. It appears to be the 1992 Miami Hurricanes vs. the 1992 Alabama Crimson Tide. The loud brash Roman soldiers against the quiet humble Jesus. But what happened? That’s why the game was played out in real life and not just theoretically. It was played out in real life and not in some philosophical debate. Jesus won in the end. The underdog won. Jesus was victorious over the mighty Roman Empire and over the Jewish leaders that forced the game to be played. Jesus is the national champion. He won the game. He is the victor.

 

That is the thing that I take away from this scene. Jesus wins in the end. The Roman soldiers in their arrogance deride and mock Jesus. He quietly and humbly takes it all even though He is the Superior One. He let them trash talk. He let them feel their own arrogance. They did not realize that they were in the presence of the Mighty One Himself. They did not realize that their own arrogance was part of Jesus’ game plan. Jesus knew the game plan. It mattered not what they said, because this was how the Father chose to have the game play out. He had a far superior game plan to the Roman Empire. Heck, eventually the faith named after Jesus eventually becomes the faith of the entire empire. Jesus wins in the end because he did not trash talk. He stuck to His Father’s game plan. The game plan was the cross. He knew all the tendencies of all the players on the opposing side and He used those to accomplish his goal. Jesus wins in the end. It looks dark here in the pre-game trash talk. It looks dark for a while for Jesus and his disciples. These three days are the pregame. The cross and the grave are game day. There the game is played out. If we let the pre-game trash talk of the Roman soldiers be it, the Empire would have won. But that’s why the game gets played out on the field. Jesus won.

 

From the pregame trash talk, to the seeming victory at the grave when Jesus is laid to rest in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. That, too, is why they play all four quarters of a football game. The tomb was just late in in the third quarter where it seemed the Roman Empire had a commanding lead. The game seemed over and the lead insurmountable. But, Jesus staged the greatest comeback of all time. He arose from the dead. He came back and won the game. He arose. Up from the grave, He arose. And He will return again in complete victory and stand on the championship podium of all time. Trash talk will no longer matter at that time. He will be the undisputed national champion of all time. All will bow down in recognition of His superiority. Jesus wins in the end. The Superior One. The Best Ever. The King of all Kings. Trash talk ended!

 

That is my Jesus. He can be your Jesus too. When you like seems like it has hit the lowest of lows, remember Jesus wins in the end. He is the ultimate victory. He defeated the grave. He arose from the dead. He is our champion. He knows your pain. He felt your pain on the cross. But He wins in the end. You can too through Him. Give your life over to Him. Worship Him. Serve Him. Become more and more like Him daily. And you too can win in the end. Jesus is our eternal national champion. Trash talk is just that! Jesus wins in the end! Amen and Amen.

[1]  Murphy, Austin (1993-01-11). “The End Of The Run”. Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on 5 September 2008.

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