These Things the Soldiers Did

Roy Hill, Bristol, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

Category: Exposition

The ministry of John the Baptist was compelling in that it reached the hearts and minds of his audience and encouraged them to ask questions. Often we respond to ministry in an analytical way by describing it as being good, bad or indifferent in content, style and delivery. When John spoke people reacted by saying, 'What shall we do then?' Luke 3. 10. This was observed across a broad spectrum of his hearers including Pharisees, the common people and the soldiers. In this passage the soldiers equate with the 'rough places', and characteristically while the others 'ask' or 'say', the soldiers 'demanded of him', this indicating the force of their character.

To the soldiers John gave three words of advice: 1) do violence to no man; 2) neither accuse any man falsely; 3) be content with your wages. However, they rejected this advice not only in their dealings with the Jews generally, but particularly so in their dealings with the Lord Jesus Christ. This can be demonstrated as follows:

Do Violence to No Man

In Matthew chapter 27 we read that the soldiers took Jesus into the common hall and gathered unto Him the whole band of soldiers. While He was there He was made an object of ridicule and aggressive fun. The normal discipline of soldiers was relaxed and they felt able to do as they pleased. As Jesus stood there they 'stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying 'Hail, King of the Jews!' And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head', vv.28-30. Evidently, soldier after soldier came up to Him and violently assaulted Him.

Yet, He stood there patiently, the foul spittle of many men running down His cheeks, buffeted and tormented. Amazingly, each time He took the reed, held it and handed it over to each soldier. Here indeed is amazing grace and a fulfilment of the scripture that He was led as a lamb to the slaughter and remained uncomplaining as a sheep being shorn. Other scriptures tell us that they smote Him with their hands and plucked the hairs from His face. The hatred of man against God and against His Christ reached its high water mark on that dark day. Contrary to the advice given by John the Baptist, the soldiers did violence to His person.

Neither Accuse any Man Falsely

The Lord was falsely accused by the Jews who misunderstood, misrepresented and wickedly maligned Him. The result was a harsh sentence from a weak judge who allowed fear of the crowd and fear of his masters to overcome what he knew to be the right decision. Consequently, Pilate handed Him over to be crucified and in so doing he implicated all who stood with him, including the soldiers.

Many events took place at the cross but we draw attention to those in which the soldiers particularly were involved. Having done the actual work of crucifixion, the soldiers were allowed as a benefit to share the clothes of the victims. Each of the four soldiers most intimately involved took one piece of Jesus' clothing, but for His coat they decided not to rend it but to cast lots for it. To them that seemed a good idea at the time. However, it is clear that it was done that the scripture should be fulfilled. And in this vein it was a soldier who gave Him vinegar to drink, in accord with Old Testament prophecy.

Similarly, when the instruction was given to break the legs of the victims, the soldiers, when they came to Jesus and saw that He was dead already they brake not His legs. Their orders had been to break the legs, but they disobeyed this (an offence punishable by death) in order to fulfil a higher command, that the scripture should be fulfilled 'a bone of him shall not be broken'.

Interestingly, just as one soldier did not do what he should have done, so one of his fellows did what he should not have done. No command was given to use a spear, but one of the soldiers with a spear, pierced His side . . . that the scripture might be fulfilled.

While they mocked Him and crucified Him they were nevertheless still in the control of God, and, in spite of everything the scriptures were fulfilled.

Be Content with your Wages

The whole city of Jerusalem had been shaken by what had happened on the day of the crucifixion. But now, in the hours following the resurrection, rumour swept the city. Reports were that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had been seen alive! Other recent events: a great earthquake; angelic appearances; the resurrection of other less well known, but nonetheless previously dead people; hours of thick darkness; the temple veil rent, now exacerbated by this news meant that the people and the authorities were on tenterhooks.

In order to calm things down, in the interest of law and order, the chief priests instructed the soldiers, 'Say ye, "His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept". And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him and secure you'. Matt. 28. 13-14. In order to give the soldiers an incentive to be dishonest they offered them 'large money', or more simply a bribe.

'Be content with your wages', had been the advice of John the Baptist. Alas, 'they took the money, and did as they were taught', Matt. 28. 15.

The soldiers of the day played a very important part in the suffering, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Yet, they were under the controlling hand of God and this should be a solace to us today in an increasingly violent world. One can but hope that the events of those days may have caused more than one of the officers to say, 'Truly this was the Son of God', Matt. 27. 54.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Chairman of the Precious Seed Committee

There are 12 articles in
ISSUE (1989, Volume 40 Issue 3)

‘All Things are Lawful . . . but’


Fellowship and the Lord’s Supper

Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities

Jacob-Supplanter to Prince with God

Look - Walk

Patient Perseverance

A Promise Concerning the Spirit, John 1.32, 33

The Prophet Isaiah

The Seven - Thousand Year Miracle (Part 1)

These Things the Soldiers Did

What the Bible Teaches Vol. 6 John

This article is not part of a series

There are 51 articles by this author

Effective And Attractive Bible Study

Seven Sights For Sore Eyes

Christian Year Publications

Many Mansions?

A Pastor in New York

Excuses, Excuses

Where do we go from now?

Reports from By-gone Days

The Isle of Patmos

The Challenge of Youth

Concerning Joseph

These Things the Soldiers Did

The Hour is Come

Do We Look for Another?

The assemblies Address Book - Sixth Edition

The Ground

The Race

An Alert Assembly

Obedience to Parents

Evangelical Mission Press, South Africa

The Fleeing Prophet - Chapter 1 (running away from God)

The Polished Shaft


Not under Grace But under Law

The Frightened Prophet - Chapter 2 (running back to God)

The Polished Shaft

The True Vine

Its Foundation

The Faithful Prophet - Chapter 3 (running for God)

The Church at Laodicea

The Faithful Prophet - Chapter 4 (running behind God)

A Wonderful Heritage

Missionary Interest - Sending Money

Missionary Interest - Sending Men

Problems, Spiritual and Personal

The Lord Stood with Me


Introduction vv. 1-3

Partners, vv. 17-25

The Great Throne of Ivory Overlaid with Gold (1 Kings 10. 17-20)

Golden Censers and Vials; Revelation 5. 8; 8. 3-5; 15. 7.

The Gifts of the Spirit

The War in Yugoslavia


The Mistery of Godliness



Trip to Israel - March 6 -16, 2012

Tour to Israel, May 2013

The Messianic Psalms - Psalm 16

Collected Writings of J. M. Davies Vols. 1-3 Compiled by Mervyn Wishart