In more of an aside than a direct commentary to this passage, one is struck by the humanity—the negative aspect of humanity—that is clear in this story. As Christ goes to the cross to die and achieve the salvation of sinful mankind, He is scorned, mocked, beaten and rejected at every turn. And as much as we want to stand in condemnation of those soldiers, leaders, and criminals; we recognize a nit of ourselves in them.
On the one hand, people can be terrible. There is an element of sadism in humanity—a little bit in all of us individually, and a portion of society that is driven by it. In Roman culture one could see the more sadistic types gravitating towards being soldiers. But it is not just the professional thugs and killers in action here. Jewish leaders do their part.
Leadership and power is where we most clearly see this aspect of sin nature. Even today, even in the church, we embrace this idea of “strong leadership.” The Roman government could not tolerate any sedition—even from someone as seemingly insignificant as the Nazarene and His band of followers. Combine that need for a “show of strength” and the sadistic tendencies of the men in charge, and you get the scene that is here recorded. And the religious leaders of Israel were no better. They saw their herds of followers being drawn away by Jesus’ teaching and they conspired to get Him not just silenced or disqualified, but killed.
Jesus teaches another form of leadership. Service and sacrifice. Sadly the forms and models of “strong” church today do not follow His example. Today the strong, CEO model of celebrity Pastor is raised up as the type to imitate. This whole line of thought has been a bit of a leap, admittedly, but as an aside it does expose the trend.