27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into headquarters and gathered the whole company around Him. 28 They stripped Him and dressed Him in a scarlet military robe. 29 They twisted together a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and placed a reed in His right hand. And they knelt down before Him and mocked Him: “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 Then they spit on Him, took the reed, and kept hitting Him on the head.
16 Then the soldiers led Him away into the courtyard (that is, headquarters) and called the whole company together. 17 They dressed Him in a purple robe, twisted together a crown of thorns, and put it on Him. 18 And they began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They kept hitting Him on the head with a reed and spitting on Him. Getting down on their knees, they were paying Him homage.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
They dressed Him in a purple robe, twisted together a crown of thorns, and put it on Him. And they began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They kept hitting Him on the head with a reed and spitting on Him. Getting down on their knees, they were paying Him homage.
Today’s passage isn’t easy to read or imagine. Yet all four Gospels include these details. And for centuries, Christians have retold them, depicted them, contemplated them.
These are the details that were painful to a disciple of Jesus—and to a Jew. Nakedness was especially embarrassing to a Jew of this time. Even when people were stoned, they weren’t stripped naked. Spitting on someone was one of the most grievous insults short of violence.
Matthew was a disciple (and a Jew), as was Peter (Mark's Gospel source). So why do they include these painful details? Perhaps they’re remembering that Jesus told them this would happen.
“Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death. Then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles, and they will mock Him, spit on Him, flog Him, and kill Him, and He will rise after three days” (Mark 10:33-34).
Matthew mentions four times that Jesus predicted this and notes that the disciples were deeply distressed when He told them.
Perhaps they’re remembering that the prophets said it would happen, even describing the details (see Psalm 22:6-8; Isaiah 50:6, 53:3; Micah 5:1-2). They’re telling us something else: Jesus really is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Every single mocking gesture by the Roman soldiers is a parody of the way a Roman emperor would be honored—the robe, crown, scepter, kneeling before him. The greeting "Hail, King of the Jews!” is a parody of “Hail, Caesar the Emperor!" The spitting is an insulting twist on the kiss paying homage to a king.
At that time, Roman soldiers in Jerusalem were known to play cruel games with condemned prisoners, especially revolutionary leaders. The prisoner was dressed up like a burlesque king and used as a game piece. With each roll of dice, the prisoner “king” moved around a game board etched in the floor.
But Jesus isn’t a chess piece. He isn’t a pawn. He’s here at His Father's hand, by His own choice. This is what He came for, and it was destined to be from the foundation of the world. Jesus was called to this suffering. The Gospel writers tell us this.
We tend to rush through suffering to get to resurrection. Matthew and Mark slow us down and force us to see and feel every detail. They seem to be saying, "Look upon His suffering if you dare. His suffering reveals who He is and what He came for." Might our suffering have the same effect?
Later, Peter wrote to the persecuted first century church: “For you were calling to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten, but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds” (1 Peter 2:21-24).
Pain and suffering. What if we didn't try to rush through it, though even the idea of it causes us distress? What if we allowed everything that happens to us to reveal who we are—Christians, literally "little Christs"—and what we’re here for: to know Him and be like Him, offering His healing and salvation to the world?
- Read 1 Peter 3:9-22. Peter again says, “to this you were called.” What kind of suffering is described here? What kind of response are we to give? Who is our example?
- Philippians 2:5-11 was likely one of the first hymns of the early church. Why would they need the same attitude of Christ? How did He set the example? What happened as a result (vs. 10-11)? Therefore, what are we called to do (vs. 12-13)?
- Where are you enduring humiliation or hardship or persecution in your life? How are you responding? How can you learn from Christ’s example? What difference would a Christ-like response make?