October 25

Text: Matthew 27:27-31

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him.  And they stripped Him, and put a scarlet robe on Him.  And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they kneeled down before Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!"  And they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.  And after they had mocked Him, they took His robe off and put His garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.  (NASB)

The purpose of Roman execution by crucifixion had two basic objectives.  First, it declared that if a non-citizen opposed Roman authority or Roman law, he could expect such treatment.  Death by crucifixion was a public declaration of what not to be or do.  Such deaths were often a fearful signboard along major travel routes that said quite effectively, “Do not mess with Roman authority!”

Second, crucifixion was a horrible way to die.  It was not quick or efficient—it might take days for the victim to die.  It did not allow the victim to slip into unconsciousness.  It was extremely painful.  By design, it attempted to completely humiliate the victim, to treat the person with zero respect.  It declared that the victim was not worthy of being treated as a human being.

Jesus’ humiliation began before the nails were driven through his flesh.  Note that all these acts were done by the Roman soldiers.  It must have seemed ironic that Jews wanted a Jew crucified.  To have Jews demand that a Jew receive such contempt must have seemed an unexpected gift by the Roman troops.  Crucifixion of a declared Jewish King—what an unexpected treat!

The troops took full advantage of their opportunity.  It was a whole battalion event—everyone was assembled to watch the “fun.”  The humiliation involved pretending that Jesus occupied the position of a physical king.  A physical king would be shown respect as he displayed power.  The soldiers showed him no respect and demonstrated how powerless they considered him to be.

The humiliation was elaborate and creative.  They took his clothing off and put a scarlet robe on him—they dressed him for the occasion!  They crowned him with a crown of thorns!  They placed a scepter of reeds in his right hand!  They bowed before him in mock allegiance saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

They intensified the pain of the moment by hitting the crown of thorns with the reed scepter and spitting on him.  Jesus endured it all.  Pilate, understanding that he was innocent, did nothing.

Suggestion for reflection: What would you endure for God’s purposes?  (Read 1 Peter 2:18-25.)

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