When I think of the many sufferings of Jesus, I think first of the spiritual agony He endured as He bore our sins and took upon Himself the wrath our sin deserved. I think of the intense physical suffering in His scourging and crucifixion. I think of the terrible injustice done to Him by both the religious and secular authorities.
But I also think of the humiliation and mockery Jesus endured. The gospels describe this in some detail. Here is Matthew 27:27-31:
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on 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!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.
We read that they gathered the whole garrison around Jesus. Surely, they only needed a regular group of four soldiers to carry out this execution. Yet they gathered the whole garrison around Him. It wasn’t to prevent His escape. It wasn’t to prevent a hostile crowd from rescuing Him. It wasn’t to keep the disciples away. It was so as many as possible could enjoy mocking Jesus of Nazareth.
So, they mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Everything about this was intended to humiliate Jesus. The Jewish rulers had already mocked Jesus as Messiah. Now the Roman powers mocked him as king.
- They stripped Him: When a prisoner was crucified, they were often nailed to the cross naked, simply to increase their humiliation. Jesus hasn’t been crucified yet, but His humiliation had begun, and He was publicly stripped.
- Put a scarlet robe on Him: Kings and rulers often wore scarlet, because the dyes to make fabrics that color were expensive. The scarlet robe was intended as cruel irony.
- They had twisted a crown of thorns: Kings wear crowns, but not crowns of torture. The specific thorn-bushes of this region have long, hard, sharp thorns. This was a crown that cut, pierced, and bloodied the head of the King who wore it.
- A reed in His right hand: Kings hold scepters, but glorious, ornate scepters that symbolize their power. In their mockery of Jesus, they gave Him a scepter – but a thin, weak reed.
- They bowed the knee before Him: Kings are honored, so they offered mocking worship to this King.
- “Hail, King of the Jews!” Kings are greeted with royal titles, so in their spite they mocked Jesus with this title. It was meant to humiliate Jesus, but also the Jews – saying, “This is the best King they can bring forth.”
Verse 30 of Matthew 27 marks something of a turning point. The Roman soldiers shifted from mockery to physical cruelty. It says, then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. They took the ironic scepter from Jesus, took off the mock-royal robe, and began to hurl their spit and their fists at the head of Jesus.
When the soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross, they followed orders. Yet here, they spat in His face just for the pleasure of doing it. Think of what a thing it is for humanity to spit in God’s face. Even in this, Jesus stood in the place of sinners. They said Jesus was a sorry, shabby king – when that is really what we are. He is the king of all glory, we are the pretended kings. Jesus stood in our place and was treated as a make-believe king.
In many ways today, the world still mocks Jesus. If this is true, should not the people of God, the modern-day disciples of Jesus, determine that they will honor Him more than ever? We should worship the King who was mocked for our sake, and worship Him with as much heart, energy, and creativity as those soldiers who mocked Jesus.
Most of all, let us determine that we will never mock our King by only pretending to worship and honor Him, while really refusing to live as if Jesus is King of all.