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!” — Matthew 27: 27–29
Jesus Christ—abased by man but exalted by God.
Good Friday reminds us of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, which is completely distinct from the sufferings of any other human being: the sacrifice of Jesus serves to our salvation! Thus it is no wonder that the account of Jesus’ suffering and death takes on a central position in the gospels. After all, this event is of fundamental significance, not only for our salvation, but also for that of all mankind.
Our Bible text relates the events that transpired shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion.
Jesus is mocked
After His trial before Pilate, Jesus was led away by the soldiers. However, they did not merely leave Him to His own devices, but rather played a sarcastic game with Him, which was intended to rob Him of His dignity.
First, they put a scarlet robe on Jesus, then went on to place a crown of thorns on His head and a reed into His right hand. They thus provided Him with all the symbols that appertain to a King. Indeed, they even fell on their knees before Him. It is also in this context that they spoke the words: “Hail, King of the Jews” (verse 29)! The only reason the soldiers did all of this was to make fun of Jesus.
Jesus is revealed as true king
Upon closer inspection, however, that which the soldiers considered to be nothing more than an undignified game reveals some important things about the person of Jesus and the events in general.
- The scarlet robe is a reference to the royal dignity of Jesus Christ. At the same time, scarlet signifies the blood that the King of all kings would later shed for all mankind.
- The reed serves as a sceptre. It makes clear that Jesus Christ really is the ruler and that His reign cannot be diminished by anyone.
- The crown of thorns is likewise a symbol of royal dignity. At the same time it alludes to the fact that this King is one who suffers for His own.
- The falling on their knees before Him, as sarcastically as it may have been intended by the soldiers, is a sign of veneration and esteem, which the whole of creation owes Jesus (Philippians 2: 10).
- The mocking salutation, “King of the Jews!” is in reality a cry of profession to the majesty of Jesus Christ.
Abasement and exaltation
In this situation, which was intended to abase Jesus, we see God exalting His Son through the mouths of unwitting soldiers. That which was intended to rob Jesus of His dignity and honour actually conferred glory and honour upon Him.
Most of the time we take mockery to be a form of abasement, but here it serves to exalt the incarnate God.
Whenever we are mocked for the sake of Christ, when we perhaps face disadvantages for the sake of the gospel, or if we are not successful in every aspect of our lives, let us remember that we—like our example Jesus, whom we want to follow diligently— will be exalted at His return. Besides, no one can rob us of the dignity that God has already conferred upon us, namely our childhood in God and the calling to become firstfruits!
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the Good Friday divine service held on 25 March 2016 at Midrand Congregation.