JESUS SUBMITTED TO HIS HUMILIATING MOCKING CORONATION AS THE KING OF THE JEWS BY HIS ROMAN CAPTORS
R. T. France: After Jesus was condemned by the Jewish leaders, they abused and mocked him (26:67–68). Now that the Roman trial is finished the governor’s soldiers do the same, but in a suitably cruder and more violent way. To have a supposedly self-proclaimed king in their power offered unusually good sport, and for non-Jewish soldiers to have such an opportunity of abusing a Jewish dignitary with impunity was a chance not to be missed. The whole scene is a mock enthronement, with improvised cheap substitutes doing duty for the royal robe, crown and scepter, and physical abuse substituted for loyal homage. After the brutal torture of the Roman flogging Jesus would be in no state to resist even if he had wished, and his already battered physical condition would only add to the pathetic appearance of this Jewish “king.” All this takes place out of the public domain, where there are no Jewish onlookers to take racial offense. By the time Jesus emerges into the open on the way to the cross, the instruments of mockery have been removed and Jesus is back in his normal clothes.
Leon Morris: It is possible that Matthew is mocking these mockers. Patte reminds us that “Mockeries, like caricatures, involve portraying a person by selecting a few actual characteristics of that person and excluding his or her other characteristics.” He sees mockery in Matthew’s reference to “soldiers of the governor.” “Matthew expects his readers to perceive not only that the soldiers are insensitive and cruel in their treatment of Jesus but also that the soldiers are ridiculous and thus wrong in their assessment of Jesus…. The soldiers, apparently under the political authority of the Roman governor, are actually under the authority of the Jewish people whose orders they will carry out by crucifying Jesus” (Patte, pp. 381, 382).
Daniel Doriani: The goal was to mock and to degrade Jesus, and in a way the soldiers succeeded. But they surely degraded themselves even more. It reminds us that whenever we attack someone, we hurt ourselves, not just the target of our wrath.
Warren Wiersbe: Jesus took all of this humiliation and pain without speaking or fighting back (1 Peter 2:18ff.). His submission was not a sign of weakness; it was a sign of strength.
David Turner: The Roman soldiers’ mockery at Pilate’s residence fulfills Jesus’s prophecy (20:19; cf. Ps. 22:7; Isa. 50:6). The religious leaders have already mocked Jesus (Matt. 26:67–68), and worse taunting is to come (26:68; 27:39–44). The scarlet robe, crown of thorns, and reed (Pss. 2:9; 110:2; Jer. 48:17) are intended as a cruel parody of royalty. The Romans’ derision is probably fueled by the fact that Jesus is purported to be king of a people conquered and ruled by Rome. The profound irony is that one day these soldiers will join all humanity, including the Jews, in homage to the conquering Son of Man (Dan. 7:13–14; Phil. 2:9–11). Those of the cohort who crucify Jesus will soon rethink their mockery (Matt. 27:54). After the mocking charade, Jesus is led away to be crucified.
Matthew McCraw: Understanding this experience that Jesus endured should cause us to reflect upon the great love that Jesus demonstrated towards us and to revere the great majesty of our King. Let this moment cause you to reflect and revere. He who suffered great humiliation is worthy of great exaltation.
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium
and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him.”
Craig Blomberg: “The Praetorium” in v. 27 refers to the official residence of the Roman ruler, which also sometimes housed the soldiers’ barracks. This could have been located at the Antonium fortress (Pilate’s center of activity when in Jerusalem) or Herod’s palace (where Antipas of Galilee stayed when visiting). Gathering the whole “company” (literally cohort) would involve six hundred men, one tenth of a legion, if the troops were at complete strength.
Leon Morris: The word referred to the official residence of the governor, but it is not known where Pilate resided when he came to Jerusalem. He lived in Caesarea, where his real praetorium was, but the name was given to whatever residence he used while he was in Jerusalem. Some commentators hold that this would have been Herod’s palace, others that it would have been the tower of Antonia. Whichever it was, it would seem that there was attached to it a place where soldiers could be garrisoned, and it was to this part of the palace that Jesus was taken.
Donald Hagner: The statement that ὅλην τὴν σπεῖραν, “the whole cohort,” gathered together around Jesus is probably hyperbolic. Technically a “cohort” consisted of 600 soldiers, although the number varied. It was, however, apparently a fairly large number of rough men who mocked Jesus with their crass humor.
I. (:28-29) PARODY OF JESUS’ ALLEGED KINGSHIP
Craig Blomberg: The scarlet robe they place on him was likely a red soldier’s tunic. Together with the crown of thorns (as royal diadem) and reed (as royal scepter), the robe adorns Jesus as a vassal king. Likewise, when the soldiers pay mock homage and utter Hail, King of the Jews, their words mimic “Ave Caesar,” used to hail the emperor.
D. A. Carson: Here we have humanity at its worst—a scene of vicious mockery. The Jews have mocked Jesus as Messiah (26:67–68); here the Roman soldiers ridicule him as king. Matthew’s readers recognize that the soldiers speak more truly than they know, for Jesus is both King and Suffering Servant.
A. (:28) Pseudo Kingly Garments
“And they stripped Him, and put a scarlet robe on Him.”
Leon Morris: Their horseplay centered around the fact that Jesus had been convicted of being a king. Matthew is describing a highly ironical situation; the soldiers went out of their way to produce trappings of royalty as a means of ridiculing one who was to be crucified as a King, whereas he really was King in a fuller and wider sense than they had any idea of. They decided that his clothing was not suitable for royalty, so they took it off and replaced it with a scarlet cloak (only Matthew has this detail; Mark speaks of their clothing Jesus with purple, the color of royalty, but he does not mention the cloak). Since this kind of cloak was used by military officers, there would have been no great difficulty in getting one, perhaps an old one, discarded by an officer. The point of it was apparently that the color was somewhere near purple, the color of royalty. By getting a cloak of a color not quite that of royalty the soldiers were mocking Jesus’ claim to be a king.
B. (:29a) Pseudo Kingly Crown and Scepter
“And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on His head,
and a reed in His right hand;”
Leon Morris: A crown was needed for a king, so these funny fellows got some thorny material and plaited a crown out of it. They pressed this on Jesus’ head, which would have both mocked his kingship and increased his sufferings. For a scepter they put a reed in his right hand. So they had all the outward trappings of royalty, but every one a piece of cruel mockery.
William Hendriksen: Somewhere in the vicinity of the praetorium the soldiers find some thorny twigs. Whether the plant from which they obtained these twigs was the Spina Christi or Palinrus Shrub, as some think, is not known. It has been pointed out by botanists that few countries of the size of Palestine have so many varieties of prickly plants. The identity of the species is of little importance. Far more significant is the fact that thorns and thistles are mentioned in Gen. 3:18 in connection with Adam’s fall. Here in Matt. 27:29a and its parallels Jesus is pictured as bearing the curse that lies upon nature, in order to deliver nature and us from it.
Jerry Crabtree: The reed (Greek kalamos) was the heavy, rigid stalk of a reed plant (Louw and Nida I:35).
C. (:29b) Pseudo Acclamation
“and they kneeled down before Him and mocked Him, saying,
‘Hail, King of the Jews!’”
II. (:30) PHYSCIAL MOCKERY OF JESUS
“And they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.”
Leon Morris: There would have been no serious physical violence about this part of the incident, but there was contemptuous mockery of all that Jesus stood for. The soldiers make it clear that nobody should take seriously the bedraggled figure in their charge (cf. Isa. 50:6).
Grant Osborne: The spitting and beating may have started with mock kisses (oriental custom) and salutes of homage but degenerated into pure cruelty. The imperfect in “[they] hit” (ἔτυπτον) could be durative (kept on striking Jesus) or ingressive (began to hit him). The former seems more in keeping with the imagery. It may also be that this imagery favors a stick or cane rather than a fragile reed (which would break with repeated hitting).
III. (:31) PREPARATION FOR CRUCIFIXION
“And after they had mocked Him, they took His robe off and put His garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.”
Donald Hagner: When they were finished with their cruel play (for ἐνέπαιξαν αὐτῷ, “they mocked him,” cf. v. 29), the soldiers took off the cloak, clothed Jesus with his own garments (an exception to normal practice, probably for the sake of the sensitivities of the Jewish crowds in the city for the Feast of Passover), and they led him off to be crucified.
Craig Blomberg: At last the soldiers tire of their game, reclothe Jesus in his own garments, and lead him away to his death.
Charles Swindoll: After they had had enough “fun” with their condemned but innocent victim, they removed the robe and returned His garments. The time had come. The preparations had been completed. During the seemingly endless ordeal of mocking and beating, two more criminals condemned to die had been retrieved from their cells and given crossbeams to carry. Taking the place of the freed Barabbas, the bloodied Jesus of Nazareth was led into the parade heading to the place of crucifixion (27:31).